By Cody Westerlund–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Their season over after a 105-83 loss to the Celtics in Game 6 on Friday night, the Bulls will soon turn their attention to an offseason full of questions.
One of the major ones is whether they’ll bring back veteran point guard Rajon Rondo, who’s guaranteed $3 million on a $13.4 million deal, meaning the Bulls could buy him out at a limited cost. While it remains to be seen what management wants to do, star Jimmy Butler made his stance clear in the aftermath of the season-ending loss.
He wants Rondo back.
“Of course,” Butler said. “He’s been huge for us this year, molding these young guys into the type of player that they need to be on that basketball floor, in that film room around everyone. Obviously, the way he plays the game, getting everybody involved, yeah, I love playing with him — him and D-Wade, all these others guys. But I don’t know what the future holds for anybody.”
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg offered high praise for Rondo as well while stopping short of answering the direct question about if he wants Rondo back. It was Hoiberg who yanked Rondo from the starting lineup on Dec. 31 and benched him for five straight games before returning him to a reserve role and eventually a starting role in mid-March, a move that helped spur the Bulls’ late-season surge into the eighth seed and playoffs.
Amid the tumult earlier, Rondo on multiple occasions expressed confusion and cited miscommunication from the coaching staff. Rondo averaged 7.8 points and 6.7 assists while shooting 40.8 percent in the regular season. He was a leading figure in helping the Bulls jump to a 2-0 series lead on the before a fractured thumb forced him to miss the final four games, all losses.
“He was terrific,” Hoiberg said. “He was great. The highs and lows that we had this season, he found a way to continue to battle through that and, again, play his best basketball when it mattered most. I love Rondo. I love coaching him. I love everything about the kid. He just was so good to have out there on the floor. And when we put him back in the starting lineup with Niko (Mirotic), with Jimmy, we got a lot accomplished. We played an exciting style of basketball, a fun style of basketball to watch, a fun style of basketball to coach and Rondo was responsible for a lot of that.”
A crucial, lingering question the Bulls don’t control the answer to is whether 35-year-old Dwyane Wade will choose to exercise his $23.8 million option for next season? In the aftermath of defeat Friday, Wade wasn’t yet looking ahead to his big decision, which he has until late June to make.
Wade has indicated previously that family, money and basketball fortunes are the three factors that will affect his decision.
“I have a lot of time,” Wade said. “I’m far away from that now — just got through this, 14th NBA season. It’s for me identified with championships. If I’m not winning a championship, I’m never satisfied from that standpoint, but you take things out of it, you go back and look at the season and see what you could have done better individually.
“You put that (in the head) and go from there so that’s what I will look at. I am not worried about my future because I know it’s basketball. I’m not really concerned with it now.”
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for CBSChicago.com and covers the 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.