Bulls guard Dwyane Wade out for the season with elbow fracture

Inside the Bulls locker room on Wednesday night, Dwyane Wade had a bad feeling about his right elbow injury and those fears were confirmed after an MRI exam Thursday morning.

Wade has a sprain and small fracture in his right elbow. He’ll be out for the rest of the regular season and barring some surprising developments, Wade’s first season playing for his hometown team is over.

It’s conceivable Wade could return for the playoffs, but he said there isn’t a clear timetable on the rehab process. Then the Bulls would have to qualify for the playoffs without him.

“I do know that for the rest of the regular season I won’t be out there on the floor,” Wade said Thursday at the Advocate Center. “But beyond that — hopefully there’s more life after that — I will see, but that’s all I know right now.”

The Bulls (32-36) were 10th in the East as of Thursday morning, but are just a game behind Detroit and Miami, who are tied for eighth, and 1½ games behind seventh-place Milwaukee.

Wade had his right arm wrapped in a hard brace when he met with reporters. He said there was some ligament damage, in addition to the fracture, and does not expect to need surgery.

“I’ll probably have to wear this (cast) for two weeks, but I have to take it off to do my rehab and stuff,” Wade said. “Doc really wants me to make sure that it heals right, so I think this (cast) will be about a two-weeker, but I go back in a week, get another X-ray, see how everything is healing and go from there.”

Wade was injured early in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s 98-91 loss to Memphis at the United Center.

His right arm got sandwiched between a couple of bigger players during a rebound battle.

In the third quarter, Wade fell to the floor hard after getting fouled by Marc Gasol, but he said that’s not when the elbow injury occurred, even though that video clip was getting plenty of airtime.

“Obviously he heard a pop when it happened, he got his arm caught up on somebody’s shoulder and then somebody hit it from the backside,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “So it’s obviously not what we wanted to hear, but it gives the next guy an opportunity to step up. We’ve got to figure out exactly what to do with the rotation from here, but to not have Dwyane the rest of the season is a tough blow.”

Wade’s production during his first season with the Bulls was pretty good. He averaged 18.6 points, 3.9 assists, 4.5 rebounds and shot 43.4 percent from the field. Wade, 35, played in 57 games and the Bulls are 5-6 without him this season.

The Bulls’ chances of making the playoffs were not great since they’re feeling the loss of Taj Gibson in the trade with Oklahoma City.

The Bulls are counting on several young, unproven players, and Wade’s injury leaves them with a younger lineup.

Hoiberg said he’s still deciding who will start in Wade’s place Friday at Washington.

“This is going to be an opportunity to step up and try and help this team as we are in this battle to make the playoffs,” Wade said. “So from a teammate, from a fan perspective of the game, you want to see who steps up to that.

“It’s going to (stink) as well, me having to be out there watching when guys go through it with or without me, but hopefully just got to keep that confidence, continue to be a leader, try and help guys the best way I can. And a lot is going to go on Jimmy’s (Butler’s) shoulders, but a lot has been on his shoulders already, so he’ll be fine.”

Wade didn’t travel to Washington, but said he plans to be around the team as much as possible during the final 14 games of the regular season.

“My job is for (Butler) to not worry about me,” Wade said. “Just focus on what Jimmy needs to do and that’s to go out the last 14 games of the year and kick butt and help lead this team to the playoffs. It’ll be an even better story with me out of it. It’s a challenge for him. And I look to see how he rises to the challenge.”

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