It was a longshot, but the Bulls had a shot at nabbing Dwyane Wade — if things went sour with the Miami Heat.
And the Bulls did just enough to show Wade the love and respect he felt he was missing, along with moving a couple critical pieces to clear salary-cap space in order to get him to agree to a two-year, $47.5 million deal, according to sources familiar with the situation.
The Heat offered two years and $40 million and did not increase the offer at the last second when it was clear the Bulls and Denver Nuggets were serious suitors. After making huge sacrifices in previous contract demands, he wanted to collect, but the Heat was only willing to go so far, leaving the door open for other teams to swoop in.
It was evident the hurt feelings would last, and the acrimony seemed to grow in recent days, money notwithstanding.
The Nuggets offered the biggest deal for Wade, but Wade chose to return back to a familiar place over heading out West — perhaps as a way to go head-up against the Heat and even LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
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Wade leaves Miami, where he spent 13 years as a Heat staple and sometimes Bulls-killer, winning three NBA championships and a Finals MVP in 2006. Arguably, Wade is the third-best shooting guard in NBA history behind his idol Michael Jordan and recently retired Kobe Bryant.
Wade averaged 19.0 points, 4.6 assists and 4.1 rebounds in 74 games last season, the most games he’s played since the 2010-11 campaign, his first alongside James in Miami.
That was also the year the Bulls marched to the Eastern Conference Finals, losing to Wade and James in five games. His storied career has been marred a bit by nagging injuries, but he seemed to shake that a little last season, being one of the more durable shooting guards in the league.
Wade, who is a native of Robbins, Ill., and attended high school in Oak Lawn, returns to where he grew up to help a Bulls team that was certainly in transition after the recent departures of Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah.
It’s a clear sign the Bulls want to remain competitive in the interim, as they hope some of the young pieces they’re investing in will step forward, aided by Jimmy Butler, Rajon Rondo and now Wade.
Chicago certainly wasn’t Wade’s first choice, as the Bulls believed Wade and the Heat would work things out, as they always seem to do. But the Heat never upped their offer to Wade, and Wade saw it fitting to return home, a reunion made possible after the Bulls unloaded Jose Calderon to the Los Angeles Lakers and Mike Dunleavy Jr. to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
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“Growing up in Robbins, Ill., I never dreamed that an NBA career would be possible and that one day I would wear a Chicago Bulls jersey,” Wade said to the Associated Press in a letter. “Watching the Bulls growing up inspired me at an early age to pursue my dream of becoming a basketball player. My most treasured memories were watching my dad play basketball on the courts of Fermi Elementary School and developing my game at the Blue Island Recreational Center. I have never forgotten where I came from, and I am thankful to have an opportunity to play for the team that first fueled my love for the game. Many of my family members still live in Chicago, and I am excited to return home to a city very close to my heart. I look forward to returning to my roots and to what lies ahead.”
What lies ahead for the Bulls is certainly an unknown, as the fit between Wade, Butler and Rondo will be a task considering none are jump shooters, making it less than an ideal fit for Fred Hoiberg’s pace-and-space system.
But gathering talent like Wade and Rondo is better than no talent at all, the Bulls believe, and they maintain some flexibility for the future with the short deals for Wade and Rondo — keeping themselves relevant if not unpredictable in the meantime.