When the Chicago Bulls visit the Miami Heat in late March, Dwyane Wade will be facing his old team.
The question is: Which will be is old team?
The schedule, which was released Monday, shows the Bulls visit Miami twice; Nov. 1 during the Heat’s first homestand of the season, and March 29. The chances of Wade being on the Bulls for the first game are pretty high. But with talk of a buyout already starting, who knows which uniform Wade will be wearing late in the season.
Wade picked up the final year of his contract which will pay him $23.8 million for the 2017-18 season. But with the Bulls in a rebuilding mode, most believe the organization and Wade eventually will come to an agreement on a buyout, perhaps Wade giving back $8 to $10 million, depending on the timing, to become a free agent and sign with any team he desires.
If a buyout is agreed upon, Wade could sign with any team for the pro-rated minimum or possibly an exception, which the Heat still carry. Right now the top candidates would be Cleveland to play with LeBron James, Houston to play with Chris Paul or Miami where played for 13 seasons, became the face of the franchise and won three titles.
After trading Jimmy Butler to Minnesota, Bulls vice president John Paxson was asked in June about potentially buying out Wade’s contract. Wade was closer to Butler than any other teammate in Chicago.
Paxson said there had been no discussion about a buyout but added, “I will say this, in this type of scenario it would have to benefit us. It would absolutely have to benefit us.”
Wade’s first year in Chicago was not the homecoming he expected. He clashed with teammates, had his differences with coach Fred Hoiberg and the Bulls were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs after winning the tiebreaker against the Heat to earn the final seed in Eastern Conference.
Paxson, though, emphasized the upside of having the 35-year-old, 12-time All-Star and three-time champion on the roster.
“Dwyane was a great pro last year and he’s been around a lot of different situations,” he said. “He was around Miami when they had a couple rebuilding years, as well, so right now we’re operating under the assumption that he’ll be here.
“But, like I said, if that subject is ever broached by them, then it would have to be advantageous for us.”
Wade had one chance to face the Heat in South Florida last season, a game highlighted by tributes, standing ovations and Wade converting on two free throws in the final seconds to seal Chicago’s win.
Chances are he still will be with the Bulls when they come to Miami early in the season. But the odds of him finishing out the season in Chicago are not very good.
And if he decided to return to Miami, that game in late March could still be one in which he is facing his old team, except that team would be the Bulls.