The LeBron vs. Jordan debate rages on as Bulls beat Cavs

Dwyane Wade is a realist.

The 14-year-veteran doesn’t talk about title runs and holding up the Larry O’Brien Trophy come June like far too many NBA players do in training camp.

Not that Wade doesn’t want that for his new Bulls teammates, but he also knows the process.

“When you’re coming off a season where as an organization you don’t make the playoffs, your goal can’t be winning a championship,’’ Wade said. “Your goal has to be day-to-day making steps to improve yourself so you can get to a point where you’re a playoff team. And then you go from there. It would be unrealistic to say, ‘Oh we want to win a championship.’ Of course we do. But it’s so many steps before you get to that. Our goal is to get better. I’m not going to put a ceiling on our goal.’’

Wade also knows all too well what could be blocking that goal. Or more specifically, who?

King James’ reign hasn’t been kind to the Bulls, as LeBron James has eliminated them from the playoffs four times and counting since 2010. By the way, Wade was a teammate with James in Miami for two of those forced early vacations.

So call Friday night’s 118-108 win at the United Center over the Cavaliers a reprieve because, well, James wasn’t there.

Neither were many of his Cleveland teammates, as the defending World Champions decided to make the trip to Chicago a bit light, leaving all five starters home, and nine players total.

Not that Cavs coach Tyronn Lue was about to apologize for it, either.

“It’s just time right now for our guys to sit out,’’ Lue said prior to the game when pressed on it. “I wish I could have added one more [player].’’

What that meant for the Bulls (2-2) was the new-look roster will have to wait until the regular season to get a crack at James, and the chance to see where they measure up.

What wasn’t much of a question for Wade was where James measured up. Not to the Bulls, but to the all-time greats to play the game.

As far as Wade was concerned, it’s Michael Jordan and then James, and the only reason he’s leaning toward Jordan was because of Wade’s childhood.

“Nobody’s gonna be my favorite like Michael Jordan,’’ Wade said. “So many players can be [considered the greatest]. LeBron can win 10 championships, that doesn’t make you a better player. He’s as great as it gets, and you decide the ranking. But for me, Michael Jordan is my number one favorite player of all time.’’

The Jordan-James debate wasn’t just for players to breakdown, either.

“I remember having those debates in the back of the bus [as a player],’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said. “They got heated sometimes. The thing I’ve always said about Jordan, if he would have played in today’s era with the hand-check rule the way it is, he would have shot over 20 free throws every night. He was impossible to stay in front of.

“In my opinion, Michael Jordan is the best ever to put on a uniform. There’s really no debate. I think if you ask most people, they’ve give you that same answer. As far as LeBron is concerned, I’d absolutely put him up there, as far as the Mount Rushmore. Again, he’s so versatile, he’s such a tough cover, he can guard. He does everything.’’

Except play meaningless preseason games.

Not that James is alone, as Hoiberg announced afterward that Jimmy Butler, Wade, Taj Gibson and Rajon Rondo will sit out the Saturday night game in Milwaukee.