Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler go off on Bulls after embarrassing loss

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/4912/" data-ylk="slk:Jimmy Butler">Jimmy Butler</a> and <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/3708/" data-ylk="slk:Dwyane Wade">Dwyane Wade</a> separate themselves. (Getty Images)
Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade separate themselves. (Getty Images)

The 2016-17 Chicago Bulls are going according to plan. It’s the layout just about everyone had in place for them exiting last summer’s offseason, though not the blueprint the team’s front office and ownership group had in mind when they weirdly decided to outfit Jimmy Butler with star helpers Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo, alongside a cast and crew of confidence-less helpers, under the leadership of second-year coach Fred Hoiberg.

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The Bulls are 23-24 following Wednesday night’s miserable defeat at home, ranked last amongst playoff teams in the East. The visiting Atlanta Hawks came back from a 10-point deficit in the final three minutes of action in Chicago, downing the Bulls 119-114 after forward Nikola Mirotic’s potential game-winning 3-pointer spun untrue.

The team was about to make a move up the Eastern standings when everything fell apart in the face of a Hawks squad that has already added to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ sense of superiority at the top of the Eastern bracket. Wade and Butler accounted for 21 of the team’s 31 points in the fourth quarter, and acted as the only scorers save for two Robin Lopez points over the final eight minutes of the contest.

Following the game, in what was clearly a calculated move from the Bulls’ highest-paid players and top scorers, Wade and Butler lit into something a bit bigger than the team’s play on a Wednesday in January. From K.C. Johnson at the Chicago Tribune:

“I wish I could say that everyone in here is going to go home and not eat tonight. I can’t say that. I don’t know that they care enough,” Wade said. “Games are supposed to hurt. You’re not supposed to sleep. You’re not supposed to want to talk to anybody. I don’t know if that is in guys in this locker room. Hopefully, they can prove me wrong. But I will challenge them to see if losses like this hurt.”

He went on, via Nick Friedell at ESPN:

“We can play bad, we can miss shots, but we’re having too many of these lapses. We’re having too many of these losses. This just can’t be acceptable if you want to do something besides have an NBA jersey on and make some money. That’s all we’re doing around here.

“I’m 35 years old, man. I’ve got three championships. It shouldn’t hurt me more than it hurts these young guys. They have to want it. If they don’t want it, then we’ll show up and play Friday. Hopefully we win; if we don’t, we [do it] again. Keep it going until the season’s over. It has to change. It has to hurt inside to lose games like this. This s— should f—ing hurt.”

.@dwyanewade took his @chicagobulls teammates to task after another deflating loss.

A photo posted by Ball Don't Lie (@yahooballdontlie) on Jan 26, 2017 at 10:38am PST


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Butler echoed Wade’s thoughts. Speaking in the same locker room, the All-Star started pointed out correctly that “m—–f—–s just got to care if we win or lose,” before chiding other teammates (without the temerity or leadership strength needed to do it by name, much less behind closed doors) for daring to take an open shot, what with Wade and Butler more than able and available to toss yet another contested jumper up at the rim, often successfully:


He went on to lie about not being mad, as documented by The Athletic’s Sean Highkin:

“I understand that if you’ve got an open shot, take it,” Butler said. “But at a point in the game like that, no offense but you gotta get the ball to your best players. That’s just how the game goes. Let it come down on my shoulders or D-Wade’s shoulders. Let us be the reason why. I understand if you’re open, yeah, shoot it. But at a time and place when a guy is making shots like he was and like I was. I felt like everything was going in that I put up there, It happens man, you just got to learn from it. I’m not mad at the shot selection. I just think there’s a time and place for all of that.”

Wade, desperately hoping for his own banana boat in Central Time, defended his mini-LeBron:


Mirotic, who missed four of five 3-pointers and eight of 11 shots overall, declined comment.

Following the game, D-Wade decided to get cute, and topical:


Guard Jerian Grant, a tough second-year player who comes from an NBA family (he’s the nephew of former Bull Horace Grant and son of former NBA forward Harvey Grant) and is now starting for Chicago, wanted nothing to do with being lumped in with those who would see fit to enjoy their meals on Wednesday evening:




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How could nobody see this coming?

Wade is only on the Bulls because he wanted to make Pat Riley and the Miami Heat hurt, and even with the Heat struggling along at 16-30 during an admitted rebuilding year, with lone prospect Justise Winslow on the shelf, the showoff move ain’t working. The Heat are hardly red with envy as Wade works at a sub-optimal level while making more than $23 million a year.

Wade has treated the Bulls like a rebound relationship from the outset. The Bulls were the only ones dumb enough to believe that his interest in the team was something special, and lasting. Well before Wednesday’s embarrassment, he was already discussing declining his player option for the summer of 2017, a player option that nobody outside of Chicago assumed he’d ever pick up following what was sure to be a waste of a season (averaging more than 19 points a game, with 33 on Wednesday on the second night of a back-to-back) in his hometown.

D-Wade could barely even give the Bulls a bit of too-public affection in the company of Riley and the rest of the league, no sloppy makeout sessions in full view of the cameras, as his effort has been lacking all season.

It’s a clear carryover from his sometimes-there play with the Heat, defensive play that even predated the arrival of LeBron James in South Beach. The Athletic’s Stephen Noh discussed as much in the wake of Wednesday’s loss:


Those types of plays have become the new normal for Wade. He’s still a valuable player, but his defense is nowhere close to what it once was. Wade’s whining at officials has been well-documented by national writers for years. He won’t get back on transition defense, choosing to concede points in favor of complaining about calls. Even when he has nothing to argue about, his effort is abysmal on defense.

To date, Wade is best known for this recent chirp, and for being gifted free throws after missing a dunk in a too-tough home win over the pathetic Sacramento Kings. It’s clear that he’s played the Chicago ownership and front office for their money, for their interest, but the Bulls can’t be painted as sympathetic figures in any of this. Any NBA observer with a sense of perspective and a League Pass subscription could see this outcome identifying itself from hundreds of miles away.

That won’t change the face of the Bulls, a team that has counted on exactly two personnel chiefs since the first year of Ronald Reagan’s second presidential term in office.

The club remains immune to embarrassment or self-reflection, as if the fallout from hoped-for Ben Wallace reboot, the Vinny Del Negro years, or the Tom Thibodeau catastrophe appears to have dented the club only slightly within its own insulated hovel, a sensible room lined with Ron Karkovice posters and dotted with strewn-about uncashed checks from season-ticket holders.

The furor made its way into the overnight session, as Twitter users began to trade fours while finding new ways to laugh at Chicago’s obvious stem-to-stern dysfunction. Here’s a shot of Butler saying “no” to coach Hoiberg, after Hoiberg asked for a timeout with a minute to go in the game, and Chicago down a point:


When asked about Butler’s decision to overrule his coach’s timeout call after the game, Hoiberg copped out:

“No, we were going to get it, go down and save that last timeout,” Hoiberg said.

The problem here is that nobody is ever going to “get it.” Sorry, Dave Edmunds.

Hoiberg has clear talent as a playcaller, but few of his plays are ever executed with alacrity by uncaring Bulls either famous or infamous or both, dating back to last season and the sleepy Derrick Rose walking the show.

The front office has provided him with a roster that is completely ill-suited for Hoiberg or any other NBA coach, as they can’t even seem to draft well anymore. Hoiberg’s attempts at all manner of hammer plays and spaced-out options are shot to hell once defenses realize that, no, they don’t really have to guard that Bull in the corner, or any of the other three or even four (including Wade, at times) players surrounding Butler.

Fred Hoiberg and <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/4912/" data-ylk="slk:Jimmy Butler">Jimmy Butler</a> huddle together. (Getty Images)
Fred Hoiberg and Jimmy Butler huddle together. (Getty Images)

That’s not on Hoiberg, but a whole hell of a lot of damning offenses sure seem to be. Chicago has been quick to fire coaches in years past, twice on Christmas Eve in fact, but Hoiberg stands as a decades-long realization of an ideal that Jerry Reinsdorf signed off on after committing to Tim Floyd during the summer of 1997 (technically, in the summer of 1998).

Hoiberg, like Floyd and like general manager Gar Forman, is an Iowa State product. If that seems like an odd collegiate program to repeatedly tie an NBA team’s fortunes to, well, you’re not alone.

The coach, in the second year of a five-year deal, might be safe in spite of all the tumult. Butler, the East’s most underpaid star (and the NBA’s most underpaid star, when Stephen Curry signs a new deal this summer), should be safe. Few teams are going to want Wade at twice the price and half the court. Rondo is a walking, cursing tire-fire. The trade values of Mirotic and Doug McDermott are at an all-time low, but their talent is enough that they’ll still make Chicago pay at times at the next NBA stop. Lopez is off in the corner, solemnly weeping.

Forman and president John Paxson, the man owner Jerry Reinsdorf once made to feel guilty after signing a three-year, $3.6 million deal to be a championship team’s starting point guard in 1991, are probably safe.

The house is in flames, but it’s still safe to touch. The walls, however charred, will still stand when this is over. The checks weren’t burned in the fire, thankfully. Especially with Chicago White Sox spring training just around the corner: Jerry Reinsdorf has some first basemen’s mitts to buy.

All as planned by the Bulls, and expected by others. Rebound relationships are always good for a few thrown drinks in public.

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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