Bulls

Dwyane Wade to return to Chicago, sign with Bulls

Dwyane Wade to return to Chicago, sign with Bulls

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.

[MORE BULLS TALK: Dwyane Wade's top five performances at the United Center]

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.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“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.

Kris Dunn thinks Zach LaVine could be 'a good defender in this league'

Kris Dunn thinks Zach LaVine could be 'a good defender in this league'

We all know what Zach LaVine is capable of doing on the offensive side of things. But what about his defense?

It's no secret that LaVine has had his fair share of struggles on defense, but Kris Dunn thinks highly of his 23-year-old teammate and what his potential is at the other end.

"On the defensive end I just told him, 'You're as fast as me. You're more athletic than me. There's no way you shouldn't be a good defender in this league. You could be one of those guys who could be dynamic in the passing lanes because you're so athletic and fast.'" Dunn said of LaVine. "And personally, I like to score. If you get in a passing lane, that's a dunk for yourself and because you've got so much bounce that's when you get the crowd on their feet — maybe do a windmill, a 360, something.

"But I think he's been going a good job on the defensive end. It's not going to be easy. We all got to learn and I think we're all trying."

Improving his defense would obviously be a big step forward for LaVine (and the Bulls), and he knows it. 

“I think I had a lot better focus on the defensive end,” LaVine said when assessing his preseason. “I had some mistakes too, but I wanted to go out there and just really hone in on being more focused down there. I felt like I did OK with that. Still some areas I want to get better at, definitely off-the-ball I think I did a lot better than I had before.’’

LaVine and the Bulls travel to Philadelphia to face the 76ers on Thursday night in their season opener. You can watch Bulls Pre- and Postgame Live on NBC Sports Chicago before and after the game for highlights and analysis.

3 keys for Bulls in season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers

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USA TODAY

3 keys for Bulls in season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers

1. Provide help defense on Joel Embiid early and often. Embiid's high usage rate means going to score regardless, and has even added moves like a step-back jumper that he can go to comfortably from 15-feet. But if you make him see multiple defenders and force him to be unsettled, you can harass him into poor shooting nights like Boston did (Embiid shot 9-for-21 on Tuesday night). There were plays where as soon as Embiid took one or two dribbles, a help defender—even a guard—was flying in to go for block shot opportunities.

Wendell Carter Jr. earned the starting center job with his ahead-of-his-age defensive IQ, but no matter how ahead of the curve he is, stopping Embiid will take a group effort. He can become enamored with the 3-point shot, so the Bulls will have to work together to coax Embiid into taking poor shot attempts. Boston did a great job of denying him deep post position om Tuesday night, cutting off the Sixers' easiest source of offensive production.

Wendell Carter Jr. will get his first big defensive test on Thursday night, as he will have to use his lower body strength to prevent Embiid's low post dominance. We have seen Carter struggle with bigger low post scorers in the preseason, and if the Bulls don't provide help fast, Carter will be in trouble.

If Carter does what many rookies do, and tries to use his hands to stop Embiid from gaining ground, the referees will call a foul quickly, especially since he is a rookie learning the ropes. Helpside defense will be the difference in this game for the Bulls.

2. Get back quickly and build a wall on transition defense. Below is the combined shot chart of Embiid and Ben Simmons from Tuesday night against the Celtics. Notice where the attempts are mostly concentrated. 

Ben Simmons and Embiid like to put pressure on the opposing defense by putting pressure on the front of the basket, and with good reason. They are both dominant finishers in the paint and questionable outside shooters.

In 207-18 Embiid shot 57 percent when 0-3 feet from the basket, Simmons shot a staggering 83 percent in the 0-3 foot range, which is even more impressive when you consider that defenses are gameplanning for his drives. We all know that Simmons will likely never be an even average 3-point shooter, and Embiid shot a dreadful 25 percent from the 3-point line last season despite a career-high 214 attempts. But the above the break 3-point shot is a major part of the Philadelphia offense, with Embiid shooting a much better 30.4 percent on above the break 3-pointers. 

Chicago would be wise to let the Sixers get these shots. 

In transition Simmons (or Markelle Fultz) will run the break with Embiid trailing directly behind them, either looking for a straight-line drive to the basket or an above the break 3-pointer after their forward momentum has been stopped. 

If the Bulls can summon the words of former Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy and form a wall around the restricted area, they can wall off aggressive drives from the Sixers young, dynamic duo. The Bulls need to force this game to be about turnovers and free throw makes, areas in which the Sixers have struggled last season (dead-last in the league in turnovers and 23rd in FT percentage).

3. Force the defense to move side-to-side. Philadelphia had a top-five defensive rating last season, and a big reason for that was that while the Sixers would often switch one through four, they wouldn't switch the five, meaning Embiid was often dropping back on pick-and-roll D and stationing himself near the basket. Staying as close as possibe to the rim obviously is beneficial to the Embiid, who has averaged 2 blocks per game for his career. But when you get Philly's aggressive defense to shift, they try to jump passing lanes to ignite their fastbreak, which can lead to plays like this:

The above play contains the exact type of ball-movement and cutting principles that Fred Hoiberg has stressed throughout the preseason.

Zach LaVine is the type of quick, explosive guard that the Sixers can have trouble containing with their personnel, more so that they are depending on Fultz so much. But if the Bulls get bogged down into a bunch of one-on-one play, it will allow Embiid to sit back and be a huge deterrent at the rim.

Carter's ability to stretch the floor—along with Bobby Portis' shooting—should be enough of a threat to keep Embiid occupied, but if not he will not respect their shots, and simply clog up driving lanes.

Handoff plays contained some of Carter's best moments this preseason, so we should expect to see Hoiberg call for lots of plays that get a Bulls guard or wing attacking a backpedaling big.