It’s a nice story, the local guy finally coming home, but it comes with a healthy helping of wistfulness: Why, oh why, couldn’t this have happened six years ago?
The cosmic answer is that things happen for a reason, the reason being that these are the Bulls.
Dwyane Wade, born on the South Side, is a Bull now. It feels good and right and a lot late. The team gets a future Hall of Famer who turns 35 in January. They don’t get a veteran free agent at the height of his career. I know: What a surprise.
Wade found his second wind last season for the Heat. The freshest memory for the teams that pursued him is how well he performed in the playoffs, when he averaged 21.4 points and led the Heat to Game 7 of an Eastern Conference semifinal. I can’t forget the Wade of the previous five seasons, the one who always seemed to be hobbling on two rickety legs. That Wade never seems far away. That Wade always seems to need games off. Local guy with problematic knees. Hmmm. Sounds vaguely familiar.
Wade was good last season, but not all his numbers were. He had career lows in field-goal percentage (45.6) and three-point percentage (15.9). In the playoffs, his three-point percentage shot up to 52.2. In which Dwyane Wade do you believe?
Nobody will confuse this Wade with the Wade in his prime, but hopefully no one will confuse him with Ben Wallace, a big free-agent signing in 2006 who became forgettable in a hurry. Before and since, the team has whiffed on just about every star it has pursued.
The Bulls, whose flight plan this offseason has looked like a wayward balloon, have signed Wade and 30-year-old Rajon Rondo. Again, if only the clock could be turned back six years. Wade is the guy you sign when you’re on the cusp of a championship and you want him to go out as a winner in his hometown. The Bulls aren’t close to that.
What they’ve done this offseason has the feel of a team trying to make points with its fans by signing “name’’ players, when it should be starting from scratch. The question, of course, is whether you would have trusted vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman to be in charge of a rebuild.
I wouldn’t put this in the same category as the White Sox’ signing of Ken Griffey Jr. in 2008, when the superstar was decidedly in his twilight. Wade is better than that. But it certainly feels precarious with his age and his injury history.
Next season will be entertaining if for no other reason than to watch how it will work. Wade likes to have the ball in his hands. Rondo likes to have the ball in his hands. Jimmy Butler likes to have the ball in his hands. Wishing coach Fred Hoiberg all the best.
Will the Bulls be better than they were last season? For now, let’s just say they will be more interesting. Good basketball is interesting. Then again, so is conflict. Sometimes. To a point. The incompatibility between Butler and Derrick Rose was interesting for about a month, then it became deathly boring. If Gar-Pax are very lucky, the Bulls might be interesting for the right reasons.
They gave Wade a two-year, $47.5 million contract. That’s a lot of money, but there’s a lot of funny money going around the NBA these days. Now it’s up to the 12-time All-Star with the three championship rings. Can he be anywhere close to what he used to be? Was last season an indication that he has more left, or was it an anomaly? Whatever happens, the Bulls made you look. If that was the goal — and it might have been — they’ve won already.
The mistake would be to think that there’s a long-term sentimental value to having Wade on the roster. He left the Chicago area after Richards High School to play for Marquette, then went to South Beach to play for the Heat. He has done community work in Chicago throughout his pro career. Bulls fans of a certain type are feeling warm and fuzzy right now. Nice guy returns to where it all started for him. Very cool.
The hometown-kid-makes-good angle will go away the first time he starts limping or takes a game off to give his body a rest. Seems like we’ve read that story before.