By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) “It’s not a good pain at all.”
That’s how Bulls wing Jimmy Butler described Wednesday the feeling of a sprained right elbow after teammate Dwyane Wade suffered what Butler assumed was a similar injury in a 98-91 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies at the United Center. Turns out, Wade will be out for the rest of the regular with a small fracture in his elbow.
Wade missing the final 14 games of this abortion of a Bulls season hardly registers as bothersome. It stinks for him, and seeing a player on the home team hurt is never cool, but nothing less than a scandal is moving the needle on feeling anymore with this Bulls team.
In fact, there’s some relief to to this, cruel as it sounds. To watch the Bulls is a chore. To see Fred Hoiberg’s bewilderment on the bench is to go back and forth between feeling sorry for the coach and wanting to strangle him over how he handles playing time. To see Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow — the return on the Taj Gibson/Doug McDermott/second-round pick trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder — collectively suck out loud is just another chunk of faith in executives John Paxson and Gar Forman jackhammered away.
The Wade injury is a nail in a coffin built in the offseason. Maybe a trade of Butler on draft night this June will be a questionable life insurance payment.
Wade has fluctuated this season between being justifiably critical of the way this clown show has been run and checking himself because the hassle just isn’t worth it. When asked about a new 12-man rotation being implemented last Friday and if that’s what he signed in Chicago for, Wade said that he was “not really going there, I’m not getting in trouble no more.’’ His prior criticisms of the team bore no fruit other than getting him fined.
“I sit in a locker,” he told reporters. “I’ve got a jersey. I don’t wear a suit. That’s not my job. My job is to play and get confidence and lead.’’
Not for nothing, but nobody was going to be able to lead this squad as constructed this season. At least with a potential season-ending injury — and maybe one that ends Wade’s time with the Bulls period, as he can opt out after the season — he doesn’t have to keep nobly pulling a Roger Murtaugh by trying to tow a ship that sank months ago.
At least now Wade has some peace — be that not dealing with however this season wraps up or looking for his next team to play for.
It would be fitting if Wade’s Bulls season/tenure ended like this, though. How symbolic of utter failure and false hope constructed by the brass, lying about “getting younger and more athletic” — which I will never stop referencing because that con is inexcusable. It didn’t take long for Wade to realize he had made a mistake signing with the Bulls, somehow unaware of how dysfunctional the setup already was last summer, let alone the attempted mixing of oil and water by adding him and Rajon Rondo — who don’t necessarily jibe with each other anyway — to then have patience with an incredibly physically and emotionally immature team.
Nikola Mirotic’s Bulls days were all but over as of last weekend when he was made inactive Sunday after logging zero minutes the two games prior, but now he’s suddenly a key part of a laughable attempt to regain a playoff spot after logging 29 minutes Monday and 27 minutes Wednesday. Talk of Mirotic has shifted to his key role going forward, because the Bulls are community theater of the absurd.
Wade didn’t sign up for this (though whether he should have been aware of the potential fustercluckery of the 21st-century Bulls is another discussion). The Bulls entered Thursday at 32-36, sitting in 10th in the East and a game out of the final playoff spot in a crowded race.
“Me and Jimmy talked to Niko before the game and told him we need him,’’ Wade said after that Monday Mirotic renaissance. “We’re not going to make the playoffs without him, and we just want to let him know that we need his focus, we need his ability to shoot the ball.
“And I think getting that confidence and then going out there, he came right in the game firing it up. We need that. We won’t make the playoffs without Niko playing good basketball. Will he get 24 every night? No, but just his ability to be on the floor and make shots, it’s huge for our team.”
At least Wade won’t have to pretend to be motivated about such mundaneness as whether a bust of an import player has confidence anymore. He won’t have to be the good soldier.
His time here is going to be one of those sad bits of trivia years from now. “Hey, remember that season Dwyane Wade played for the Bulls? Ha.” It won’t quite be Ken Griffey Jr. on the White Sox, but it’s still been pretty sad. Quite more the whimper than a bang.
And if we can get it over with sooner than later, maybe that’s for the best. Painful in a way, but unlike Butler’s description of an elbow injury, a good kind of pain at this point.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.