Dwyane Wade was in full lather after the morning shootaround at Madison Square Garden, as optimism increases that he'll be back for the Bulls this season after suffering a right elbow injury a couple weeks ago.
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg declined to say whether he feels Wade will be back before the end of the regular season and Wade declined comment altogether, but with the increased intensity of Wade's workouts suggests there's a light at the end of the tunnel — be it a probable playoff showing or sometime sooner.
"It's a day by day thing with Dwyane now," Hoiberg said. "He's feeling better but obviously there's a lot of work to do as far as getting his strength back."
Wade went through his first workout before the Bulls played Cleveland last Thursday at the United Center, and he still isn't cleared for contact so there's still more hurdles to clear before one can realistically expect Wade to get back on the floor.
"He has a little pain in that elbow when he's done working out," Hoiberg said. "But the important thing is he's making progress and hopefully he'll continue to take steps in the right direction and we'll get him back at some point in the season."
The fact the Bulls are going for five straight wins and playing better basketball all around belies the fact they are a better team when Wade is playing — one can just assume the Bulls can find a way to blend this new identity with a guy who can score 25 on a given night.
Especially someone who can alleviate the pressure from Jimmy Butler, the Eastern Conference Player of the Week.
"That's what great players, hall of fame players do," Butler said. "They pick up where they left off. I know he's gonna do that. I'm constantly in his ear, he's constantly in mine about what he sees, what I see. It's different when you're not playing and you're watching. There's a lot of things we can be better at."
Butler suffered the same injury in the 2014-15 season and missed a month, so he knows Wade will have to go through the mental test of getting bumped on the elbow again through regular contact and not worrying about it.
"We definitely need that guy, as everybody knows," Butler said. "We want him to come back where he's not protecting anything, he's hooping and playing 110 percent."