(CBS) The Dwyane Wade era is over in Chicago after just one season.
The Bulls and Wade have reached an agreement on a contract buyout, the Tribune’s K.C. Johnson reported Sunday evening. The news comes on the eve of the start of training camp for a rebuilding Bulls team that traded All-Star forward Jimmy Butler on draft night in June. On many occasions, the 35-year-old Wade had expressed a desire to play for a contender at this stage in his career.
Wade told the Tribune that it was a “dream to play in Chicago” and that he respected the Bulls’ choice to go in a new direction.
Wade had exercised his $23.8-million player option for 2017-’18 on June 20, two days before the Bulls traded Butler. He gave back about $8 million of that money, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported.
On Thursday, executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson hinted that a buyout was coming for Wade.
“We understand where he is at this time of his career,” Paxson said on 670 The Score. “We’re more than willing to work with him.
“As I said when we had the press conference to introduce the new players after the draft, we have to always do what’s in our best interest. So there has to be something that is mutually agreed upon. It can’t be something the player wins because that’s what he wants. We have to do what’s in our best interest. Like I said, Gar’s having dialogue. We want to work with Dwyane because we respect very much. If he doesn’t want to be here, then we want to do it (the buyout). But again, the bottom line is always — and it has to be — that we have to do what’s in our best interest.”
The Bulls had many reasons to part ways with Wade. It will open up more playing time for younger Bulls and inevitably lead to more losses as those youngsters go through growing pains in their development. Part of the draw of trading Butler in June wasn’t just to net Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and No. 7 overall pick Lauri Markkanen in return but also to land a high slot in the 2018 draft, which is strong at the top.
Keeping Wade around if he didn’t want to be in Chicago was also inviting potential drama. Last January when the Bulls were still in win-now mode, Wade and Butler called out their younger teammates for a lack of effort and care. That drew a stern Instagram rebuke from veteran Rajon Rondo, and all three players were fined by management in the aftermath. The Bulls wanted no such troubles again.
Wade giving back around $8 million also opens up more space for the Bulls to potentially absorb an unwanted contract from another team with an asset — either a draft pick or young player — attached.
With LaVine in the final stages of rehab for a torn ACL that he suffered last February, it remains unclear who will slot into the starting shooting guard spot that Wade filled last season. Paul Zipser, Justin Holiday and Denzel Valentine will, in some combination, most likely fill the two wing slots until LaVine is medically cleared.
The Bulls will have 17 players under contract or on two-way deals when they report to training camp Monday. Not one will be older than 29.
Wade joined the Bulls in free agency in July 2016 after contract talks stalled with the Heat, for whom he spent his first 13 seasons with. He averaged 18.3 points while playing in 60 games in his lone season in Chicago, which saw the Bulls grab the eighth seed and lose to the Celtics in six games in the first round of the playoffs after stunningly grabbing a 2-0 series lead on the road.
A three-time champion in Miami, Wade will now have the option to choose his next destination and chase another championship. Speculation has long swirled that he’d like to rejoin good friend LeBron James, so the Cavaliers are likely to be among his suitors. Heat president Pat Riley also recently expressed his respect for Wade, hinting that Miami would be open to him returning.