What if I told you that a suffering basketball metropolis could be revived in a flash? Or with The Flash?
That could be the case with Chicago native Dwyane Wade, also known as Flash, who wasted little time in signing a two-year, $47 million dollar deal to play for his hometown Chicago Bulls this off-season after an unexpected and unpleasant divorce with the only NBA team Wade has ever known, the Miami Heat.
Wade’s new team is one that has recently experienced a roller coaster season, one birthed out of an ugly divorce of their own with former coach Tom Thibodeau, followed by the hiring of first-year coach Fred Hoiberg and uncertainty abound regarding the chemistry between an occasionally healthy Derrick Rose and upcoming all-star Jimmy Butler.
What resulted was the Bulls missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008, off-season retooling began with shipping Rose to New York, which eventually created enough room to bring in the 34-year-old perennial all-star from Robbins.
As the Rose era closes and the Wade era begins, this signing brings back a level of excitement of Bulls basketball that was thought to be dormant as the best and most meaningful group of players the franchise has seen post-Jordan made their way out the back door. Such excitement is good to keep a tormented fanbase’s heads up through summer, but there is one question that has to be asked sometime before fall brings everyone back to the Advocate Center: does this elder Flash have what it takes to revive a descending franchise for a second time?
My answer: Yes! Resoundingly, and here is why…
After 13 years and three championships with the Miami Heat, many critics wonder if Wade can still provide an offensive game that would keep among the top scoring two-guards in the league. According to Basketball Reference, Wade averaged 19 points and five assists while shooting 46 percent from the field and playing 74 games last season. These stats show Wade can still score the basketball at an elite status consistently while playing the majority of a rigorous season.
ESPN’s Michael Wilbon recounted recently on SportsCenter that Wade spoke to him about his health, telling the Pardon The Interruption host that he still has a lot in the tank for the next couple years. If he can continue to perform and stay healthy, Wade can be a huge asset next to the upcoming star Butler on offense while also not needing to stress himself as much on defense because the younger Butler will certainly take on opposing teams’ best perimeter threat.
The Bulls are in the process of re-tooling, meaning they are revamping a system that has long been set in place. By recruiting Wade, management is showing an effort to think and act boldly in changing direction from a seemingly downward spiral that the franchise was heading in.
Before this free agency period, the Bulls were a team that was not attractive to outside talents and was not expected to make the playoffs next year. Today, Chicago has a revamped roster with two new established talents in their back court (Rajon Rondo joining this column’s subject) and they have increased their playoff chances exponentially to the point that another season without the postseason will be nothing short of a disappointment.
Based on these new odds, someone has to step up and help lead the team, established and well-defined leadership being something this team has lacked over the last couple years. Wade can assist in that department by mentoring the Bulls young talent, such as 2016 first-round pick Denzel Valentine, on and off the court. Wade is one of the most respected players in the NBA, his mere presence will provide lessons to the Valentines and Bobby Portis’s of the world on how to improve their games and overall images.
And actually you can throw a certain Jimmy Buckets in that classroom as well. Butler was learning how to lead a team swiftly, and we saw growing pains upon him taking that role last season. Now with the swap of hometown icons taking place around him, Butler has a better foil in Wade who can ease his maturing process and take Butler under his wing to guide his leadership path so he’ll be an unquestioned franchise player once Wade finishes his time with the Bulls.
If Wade fulfills these requirements, the Bulls will fill up the win column and the only complete rebuild plans on West Madison will be involving practice facilities and the United Center and not the teams in them.
Joshua M. Hicks is a sports writer and broadcaster and a recent graduate of Roosevelt University