Bulls

Dwyane Wade expresses serious concern about elbow injury but hopes to channel a little 'Wolverine'

Dwyane Wade expresses serious concern about elbow injury but hopes to channel a little 'Wolverine'

The concern was etched on Dwyane Wade’s face as he tried to explain his emotions, with the attempt of being upbeat but the reality was staring him smack in the face—the fear was starting to creep in, if it wasn’t already present.

“Definitely a fear,” Wade confessed to CSNChicago.com in his newfound body armor, a sling for his right elbow. “Because it’s my shooting elbow and the biggest fear…it’s not a lot of time left in the season. That’s the biggest thing. Fourteen games left. That’s not ideal.”

Going for a rebound in the second half the Bulls’ 98-91 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, Wade got tangled between a teammate and Grizzlies big man Zach Randolph.

“No, it’s a first,” Wade told a throng of reporters. “I’ve always said as long as I play, I’ll almost experience everything. Hopefully it’s not as bad as I perceive it to be. Just get in tomorrow, see what the doctors say and start the rehab process and try to feel better.

“I knew it was something more, just with what I heard. Try to play with it a little bit, until the pain started getting a little more excruciating.”

He heard what he described as a “click-click”, as he explained it to Rajon Rondo as they commiserated in the locker room. Wade told everybody he was going for an MRI Thursday morning, which could seal his fate for the rest of the regular season as the Bulls are fighting for their playoff lives.

Jokingly, Wade messed with teammates who he claimed wouldn’t help him get around the tedious and now taxing task of dressing himself as he only had one good arm.

The ideal person to help with matters, his wife Gabrielle Union, is out of town so the 35-year old is left to his own devices in the meantime.

Getting instructions from trainer Jeff Tanaka, he emerged with a elbow sleeve that looked similar to the one Barry Bonds wore when he was on his way to breaking home run records in the early 2000s.

But there won’t be any “cream” or “clear” to help Wade through his injury and for a few moments he revealed the sober state of affairs, the big unknown he’s facing.

“That’s a fear. Not even the MRI,” Wade said to CSNChicago.com. “Moreso how long it takes to rehab it. The MRI will probably say it’s a strain, and it’s about the process of how long it’ll take to get it where I need to get it to get back on the floor.”

If Jimmy Butler’s 2015 elbow injury is a model, it’s definitely possible Wade could miss the rest of the regular season.

Butler missed a month when he injured his elbow getting caught on a screen against the Clippers, but it was his non-shooting elbow and he had enough time to return back before the postseason.

“He asked me how long I was out, I told him and he was like wow,” Butler said. “It is what it is. Hopefully it’s not what I had. But I know it’s pain, I know that much. I know how it feels.”

[Buy Bulls tickets]

And when Butler shared his experience with Wade, Wade didn’t come away feeling reassured that things will turn out in his favor.

“Umm…I’m trying to be optimistic because I don’t know,” Wade said to CSNChicago.com. “It’s the unknown. You don’t wanna be too negative. So I’m really gonna hold it until tomorrow when I talk to the doctors.”

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg knew something wasn’t right with Wade, so he asked the veteran if he wanted to sit. Sensing it was a crucial time in the game and the season, Wade stayed in and tested it—to his chagrin.

“I said I needed to see. So we ran a play for me and I knew that was one of the tests, if I could put a little steam on it,” Wade said.

A pass from Wade to Denzel Valentine didn’t complete the way he wanted to, so to the bench he went, never to return for the night—and for who knows how long.

“And after that, it got sore and sore and stiffer,” Wade said to CSNChicago.com. “At that timeout I said, I’m not gonna help nobody going out there.”

“It felt like a hyperextension. But those two pops, those clicks, click-click, kinda different than I felt. I keep it optimistic, a positive mindset because I take care of my body well. I got a lot of people that will be here tomorrow.”

They’ll poke and prod Wade, the veteran who returned back to Chicago to help the Bulls restore some form of relevance and at the least, qualify for the NBA playoffs—which begins in less than 40 days.

And with everything that’s happened this year, the things Wade could control and plenty of others he couldn’t—his season could end on a fairly innocuous play, going for a rebound in a critical game after it seemed things were finally turning for the better.

So asking “what’s else could happen now” isn’t truly on his radar, although it may have to be the case sometime in the next 24 hours.

“I hope what’s next is me getting back on the floor. It’s definitely not the first season where it’s been challenges,” Wade said. “If I play as long as Vince (Carter), it won’t be the last. I never thought Vince would go that long. I’m just gonna plug away at it.”

Who knows if the Bulls finally found something by re-inserting Rondo with Wade and Butler, if the three could finally exist in on-court harmony in a way they all couldn’t in late December.

They didn’t have the best second game, although the Grizzlies find a way to muck up games against the best teams. Butler struggled facing constant double teams and unlikely earlier in the season when Wade was out, Butler didn’t take full advantage.

He’s looked more worn down than ever without Wade around, and even with a favorable schedule in the last week and a half—the Bulls’ last six games are against teams currently under .500—the Bulls’ playoff hopes could be dashed.

After all, even with Wade, the Bulls have been hovering around .500 all season, searching for consistency in seemingly all the wrong places.

“(I’m upset) with us losing and Detroit losing, us losing the ballgame first,” Wade said to CSNChicago.com. “I know it’s gonna be sore and stiff tonight, wake up and be in pain. Take a couple days, heal up like 'Wolverine,' hopefully I can get out there and play.”

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

zachlavinebulls.png
USA TODAY

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.”

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

Keeping the game simple is often a tough task for rookies entering the NBA, but it seems Lauri Markkanen has been a quick learner in that aspect.

Through two games he’s probably the lone bright spot, especially after the Bulls’ cringe-inducing 87-77 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in their home opener at the United Center.

Jumper not falling? Okay, go to the basket.

“It wasn’t falling so I tried to get to the rim a couple times,” Markkanen said. “At the end, I was like let’s do it and I connected on a 3-pointer, I felt more open just because I was at the rim. I think that helped.”

He was asked what the difference was in the second game of his career compared to the first.

“I mean the crowd was chanting for us (tonight),” Markkanen said, referring to Thursday in Toronto.

He wasn’t attempting to display any dry wit but applying common sense seems to work for him, even though he’s been thrust into a situation after an incident that doesn’t make any sense.

With Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic out for the foreseeable future, playing a game-high 37 minutes will be more common than anomaly.

“Whatever your minutes are, you gotta play them to the best of your ability,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s being allowed to play through some mistakes right now. He’s gonna play heavy minutes every night.”

He only shot five of 14 but achieved his first double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds after a 17-point, eight-rebound debut against the Raptors Thursday.

No, someone didn’t open a door for a draft to come into the United Center on that three-pointer that went wide left, but it didn’t stop him from being assertive and continuing to look for his shot.

There was plenty of muck, easy to see on the stat sheet. The 38 percent shooting overall, the lack of penetration, the 29 percent shooting from 3-point range and 20 turnovers.

It’s not hard to imagine what Markkanen will look like with competent and effective NBA players around him, along with a true facilitating point guard that will find him in this offense.

“Markkanen is a wonderful player,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s aggressive, he’s smart and obviously, he can shoot the ball. He’s just going to get better and better as he figures things out.”

He received a crash course, facing the likes of Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay Saturday night. On one instance, Gay drove baseline and made Markkanen buckle with a 3-point play.

Aldridge had 24 shots in 32 minutes as a new focal point with Kawhi Leonard out with injury.

So he’s not getting treated with kid gloves, nor is he backing down from the assignments.

“He didn’t shoot the ball well but he battled,” Hoiberg said. “He had a tough assignment with Pau, who’s gonna be in the Hall of Fame one day. Good experience. He guarded Aldridge, Rudy Gay some. He battled, he fought them.”

Even with the airball, had the moment that gives the Bulls fans hope, when he drove on Gasol, spun and hooked a lefty layup while being fouled by the veteran in the first half—giving the United Center faithful something to have faith in for a moment.

“Sometimes you get labeled as a shooter. That’s the label Lauri had,” Hoiberg said. “But he really is a complete basketball player. He’s versatile, he can put in on the deck. He slides his feet very well for a guy that’s seven feet tall, someone his age. Yeah, he’s learning on the fly. He’s gonna have ups and downs, as young as he is. He’s gonna have some struggles at times. But he’s played pretty darn well for everything he’s been through, understanding two days ago he’s gonna be in the starting lineup.”

And for all the bad air around the Bulls right now, from the on-court product to the off-court drama that seems to follow them around like Pigpen, it would be even worse if Markkanen’s first two games had him looking like a corpse, or someone who would be a couple years away from reasonably contributing to an NBA team.

“He’s good, he’s very good,” Gasol said. “I like him. I like his game.”