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.”

Wendell Carter Jr. is showing significant signs of growth in his second season, both on and off the court

Wendell Carter Jr. is showing significant signs of growth in his second season, both on and off the court

When the Bulls selected Wendell Carter Jr. with the seventh overall pick in the 2018 draft, John Paxson and Gar Forman talked about his rare intelligence, mental toughness and maturity for a 19-year-old prospect.

We saw signs of Carter Jr.’s leadership ability during his 44-game rookie campaign. He took the losses as hard as anyone in the locker room and spoke candidly about the need to change the mindset and focus of everyone on the roster. Carter’s first season ended early because of a broken thumb, but his emergence as a strong voice among the players was only beginning.

With the Bulls getting off to an unexpected slow start to the 2019 season, the now 20-year-old Carter has been a prominent voice in the locker room, saying the players need to feel the pain of the constant losing and do everything possible to turn things around.

Carter has certainly done his part, taking a significant step forward through the first 11 games of his second season. The former Duke star is averaging 13.2 points, 9.7 rebounds and has already notched seven double-doubles — the first Bulls center to accomplish that since Joakim Noah in the 2010-11 season.

After experiencing the physicality of NBA post play as a rookie, Carter put in extra work in the weight room this past summer, and showed up for training camp at a solid 265 pounds. He’s used that extra strength effectively on both ends, banging with the league’s biggest centers under the basket, while also maintaining his ability to switch onto smaller players in pick-and-roll coverage.

Carter also got advice from Bulls television analyst and former NBA player Stacey King to always run hard down the middle of the court after a change of possession to set up opportunities for easy baskets and offensive rebounds. With the Bulls playing at a faster pace this season, Carter's ability to beat opposing centers on the offensive end has already resulted in more scoring chances.

The Bulls coaching staff is still hoping Carter will develop his shooting range to the point where he can be a consistent threat from three-point territory, but at this point that’s not a high priority in the offense. Carter is outstanding in the pick-and-roll, setting solid screens and then rolling hard to the basket for lob passes. He also has the ability to pop out to the elbow area for midrange jump shots.

With all the preseason conversation focused on the possibility of Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen making the jump to All-Star consideration, Carter is the player making the biggest leap early in the season. And his increased production is coming without designed plays being run for him.

The Bulls’ offense doesn’t call for multiple entry passes into the low post, but we saw during Carter’s one season at Duke that he has a nice touch shooting jump hooks from close range with either hand. Carter’s offensive game figures to expand in the coming seasons, but his skill in protecting the rim and controlling the defensive backboard already makes him extremely valuable to what the Bulls are trying to accomplish.

Plus, we already know that a competitive fire burns deep inside the 20-year-old Carter. After former teammate Bobby Portis torched the Bulls for 28 points and 11 rebounds in a come-from-behind victory for the Knicks at Madison Square Garden last month, Carter vowed it wouldn’t happen in Tuesday’s rematch at the United Center. 

“No words need to be said. We’re not letting that happen,” Carter said to reporters. “Bobby is going to want to put on a show. I’m not going to have it. I hope he’s watching this. I ain’t having it.”

Portis’ stat line in the Bulls’ blowout win following those comments? In 19 unproductive minutes, he tallied just 7 points and 3 rebounds on 3-of-9 shooting.

The Bulls’ 20-year-old locker room leader made sure he backed up his pregame comments. Now, he says he’ll look for something to fire up his teammates for every game left on the schedule.

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Kris Dunn continues to buy into role — and the Bulls are better for it

Kris Dunn continues to buy into role — and the Bulls are better for it

Jim Boylen has plenty of pet phrases. Role acceptance is one of them.

And if you want to get the Bulls coach rolling, ask him about Kris Dunn’s performance in that department.

“Big time. Big time,” Boylen repeated, for good measure. “He just wants to win. He’s the first guy in the breakfast room. You have to be in the building 45 minutes before [practice]. He’s in 1 hour, 45 minutes before. He does his workout 45 minutes before everybody else with Coach [Nate] Loenser. He is locked in. He cares. He always cared. And he’s playing winning basketball. I’m really happy for him.”

There may be no greater compliment from a coach to a player than to say one is playing winning basketball. Relayed Boylen’s comment, Dunn didn’t take it lightly.

“That means a lot. That’s what I try to do,” Dunn said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. “I come from a winning program at Providence. I know what winning looks like. And I know what it takes to win.”

Right now, that involves Dunn accepting his role as a reserve aimed at wreaking defensive havoc on opponents. When Dunn scores 13 points, as he did in Tuesday’s victory over the Knicks, it’s a bonus.

There’s a lot going right with Dunn’s game these days. He leads the NBA with 25 steals, posting multiple steals in seven of 11 games. He has tallied 30 assists to just nine turnovers in 224 minutes, emblematic of solid decision-making. And he’s shooting 47.1 percent from the field — a figure made even more impressive by his anemic 17.6 percent shooting from 3-point range.

“I take pride in my defense,” Dunn said. “The second unit, I think we have good defenders in our group. Archie [Ryan Arcidiacono], he’s a dog. Thad [Young], he’s a dog. Coby [White], he’s a dog. I could go on and on. We try to come in and bring great energy and try to maintain the lead or, if we’re down, try to get it back.”

But Dunn’s biggest area of growth has been his role acceptance. It’s not easy losing a starting job, particularly when it comes on the heels of executive vice president John Paxson publicly challenging Dunn. And then the Bulls acquired Tomas Satoransky in a sign-and-trade transaction, drafted White and re-signed Arcidiacono.

Multiple outlets reported over the offseason that Dunn and his representatives wanted a change of scenery. The Bulls, league sources said in July, held trade talks with several teams, including the Grizzlies, regarding a sign-and-trade transaction for Justin Holiday.

Instead, Dunn returned. And since the first day of voluntary September workouts, he has maintained a positive attitude.

“It’s a good team we have. I just wanted to be a part of it. We have a lot of talented players, a good group of guys. I wanted to buy into what Coach is preaching, buy into the system,” Dunn said.  “All in all, I feel my game can go anywhere — starting, coming off the bench. Wherever you put me at, I’m a hooper.”

This example hasn’t been lost on young players like the rookie White.

“That’s my dog,” White told NBC Sports Chicago. “We’re part of the bench mob. Ain’t that right, KD? I love playing with KD. I know he’s going to compete at both ends. If things aren’t going well, he can turn the game around with his energy. He’s passionate. You love to play with people who play hard and want to win.

“Our relationship has grown on and off the court. He has instilled confidence in me. I haven’t been shooting it well before [Tuesday night]. KD told me to keep being aggressive and keep shooting. He’s always encouraging his teammates. When one of us does something good, he’s the first to hype us up.”

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