SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH — Dwyane Wade was on the bench, so fuming mad that one would’ve thought the play in question lost the game for the Chicago Bulls, or at least put the opposing team in position to tie or take the lead.
Bulls guard Jerian Grant missed an assignment defensively, resulting in a Rudy Gobert putback after a Gordon Hayward 3-point miss when the Bulls were trying to put the Jazz away Thursday in their 85-77 win.
At the next timeout, Wade was letting the second-year guard know those type of gameplan mistakes were “unacceptable”, even though Jimmy Butler hit a jumper on the next possession to give the Bulls a seven-point lead with a minute remaining, effectively putting the game away.
As Fred Hoiberg approached the Bulls’ huddle after conferring with his assistants, he let Wade continue his constructive criticism of the guard who was playing in Rajon Rondo’s stead as opposed to interrupting.
“He’d been talking for a minute before I got in there with the long TV timeouts,” said Hoiberg about the event in question. “Those guys can look each other in the eye and hold each other accountable and talk about the game. We messed up coverage and Wade jumped (on a guy).”
With such a schism between the young players and experienced ones on the roster—along with Hoiberg’s demeanor that won’t have anyone confused with the fire-and-brimstone types—Wade has been given latitude to say such things in the heat of the moment.
Wade was frustrated that the Bulls were prepared for such an instance to happen because it had been discussed previously—and often.
“It’s very valuable man. As a player, especially late in games, our coaches do a great job of preparing us,” Wade said. “We prepared for fourth quarter plays, we knew what their sets were gonna be and then we came in today and did the same thing. So if our coaches prepare us for those opportunities and those moments, we shouldn’t go out there and mess them up. We know (snaps fingers). We went over this. Coach said it right before we came out, he said these are the three plays they’re gonna run and then we go out and blow the coverage.
[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]
To his credit, Grant took the criticism to heart and responded in the moment, helping the Bulls close out a close game.
“You know, it’s just how bad they want to win,” Grant said to CSNChicago.com. “It makes you try harder to make sure they don’t get on you again, so you do it right. I’m always, anything those guys say I’m accepting. I know they’re not looking down on me, they’re trying to help me, help the team win the game.”
The Bulls were up seven with less than two minutes remaining, so in a vacuum, one could think Wade was being a bit harsh. But he’s trying to establish a culture of doing things, a standard of behavior he’ll have to hold himself to down the line.
“And it’s my job and Jimmy and Rondo as leaders to make sure that people are being held accountable. And we gotta do the same thing,” Wade said. “We can’t have that when you’re trying to win ballgames. You blow one play, a six-point lead goes to three and now you miss, you come down. They come back. We don’t need all that. You need to be on it late in ballgames. We responded well, we didn’t blow any more late in the game and put away the game.”
Let’s be clear. A lot of what Wade is doing is because it isn’t Hoiberg’s nature to jump on guys that way, and so much of what Hoiberg will or won’t be as a coach will largely depend on how players respond to him.
It’s been a big question mark since he arrived in Chicago, and although the narrative can be overplayed about a handle he has or doesn’t have on the locker room, it does exist.
Having Wade as a lieutenant, in a sense, bridges that gap.
“It says a lot about this team. Wade, just to hear him talk in the huddle, keeping guys together,” Hoiberg said. “We talked about that at shotoaround for 10 minutes, that (breakdown) can’t happen. That stuff’s huge, it’s gonna carry over for the rest of the season.”