Bulls

Dwyane Wade expresses serious concern about elbow injury but hopes to channel a little 'Wolverine'

Dwyane Wade expresses serious concern about elbow injury but hopes to channel a little 'Wolverine'

The concern was etched on Dwyane Wade’s face as he tried to explain his emotions, with the attempt of being upbeat but the reality was staring him smack in the face—the fear was starting to creep in, if it wasn’t already present.

“Definitely a fear,” Wade confessed to CSNChicago.com in his newfound body armor, a sling for his right elbow. “Because it’s my shooting elbow and the biggest fear…it’s not a lot of time left in the season. That’s the biggest thing. Fourteen games left. That’s not ideal.”

Going for a rebound in the second half the Bulls’ 98-91 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, Wade got tangled between a teammate and Grizzlies big man Zach Randolph.

“No, it’s a first,” Wade told a throng of reporters. “I’ve always said as long as I play, I’ll almost experience everything. Hopefully it’s not as bad as I perceive it to be. Just get in tomorrow, see what the doctors say and start the rehab process and try to feel better.

“I knew it was something more, just with what I heard. Try to play with it a little bit, until the pain started getting a little more excruciating.”

He heard what he described as a “click-click”, as he explained it to Rajon Rondo as they commiserated in the locker room. Wade told everybody he was going for an MRI Thursday morning, which could seal his fate for the rest of the regular season as the Bulls are fighting for their playoff lives.

Jokingly, Wade messed with teammates who he claimed wouldn’t help him get around the tedious and now taxing task of dressing himself as he only had one good arm.

The ideal person to help with matters, his wife Gabrielle Union, is out of town so the 35-year old is left to his own devices in the meantime.

Getting instructions from trainer Jeff Tanaka, he emerged with a elbow sleeve that looked similar to the one Barry Bonds wore when he was on his way to breaking home run records in the early 2000s.

But there won’t be any “cream” or “clear” to help Wade through his injury and for a few moments he revealed the sober state of affairs, the big unknown he’s facing.

“That’s a fear. Not even the MRI,” Wade said to CSNChicago.com. “Moreso how long it takes to rehab it. The MRI will probably say it’s a strain, and it’s about the process of how long it’ll take to get it where I need to get it to get back on the floor.”

If Jimmy Butler’s 2015 elbow injury is a model, it’s definitely possible Wade could miss the rest of the regular season.

Butler missed a month when he injured his elbow getting caught on a screen against the Clippers, but it was his non-shooting elbow and he had enough time to return back before the postseason.

“He asked me how long I was out, I told him and he was like wow,” Butler said. “It is what it is. Hopefully it’s not what I had. But I know it’s pain, I know that much. I know how it feels.”

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And when Butler shared his experience with Wade, Wade didn’t come away feeling reassured that things will turn out in his favor.

“Umm…I’m trying to be optimistic because I don’t know,” Wade said to CSNChicago.com. “It’s the unknown. You don’t wanna be too negative. So I’m really gonna hold it until tomorrow when I talk to the doctors.”

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg knew something wasn’t right with Wade, so he asked the veteran if he wanted to sit. Sensing it was a crucial time in the game and the season, Wade stayed in and tested it—to his chagrin.

“I said I needed to see. So we ran a play for me and I knew that was one of the tests, if I could put a little steam on it,” Wade said.

A pass from Wade to Denzel Valentine didn’t complete the way he wanted to, so to the bench he went, never to return for the night—and for who knows how long.

“And after that, it got sore and sore and stiffer,” Wade said to CSNChicago.com. “At that timeout I said, I’m not gonna help nobody going out there.”

“It felt like a hyperextension. But those two pops, those clicks, click-click, kinda different than I felt. I keep it optimistic, a positive mindset because I take care of my body well. I got a lot of people that will be here tomorrow.”

They’ll poke and prod Wade, the veteran who returned back to Chicago to help the Bulls restore some form of relevance and at the least, qualify for the NBA playoffs—which begins in less than 40 days.

And with everything that’s happened this year, the things Wade could control and plenty of others he couldn’t—his season could end on a fairly innocuous play, going for a rebound in a critical game after it seemed things were finally turning for the better.

So asking “what’s else could happen now” isn’t truly on his radar, although it may have to be the case sometime in the next 24 hours.

“I hope what’s next is me getting back on the floor. It’s definitely not the first season where it’s been challenges,” Wade said. “If I play as long as Vince (Carter), it won’t be the last. I never thought Vince would go that long. I’m just gonna plug away at it.”

Who knows if the Bulls finally found something by re-inserting Rondo with Wade and Butler, if the three could finally exist in on-court harmony in a way they all couldn’t in late December.

They didn’t have the best second game, although the Grizzlies find a way to muck up games against the best teams. Butler struggled facing constant double teams and unlikely earlier in the season when Wade was out, Butler didn’t take full advantage.

He’s looked more worn down than ever without Wade around, and even with a favorable schedule in the last week and a half—the Bulls’ last six games are against teams currently under .500—the Bulls’ playoff hopes could be dashed.

After all, even with Wade, the Bulls have been hovering around .500 all season, searching for consistency in seemingly all the wrong places.

“(I’m upset) with us losing and Detroit losing, us losing the ballgame first,” Wade said to CSNChicago.com. “I know it’s gonna be sore and stiff tonight, wake up and be in pain. Take a couple days, heal up like 'Wolverine,' hopefully I can get out there and play.”

Bulls observations: How the Bulls' defense corralled Shaq and broke the Magic

Bulls observations: How the Bulls' defense corralled Shaq and broke the Magic

My word, the Magic are toast. The Bulls went up 3-0 in the 1996 Eastern Conference Finals with a smothering 86-67 win in Orlando. Observations:

Some wonky free throw shooting

Considering the Bulls’ status as perhaps the greatest team of all time, and the Orlando Magic’s reputation as supremely talented and formidable in their own right, the putrid free throw shooting in this one was a bit difficult to wrap one’s head around.

The Bulls finished the night 18-for-31 from the charity stripe, the Magic 10-for-24 (though most of that can be chalked up to Shaquille O’Neal’s 1-for-9 outing). And on technical free throws, the two teams combined to go 0-for-5. 

 

At one point, Michael Jordan was captured on the Bulls’ bench attributing a missed technical to sweat in his eyes (come on, now). NBC color commentator Matt Goukas offered the arduous brand of defense played by both sides to their dead legs at the line.

Whatever the case, it was weird. Even Jordan wasn’t immune; he started the night 2-for-6 on free throws and finished 6-for-11. 

Corralling Shaq

The Bulls did an outrageous job on O’Neal tonight. In the first half, he logged just eight points on miserable 4-for-11 shooting. His line for the night: 17 points, 8-for-19 from the field and five turnovers.

The beauty is there isn’t one person to credit for the Bulls’ impressive handling of O’Neal — perhaps the single most physically imposing player in the league at the time. The rotating cast of bigs (Luc Longley and Dennis Rodman, specifically) were more than serviceable making him work in single coverage. And from a scheming perspective, the double-teams the Bulls did utilize were perfectly timed and deployed. They didn’t come every possession, and when they did, they didn’t always come from the same person, from the same direction or at the same time.

That was the beauty of this team: Virtually any player in the regular rotation — from Jordan to Pippen to Harper to Kukoc — could be trusted to time their attack deftly and bother O’Neal’s dribbling with active hands and physicality. The result was O’Neal frequently fumbling the rock while executing routine back-downs, bricking bunnies and generally appearing uncomfortable — at times, even frustrated.

When it was winning time, O’Neal and Penny Hardaway (who, it should be noted, has had some crazy smooth moments in this series) combined for five points. Greatest defense of all time. 

When the Bulls flip the switch…

In that vein… Man. When this Bulls team wants to break you, they break you.

The Magic hung around for a while in this one, and give them credit for that. In the third, they shaved a double-digit deficit to just three points, and appeared to be on pace to give the Bulls a real test in the first game of this series on Orlando’s home court. All amid pedestrian performances from their two stars — even through three, O’Neal and Hardaway had just 15 points each. 

Then, that fourth quarter happened. I mentioned O’Neal and Hardaway’s foibles in that period. As a team, the Magic mustered just 10 points in the final frame, 29 in the second half and 67 for the game. And even listing that 10-point fourth quarter belies the fact that five of those points came in the final two-and-a-half minutes of regulation, and they began the period shooting 1-for-13.

This Magic team had two of the most electrifying players in the league at the time and was fresh off a Finals berth. Yes, they were banged up (Horace Grant’s series ended in Game 1 and Nick Anderson limped off the floor in the fourth), but when the Bulls lock in, they just looked so helpless. Most teams did, I’m beginning to see.

This stat says it all:

 

The Magic entered the fourth trailing 63-57. They ended losers by a score of 86-67. 90s basketball, baby.

Some signature nights

Scottie Pippen’s night warrants extended mention and celebration. In the box score, he shot 11-for-14 (after starting 9-for-10) to lead the game in scoring with 27 points. He also — typically — added seven assists, six rebounds and two blocks for good measure.

One of those blocks came on a preposterous chasedown midway through the second quarter. Even more preposterous was Pippen, seemingly in one fluid motion, stripping the ball out of a Magic player’s arms as he descended from making the block in the first place. His jumper was on, his ballhandling and fastbreak work as fluid as ever. He’s awesome. 

And in addition to Rodman grinding down O’Neal, he had a signature night all-around, as well. He finished with nine points, 16 rebounds (moving his averages for the series to 12.3 points and 16.3 rebounds) and four fouls — one of them a technical in the first quarter and one a tone-setting personal on Shaq in the fourth.

These guys are beaten. The Bulls seal the sweep Monday at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. Jordan left this one early and banged up, but we have a feeling he’ll bounce back nicely.

Every other night through April 15, NBC Sports Chicago is airing the entirety of the Bulls' 1996 NBA championship run. Find the full schedule here.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Scottie Pippen explains why second half of Bulls' title run was more special

Scottie Pippen explains why second half of Bulls' title run was more special

ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary series is going to get plenty of attention with the rest of the sports world on hold.

The series will focus on the Bulls’ final title season, 1997-98, and was recently moved up to debut on April 19.

Scottie Pippen talked about those title years for the Bulls in a recent episode of his ESPN show, “The Jump.” He explained what it was like knowing the 1997-98 season would be the team’s last run together.

“For me, it was really everything coming to a head for us,” Pippen said. “A great run through the 90s. Dennis [Rodman] had came and joined us the second half of that run, and that part was really the more special part because we were the best team in basketball for a long time, and no one knocked us off. Knowing that that was the end of our run and that we had to end it that way, we made it very special, and we wanted to end it with a championship.”

It’s noteworthy that Pippen says the second three-peat felt more special than the first. It would make sense for the team’s first title to be special because it was the breakthrough, but Pippen likes the fact that the Bulls were able to maintain their throne for so long and never lose a playoff series with a full strength team.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.