CHICAGO — Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dwyane Wade poured cold water on his hometown return, claiming he wasn’t playing with any extra motivation while facing the Chicago Bulls on Monday night.
“Nothing extra,” Wade said. “No statements, no story lines.”
Wade might not have bought into it after the Cavs ran their NBA-best winning streak to 12, but his play suggested it. Wade shared a game-high 24 points with Kevin Love, and it came on just 9 of 13 from the field. He slashed through a Bulls defense spread thin for fear of the Cavs’ three-point shooting and feasted around the elbow, like he’s done his whole career. Switched onto Chicago’s Cris Felicio, Wade showed no mercy on the third-year center.
“He wanted to play well,” Cavs coach Ty Lue said. “Coming back home, he’s from Chicago, his family is here, his friends are here. He wanted to play well.”
After just three games with the Cavs this season following a buyout from the Bulls, Wade knew it wasn’t working as a starter. He was averaging less than six points and admitted he didn’t feel a part of the offense with stalwarts LeBron James and Love. The 12-time All-Star and future Hall of Famer went to his coach and requested he come off the bench even though, he guesses, he hadn’t come off the bench since fourth grade. And that, Wade recalled, was only because he was playing among sixth graders.
“I haven’t done it in a long time and I was a little concerned about how, more so than anything, how my 35-year-old body was going to adjust to it,” he said on Monday morning. “I’m so used to trying to start games and get it going.”
Wade has spearheaded a Cavs second unit that has been instrumental in the Cavs’ winning streak, which is one shy of tying a franchise record. Since the streak started Nov. 11, the Cavs’ bench unit is fifth in the NBA in scoring (42.3 points), seventh in field goal percentage (46.9) and fourth in plus/minus (5.9).
“That’s kind of his unit,” Lue said. “He kind of runs and controls that unit.”
Though Wade has played the leading role, guys like Kyle Korver and Jeff Green deserve a ton of credit for the unit’s effectiveness. Korver, shooting 44% on three-pointers, adds all kinds of…