The Bulls handed out punishments Friday.
They not only fined Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo for comments they deemed detrimental to the organization, but coach Fred Hoiberg sent a message to Wade and Butler by benching them for the first five-plus minutes of the game against the Miami Heat.
By the time the game was over, it was apparent the slaps on the wrist didn’t have quite the effect Hoiberg and the front office were hoping for. Wade (6-for-17) and Butler (1-for-13) combined to score 18 points as the Bulls lost to the Heat 100-88 at the United Center. The two had combined for 73 points in a loss Wednesday to the Atlanta Hawks.
‘‘It’s OK, I’ll be back,’’ said Butler, who scored only three points. ‘‘Disengaged? Nah. It was a little different [coming off the bench]. I was still into it.’’
The loss dropped the Bulls to 23-25, but it was just the culmination of a long day for the organization.
In the wake of Butler and Wade criticizing the heart and work ethic of some of the other players Wednesday and Rondo retaliating by questioning Butler’s and Wade’s leadership skills Thursday, an angry front office called a 40-minute team meeting before the morning shootaround, allowing the entire roster to vent.
All three players met with the media, as did Hoiberg, but the front office truly lost the news conference. General manager Gar Forman made a 90-second statement, then darted out of the media circle without answering any questions. This from an organization that promised more transparency this season.
‘‘We were extremely disappointed that several players chose to speak out after our last game,’’ Forman said. ‘‘Every team has issues, and it’s our strong belief that when you have issues or critical comments that you keep those issues or critical comments in-house, that it is not shared through you [media] guys, that it is not shared through social media. It is totally unacceptable.’’
Still, the three players insisted they had no regrets about how they handled the last 48 hours, and Butler went as far as to say he couldn’t promise it wouldn’t happen again.
‘‘I don’t regret anything,’’ Butler said. ‘‘I don’t. Why? I only got one life to live, so live it to the fullest, be who you are. Like it or not, I’m me. I do things my way.’’
According to a source, the front office was so angry about Rondo’s criticism of Wade and Butler on Instagram that they were trying to figure out a way to get him off the roster sooner than later.
Rondo didn’t seem to care how the front office felt about him.
‘‘Um, I won’t lose sleep at night,’’ he said when he was asked if his future with the Bulls was further in doubt. ‘‘I’m going to continue to be Rajon Rondo, and that’s all I can be. I’m going to come in here and work, do what I can for this team while I’m here. That’s what it’s going to be.’’
Wade’s attitude was simple.
‘‘As a leader, sometimes you can’t be liked,’’ Wade said. ‘‘I’m OK with that. I just want this team to reach its potential.’’
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