Bulls

Dwyane Wade ready to return vs. Nets on Saturday

Dwyane Wade ready to return vs. Nets on Saturday

The plan has been in place for a few days now and now Dwyane Wade looks ready to make his return after an 11-game absence, Saturday against the Brooklyn Nets.

Wade went through a full practice at the NBPA Headquarters in Manhattan and assuming there are no setbacks, he'll be in the lineup Saturday afternoon with three regular-season games remaining.

How many minutes he plays and whether he's starts or not is to be determined, but Wade certainly sounds like a man who's preparing to play as opposed to modeling in his inactive threads.

"Got another good day in so obviously I'm ahead of schedule from the diagnosis when it first happened," Wade said. "But the final decision comes from trainers and coaches, if they're comfortable with me playing."

CSNChicago.com reported Saturday was the target date for Wade to return from his fractured right elbow, which is at least a week ahead of schedule from when he injured himself on March 15 against the Memphis Grizzlies when getting tangled up with Zach Randolph in the second half of the Bulls' 98-91 loss.

"Dwyane participated in everything, we did a little scrimmage in the end and participated fully," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He looked good. We'll head back to the hotel now, everybody will sit down as a staff and make a decision on where we go from here."

[RELATED: Bulls prepare for the return of Dwyane Wade]

Wade said the coaching staff and trainers have to make the final determination on whether he's ready to come back and Hoiberg said the initial decision has to be made from the trainers.

"I don't know. It comes from them," Wade said. "They gotta get together. They just keep asking me how I feel and I kind of through this whole process I know my body really well, so I've been communicating with them through this. I guess they'll out their minds together and see if they think I'm ready."

In his mind, the decision has been made. 

"I feel like I'm ready to get back out there and try and play. They've watched me practice, so they've seen things that I haven't," Wade said. "Obviously by sitting and watching, did I protect it? I don't know. I tried to just go out there and play. I feel comfortable, I'm not feeling any pain, so we'll see. Hopefully they'll let me get out there tomorrow and play a little bit, try and get back in the flow a little bit, and also try and help the team make this push that they've been doing an amazing job of to try and get into the playoffs."

And of course, being the prideful player that he is, Wade would like to start and gradually increase his minutes with the playoffs starting eight days from now.

"I would like to start. But it's Coach's decision," Wade said. "I would like Coach to play me. So whatever he decides to do is what I'm going to do. This right here is about our team. It's not about me. I just want to make sure that I come in and help this team continue to win."

[VIVID SEATS: Get your Bulls tickets right here!]

The Bulls have gone 7-4 without Wade, with some surprising wins and more recently, dealing with a lighter schedule that will continue to the regular-season finale Wednesday against the same Nets team they'll face on Saturday.

In his absence, Wade has witnessed Jimmy Butler take the reins even more while also seeing Rajon Rondo take control and Nikola Mirotic emerge on the other inside of maddening inconsistency.

Wade called Butler a "Franchise player" and said Butler has been playing like a top-5 player since he got hurt. For the team, Wade seems impressed with the Bulls' resilience.

"Finding a way to win, that's the one thing I've seen," Wade said. "Sometimes people say it's ugly basketball. But I just feel like we're finding ways to win. In this league, you have to do that, especially right here, right now. You look at the schedule and you say, ‘Well, they got the easiest schedule.' But we're playing against NBA teams. We're playing against guys who are playing very free. When guys are playing free, it's even harder to play against them."

Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

10-24_cavaliers_matchup_nba_chi_blank.jpg

Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

Here are Three Things to Watch in the Bulls' Tuesday night tilt against the Cavaliers on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live.

1. LeBron James will be on your television

Love him or hate him, LeBron James is must-see TV. Now in his 15th NBA season, James has shown no signs of slowing down. Despite playing just one preseason game (against the Bulls), James has shown anything but rust in three games, averaging 25.0 points on 60 percent shooting, 8.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in nearly 37 minutes. He's a threat every night to do something you've never seen on a basketball court, His Airness included. Justin Holiday and Paul Zipser will have their hands full against the game's best player.

2. Lauri Markkanen, Week 2

Small sample size alert! But through the season's first week Markkanen and Ben Simmons are the only rookies averaging a double-double (Dallas' Dennis Smith has played just one game, averaging 16 points and 10 assists). While the Bulls have struggled through two games, Markkanen's net rating is third best on the team and he leads the Bulls bigs in rebounds per game and rebound percentage. Markkanen has shown some versatility offensively, and his 7 free-throw attempts have been a nice surprise as well.

3. Don't forget: The Bulls swept the Cavaliers last year

OK, so expecting a victory Tuesday night in Cleveland isn't smart. The Bulls will be underdogs just like they were in each of the four games last season, all of which were Bulls winners. It was the first time in 52 division series that LeBron James had been swept, which is pretty remarkable considering the Bulls were the No. 8 seed and the Cavs coasted to a third straight NBA Finals. We're not over here predicting a win. But just remember: the Bulls have fared well against James in the regular season.

Zach LaVine not sweating contract extension, anxious to get back in uniform

Zach LaVine not sweating contract extension, anxious to get back in uniform

The Zach LaVine timeline for a Bulls debut remains the same, although he’s ahead of schedule in every metric of his return from ACL surgery this past February.

It doesn’t mean he isn’t angling for more work and pushing his limits to learn the offense he’ll be featured in, along with taking contact “here and there,” in his words. He’s supposed to wait nine months from the day of his February 14 surgery before taking contact, which would put him at a November 14 practice before the Bulls go to Oklahoma City.

“I should be doing contact really soon. It all depends on them,” LaVine said in his first public words since media day several weeks ago. “I’m pushing them as hard as I can, but at the end of the day we still gotta be careful. I feel great. I’m doing everything I was doing before. I’m pretty sure I can do contact, but we’ve got to stick to that schedule. But every day I’m just getting back, trying to as close to 100 percent as I can before I come back.”

LaVine was at Air Canada Centre getting a workout in before the Bulls opener against the Raptors and has gotten in heavy workouts on the off days with the assistant coaches in the meantime.

Sticking to the schedule will be on both LaVine and the Bulls, although both sides could be tempted to cut corners a bit. It would be human nature for the Bulls to show the NBA world their centerpiece from the Jimmy Butler trade on draft night, as well as LaVine to want to be the frontline player he feels he deserves to be.

“Yeah, it’s definitely hard. I don’t like missing games,” LaVine said. “Before the injury I didn’t really miss any games. I think I missed one or two in my career, so it really sucks just sitting there, not being able to help. I try to help as much as I can from the sideline. You know, give a little advice here and there, but yeah it hurts.”

He’s also in line for a big-time extension, having passed the deadline for extensions for players in his 2014 draft class. He’ll have to wait until the summer, especially since it didn’t make sense for him to extend unless it was a max deal.

“Obviously, I want to be here for a long time,” LaVine said. “And I feel the deal is going to get done, either then or next summer. I don’t have any fear in that. I think I know I’ll be in black and red for a little bit longer. I’m very happy and looking forward to that day as well. The main concern is just getting back on the court, get my legs ready and try to help the team as much as possible until then.”

LaVine was averaging a career-high 18.9 points as a third option behind Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, but will be featured in Fred Hoiberg’s offense as a first and maybe even second option, too—especially seeing how anemic the Bulls offense has looked in the first two games.

“With the team that we have and the system that (Fred Hoiberg) put in, we’re going to get up a lot of threes,” LaVine said. “When we’re on we’re going to blow some teams out with those threes. When we’re off, as the last couple games have shown, it’s going to be a struggle to score sometimes, but I think that’s where I can come in and help, and I can’t wait to get out there and start playing.”

Never lacking for confidence, LaVine hasn’t been deterred by the losing or even the unfortunate Bobby Portis-Nikola Mirotic incident from last week.

“We’re building something here. People understand we’re going through a little bit of that process,” LaVine said. “But we’re going to play and win. When I’m on the court, I’m trying to win. Wins and losses do happen. We can always take positives from both of those. That’s how you grow.”

As for Mirotic, LaVine hasn’t spoken to him but has sent texts—as it seems many of the Bulls have reached out to their teammate over the last several days.

“It was unfortunate. That’s what happens when two players are battling I guess,” LaVine said. “I don’t think either of them were in the wrong. It was just something that happened, an altercation. Men are men sometimes. We never should have that happen. But I think we’ve moved past it. Bobby’s in a good spot. We’ve all tried to contact Niko. I think we’ll all be able to move forward.”