Bulls reach buyout agreement with Dwyane Wade

The Bulls bought out guard Dwyane Wade’s contract Sunday, ending his homecoming after one season and taking their rebuild to another level.

Terms of the buyout were not released, but ESPN reported that Wade will -return about $8 million of his $23.8 million salary.

Wade, who exercised the option on his contract this offseason, played in 60 games for the Bulls, averaging 18.3 points and 29.9 minutes. With the buyout complete, he is free to join any team.

The Cleveland Cavaliers and good friend LeBron James are the clear favorite. The San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat reportedly are also in the running, and the Oklahoma City Thunder might enter the picture, too.

‘‘I’m going to take [Sunday] and some of [Monday] and speak to the teams or players that are on my list and go from there,’’ Wade told the Associated Press. ‘‘My decision is a pure basketball decision, and I’ll make the one that fits me best at this point in my career.’’

The buyout not only gives Wade his freedom, but it enables him to leave a locker room where he might not have been a team favorite.

After a bad loss to the Atlanta Hawks in January, Wade and former Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler were publicly critical of the team. Wade, however, singled out the young players.

The drama didn’t stop there. Veteran guard Rajon Rondo took to his Instagram account and attacked Wade’s and Butler’s leadership. By the time the dust had settled and a team meeting had been held, all three players had been fined by the organization, with Butler and Wade also being benched for the first quarter of the next game.

With Rondo and Butler gone, Wade had been left in an uncomfortable situation. Not only was he going to be part of a rebuild at 35, but he also was heading back into a situation with teammates who had lost respect for him.

On top of that, Butler said  the front office’s decision to punish him and Wade for speaking their minds affected how they could lead moving forward.

‘‘I just think they make it tough to be yourself [by doing that], to be who you are and express yourself the way you want to express yourself,’’ Butler, who was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in June, said this month. ‘‘I’m not a part of that organization anymore . . . but if I am speaking on that time — because I remember what I said — I don’t think there’s nothing wrong with it.

‘‘Not to bring up the past, but that’s the way [Wade] felt. I said some things, too. We talked about it, and we both said, ‘Yo, I’m not taking back anything.’ There’s no reason for disliking a guy for speaking the truth.’’

As for the Bulls, they now can get back to the business of developing their young players. They no longer have to concern themselves with Wade taking minutes away from players such as Zach LaVine, who is working his way back from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. LaVine is best suited to play the shooting-guard spot Wade filled last season.

And Wade might not be the last piece moving on. Center Robin Lopez has an attractive contract and might bring the Bulls a couple of more assets because of his ability to do the dirty work.

Either way, the last of the ‘‘Three Alphas’’ — as Rondo called himself, Butler and Wade last season — is gone.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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