Dwyane Wade continues taking steps toward a playoff return

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

Dwyane Wade rejoined the Bulls after spending the weekend in Miami and is making progress toward a possible return — as long as his teammates can reach the postseason.

It no longer seems to be if Wade can 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 fractured his right elbow March 15 in a loss to the Grizzlies. He was initially told that he would miss the rest of the regular season, but no clear timetable was given.

That changed last week, when Jimmy Butler said Wade was confident he could return if the Bulls reached the postseason. And Butler has been focused on making that happen.

Wade, 35, went through a shooting and conditioning session in the morning and had another conditioning workout Tuesday night before the team boarded a train to Philadelphia.

The Bulls are scheduled to practice again 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 getting his timing back, but Dwyane’s been in this league a long time, and he’ll be welcomed back by everybody.’’

Especially Butler.

Butler said having two isolation players on the court during playoff games 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. 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.’’

No blame game

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

“Obviously, it’s not going the way I want it to,’’ Payne said. “I got hurt, but we’re trying to push for the playoffs, so 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’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.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.
Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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