Six years ago, Chicago Bulls fans thought it would happen. It didn’t. This time around, when no one expected it to happen, it did. On Wednesday night, Robbins, Illinois native Dwyane Wade announced his Chicago homecoming. Welcome home, “D-Wade.”
After a 13-year run with the Miami Heat, which featured three championships and 12 All-Star appearances, Wade will sign a two-year deal worth $47.5 million with the Bulls.
The Denver Nuggets, Milwaukee Bucks and the Heat made efforts to agree to terms with the shooting guard but were unsuccessful.
“I have never forgotten where I came from,” Wade wrote in a letter to Miami, “and I am thankful to have an opportunity to play for the team that first fueled my love of the game.”
To clear salary-cap space for Wade, the Bulls agreed to send veteran forward Mike Dunleavy to the Cleveland Cavaliers and point guard Jose Calderon to the Los Angeles Lakers, according to sources.
The signing of Wade caps off what has been an offseason full of surprises for the Windy City.
Chicago!!! I am ready and I'm excited for this next chapter in my life. I'm not finished nor am I done!!! #GoBulls
— DWade (@DwyaneWade) July 7, 2016
From parting ways with hometown hero Derrick Rose to nearly trading away two-time All-Star Jimmy Butler at the 2016 NBA Draft, the Bulls have shown no mercy after a disappointing 2015-16 campaign, in which they finished 42-40 and missed the postseason for the first time since 2008.
34-year-old Wade joins an unfamiliar looking Bulls squad, where 10-year veteran Rajon Rondo is the starting point guard and newly acquired Robin Lopez is the starting center.
This signing outrages pundits and fans alike, as they’re frustrated with general manager Gar Forman, who eight days ago said that his team was “going younger, more athletic, and building it back up moving into the future.”
Having both Wade and Rondo certainly doesn’t make this team younger or more athletic, however the new pairing in the backcourt isn’t quite done with the game of basketball just yet.
Wade, who has faced injury problems in the past, is coming off a season in which he played 74 games and averaged 19 points. Those numbers increased in the playoffs, as he averaged 21 points per game and nearly led his injury-ridden Heat squad to the Eastern Conference Finals. He should serve as a great mentor figure to an already very talented Butler.
Rondo was the NBA assist leader last season, dishing out 11.7 per game. Additionally, he averaged 11.7 points, 6 rebounds- more than Bobby Portis last season- and collected 37 double-doubles and 6 triple-doubles with the Sacramento Kings last season, per the Chicago Tribune.
The pairing can, and should be great mentors to the younger assets on the Bulls roster. First-round draft pick Denzel Valentine and newly acquired point guard Jerian Grant should be thrilled.
To those doubting this Big 3 of Butler and an aging Wade and Rondo, remember the Boston Celtics “big three” of 31-year-old Kevin Garnett, 32-year-old Ray Allen and 30-year-old Paul Pierce? The trio helped the Celtics win their 17th NBA championship in 2008. Perhaps this Chicago Big 3 is what the Bulls need to get back on the right foot.
For the time being, how Wade and Rondo will fit in with head coach Fred Hoiberg’s fast-paced, 3-point barrage system remains unknown. Wade comes in being a career 28.4 percent 3-point shooter, while Rondo is at 28.9 percent and Butler at 32.8 percent. Not even close to being “Splash Brothers” material, but the trio has a history for being offensively gifted.
If Wade’s time in Chicago doesn’t go as planned, his contract includes a player option that will allow him to return to free agency in 2017, sources say. But, if everything goes swimmingly, Wade stays, continues to shine and becomes a top-notch recruiter for the Bulls. He’s good friends with nine-time All-Star point guard Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers, who will test the open free agent market come July 1 next year, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Even if the Bulls don’t have a clear plan at the moment, we can all agree on one thing: the Bulls are relevant again and will be exciting to watch next season.