Chicago Bulls

Dwyane Wade thriving in 6th-man role for Cavaliers, not Bulls

They say opposites attract. And so it is that the Cavaliers face the Bulls on Monday.

One team has won 11 straight games. The other has lost eight straight.

One features Dwyane Wade coming off the bench, reinventing himself as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. One might have featured Wade coming off the bench until he took a buyout to escape the misery of a full rebuild.

“That all would’ve been determined in training camp,” coach Fred Hoiberg said, when asked if he would have asked Wade to come off the bench to allow young Bulls to start in the rebuild. “My thought going in was if Dwyane was going to be on our roster, he had been through pretty much every situation you can be in in this league, winning championships and also being part of rebuilding situations. We did have a couple conversations about that, but obviously with the buyout, I’m happy for Dwyane. He’s in a position to again compete for a championship and playing very well for that team.”

Indeed, Wade, who gave back $8.5 million of the $23.8 million he stood to make to sign a one-year, $2.3 million deal with the Cavaliers, has thrived since his short-lived starting role ended. In 19 games off the bench, Wade has averaged 12.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4 assists in 23.5 minutes. He posted averages of just 5.7 points, 2 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 23.7 minutes over three starts.

“They’re playing Dwyane a lot with the ball in his hands in that second unit, especially since Derrick (Rose) has been out. He’s done a great job running the show,” Hoiberg said. “They’re playing to the mismatch a lot. Dwyane has that with the second unit. They’re running him into the post. He’s shooting the ball well. Obviously, it’s a team that’s clicking.”

And one that has clicked without Rose, who left the team Nov. 22 to ponder his future in basketball after his latest injury, a sprained ankle that has sidelined him since the second game of the season. Cleveland.com reported Sunday that the “the timing of Rose’s formal return was still being determined.” But it appears Rose will return after multiple outlets, including the Tribune, reported he had considered retiring.

“You hope everything works out for the best, whatever direction that is for Derrick,” Hoiberg said. “I hope he does get back to play again. Playing against him in the preseason, he looked really good. He had his explosiveness.”

That trait is the defining characteristic of Rose’s meteoric rise to becoming the youngest most valuable player in NBA history with the Bulls until the first of many knee injuries in April 2012. Now, with the Cavaliers rolling with Jose Calderon starting, Kyle Korver and Wade grabbing reserve guard minutes and Isaiah Thomas’ return from hip surgery imminent, Rose’s future role is in question.

“I have great memories because when I was here Derrick was playing great,” Nikola Mirotic said. “Obviously, he was having issues with his health. But I really have great respect for him. He was good to me. Every time, he would come to me and try to help me with my game.

“He has a lot of future in front of him if he decides to keep playing. And I hope that he’s going to keep playing. He just needs to be strong mentally. And he is because of everything that he suffered all those years. He knows he has support from all of the league, from teammates, from everybody. We all wish him luck and want him back.”

kcjohnson@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @kcjhoop

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