Much like coach Erik Spoelstra, Udonis Haslem had a tough time stomaching highlights of Dwyane Wade’s Chicago Bulls debut Monday night.
It was so hard to digest for Haslem, who spent his first 13 years in the league playing alongside Wade and winning three NBA titles, the Heat’s team captain said he watched Wade’s new player introduction with the Bulls five times before he finally decided to put down his phone.
“I spoke to him last night,” Haslem said with a grin after Tuesday morning’s shoot around at Georgetown University. “I told him it was awkward, it was weird. I didn't like it.
“But as a friend, I wish him the best and I'm happy for him. I've had a tremendous opportunity to play in my hometown my whole career. It's a gift and a curse. But if you do it the right way and stay focused it's an amazing experience.”
Wade, who turned down a two-year, $40 million offer from the Heat this summer and took the Bulls offer of two years and $47 million to return home, hit a pair of three-pointers and finished with six points in 12 minutes in Monday’s 93-91 loss to Milwaukee.
“It was fine,” Wade told Bulls reporters of his Chicago preseason debut. “I was just trying to come in and do what I needed to do. I've had a lot of time to reflect on it — that I was going to have to put on a different uniform.
“When you get on the court, it’s basketball. I'm not looking down at the jersey at all. Like I said, I've closed a chapter and I'm in this new chapter and looking forward to how this chapter is going to unfold.”
The Bulls will make their one and only trip to Miami in the regular season on Nov. 10. It may take several games for his former coach to get used to seeing him in that jersey.
“It's strange. It definitely looks strange to me,” said Spoelstra, who said he watched highlights of Wade’s Bulls debut on Tuesday morning. “Until we probably play him two or three times it will probably continue to be strange.”
Spoelstra said he hasn’t spoken to Wade, 34, since he was last in Miami for his CommUNITY Bike Ride through Coconut Grove on Sept. 16. The last time they spoke was through text message, Spoelstra said.
“That was lightning in a bottle having Dwyane for 13 years, UD for 13 going on 14 years,” Spoelstra said. “I just feel blessed that I was able to coach these guys in the same uniform for that long. It's very uncommon in this league.”
Spoelstra said it took him some time this summer to get over Wade’s departure from the Heat, basically until his wife, Nikki, snapped him out of it.
“As I was preparing for my wedding my wife finally said 'Hey, we've got a wedding to prepare for. You've got to get onto the next thing. You preach that all the time,’” Spoelstra said with a chuckle. “I said 'Good point.’ I also got to a point where it's OK in this business for it to feel strange and to admit it. I think that's fine. There's been enough change over the years that I think we've also proven we can compartmentalize and we can put it in an appropriate box.”