NEW YORK —Barring a setback, veteran guard Dwyane Wade is expected to rejoin the Bulls’ starting lineup Saturday against the Nets after missing 11 games with a fractured right elbow.
Wade went through a full practice with no restrictions Friday and came out pain-free.Coach Fred Hoiberg said he would meet with the coaching staff and trainers before a final decision would be made, but all indications were that Wade was ready to go.
Not bad for a 35-year-old who was expected to miss the rest of the regular season because of the injury.
‘‘I feel like I’m ready to get back out there and try and play,’’ Wade said. ‘‘I feel comfortable. I’m not feeling any pain, so we’ll see.
‘‘Hopefully they’ll let me get out there [against the Nets] and play a little bit, try and get back in the flow a little bit and also try and help the team make this push that they’ve been doing an amazing job of to try and get into the playoffs.’’
The Bulls (39-40) have gone 7-4 without Wade and find themselves in seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff race with three games left in the regular season.
Wade can thank Butler for that. Two weeks ago, he toldButler to do everything he could to put the Bulls in this position. In his last 10 games, Butler has averaged 27.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 8.2 assists.
‘‘He’s a franchise player,’’ Wade said. ‘‘He’s a guy you definitely build around. Through everything this year, he’s been out there. Since I got hurt, he’s been playing top-five basketball in the NBA. He’s doing it all. He’s not only scoring; he’s passing, rebounding, defending the other team’s best player. He has really stepped it up and gone to another level.
‘‘He’s done it all year. But at this time of the year, with all the bumps and bruises he’s going through and the defense knows he’s getting the ball, I think this is the best stretch of his young career.’’
But Butler needs help.He has made that very clear, especially if the Bulls get into the playoffs.
‘‘I’m taking that,’’ Butler said of Wade’s return. ‘‘Because late in games, especially playoff games, everybody isn’t going to be able to key on me and double me — not when there’s another guy that can go get a bucket.’’
Wade ideally would like to play 15 or 20 minutes in his first game back, then use the Bulls’ last two regular-season games to build that total higher.
It wasn’t all good news for the Bulls, though. Veteran guard Rajon Rondo still was working through some stiffness in his sprained right wrist and likely will miss his second consecutive game.
‘‘Still day-to-day,’’ Rondo said. ‘‘I dribbled a basketball [Friday], so that’s better. I didn’t shoot the ball, but I was able to dribble. Shooting is the next step, then contact after that.
‘‘I’m going to play basketball really soon. . . . I think the Bulls will still be playing basketball when I come back. I don’t think I’ll be out until June.’’
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