MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Dwyane Wade’s signing came with a cost — and not just the $23.2 million the veteran guard will collect this -season alone.
Another significant factor is that the soon-to-be 35-year-old is a huge influence in a Bulls’ locker room that sorely needs a championship presence, yet Wade’s fragile knees need to be rested and that could cost the team games in the standings.
That scenario was on full display again Sunday, when Wade didn’t make the trip to Memphis after playing 32 minutes in the home victory against the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday afternoon. As it turned out, the Bulls needed him, beating the Grizzlies 108-104 and pulled back to .500 at 21-21.
According to coach Fred Hoiberg, the juice is worth the squeeze for Wade.
“Unfortunately, you don’t have that crystal ball in front of you to see how things are going to play out with Dwyane and with the back-to-backs,’’ Hoiberg said. “The biggest thing with getting Dwyane was getting a guy with experience, getting a guy with great leadership, [a player who could teach] our young guys what it’s like to be a pro at this level.
“With all the young players that we have, it’s invaluable to have a guy like that, who just has champion-
ship experience. Who has been through as many things as he has. Who has been on the Olympic team and taken different teams to championships, won several of them. Just that you have a guy like that in your locker room will pay off for these young guys down the line.’’
The game against the Grizzlies was the fourth Wade has missed. Three were because of back-to-backs, and he missed the Jan. 2 game against the Hornets with swelling in his left knee. The Bulls have lost two of the games without Wade.
They usually have Jimmy Butler to thank for that. Butler was big down the stretch, but Doug McDermott was the big story, scoring a career-high 31 points, including two free throws with six seconds left to ice the victory.
“[This win] says a lot about us,’’ McDermott said. “When D-Wade doesn’t travel, we all know that everyone has to play a little better and bring a little more to the table. We all did that. Jimmy took over in the fourth quarter like we’re all used to. Just a big road win.’’
The standings in the Eastern Conference are fragile, so what will Wade’s scheduled off days look like in the second half of the season?
Wade has been limited in practices since early December, but Hoiberg hopes that last season’s model used by Wade in Miami means the Bulls will have his services for when it matters — down the stretch and hopefully into the playoffs.
His mentorship has been invaluable to Butler. Wade has helped him lead, but also allowed Butler to continue his climb to stardom.
“Jimmy’s a star,’’ Wade said. “We have two closers on this team, and when it’s not Jimmy, I’m pretty sure I’ve shown I know how to close games through the years.’’
That’s why the Bulls have to accept rest days for Wade.
One option Hoiberg has ruled out was shortened minutes per game for Wade. He was at 30.5 minutes last season, and that’s where he is for the Bulls.
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