It had to be asked.
Thirteen seasons in the Association taught Dwyane Wade that lesson.
How did a Bulls team with so much talent miss out on the playoffs last season? Not only miss out, but at 42-40 become one of the true underachieving stories of the year.
Wade heard the rumors of discontent in the locker room, and didn’t mind playing private investigator in getting to the bottom of what went wrong with his new team.
“You ask the guys that were here last year, how rotten it was,’’ Wade said. “You want to hear from their perspective, whatever it was last year from the standpoint of losing. You don’t do that. I come from a different place and a different culture. Things are done differently different places. So I sat down and listened to guys.
“But the thing is, some of the things they talked about I know are not going to take place. Not while I’m here, not while [Rajon] Rondo’s here, not while Jimmy [Butler] continues to grow as a leader. You talk about last year, but at the same time, last year doesn’t matter. We have a different core, and I think our culture is fairly different. We have guys now, Rondo’s won a championship, I’ve won championships, we demand respect on the court.’’
Not exactly the case last season.
Respect for one another was only an idea for the 2015-16 Bulls. And one that didn’t stick around very long into the year. Veterans Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose didn’t like the rise of leadership handed to Jimmy Butler. Butler didn’t respect the laid-back work ethic of Rose. And that just scratched the surface of bad feelings.
The Sun-Times reported after last season that Noah was so distrustful of the front office and the way they handled things that he openly told teammates that he would not return to the only NBA team he had known.
Noah didn’t, instead signing with the Knicks after Rose was traded to New York.
And while it’s only been two days and four practice this season, Butler is not only seeing a team that genuinely likes each other, but admitted just how important that is for a team’s success.
“I think for the most part, yeah,’’ Butler said. “You definitely gotta like each other. If you don’t, and you can say this doesn’t happen, but I feel like if you don’t like a guy you’re not going to pass him the ball.’’
Rondo agreed that liking each other “on the court’’ was important, but respecting each other would be the key.
That’s all Fred Hoiberg could ask for.
“I think it is important,’’ the second-year coach said of teammates getting along. “Bigger than that is having respect for each other. If your team respects each other and how hard you play, then you’re going to be able to have success.’’
Which means not only respecting each other, but policing each other right away and not letting bad habits or feelings grow.
That was the case on Wednesday when Wade and Rondo stopped scrimmages to correct teammates and get on guys, while Butler pulled teammates aside to also get in their ear.
“Too much chatter,’’ Rondo said of what he put a stop to.
A problem put to bed quickly. More importantly, no bad feelings afterwards.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys as well, so they’ll listen,’’ Wade said. “We’re not a team with a lot of veteran guys that are kind of stuck in their ways. They’re all ears, and that’s a good thing for this team right now.’’