By Cody Westerlund–
CHICAGO (CBS) — A day after veteran forward Taj Gibson mentioned that a certain new Bull had been “cursing out” teammates in practice, the perpetrator argued semantics.
“Yeah, that was so harsh, Taj,” Dwyane Wade said Saturday. “I read that. I wouldn’t say cussing out. I would say getting my point across. Tough love, but good love.”
While the exact terminology Wade has been using in practice remains up for debate, this much is clear: Seven practices into his Bulls tenure, he hasn’t been shy about speaking his mind.
It’s a directive Wade has taken from Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, who has admitted his message didn’t reach the locker room in a disappointing 2015-’16 rookie coaching campaign. As part of the plan in his second year with an overhauled roster, Hoiberg has turned to Wade, the 12-time All-Star and three-time champion who previously spent his entire 13-year career with the Heat, including four seasons with LeBron James.
Before training camp started, Hoiberg told Wade he needed to set the tone, however harsh a one the moment may call for.
“No question,” Wade said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m here as well. One of the reasons they were interested in me is because of what I come with from the standpoint of being there. I’ve been to five Finals and have a lot of experience. Sitting down with him and talking about all our young guys and what they can learn from me and also Jimmy (Butler) and (Rajon) Rondo as well.
“It’s about us policing each other, us three leaders, but also passing it down to other guys. So, yes, he gave myself — and I’m sure he gave Rondo and Jimmy — carte blanche to say the things we need to say but at the same time respect what coach is saying and find your times to talk.”
Wade went as far as to say he’ll halt practice if he sees something that bothers him. He wants his Bulls teammates to hold him to the same standard, and so far, his presence has been ubiquitous. While the Bulls are mindful of easing Wade’s workload this season, he’s participated fully in each practice in the first week.
For Wade’s part, it’s a balancing act on when to speak out.
“I don’t want it just be us three always talking,” Wade said of himself, Rondo and Butler. “I want everyone to feel confident that they can maybe not yell at everybody but pull a guy aside and say, ‘Hey, D, you should’ve been there on this.’ We want to get everyone comfortable with that. I’ve been around a long time. If I see something that I think we can nip in the bud early, you want to nip it in the bud.”
In conjunction with Wade’s vocal role, Hoiberg has been “more demanding” in this training camp than last year, wing Doug McDermott said earlier int he week. That was reflected Friday in what Hoiberg viewed as the most spirited practice of his Bulls tenure. Wade also confirmed the Bulls have scrimmaged more early in training camp than the Heat ever did during his 13-year run in Miami.
“It was the most competitive practice we’ve had here in two years,” Hoiberg said. “We talked about the mark of a great team is to back that up with another one. These guys were fatigued, they’re tired. This is a tough time for training camp.
“So they came in, they were locked in, ready to go. We were a little sluggish to start, which I guess isn’t too unexpected, but picked it up and had another very competitive practice, So I’ve been very pleased with these guys’ competitive spirit.”
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for CBSChicago.com and coversthe Bulls. He’s also the co-host of the @LockedOnBulls podcast, which you can subscribe to on iTunes and Stitcher. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.