CHICAGO (AP) — When Dwyane Wade was a free agent in 2010, he got a Chicago Bulls jersey when he met with his hometown team. He took it home, put it on and took a picture. Then he deleted it.
He got another Bulls jersey Friday, and there were more pictures. Lots of pictures, and there was no need to erase anything this time around.
The long dance between Wade and the Bulls took the next step when he was officially introduced as a member of his favorite team growing up in the Windy City.
The 12-time All-Star had two workouts with the Bulls before he was drafted by Miami in 2003, and then had two more meetings with the team before deciding to stay with the Heat six years ago.
“My dream of becoming an NBA player started here, started here in my hometown,” Wade said. “I know it took a long time to get here, but I am here and I’m excited to be here.”
Wade announced he was leaving Miami for Chicago on July 6, and the Bulls confirmed the deal two weeks ago. But his introductory press conference was delayed by a trip to China for Wade and his wife, actress Gabrielle Union.
Judging by the smile on the face of general manager Gar Forman, it was worth the wait for the Bulls.
“Knowing him and studying him over the years, his makeup and character, his work ethic and his commitment to winning is something that I think is really going to serve our team well,” Forman said. “You look at our team and we basically got a young team. We’ve got 10 players now with three years or less experience, and to have Dwyane come in and kind of show these guys the way, I don’t think you can put a value on something like that.”
Wade’s two-year contract worth about $47 million is part of a delicate balancing act for Forman and the Bulls, trying to get younger and more athletic while staying in contention. After finishing 42-40 and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008, Derrick Rose, another local product, was traded to the New York Knicks, and All-Star center Pau Gasol left for a free-agent deal with San Antonio.
But the Bulls convinced Rajon Rondo and Wade to come to Chicago, adding two more dynamic guards to play with Jimmy Butler. While Rondo and Wade are on the wrong side of 30 and have never been strong 3-point shooters in a league with increasing emphasis on the outside shot, everyone with the Bulls think they will be able to work it out.
“We have our own strengths, and with those strengths is what we’re going to bring to this game,” Wade said. “We’re not going to come out there and try to be Stephen Curry. That’s not our game.”
Butler watched from the back as Wade held his press conference, and Wade playfully ribbed him about his shirt exposing his muscular arms. While Butler’s reputation took a hit following Chicago’s poor finish last season, Wade said Butler called him during free agency and the deal would not have happened without his recruitment.
“We’re not going to go through this all year. It’s Jimmy Butler’s team,” Wade said. “Myself and Rondo are here to bring what we bring as athletes to this team and to this city.”
Scoring has never been a problem for the 34-year-old Wade, who leaves Miami as the franchise’s career leader with 20,221 points. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 19 points and 4.6 assists in 74 games last season, his highest total since he appeared in 76 games in the 2010-11 campaign.
After the Bulls missed out on him in the draft, Wade turned into a beloved figure in South Florida, helping the Heat win NBA titles in 2006, 2012 and 2013. He had repeatedly returned to the only NBA franchise he had ever known, but he said the direction and focus for each side was a little different this year than in the past.
“I had a contract offer in Miami that I could have took. I decided not to take it,” Wade said. “It was my decision to be selfish and to live out a dream of mine. I brought a lot of excitement to Miami and it’s a home to me. It will always be. I want to bring a little bit here to Chicago while I have a little bit left.”
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