The Bulls’ ‘Big Three’ is really just two in Wade and Butler
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The hope for the Bulls coming out of the Thursday practice was that veteran Dwyane Wade can stop having headaches.
The expectations for Jimmy Butler moving forward? That the two-time All-Star can keep causing them.
At least as far as the opposition was concerned.
This is Bulls basketball these days. A two-man show with a surrounding cast of characters that need to step up with more consistency from game to game.
The two players that can’t afford to have off-nights in most cases?
That’s where Butler and Wade fit in.
“He’s got a heck of a responsibility, every night, guarding the other team’s best player on the perimeter,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said of Butler, as both Wade and Butler were major topics of conversation. “It takes a lot out of you. He plays a lot of minutes and carries the load for us on the offensive end a lot of nights as well. Two way players are rare in this league and we’re very fortunate to have one of the best ones in our game.’’
Butler made that case yet again on Wednesday, suffering a sprained right ankle in the fourth quarter, but still managing to tie a season high with 40 points, including the game-winner at the horn.
Hoiberg, however, knows that 40-point nights are a rarity in the Association, and that’s where Wade comes in.
The 34-year-old was sidelined most of the second half, battling migraines for the second time in the last week.
During that win over the Nets, Wade was not only dealing with the pain caused by the headaches, but was having vision problems.
Both players seemed good to go for the Friday night game in Indiana.
“As of right now, [he’s cleared to play],’’ Hoiberg said of Wade. “[Migraines are] something he has dealt with his whole career.
“That was the first time we had to pull him out of a game because of it. And obviously, he’s a key member of our team down the stretch and we missed him.’’
Not only was Wade expected to play against the Pacers, but Hoiberg was counting on having him for both games of the back-to-back on Friday and Saturday.
Monitoring Wade and his minutes has been quite the undertaking for the Bulls this season, as they know he can still cause some serious damage in the league, but only if upright and healthy. The goal coming in was keeping him at that 28-30 minutes per game mark, and through the 28 games he’s played in he was sitting at 30.5 minutes per game.
The process has remained the same, as well. It’s about keeping an open line of communication with the veteran guard, and also a lot less practice time as of late. Whether that hurts the team’s rhythm or not, that’s just their reality, especially if Hoiberg wants Wade on the floor for heavy minutes in the fourth quarters of games, like he was Monday against the Pacers.
“He felt great, and we were able to run our offense through him pretty much exclusively all throughout that fourth quarter,’’ Hoiberg said of Wade and the thought behind his fourth quarter usage. “He’s pretty good about letting you know, ‘Hey, give me a couple minutes here or a couple minutes there.’ Or if he feels great he talks about keeping him in the game. A lot of that is just communication throughout the course of the 48 minutes.’’
And if the Bulls wants to keep playoff hopes alive and well, communication that has to continue all season long.