Miami decided to show Dwyane Wade that he can experience his hometown of Chicago during NBA season without changing teams.
After playing in New Jersey on Monday, the Heat headed straight to Chicago for two days off before facing the Bulls on Thursday at the United Center. After practicing Wednesday at Attack Athletics on the West Side, the players were talking up the intensity of the Bulls-Heat rivalry.
Here are the quotes, courtesy of the South Florida Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald.
“It started when we beat them in the first round of those playoffs (in 2006), and it will always be something there,” Wade said. “This is always a physical game, playing against the Bulls. If it gets any more physical, nobody would be playing."
Added forward Udonis Haslem, “It's always been a heated, edgy rivalry. Whether both teams are in the playoff race, or it's a playoff game or a regular-season game, there's definitely been a little edge to this game.”
Probably not as much of an edge since flagrant-foul specialist James Posey left the Heat. But the last meeting in Miami on March 12 featured a flagrant foul from Brad Miller against Wade, followed by 3 technical fouls by Miller and Kirk Hinrich for arguing the call.
The Bulls played without Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng in the last game. They’ll have Rose and Noah back Thursday. Meanwhile, the sixth-place Heat will head into the contest with a 3 ½ game lead on the ninth-place Bulls.
“We're treating this as a playoff game,” Miami coach Eric Spoelstra said. “This is going to be a game they're looking to as an absolute must-win. It doesn't eliminate them, but a win immediately puts them right back into contention in the chase against us. If we were able to get that win, it gives us a lot more separation with them."
MILWAUKEE WARY OF BULLS’ SUMMER PLAN
During an appearance on NBA TV on Tuesday, Bucks general manager John Hammond talked about trading with the division rival Bulls at the deadline.
Milwaukee got a sweet deal, since John Salmons is averaging close to 20 points per game since the trade. The Bulls were able to ensure that they’ll have roughly $20 million to spend on free agents this summer.
“We talked about it over and over and over again before we made the decision what to do with Chicago,” Hammond said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “That was a concern for us, but you know what? At the end of the day, we had to do what was going to be right for us. We needed a piece like John. He's fit in for us. It's been worthwhile for us.
“I'm not going to tell you it was not a concern. It's still a concern. If Chicago can sign one of these major free agents, it's going to be a concern for us and we will have to live with it.”
--The Bulls moved within 2 games of eighth place in the East when Toronto was throttled at home by Utah on Wednesday. Next up for the Raptors is a home game against Denver, then a trip to Miami and Charlotte.
Keep in mind, the Bulls cannot win a tiebreaker against Toronto. The Raptors are 2-0 against the Bulls and the teams meet just once more, on April 11 at the Air Canada Centre.
--Of course, Dwyane Wade was asked about the Bulls clearing more cap room, since he'll be one of the top free-agent targets this summer.
"I understand the business side of it, so I understand what they were doing as a team," he said. "But it had nothing to do with me."
Wade will get a call from the Bulls on July 1, but so will LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson and probably a few others.
--Another Miami storyline is the presence of Charles Barkley as a courtside commentator at Thursday’s game. Not long ago, Barkley called the non-Dwyane Wade Heat players a bunch of Tito Jacksons.
Forward Michael Beasley, last year’s No. 2 draft pick behind Derrick Rose, took offense to that statement.
“I kind of let that affect me, which messed my game up a little bit,” Beasley said. “I don't care, man. I'm excited. He can call me Tito. He can call me New Edition, SpongeBob. Call me whatever he wants. I'm going to go out and play.”
Apparently the other Heat players have no problem being compared to the former Jackson 5 guitarist.