The former Miami Heat guard has informed the Bulls he will pick up his $23.8 million option and return to Chicago for a second season, according to several reports and first reported by Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago.
Wade, 35, left Miami after 13 seasons last July to sign a two-year $47 million contract with his hometown team, the second year a player option. Wade’s decision comes despite reports that the Bulls have been listening to offers for his closest friend on the team, forward Jimmy Butler.
By picking up the option, Wade gives up the chance to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. But Wade, who is coming off the worst postseason of his career after seeing his numbers decline during the regular season, would not have commanded anything close to what he will make by staying in Chicago.
Wade’s decision will end any talk – at least for a year – of the 12-time All-Star returning to the Heat. The franchise’s all-time leading scorer left after turning down a two-year $40 million offer. Wade and Heat president Pat Riley were not on the best of terms after the split although the two have said that bad blood no longer exists.
Miami will have about $38 million to spend when free agency starts July 1 and even if Wade were on the market he would not have been a Heat priority.
Now, Wade returns to a team after a controversial filled season in which it finished 41-41 and made the playoffs because it held the tiebreaker over the Heat. The Bulls lost in the first round to the Celtics, 4-2.
Wade’s first year in Chicago did not go as expected. He criticized his teammates and formed an alliance with Butler that at times had the two isolated from the rest of the team. Wade’s 18.3 scoring average last season was the lowest since his rookie year and he shot a career low 43.4 percent from the floor. During the playoffs Wade posted career lows in scoring (15.0) and field goal percentage (.372).
The decision is not surprising with several reports since the season ended saying Wade was leaning toward picking up that option. But following the season Wade reportedly told Bulls management he had no interest in being a part of a team that is rebuilding. And recent reports of the Bulls engaged in trade talks for Butler had some wondering if it would be enough for Wade to leave the money on the table.
Butler, who was voted to the All-NBA third team after averaging career-highs in points (23.9), rebounds (6.2) and assists (5.5), has been linked to trade rumors for the last year. Reports of a deal between Chicago and Cleveland heated up Monday with the two teams discussing a trade that would necessitate bringing in a third team – possibly Phoenix or the Lakers – to get the Bulls a high pick they desire to start a full-blown rebuild.
And Butler reportedly is pushing the Bulls to get that deal done.
One report early today said Wade told the Bulls he will not return if Butler is dealt.
Wade, though, had 24 million reasons not to leave the Bulls.