"The league is different today," Wade said. "The league is all about relationships, player relationships. Obviously presidents and GMs have their job to do to put teams together, but when it comes to free agency, that's player relationships more than anything. It's where an individual wants to go, so you have to feel comfortable with where you're going and who you're going with. And it starts in that process. Maybe you have a relationship with a guy, maybe you don't, but it starts in that process when guys are able to reach out to you and you see."
Wade's comments came before his first appearance against the Denver Nuggets, a team he met with during last summer's free-agency process. Wade, who was complimentary of the Nuggets' pitch, including his time speaking with head coach Mike Malone, ultimately decided to sign a two-year deal with the Bulls for $47 million, which included a player option after the first season.
Wade's decision to leave the Miami Heat after 13 seasons stunned many around the league, but the Robbins, Illinois, native has quickly established himself as a leader on the Bulls. He has enjoyed playing in front of friends and family at the United Center. Wade readily admits how important it was that Bulls star Jimmy Butler reached out to him during the process.
"If the star player on the team doesn't reach out to me then I don't think he's really excited about me coming there," Wade continued. "If Jimmy don't reach out to me then I'm not coming to Chicago because I don't think Jimmy wants me here. But Jimmy reaches out to me and says, 'D, I want you to come,' it's a different -- that's simple right there. It's hard to change my mindset and everything."
Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg wasn't apprised of Wade's comments but agreed with the star guard's assessment.
"It definitely is a different era," Hoiberg said. "There's no doubt about that. And it does start at the AAU level when those guys are playing against each other. Really since, shoot, going all the way back to eighth or ninth grade the way it is now. Then just the relationships they build over the summers. These guys all seem to get together in L.A. or Miami or wherever it might be. So they build those relationships, they play together with Team USA now and they do build those special bonds.
"So yeah, it probably is a little easier to reach out. You see some of the superteams now that are being created, and I think a lot of that has to do with relationships that are built over the summer."
Hoiberg, who played 10 seasons in the NBA before having to retire because of a heart condition, admits he liked the pre-superteam era a little more.
"I kind of liked that we hated each other," he said, drawing some chuckles from the assembled media.
"These guys are together so much in their offseasons," Hoiberg said, noting the difference in eras. "It wasn't like that in the past. A lot of people worked out in the cities that they played in, maybe had an offseason home. But it's just a different environment now, it's a different structure the way people approach their offseasons. There's a lot more working out in the offseason. Before, it was great -- you got to play golf all summer. Now you're in the gym every day. Again, a lot of that is with other players, a lot of them have their personal workout guys and they'll do it together with a group of players. So I do think it's different."
Wade reiterated a point he has made several times since signing in Chicago. The decision was a very difficult one for him and his family.
"I cannot sit here and explain to anyone what it's like to be a free agent," Wade said. "And what it's like to have to make a decision about where you're going. And no one ever thought I would leave Miami. No one ever thought I would be in a Chicago Bulls jersey, but I am, so things happen. And you never know what can happen when it comes to free agency."