Dwyane Wade’s true home has always been postseason basketball

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Dwyane Wade is home again.

And we’re not even talking about his return to Chicago.

Wade and postseason play have become synonymous, and with the Bulls clinching the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference on Wednesday against the Nets, he’ll be appearing in his 12th postseason in 14 years.

His numbers aren’t too shabby: 166 playoff games, three NBA titles and a 22.8 scoring average.

No wonder the Bulls shelled out $23.2 million for Wade, 35, and the old guy is about to really start earning that money.

Besides his obvious skills, Wade’s playoff-basketball know-how will be vital.

The Bulls have five players in the rotation with two years or less of experience, which hasn’t slipped by Wade.

“They’re going to have to experience it, for sure,’’ Wade said. “The main thing that myself and [Rajon] Rondo and guys who have been in the playoffs can bring to them is letting them understand the importance of each possession and the importance of moving on to the next possession.

“There are certain things you talk to them about. Outside of that, when they go through the process, we just have to help them through it. It’s a lot of these guys’ first time, but they’re basketball players, as well. Some of these guys live for competition.

‘‘We’ve shown that throughout the season when we’ve played the best teams. Some of these guys live for these moments. It’s definitely going to be a different level, but I’m excited for these guys.’’

What about being excited for himself?

Wade’s return to the playoffs seemed to be in doubt several times this season, especially after a March 12 loss in Boston in which the Bulls fell to 31-35. Then a few games later, Wade fractured his right elbow and was expected to miss the rest of the regular season.

Wade, however, let All-Star Jimmy Butler know that if he could carry the load down the stretch, he would return from the injury by the playoffs. Wade did better than that, coming back for the last three regular-season games.

Admittedly, it has been a bumpy road for the Bulls and for Wade, who was criticized earlier in the season for publicly calling out teammates, which resulted in a fine and a benching.

“There were a lot of ups and downs this year,’’ Rondo said. “Whatever happens, regardless of what happened throughout the season, we are where we want to be right now. Got to keep moving forward.’’

That next step comes Sunday, when the Bulls take on the top-seeded Celtics in Game 1.

Wade broke down the matchup and gave the Celtics their due, but he also has been around long enough to know that playoff basketball is an entirely different animal.

“You throw the records out the window,’’ Wade said. “We’re preparing for the next season. That’s all we wanted to do.

‘‘When training camp started, we talked about the postseason, and not just getting in, but when we get in, understand that when we play the game the way we can and play the right way that we can beat anybody and make noise.

“We had to get through 82. Now this is the fun part. This is what I play for.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com


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