Dwyane Wade’s first season back home with the Chicago Bulls is officially over barring a comeback in the playoffs.
A 13-time All-Star and three-time World Champion with the Miami Heat, Wade fractured his right elbow in Wednesday night’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies according to the Bulls, who announced the news on its Twitter account.
Although he no longer plays for the Heat, the injury still struck a chord with his former teammates and coach, who have remained in close contact with him since he opted to a sign a two-year, $47 million deal with Chicago over a two-year, $40 million offer to stay with the Heat.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Thursday after practice shortly after hearing the news. “I don’t even know what to say. Even as competitors and we're battling right now [for playoff position with Chicago] you want to see everybody out there right now. You don’t want to see anybody get hurt. I know what this game means to Dwyane. I’m going to reach out to him. I hope I’m hearing the news wrong.”
Wade, 35, has been steadfast in his support of the Heat since leaving, praising Spoelstra and the team for its turnaround after a 11-30 start.
While Heat fans might be hoping for a reunion this summer, it’s hard to imagine Miami offering anything close to the kind of guaranteed money Wade has on the table next season with the Bulls (he has a $23.8 million player option) if he decides to enter free agency.
Although the Heat is expected to have roughly $39 million in cap space next season once it recoups the $25 million cap hit next season for Chris Bosh, Miami has several of its own players (Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Willie Reed) who are not under contract for next season and there’s a chance Pat Riley would prefer to keep those guys on the roster.
That said, it’s clear there is still plenty of love between the Heat and Wade.
“It sucks,” said Goran Dragic, who played two seasons with Wade and joked Wednesday night that he thought Wade was back in the building when Heat fans started chanting “M-V-P!” for him after he scored 33 points in the Heat’s 120-112 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
“I saw the Bulls highlights [last night] and saw that he got injured and I texted him. He had texted me two days before about my eye.
“If you’ve been in this organization with the Miami Heat then you know you’re brothers.”
Dragic said when the Heat played in Chicago earlier this season Wade pulled him aside and congratulated him on the tremendous season he was having.
“I didn't understand it at the beginning, but when you’re with a guy every day and you talk and go to dinner, movies, you just see it’s not only a job,” Dragic said. “You develop the friendship, the chemistry and you want those guys to be successful even if they're on the other team. I’m always going to remember D-Wade. People were saying he and I didn’t get along. That’s not true. He helped me a lot with the transition. It’s not easy when you switch teams in the middle of the season. He was always there for me and tried to make my job easier.
“You never know. Hopefully he comes back and retires here.”
Though the Heat has been red-hot – winners of 22 of its last 27 games – the Bulls have gone in the opposite direction (13-15) since Miami began its midseason turnaround. Wade’s injury, which happened when he got tangled up with the Grizzlies’ Zach Randolph in the fourth quarter Wednesday, severely hampers Chicago’s playoff hopes. He was the Bulls’ second-leading scorer this season (18.6).
Miami (33-35) and Chicago (32-36) are seeded ninth and 10th in the Eastern Conference standings.
“It sucks no matter what his age is,” Heat captain Udonis Haslem said of Wade, his teammate and close friend for 13 years in Miami. “It sucks because they’re in the middle of a playoff run, as well. Me knowing Dwyane, he’s going to get to work. He’s going to do what he has to do to bounce back.
“It’s unfortunate. I’m going to reach out to him today to see how he’s doing. The timing is terrible and you just never want to see anybody get hurt. Obviously, when it’s a friend of yours and you know what kind of competitor he is, I know he was going to try to push to make that playoff run toward the end. It’s unfortunate he’s not going to be a part of it.”