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Bulls’ front office needs to pick a lane so recruiting can begin

The list of potential NBA free agents this offseason is eye-catching: Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin, Gordon Hayward and Chris Paul, to name a few.

Plus, there are role players galore. Need shooting? How about J.J. Redick? Want a better backup point guard? Meet Shaun Livingston.

The good news for the Bulls’ front office is that guard Dwyane Wade’s contact list runs deep. Not only is swingman Jimmy Butler all for recruiting, but Wade has proved to be a master at it.

It was Wade who played the ultimate recruiting game in 2010, helping to lure LeBron James and Chris Bosh as free agents. Together, they led the Miami Heat to four consecutive NBA Finals (2011-14) and two titles.

‘‘In Miami, it just so happened one of my good friends [James] is one of the best players to ever play the game of basketball on the planet,’’ Wade said. ‘‘And something great happened out of it. That was then; this is now. It’s a different time.’’

It is for Wade, who is 35. But if he hears what he wants to hear from general manager Gar Forman and vice president John Paxson, he is all for picking up the phone and getting at it again.

‘‘It’s all about the picture that’s presented to everyone here and what the goal and future are gonna look like,’’ Wade said. ‘‘It’s not just about, ‘Oh, we have Dwyane.’ Dwyane ain’t gonna play that much longer, not forever. So it’s a different time, a different situation.

‘‘When I [recruited] the first time, it was, ‘Let’s win championships.’ I don’t want to tell someone to come here just to come here because I need a friend. If you feel that the team is put in position that one person or two people would take you to that next level, then I would make that call. But I’m not making that call just to be making a call.’’

Butler is in a similar boat. Although he admittedly has been talking with potential free agents as far back as last summer with Team USA, he first wants clarity from the front office.

Both players want point guard Rajon Rondo back — unless there’s a bigger-name free agent willing to make the jump. And both know playing in the Eastern Conference will enable the Bulls, who were the eighth seed this season, to jump into the top four with the right pieces.

A source in the Bulls’ front office told the Sun-Times on Friday that the team already has been in contact with Butler about a private meeting and that the focus of the meeting will be a commitment to Butler that has been lacking.

Until then, though, it remains a waiting game.

‘‘We’re all speculating on what they should do, but none of us is in that seat, that position,’’ Wade said. ‘‘Until I am — if I am one day — I will not speculate on what they have to do or what they should do. They do what they feel is right.

‘‘Sometimes it’s a home run, sometimes it’s a bunt, sometimes you strike out. It’s just the nature of the beast.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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