CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade knows Rajon Rondo is likely being bombarded with messages after earning a one-game suspension for getting into a verbal altercation with Chicago Bulls assistant Jim Boylen during Saturday's loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
But Wade also knows that with all the noise surrounding Rondo's suspension, his message to the veteran guard prior to Tuesday's game against the Detroit Pistons is going to be simple.
"Let's play," Wade said. "He's going to have enough messages. Our job is to say, "Let's go, let's play." We got to win the game [Tuesday]. This is about basketball. All those things, it's not my job to stay on him about. He's been disciplined, they've talked about it, he understands and we've moved on."
Wade didn't travel to Dallas and wasn't present during Rondo's outburst at the game. But Wade echoed the same company line that Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, general manager Gar Forman and several players repeated throughout the day in the wake of Rondo's actions. The group must continue to "move forward" and try to forget what happened Saturday. Like many within the organization, Bulls All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler has praised Rondo's presence and leadership throughout the year. Butler has no doubt that Rondo will fit back into the culture of the locker room without issue.
"It's the NBA," Butler said. "That's what's asked of you. He's a professional. He wants this team, this organization, these guys to be successful. He's a winner, so he's coming in with the same mentality. I know that he was working out today, I can tell you that. Stay in a rhythm, your groove, we need you. He knows that. And we're glad to see his face on the plane."
While the players showed no hesitation in standing behind Rondo, it will be intriguing to see how the coaching staff and the front office responds to the point guard in the coming weeks. They all knew before signing him that Rondo, who has now been suspended seven different times since 2012, according to ESPN Stats & Information data, was at risk of blowing up. Now that it has happened, and he has apologized to his teammates and coaches, will it strengthen his bond within the organization or will his outburst mark the beginning of the end of the unified culture narrative the Bulls have been pushing since the season began?
The Bulls certainly could have used Rondo at times on Monday. Jerian Grant, Isaiah Canaan and Denzel Valentine were a combined 6-for-24 in his absence. From a players' perspective, they view Rondo's suspension as a blip on the radar. They know they need him in order to have success.
"He's going to have fresh legs [Tuesday]," Wade said. "Whatever happened, the organization took care of it. As players, we support each other and back each other. It's an emotional game and guys have emotional moments. [The team] handled it the way they thought was best. Now we move on."
The problem for the Bulls is that even while moving on with Rondo, they have hit their toughest stretch of the season. Tuesday's game against an improving Pistons team will mark the Bulls' fourth game in five nights. They continue to rely too much on Butler and Wade offensively, and Chicago's reserves continue to struggle as a whole. A quarter of the way through the season, the Bulls have been exactly the type of team many in the league thought they would be: an inconsistent group that can beat the best teams in the league and lose to the worst.
"Highs and lows," Wade said of the first 20 games of the season. "It's been great, at times; and at times, it's been just OK. It hasn't been terrible at all. Our season is what our record is. We're 11-9 right now, and it's been that way. We've played good enough to be two games over .500, but we have to play better basketball. We've got 62 games left, but in this next 20 games or so, we need to play better than we did in this 20. And continue to improve as the season goes on. That's all you can do."
In order to improve, they must get Rondo back and producing at a high level. But in many ways, Rondo's play has been a microcosm of the Bulls' season: You're never quite sure what kind of performance you're going to get -- or in the case of Monday's game, if you're going to get a performance at all.