Dwyane Wade isn’t giving it a second thought. Not yet.
But, sure, he knows it’s out there: Bulls vs. Heat on Thursday in Miami.
Wade returns to the house he built in South Beach. Just don’t be surprised if he throws a brick through the front window.
“I’ll deal with Miami when I get there,” he said. “I’ll deal with all that.”
All that is left open to interpretation, but it’s pretty clear that Wade left a Heat franchise that drafted him out of Marquette in 2003 on less-than-ideal terms when he signed with the Bulls in the summer.
Wade had elevated Miami from playoff contender to hoops powerhouse with his play and sense of sacrifice — financial and physical. Although he has claimed he never expected to be rewarded by the Heat for past glories but rather simply be paid what he’s worth, Wade was seeking one last big score and clearly believed Miami would find a way to work it out.
When the Heat didn’t, Wade took his ball and went home.
It may well work out for all parties involved.
The marriage with the Bulls is still very much in the honeymoon phase, with Wade playing the part of mentor and team leader while performing at a level roughly in line with his recent post-peak years in Miami.
Wade talked of helping navigate his teammates through their recent three-game losing streak, then helped end it Monday night with 16 points, four assists, two steals and two blocks in 25 minutes in a walkover against the Magic.
But eyes are going to be constantly trained on the odometer of a 34-year-old perimeter player who has missed at least 20 games in three of his last five seasons.
Wade’s balky knees and occasional struggles in back-to-backs in recent years (see Saturday’s four-point, 1-for-9 shooting performance at Indiana) are legitimate concerns.
“He and I have had a very open line of communication about how his body is feeling,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “And it’s going to have to continue to be that way throughout the season.”
In the short term, Wade’s virtual cameo in the Magic blowout is a mini-boon for his fitness. But no ongoing minutes restrictions or back-to-back protocols have been established for Wade, according to coach and player.
And Wade insists, with the Bulls scheduled to play the Hawks on Wednesday, that no special playing-time dispensations have been made with an eye toward the next day’s showdown with the Heat.
“We’re trying to win,” he said. “It’s one ballgame. My goal is to get back on track and to do what I can to help my team. Nah, it’s not that big of a game for me to be thinking about taking time off.”
But then there’s this:
“I’m not worried about the back-to-back in Miami, energy-wise,” Wade said. “I mean, if you ain’t got energy for that game — for me — what are you gonna have energy for?”
In other words, don’t misinterpret Wade’s laconic demeanor when discussing the return to his old stomping grounds. Low-key doesn’t mean no beef.
Asked if Wade had talked to teammates about the Heat game, Taj Gibson offered a wry smile and hinted at the competitor simmering below the surface.
“He just said, ‘Y’all better be ready to play on Thursday,’ ” Gibson said. “We’re gonna be there for him. We’re gonna try to do our jobs and get a win. But first things first: We gotta try to beat Atlanta.”
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