Dwyane Wade is out with an elbow injury for the remainder of the Chicago Bulls‘ regular season. Somehow that is good news for a Bulls franchise looking to push for a spot in the NBA playoffs. It is officially put up or shut up time for several Bulls players.
A dark cloud hovered over the Chicago Bulls the other day. The team announced that Dwyane Wade has a partial fracture in his elbow, which is also sprained. Dwyane Wade’s elbow injury will likely not require surgery, but he will wear a cast for a couple of weeks.
The timing of the injury to the Bulls’ superstar guard, which took place during the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies, could not have been worse. One piece of solace is that it was not the worst injury that could have happened.
“It wasn’t the worst-case scenario. Not a good scenario. But kind of what I thought. I told them that I heard a ‘pop, pop,’ and I kind of said that [Wednesday night], and it was pretty much a dislocation at the time, and it went back in, so kind of dealing with the aftermath of what that looks like. This is what it looks like.”
At least Dwyane Wade seemed optimistic about his recovery time.
“I’ll probably have to wear this [cast] for two weeks, but I have to take it off to do my rehab and stuff,” he said. “Doc really wants me to make sure that it heals right, so I think this [cast] will be about a two-weeker, but I go back in a week, get another X-ray, see how everything is healing and go from there.”
It is up to his Chicago Bulls teammates to keep things afloat as the postseason remains in striking distance. Are they up to the challenge?
If the Chicago Bulls were to make the playoffs, it will be because another Bulls’ player besides Jimmy Butler had stepped up his performance. All of the conversations regarding the development of the younger players on the Chicago Bulls’ roster now comes to the forefront. Much of the onus will rest on the shoulders of two rookies and a 22-year-old player acquired at the NBA trade deadline.
Invaluable playing time for Bulls’ rookie Denzel Valentine now has become critical. On the offensive end, Valentine’s value to the Bulls is apparent. He can stretch the floor with his ability to catch and shoot the basketball. Thus far, scoring has been up for Valentine. He has managed to score in double digits in four consecutive contests.
Where Denzel Valentine needs to improve is on defense. His lack of lateral quickness can be masked by his footwork and positioning. The more Valentine plays, the better he can become. With Dwyane Wade out for the rest of the regular season it is imperative for Valentine to drastically improve on defense. The Bulls were already playing Jimmy Butler a ton of minutes. Wade allowed Butler to rest. Denzel Valentine asserting himself would keep things the same.
Taking Dwyane Wade’s place in the starting lineup will be rookie Paul Zipser. The Bulls seem to like Zipser’s moxie on defense. He will be helpful, although he is probably better suited with the Bulls’ second unit.
With Rajon Rondo back in the starting lineup the Chicago Bulls are down a consistent scoring threat. Paul Zipser has the ability to get a few points, although not with the volume that the Bulls need from a starter. With the Bulls coming out of the gate slowly on most occasions, it would be best if Valentine and Zipser switched places.
Point guard Cameron Payne does not appear ready to truly help the Chicago Bulls, but he can do a lot to help his case for next season. The injury to Dwyane Wade opens the door for Payne to step up and become a floor general. Payne still has the Bulls’ backing, courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times, as point guard of the future. Acquitting himself well would go a long way.
The Chicago Bulls entered today’s game with the Washington Wizards only one game out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They are currently behind the Detroit Pistons and Miami Heat. Dwyane Wade’s elbow injury leaves a possible postseason berth in jeopardy, as the Chicago Bulls could conceivably lose 10 of their 13 remaining games.
If the Bulls’ slide continues, as expected, they at least will get a glimpse of what they have in the younger players. The Bulls could also be staring at a 35-win season, 37 wins if they are lucky. But the experience gained with the young players being forced into action helps in terms of future development and obtaining better odds in the NBA draft lottery.
That might not be the ending the Chicago Bulls were banking on, but it is the best possible outcome in more ways than one.
[Featured Image by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]