Saturday night is the target date for Dwyane Wade's return to the Bulls lineup from his right elbow injury, sources tell CSNChicago.com.
Wade will play under a minute restriction upon his return before getting himself acclimated to heavy minutes, as there will be three regular season games after Thursday night's game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
He is definitively out against the 76ers but Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg was noncommittal about anything beyond that, and this was the reason. Wade has gone through practices recently and has begun ramping up his workouts with the thought of returning in the regular season.
"Dwyane was able to participate in a lot in lot of the contact drills," Hoiberg said after Wednesday's practice. "The big thing is getting his conditioning and wind and timing but it was great to see him out there."
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Wade initially fractured bones in his shooting elbow on March 15 against the Memphis Grizzlies and the initial thought was his regular season would be over given the initial prognosis of a recovery period, but if he clears enough hurdles as far as conditioning and soreness, he'll be in the lineup Saturday night.
The Bulls have gone 6-4 in his absence and are tied for seventh in the Eastern Conference with games against lottery teams remaining. In theory, the Bulls could move up to sixth, but they could also slide out of the postseason with more underwhelming performances, exemplified by their 100-91 loss to the New York Knicks.
"It'd be great to get him back," Hoiberg said. "You look at last night's game, it would've been nice to have a guy to playmake and put the ball in the basket when we were really struggling in that area."
Wade, the Bulls' second-leading scorer at 18.6 points per game, is also the Bulls' most experienced playoff performer and in theory, will be fresh for the postseason.
The Bulls have altered their style of play with Wade out, giving more responsibility to Rajon Rondo, and their 3-point shooting has increased. Getting Wade back in the lineup means there will be an adjustment on both sides, but considering playoff basketball is a different brand, the Bulls could have the best of both worlds if its blended properly.
"When he's ready to go, we'll get him back out there," Hoiberg said. "I'm sure we'll have to have a little restriction on his minutes, hopefully we'll get him back in rhythm these last few games."