OK, so maybe that “sprain and small fracture” in Dwyane Wade’s right elbow isn’t season-ending, after all.
The 35-year-old shooting guard suffered the injury during the Chicago Bulls’ March 15 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. What was initially termed a hyperextension was revealed the next day to be an MRI exam to be a sprain and a fracture. The injury wouldn’t require surgery, but the Bulls said would it knock Wade out for the remainder of the 2016-17 campaign.
But with the Bulls now sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference at 38-40, and having a real chance to play postseason basketball, Wade’s been ramping up his activity ahead of a potential playoff comeback.
From K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:
Dwyane Wade scrimmaged during parts of the Bulls’ workout at Temple University and now could return from his fractured right elbow before the end of the regular season.
The plan is to see how the elbow responds to the workout, have another conditioning session Thursday and then practice again Friday in New York. Coach Fred Hoiberg didn’t rule Wade out for Saturday’s game at the Nets or, more likely, next week’s final two home games.
“If he responds in a positive manner from the contact practice, we’ll see,” Hoiberg told reporters. “I’m sure we’ll have to have a little bit of a restriction on his minutes but hopefully get him back in a rhythm these last few games.”
ESPN.com’s Nick Friedell has more:
“He’s doing a lot,” Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg said after shootaround Tuesday. “As far as shooting, there’s no restrictions right now getting out there. Still not doing much contact. But he is ramping up activity, doing more and more every day. The biggest thing right now is to keep his conditioning and keep his wind, and if he is able to come back at some point this season he’s not skipping a beat there.” […]
For his part, Hoiberg still doesn’t want to publicly commit to a potential Wade return date.
“We’re not there yet,” Hoiberg said. “It’s just kind of a day by day thing with Dwyane right now. He is feeling better, but obviously there’s a lot of work to do as far as getting the strength back in his arm. Making sure mentally, he’s right. He still has a little bit of pain in that elbow, especially when he’s done working out. But the important thing is he’s making progress and hopefully he continues to take steps in the right direction and we’ll get him back some point this season.”
While Hoiberg declined to put an ETA on a potential return, Wade himself apparently has a date in mind. From Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:
Saturday night is the target date for Dwyane Wade’s return to the Bulls lineup from his right elbow injury, sources tell CSNChicago.com.
Wade will play under a minute restriction upon his return before getting himself acclimated to heavy minutes, as there will be three regular season games after Thursday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Bulls will take on the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center in New York on Saturday night. It will be their final road game of the season before heading home to finish out the season against the Orlando Magic and Nets.
At issue: whether Wade returning would be all that good a thing for the Bulls, as currently constituted.
Chicago has gone 6-4 since Wade went down, scoring an average of 108.6 points per 100 possessions and allowing 105.1-per-100, both improvements over the Bulls’ marks up to the point of Wade’s departure. Jimmy Butler has operated as the unquestioned fulcrum of the Chicago attack, and has shined bright in that role. The All-Star has averaged 28.3 points, 7.7 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 2.0 steals in 39.4 minutes per game over his last 10 outings, shooting a blistering 53.9 percent from the floor and 56.5 percent from 3-point range while getting to the foul line 9.4 times per game.
Nikola Mirotic is playing by far his best ball of the season, aggressively looking for his shot and knocking it down to the tune of 16.4 points per game on 46.8 percent shooting from long-distance (and on nearly seven attempts in 29.6 minutes a night). Point guards Rajon Rondo and Denzel Valentine have looked more comfortable, better equipped to distribute the rock, and more assertive in stepping into their own looks, too.
Maybe there’s no real link between Wade’s absence and the Bulls looking more connected and coherent on both ends of the floor than they had in months. Maybe it’s all just coincidental, and bringing back Wade — who was averaging 18.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.5 steals in 30.2 minutes per game before his injury, shooting 43.4 percent from the field (the lowest mark of his career) and 31.5 percent from 3-point range (his highest mark since 2009) — wouldn’t short-circuit whatever rhythm Chicago has found at a critical juncture in their push for the postseason.
Moreover, maybe getting Wade, who proved just last spring that he can still make some magic come April and May, would give the Bulls the boost they need into the playoffs and perhaps make some noise once they get there. Butler, it seems, would much rather have Wade available to lend a hand come the start of the second season.
“He makes my job a lot easier, as well as everybody else’s,” Butler said, according to Johnson of the Tribune. “It’s just good to have his presence. That’s bigger than what he does on the floor.”
What he can do on the floor, less than a month removed from what was believed to be a season-ending injury, remains to be seen. Come Saturday night in Brooklyn, though, we might find out.