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Exclusive: Dwyane Wade shares story of Heat's disrespect and why he left Miami for the Bulls

Exclusive: Dwyane Wade shares story of Heat's disrespect and why he left Miami for the Bulls

Dwyane Wade stood at his new space in his new locker room, focused on looking ahead as his recent past was getting ready to stare him in the face. A return to Miami, a place nobody in their right mind thought he would ever leave, is looming.

The former “Heat Lifer” chuckles at the campaign built around him a couple years back, seeing as how he left his kingdom once he found out it was never really his to begin with.

“I thought it was an opportunity I would be there forever, but s--t happens,” Wade said in an exclusive interview with CSNChicago.com after the Bulls’ 112-80 win over the Orlando Magic on Monday night “And when s--t happens, you gotta be prepared to (move on). I found out very quickly that this is a business.”

Wade is a Chicago Bull in large part due to the business end of basketball, as he left Miami in free agency over the summer when negotiations with the franchise he never wanted to leave went sour.

He insists there’s no hurt feelings with the Miami Heat franchise he became synonymous with, though he hasn’t spoken to Heat president Pat Riley since his departure — the only member of the franchise he hasn’t spoken with since free agency started, as one could say Riley is the sole reason Wade is wearing Bulls red as opposed to Heat red.

“I've kept in touch from everybody there besides Pat. From the owners on down,” Wade said. “It's nothing but respect, and I have no hard feelings. I understand what Pat is, he's a competitor. I've been knowing him for 13 years so I expect no different.

“People might not believe me, but I have no hard feelings toward Pat. Everything happened the way it was supposed to happen, everything happens for a reason, so I'm fine.”

Wade has added a level of maturity to the Bulls’ franchise, not just the locker room, since his arrival after an ugly divorce that left Wade feeling less of a priority and more of an afterthought to the Heat — a franchise with which he helped deliver NBA titles and bring a level of prestige to South Florida, which isn’t exactly a basketball hotbed.

How did it get here?

Well, as with all marriages that end abruptly, there’s complications and possibly misinterpretations all across the board. Wade and the Heat had different priorities headed into last summer as the Heat wanted to make a run at free agent Kevin Durant while keeping young center Hassan Whiteside in the fold.

Keeping that salary-cap space open for two max deals meant Wade had to twist in the wind a bit while the Heat tried to reload for a run at former mate LeBron James in the East.

“Definitely,” said Wade when asked if he felt a certain way about where he fit on the pecking order. “The biggest thing, is all about the way you communicate. I understand this business just as good as anybody. But it's a way, someone like me, a way you communicate what you're trying to do, and how you're gonna do it and what it looks like for me.”

The common courtesy and respect he felt he was due by the franchise — completely different from special treatment, he’s intimated on multiple occasions — went out the window, at least long enough for Wade to seriously explore other options.

“That's it. When you get respect, that's what you get back,” Wade said. “I've given nothing but respect. I feel like a lot of things in this world and this league are mishandled from the notion of communication. That's it.

“At the end of the day, I talked to those guys and I told them, 'It's free agency. I understand y'all have a job to do, and I have a job to do as well.' I let it be known I was going to be a free agent and I wasn't waiting by the phone for them to call me.”

At 34 years old, Wade feels like there was a middle ground that could’ve been found between what the Heat wanted to do externally and what should’ve been handled internally.

Each side had different priorities after being aligned for so long, with the Heat not wanting to be cap-strapped to a Kobe Bryant-like contract during his final two years with the Lakers, believing Wade couldn’t be a top-line player for a contender, while Wade felt he had to look out for himself.

It doesn’t make either wrong or right, but the relationship was headed in a different direction.

“And I did my homework because I understand Hassan was a priority, which he should've been,” Wade said. “I understood that they were trying to go out and get KD, because that's something they wanted to do. But I had to look out for myself and put myself in a situation that I wanted to be in, if things didn't work out the way I wanted them to work out and they didn't.”

Wade has become one of the more respected players in basketball not only for his play but his sacrifices and the way he helped James along when James came to Miami.

It’s not a stretch to say Wade made the biggest salary sacrifices in the history of basketball, turning down tens of millions of dollars in two contracts to help the Heat facilitate signings of James and Chris Bosh in 2010 while also keeping longtime teammate Udonis Haslem.

“You do things because you want to do them. All those things I did to stay in Miami was because I wanted to do them,” Wade said. “When I made the sacrifice, when I could've gotten $127 million and I took $110 million to make sure LeBron and Chris (come) but I also have UD (Haslem) stay, those were things I wanted to do. I didn't want to be in Miami and enjoy the success and not have UD there.”

Wade makes clear he wasn’t coerced or promised anything from the Heat franchise, and it sounds like if given the opportunity for a mulligan, he’d probably make the same decision.

Wade became a Chicago villain for spurning the Bulls but won two more championships in addition to winning Finals MVP in 2006 as a 24-year old.

“As a player, you know the saying, ‘all money ain't good money?’ Sometimes you make a decision to put yourself in a great situation more so than going to get the dollar,” Wade said. “I've been blessed to have a lot of endorsement money as well, and I've been able to make money up — you can't make money up, but I've been able to keep afloat (laughs).”

And unprompted, Wade addresses what he believes is the biggest misconception of the entire ordeal.

“So I never ...” Wade started, his eyes darting from his clothes to make strong eye contact. “There's this notion out there that I expected stuff on the back end. No, I've always wanted as a player what I was worth.”

[SHOP BULLS: Get a Dwyane Wade jersey right here]

So the player who was never the highest-paid player on his own team despite being the best athlete in his adopted state (only Dan Marino compares) didn’t feel valued, seemingly by Riley more than Heat owner Micky Arison.

Contentious negotiations followed when Wade opted out from the deal he signed in 2010 to try to help the Heat retain James, only to see James return to Cleveland after the 2013-14 season.

“That's when things started changing,” Wade said. “They decided to max out Chris, which I was all for. And then it became a situation with me from that standpoint and I wasn't happy with it.”

Wade and Bosh shared the same agent at the time, Henry Thomas, but they all operated as separate entities compared to their initial partnership. Wade signed a short deal but clearly wasn’t satisfied as their long-term objectives begun to grow wider and wider as Wade got older.

“I ain't gonna say, oh, I was happy go lucky,” he said. “Then I opted out again and the next year I signed the one-year, $20 million deal because I never made $20 million in a season. I wanted multiple years, they wanted to be players in free agency, I understand that.”

Calmly and reflectively, Wade answered every query about a big change in his career and life without much bitterness. But the one thing that stumped the first-ballot Hall of Famer was when he was asked if the Heat’s final offer was their initial offer, would he have stayed?

Multiple reports from the summer stated the Heat offered Wade $10 million annually — which considering the salary boom last summer along with the way Wade nearly carried the Heat back to the Eastern Conference Finals probably felt like a slap in the face.

Their final offer was a two-year, $40 million deal, some $7 million less than the Bulls came to the table with, and factoring in Florida’s lack of state taxes, Wade would’ve broke about even.

“It might've been different. I don't know. It could've been. It never happened,” Wade said. “It's hard to say because it never happened. I was never put in that position, and I wasn't the first option. I'm not sensitive to say, ‘If I'm not the first option, I'm leaving.’”

But he felt more like the fallback option than the priority after the Heat inked Whiteside to a max deal and struck out with Durant — a prospect that didn’t seem too realistic in hindsight.

“Obviously I've done my job and duty and stayed there,” he said. “This time I knew it was going to be different. When I went into free agency, I knew it was gonna be different. I just felt it. That's why I did my best to communicate with the powers that be. And I told them what I was gonna do.”

The powers that be?

“The powers that be. The owners, yeah (laughs), because that's what I did the last couple years,” Wade said.

As in not Riley, the man who knew Wade played two of his best individual seasons on teams that couldn’t compete because Riley wanted to hunt for Big Game, as in James.

As in not Riley, the man who saw the sacrifices Wade made to get players to Miami and try to keep them together.

So when Wade says “all money ain’t good money,” it helped the Heat on the front end but came back to bite them last summer. One offer was presented with love and respect, while the other was tinged with resentment.

Making the decision to choose Chicago meant putting himself first, and he was asked if that was difficult.

“No. At this age and point in my career, it wasn't,” Wade said. “And that's why I tell everybody it wasn't a hard decision. It's tough to make a decision when you know you get a couple days to make this decision and it's not gonna be the most popular decision because of X, Y and Z.

“For me, I don't know how many more years I have left to play this game. It's about doing what I want to do at this moment. Not saying I didn't do what I wanted, I always did what I wanted, but it's continuing to have the ability to do that. And I did. I put myself first for once. I didn't say, hey, I waited on Miami to come to me. At the end of the day, I could've come back to Miami and made great money. The contract they offered me was good. By the time it got to me, my heart was somewhere else.”

His heart was north, back home in Chicago with a franchise that desperately needed the credibility Wade could provide while Wade needed the love the Bulls franchise was showing him.

In Miami, he saw teammate Caron Butler get traded when the franchise told him he wouldn’t get moved. He saw Shaquille O’Neal moved when that relationship went south.

Perhaps he always knew the term “Heat Lifer” applies to one person and one person only: Riley.

“It's his show,” Wade said. “For the most part, he's the one who's always there. The players come and go (laughs).

“I never carry myself, like, oh, I'm the Miami Heat, like I can never be traded. That's just not who I am, I've seen this business early on. I'm not that cocky guy like that. I knew it was a possibility, either they might've gotten rid of me or I may have gotten an opportunity to go elsewhere.”

The latter occurred, and coming from someone who saw Michael Jordan in a Wizards uniform, he never thought he was too good to have his ending somewhere else — though it would’ve been special to stay in one place.

“A lot of (great) players played with a lot of other teams. You can count on one hand, two possibly,” Wade said. “Not saying I didn't think I would be one of those guys. I did everything in my power to be one of those guys, and that's all you can do.

“That's why I tell the (Heat) fans, I did everything I could to make sure I stay here. And then it got to a point where, you know what, it was no more I could do. I had to go and do what's best for myself and my family and my future when it comes to my happiness. I want to feel wanted as well. Who doesn't (want to feel) appreciated?”

He said he felt like a voice was tapping him on his shoulder saying “Chicago, Chicago,” so chasing his childhood dream became a reality — but left plenty of questions he’s attempted to answer in the time since last summer as he approaches going to American Airlines Arena as a visitor for the first time.

When he does, he’ll see plenty of old faces, familiar ones that will evoke great memories and likely a feeling of wistfulness. If he sees Riley in a back hallway or on the floor while warming up Thursday, he won’t shun him.

“Life is too short to be holding grudges. At the end of the day, Pat has helped me become a very rich man,” Wade said. “Me and Pat have won championships together. We've both helped each other’s legacies. I love that guy. I know how he is. He's stubborn just like I am.”

Two stubborn men made history, and at the moment Wade doesn’t foresee a reunion in the way James went back to Cleveland. The man who makes a habit out of saying “live in the moment” believes he’s vested in Chicago with the Bulls franchise, not worrying about what will happen when he becomes a free agent again.

“Honestly, I'm happy here, and that's all I'm focused on,” Wade said. “I'm not focused on that. I wanna see those young kids grow. I'm focused on here and what I can do here. And talking to Gar (Forman) and Pax (John Paxson), what's next for me here? I'm not focused on anything else.”

But just as there was something tapping him on the shoulder saying “Chicago, Chicago” as a free agent, “Miami” is looming and he can’t put it off much longer. If he can keep his emotions in check, showing the Heat what they’re missing is likely top of mind.

“Bobby (Portis) just said it in the bathroom, 'Thursday's gonna be crazy, you ready?' I said ‘nah, I ain't.’” Wade admitted. “I don't know what kind of emotions will come over me. I don't know how I'll feel, what it'll look like. I'll get ready when it comes.”

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

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USA TODAY

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

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USA TODAY

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.