Dwyane Wade says he’s not sure he’ll be back with the Bulls next season

Chicago Bulls star Dwyane Wade has a player option for the 2017-18 season worth nearly $24 million. With that much money on the line and Wade on the downswing of his career, many NBA observers assume Wade will be back in Chicago next year despite a disappointing 2016-17 season.

Following his exit interview on Saturday, Wade warned reporters not to try to read the tea leaves, because he’s not sure what he wants to do.

Via ESPN.com:

“I don’t know,” Wade said. “I don’t really go with the signs. I’m not a predictable person, I don’t think. But I don’t know, it’s not a bad thing for me. I’m in a good situation, whether there’s a lot of options or not. I’m in a very good situation to where as a player you can decide what you want to do. And I have a lot of money to decide whether I want to take it or not. It’s not a bad thing — because I’ve worked my butt off for it over my career. But no rush in my mind. I don’t have to think about that right now. I got at least a month before my mind starts going there. So I’m just going to get away and let my hair grow a little bit, get a tan.”

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports/Mike Dinovo

Although he didn’t name any specific teams — like, say, the Cleveland Cavaliers — Wade acknowledged he could leave the Bulls to chase rings with a title contender. Then again, he doesn’t have to, since he already has three championships.

“There’s so many different variables that come into play, especially for me at this point in my career,” Wade said. “Like I said, I have a great luxury. I don’t need to ring-chase, but I can. It’s a great luxury to have if I want to do.

“Or I can be a part of passing down my knowledge to younger players. It’s either way. Whatever I decide, I’m going to embrace whatever role I have on a team. That’s sometimes being the second option. Sometimes I’m going to be the first. And sometimes this season, I had to be the third or fourth. It all changes, and you want to be the best at whatever role is presented to you. I’ve always been that way. It won’t change. That will always be me.”

This has to be music to the Bulls’ ears, even if the money probably wins out in the end. The mere possibility Wade could end up elsewhere next season is huge. Chicago needs to enter a full rebuild as soon as possible, and Wade’s presence would severely hamper this team’s ability to bottom out.

He said all the right things about wanting to be a mentor to the baby Bulls, and he probably means it. At the same time, Wade wants to compete — if not for a championship, then at least for a playoff berth. He’s looking to coach up a few young guys, not be the lone veteran on a team that gutted the roster to begin a Sixers-like process. If you bring him back, you’re just rolling out the same failure of a team we saw this season.

Another season of Wade, Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo might earn the Bulls another eighth seed if Chicago gets lucky, but for what? That’s just delaying the inevitable.

When the Bulls’ front office sits down with Wade at the start of free agency, the message should be clear: “We appreciate what you’ve done, and if you want to come back, we’ll make the most of your talents. We don’t have a choice. But we’d prefer you play elsewhere next season.”

No hard feelings. That’s just business in the NBA.