Erik Spoelstra remembers the first time he saw Dwyane Wade in a Chicago Bulls uniform.
“I texted him the first time I saw him in a Bulls uniform,” the Heat coach said Friday morning after the Heat’s shootaround session. “I told him, ‘This doesn’t look right. This is wrong. I don’t care what anybody says. I don’t care where you’re from. That just doesn’t look right.’
“We had so many battles with the Bulls, I wasn’t buying that whole hometown thing. And then to prepare for him, I put a $5,000 fine for anybody that went for a shot fake or fouled him on any one of his tricks.”
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Many in the Heat organization had that same “this-doesn’t-look-right” reaction after Wade left to sign a free agent deal with his hometown Bulls in the summer of 2016. The future Hall of Fame guard spent the first 13 seasons of his NBA career in Miami.
But Wade, 36, has since returned to the Heat, and is in the middle of his final NBA season. Friday marks his first game back in Chicago since returning to the Heat in a trade-deadline day deal in February.
Wade played one season with the Bulls before the parties reached an agreement on a buyout prior to the start of the 2017-18 season. He then signed a veteran’s minimum contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and played 46 games there with LeBron James before he was traded to Miami in the middle of the season.
During Wade’s lone season with the Bulls, he played and developed a friendship with Jimmy Butler. So it’s not a surprise that Wade was asked by Chicago-based reporters about the Butler saga that dominated NBA headlines to start this season.
Butler, who spent the first six seasons of his career with the Bulls, demanded a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves before the start of training camp. He was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers earlier this month, ending nearly two months of speculation that once included the Heat as a potential suitor.
“I talked to him,” Wade said when asked about Butler. “I think he wanted everything to get resolved faster than it did. It just didn’t. So it dragged on and a lot of stuff started coming out from there. And it’s never good when you let something like that drag on. But, like I said, I’m glad that that’s in the past. He’s in a great place in Philly.”
At one point it looked like Miami would be the team that won the Butler sweepstakes.
ESPN reported Oct. 7 that a deal between the Heat and Timberwolves was close but fell apart when Minnesota asked for more from Miami. The New York Times reported Minnesota rejected a Heat offer for Butler that was headlined by Josh Richardson and a No. 1 draft pick, along with another player.
“For me, it’s a win-win, I get to see guys that I like and respect out in Minnesota having fun and enjoying the game,” Wade said of the 76ers landing Butler. “And I get to watch Jimmy in a place where he’s a winner. And you put him in a place and a culture where he can do that, and I’m very happy for him.”
The G League shuffle
The Heat sent two-way contract player Yante Maten back to the G League, but the team’s other two-way contract player Duncan Robinson remained with the Heat for Friday’s game against the Bulls.
Maten, who has yet to make his NBA regular-season debut, has used three of the 45 days he’s allowed to spend in the NBA as part of his two-way deal. The rookie forward is averaging 25 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in his first eight games with Miami’s developmental affiliate, the G League’s Sioux Falls Skyforce.
Robinson has used 10 of his NBA days entering Friday’s game against the Bulls.
▪ Guards Dion Waiters (left ankle surgery), Tyler Johnson (strained right hamstring) and Goran Dragic (right knee) did not travel with the Heat for its two-game trip to Chicago and Toronto. They have been ruled out for both games.