Dwyane Wade grabs leadership reins for undermanned Heat


Dwyane Wade grabs leadership reins for undermanned Heat

The Miami Heat practiced Sunday in Chicago, and head coach Erik Spoelstra implored his leaders to do just that: lead.

Dwyane Wade got the message.

Wade and the Heat were reeling entering their Monday-evening tilt with the Bulls, certainly not the hottest team in the league but one that returned home following a wire-to-wire victory over LeBron James and the Cavaliers in Cleveland. Having dealt with injuries to four of their six leading scorers the past two weeks, Miami had lost seven of their last eight, including their last three on the road.

Again shorthanded Monday night, with point guard Goran Dragic missing his seventh straight game and center Hassan Whiteside out with an oblique strain, the undermanned and undersized Heat got their leaders to step up when they needed it most. Miami erased a nine-point Bulls lead in the second half and closed the game on a 13-5 run to earn a much needed 89-84 victory over the Bulls.

"When it’s tough we’ve got to lead more," Spoelstra said of himself, Wade, Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem. "And when it gets tougher we have to lead even more. And that started yesterday in practice, with their approach in shootaround today and the approach (tonight) to bring it with a no-possessions-off mentality."

[MORE: Wade turns back the clock as Heat top Bulls]

Wade played every possession, and the Heat needed them all. He scored 28 points, his most in more than a month, and added seven rebounds and five assists. It was a throwback performance for Wade in his hometown, complete with a baseline jumper that kissed off the glass, a dunk in transition, spin moves in the post and timely passes to open teammates, a welcome sight for a team desperate for offense; the Heat hadn't topped 87 points during their four-game losing streak and averaged 86.7 points in their last eight games.

Thirteen of Wade's 21 field goal attempts came in the painted area, and he also went to the free-throw line eight times.

"That’s the biggest thing for our team, when myself, when Goran’s back, when we’re getting in the paint that allows us to be aggressive, scoring the ball and get our teammates better looks," he said. "That was the whole mindset."

A matchup of two of the NBA's best defensive teams — Miami ranked sixth in defensive efficiency, the Bulls eighth — was destined for a low-scoring affair, and the rebounding of fill-in starter Amare Stoudemire (10 in 25 minutes) and the hounding defense from rookie Justise Winslow (Jimmy Butler scored 13 points on 15 shots and just four points in the final period), who had nine rebounds and two steals, helped Miami back into the game after they scored just 12 points in the third quarter.

But in the fourth quarter it was Wade's playmaking — and leadership — that closed the door for the Heat.

He hit a pair of shots early in the period, and later connected on a free throw to tie the game at 82 apiece. Wade then drove the lane and found a baseline-cutting Winslow for a dunk to give the Heat a two-point lead.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Pau Gasol hit a jumper to tie the game with 1:14 left, but Wade came back and found Bosh open on a pick-and-pop after Gasol followed Wade to the basket with Butler. Bosh connected on the 17-footer, his 18th point to go with seven rebounds, and the Bulls couldn't answer off an inbounds play set up by a Wade deflection.

With 22 seconds left, Wade called for a screen, knowing Gasol had been switching on the wing, and drained a 21-footer over the seven-footer with 22 seconds left to put the game out of reach.

"They were calling a switch majority of the time on that play," Wade said. "I knew they were. Kind of already knew, wasn’t surprised, got a shot I was comfortable with and got it to fall."

Wade called the win "much-needed," an apt assessment for a team that two weeks ago was 21-13 and second in the Eastern Conference. In the midst of a difficult stretch where they'll play 11 of 12 away from American Airlines Arena, Monday's win could act as a springboard for a team that, when healthy, could contend for an Eastern Conference title.

Their health improved Monday, as Luol Deng returned from a brief absence after suffering an eye injury last week, scoring nine points. Beno Udrih was back in the lineup after missing four games, providing some stability at the point in the absence of Dragic. Whiteside's injury isn't considered serious, and Dragic should be back this week, meaning the Heat will be back at full-strength sooner than later as they attempt to make up ground they've lost while dealing with an undermanned roster.

"It’s the NBA. That’s the deal. We’re not feeling sorry for ourselves," Spoelstra said. "The league keeps on moving, games keep on coming and you have to be able to respond to it. Ultimately these times can toughen you and you can grow from it if you approach it the right way.

"Our guys have been approaching it, but we need to play better basketball. Guys will be coming back soon enough; we see the light at the end of the tunnel."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bulls trade up or down in the draft?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bulls trade up or down in the draft?

Mark Carman, Hub Arkush, Phil Rogers and Will Perdue join Kap on the SportsTalk Live Podcast.

The guys start by discussing Brandon Morrow's injury that he sustained while taking off his pants... what's the craziest cause for an injury the guys can remember?

Plus, should the Bulls move up or down in Thursday's NBA Draft? Does it make sense to take on a bad contract in a potential deal?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Chandler Hutchison's unusual basketball background makes him an intriguing target for the Bulls


Chandler Hutchison's unusual basketball background makes him an intriguing target for the Bulls

Over the past several weeks, the Bulls have been heavily rumored to be selecting Boise State small forward Chandler Hutchison with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Although the 6-foot-7 Hutchison had a stellar four-year career with the Broncos, and was regarded as a top-100 national prospect coming out of high school, his background is relatively unknown compared to many of his first-round counterparts. Not many recruiting gurus watched Hutchison in-depth in high school. The same could be said about draft analysts watching Hutchison's career unfold at Boise State.

Part of the reason Hutchison has flown under the radar for so long, despite being a first-round talent, is his unique basketball upbringing. Many elite high school players opt to transfer to big-time basketball schools while playing in high-exposure shoe-company leagues during the spring and summer. Instead of the normal path, Hutchison chose to stick with the people that he trusted.

Playing for a small, independent grassroots program in high school known as Team Eastbay, Hutchison started showing special gifts as a sophomore in before blossoming into a top-100 national prospect towards the end of high school. Hutchison's trainer and coach with Team Eastbay, Perry Webster, saw that Chandler had the ability to be a big-time player.

"I walked into the gym and saw this 15-year-old kind of gangly kid. And he just moved different than anybody else. I thought he had a chance to be a pretty good player," Webster said of Hutchison.

As Hutchison developed more of a reputation in the Southern California basketball scene, becoming a starter at Mission Viejo High School his junior season, he started to draw more attention from local and national recruiting analysts — including former ESPN recruiting insider Joel Francisco, Scout.com's Josh Gershon and SoCal recruiting analyst Devin Ugland.

"You saw during his junior year that he was a legitimate Division I prospect. During the spring he started blossoming," Francisco said. "He had the ball skills and the prototypical length and things like that. And he was finishing plays. He had a good IQ for the game. It was a matter of strength and he had to fill out to become a more complete player."

By the end of summer going into his senior season, Hutchison had established himself as a potential Pac-12 recruit, as schools like Oregon and USC started to show heavy interest. But it was mid-major programs like Boise State, Saint Mary's and UC-Irvine who had long been involved in Hutchison's recruitment.

Knowing that Hutchison was a unique wing with a high IQ and passing skills, Webster, a former Division I player at Cal State Fullerton himself, advised that his star player take a close look at the programs that would put him in position to succeed right away.

"Every AAU program in Southern California was trying to get him for their team. Free ride this, free shoes. The kid stayed really loyal to me. I was very hard on him," Webster said. "I demanded a lot of him. I screamed at him, I yelled at him. And he looked me in the eye and took it. I realized, this kid is pretty special because he's not running away from what he is. He knows what his limitations are. That's not something he's afraid to address.

"Not everybody was sold on him. Joel [Francisco] was. Joel was one of the proponents of him. But being that he burst on the scene late, and that he didn't play for the big shoe companies, we kind of came to the decision that we wouldn't be so enamored by the Pac-12. He realized he had ability but he still had a long way to go." 

Hutchison eventually decided to sign his National Letter of Intent with Boise State before his senior season started as assistant coach Jeff Linder acted as his lead recruiter. Even though his collegiate future had been decided, Hutchison continued to evolve into a major prospect during senior year as he flourished at Mission Viejo.

Even with his strong senior season, skepticism remained about Hutchison since he hadn't played with and against many of the major names in Southern California. Ranked as the No. 83 overall prospect in ESPN's final Class of 2014 national recruiting rankings, Hutchison was viewed as the seventh best player in his own state. While Francisco pushed for Hutchison to be ranked in the top 50, he had to settle for him being a back-end top-100 talent.

"They're like, hey, he's going to Boise State, he's not on a major shoe company team. How good can he be? But if he can play, he can play. It doesn't matter if he's not on the adidas circuit, he's not in the EYBL," Francisco said.

Francisco wasn't the only major recruiting analyst to take notice of Hutchison's play. Rivals.com's Eric Bossi also labeled Hutchison as a potential breakout player at Boise State. Hutchison was even placed in the Rivals national recruiting rankings, ending up at No. 98 overall, after his senior season. Bossi was on vacation with his family during spring break and he happened to see Hutchison play during his senior season. But Hutchison's strong effort, along with some research, convinced Bossi that he was worthy of a top-100 ranking, even with only one serious viewing. 

"I decided to go watch some regional California high school playoff stuff. And it just so happened to be that Chandler's high school team was one of the teams I was seeing," Bossi said. "I knew he was on the team and committed to Boise State. But then when I watched him play I was like, 'Holy cow, what an incredible get for Boise State. Like, this dude's legit.' He had great size for a wing. He could handle the ball, he could really pass and I thought he could defend multiple positions at the next level when it was all said and done. I thought he was a versatile, well-skilled, well-rounded basketball player. So, based on that, I thought he was top-100. I wish I had seen him more."

Even as a former top-100 national prospect, it took some time for Hutchison to gain traction at Boise State as he didn't put up big numbers during his first two seasons. Although Hutchison played plenty of minutes and started a healthy amount of games, he often took a back seat to talented all-conference players like Anthony Drmic and James Webb III.

When those players eventually moved on from the Broncos, Hutchison was given his chance to shine, as his ascension into all-conference player and future first-round pick came with an intense work ethic that continually developed during workouts in college.

Hutchison also became a consistent three-point threat — something he had been lacking during his development — as he became a hot name in the 2018 NBA Draft despite his unorthodox basketball background.

"He's always been competitive. I think the big thing is reps. And it still will be as he continues to play in the league," Webster said. "He wasn't a bad shooter in high school, but I think the big adjustment for him getting to college, it's hard to put up good percentages in college. I think some of it is mental. But I think he's a good shooter and I think that he'll prove that." 

It's hard to predict if the Bulls will end up with Hutchison with the No. 22 overall pick on Thursday night — especially given all of the chaos that can occur on draft night. But if Hutchison does end up in Chicago, he won't be fazed by having to prove himself after already doing so at the high school and college level.