Dwyane Wade sat courtside in Cleveland in a fashionable jumpsuit that made its rounds through social media as the Cavaliers registered their lone win in the NBA Finals last week, drawing conversations from Kyrie Irving as Irving kept the eventual champion Golden State Warriors at bay in the second half.
One wonders if that’s as close as Wade will get to championship competition next season as he ponders his future with the Chicago Bulls, having to decide whether he’ll exercise a nearly $24 million option to remain with the Bulls for the 2017-18 season. Wade has until June 27 to opt-in to the second and final year of his contract.
Sources tell CSNChicago.com Wade hasn’t yet made a decision on next season and hasn’t informed the Bulls of anything yet, as he’ll continue vacationing for the next couple weeks before deciding his future.
Wade met with Bulls management last week in the attempt to gauge where the franchise’s direction would be for next season. The Bulls hold the 16th pick in next week’s NBA Draft, and although they’ve met with Jimmy Butler, things still appear murky as to their long-term commitment to Butler and if they want to try to make inroads in the Eastern Conference with veteran reinforcements.
Currently, the team line has been about allowing some of their younger pieces to grow and hoping head coach Fred Hoiberg can coax some development and consistency from an inconsistent bunch.
In that meeting, the Bulls were up front about the likelihood that they will stay the course as opposed to looking at the landscape of the East and making significant changes to the personnel, sources close to Wade tell CSNChicago.com.
The Bulls gave the same speech to Butler in their last meeting when Butler came back to Chicago over a week ago, although one wonders if they’ll entertain trade discussions surrounding Butler next week with the draft approaching.
Wade’s relationship with Butler was a chief reason why he chose the Bulls, along with the sizeable contract offer, and on more than a few nights Wade was the Bulls’ best player.
How often he should be counted on to do that in the future is a question, unless one of the Bulls’ younger players makes an unlikely leap to consistency next season. One wonders if Wade wants a role similar to what he had this year, although his itch to play deep into May suggests he would be willing to cede space in the team’s hierarchy if the Bulls were to acquire a dependable veteran.
Before his elbow injury in March, Wade was on track to play over 70 games and averaged 18.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 29.9 minutes, as his per-36 minute production hovered around the same mark it had his last two years in Miami.
So for Wade the options appear to be simple, while the execution is more complex: Sign up for more of the same next season or opt-out of his contract for another round of free agency, to Parts Unknown.
He’ll turn 36 in the middle of next season and hasn’t been definitive on how much longer he wants to play, along with balancing the reality of another salary cap spike this offseason as going after another payday could be tempting from another franchise in need of star power.
However it’s unlikely a team will shell out that much cash annually for Wade, who feels like this payday has been earned after years of salary sacrifices in Miami.
Knowing Wade, the clarity in communication was likely appreciated given his feelings on how his time with the Miami Heat ended one year ago.
“When you get respect, that's what you get back,” Wade said to CSNChicago.com days before his return to Miami last November. “I've given nothing but respect (to the Heat). I feel like a lot of things in this world and this league are mishandled from the notion of communication. That's it.”
“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.”
His oldest son will turn 16 next season and Wade had made a note of wanting stability for his family compared to moving them around frequently at the end of his career.
Wade’s patience will likely factor into this decision, as his lone public relations hiccup with the Bulls came in January when he and Butler’s frustration with the youth of the roster boiled over into some strong postgame comments that resulted in discipline from the team.
From that point on, Wade became much more reticent about speaking up about the direction of the team, even though his feelings about the Bulls having an opportunity to advance through an underwhelming Eastern Conference remained and was almost proven right if not for Rajon Rondo’s injury in Game 2 of their first-round series against the Boston Celtics.
Because the Bulls were open with Wade, it leaves him with a few options and a few weeks to figure out how he wants to spend his 15th season—just days away after witnessing championship basketball from the sidelines.