Dwyane Wade continues taking steps forward for a playoff return

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NEW YORK – It’s amazing what a couple days down on South Beach can do.

There was Dwyane Wade on Tuesday, rejoining the Bulls in the Big Apple after spending the weekend down in Miami, and continuing to move forward in a return to the court as long as his teammates can deliver him to the postseason.

It’s getting to the point where it’s no longer if for Wade to return, but when.

“He feels great,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Just continue to ramp up his activity. We’ll hopefully get him in a little bit of practice [Wednesday]. I don’t think he’s quite ready for the contact part of it yet, but he doesn’t have any pain as far as going out there and doing shooting drills. He’s ramping up his strength activity, as well, and doesn’t have any soreness from that. So it’s a great sign, just continue to make progress day by day.’’

Wade has been sidelined since he dislocated his right elbow in a Mar. 15 loss to Memphis. He was initially told that he would miss the remainder of the regular season with the injury, but no clear timetable was given.

That changed last week, when Jimmy Butler told the Sun-Times that Wade was confident he could return to the floor if the Bulls reached the postseason. A goal that Butler has been focused on making happen.

Wade, 35, not only went through a shooting and condition session Tuesday morning, but had another conditioning workout Tuesday night, before the team boarded a train to Philadelphia.

If there are no setbacks in the practice on Wednesday, the Bulls were scheduled to practice again on Friday. Then who knows?

“Dwyane, if and when he comes back, we’ll just gradually have to get him back involved,’’ Hoiberg said. “I think the biggest thing is get his timing back, but again, Dwyane’s been in this league a long time and he’ll be welcomed back by everybody.’’

Especially by Butler.

In Butler’s opinion, having two isolation players on the floor at once during playoff basketball is better than one.

“There’s no doubt about it, especially with Dwyane’s experience,’’ Hoiberg said of welcoming Wade back for the playoffs. “Just look at the playoff experience. It’s so important. We’re still playing a lot of young guys. Both our first and second round rookies are getting a lot of minutes right now, so to have somebody that’s been there, not only in the playoffs but that’s won championships, that’s invaluable to have on your roster.’’

Summer school

Second-year point guard Cameron Payne has admittedly been disappointed with his performance since arriving from Oklahoma City in a February trade deadline deal, but wasn’t faulting anyone for his lack of playing time.

“Obviously it’s not going the way I want it to,’’ Payne said. “I got hurt, but I mean we’re trying to push for the playoffs so I mean obviously I’m cool with not being out there because the guys, they’ve been here so they know each other better. It’s kind of hard for me to come in while we’re pushing for the playoffs, I mean I’m still trying to learn plays and things like that. So it’s just a better idea to go with the guys that have been here.’’

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