When you think of Dwyane Wade, do you think of the Chicago Bulls?
OK, maybe slightly, the way you might think of “The Mighty Quinn’’ when you think of Denzel Washington or “Old MacDonald Had a Farm’’ when you think of Frank Sinatra.
The Bulls to Wade are fluff, a minor, brief project lost in the detritus of a Hall of Fame career, just as those above efforts were dash-offs to the legendary actor and singer.
When Wade came to the Bulls last summer, he came with three NBA championship rings, all with the Miami Heat. That’s who he is—in the odd vernacular of pro teams — a Heat.
Drafted by the Heat, 13 consecutive years there including 11 playoff appearances, 12 All-Star Games, eight mentions on All-NBA teams, five Finals, three crowns. Enough said.
Ron Santo was a Cub, right, not a White Sox? Frank Thomas was a White Sox, not an Oakland Athletic? Those tiny — can we say embarrassing? — career blips likely should be forgotten. But they’re there, like wart scars or mullet photos.
This is what happens at the end of playing lives for superstars, even for lesser players. They get creaky (Wade just turned 35), they still love the game, they’re still dreaming, they have no idea how to quit, the money means more than career continuity. So they go to another team — any team, maybe even in China or Sacramento — and talk about one more shot at heroics.
If they’re very lucky, they can get dragged along with a well-constructed unit, play their old-man, crafty role and win something big. Think of post-Bulls Steve Kerr with the Spurs (two championships) or the improbable Robert Horry (seven crowns with three teams over 17 seasons).
But usually the ending is dreck.
And now Wade has said he doesn’t need to stay with the Bulls — where he has been for all of 45 games — if the franchise doesn’t get its stuff together and put something decent on the floor.
“No question about it, what happens throughout this year as I go into my summer, I’ll definitely take a look at it,” he said Tuesday when asked if he might exercise his player option and leave at the end of the season. “I take my career seriously.”
The problem here is the Bulls don’t take their career particularly seriously.
What president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman put together this year was one of the oddest conglomerations of dudes since the Jamaican bobsled team started pushing.
In 2015-16, they had Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich, Pau Gasol, Mike Dunleavy, Aaron Brooks, Tony Snell, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler.
Now they have Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, and a bunch of fellows who stopped off in Chicago for deep-dish pizza and an up-close look at corrupt politics. Fun for all! Like a field trip.
Honest to God, what is shooting-impaired guard Rajon Rondo doing here? He’s a Celtic, by the way, having spent his first 8½ seasons in Boston before beginning his old-man tour, which now includes the Mavericks, Kings and Bulls in three years.
Then there’s Robin Lopez. He, one supposes, replaces last season’s aging Pau Gasol, now with the Spurs. Lopez, though only 28, has already been with five teams in his nine-year career, so you know his bags are never unpacked.
The Bulls are like a pickup team. It’s as if Pax and Gar went down to the park and said, “We’ll take the skins.’’
What are Rondo, Wade, Lopez, Butler, et al., supposed to do on the floor that is exceptional? Actually compete with the LeBron James Cavaliers? Even the Raptors? Forget the Western Conference superpowers.
And now everybody is up for a possible trade, even superstar Butler himself. Indeed, what good is he on a team of drive-bys?
If the Bulls don’t make some magical deals by the Feb. 23 trade deadline, we’ll see a new pickup team next year.
And Mr. Wade, it’ll be nice having known you. Sure would’ve been great if you came to the Bulls, say, 10 years ago. Or straight out of Richards in 2000.
Now? Have you thought about going back to Miami? It’s where you belong.
The Heat could put on a great retirement party for you some day soon.
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