BOSTON -- In his 14th NBA season, Dwyane Wade has seen all the highs and lows the NBA has to offer.
But in the wake of the Chicago Bulls' fifth straight loss, a 100-80 defeat to the Boston Celtics on Sunday afternoon, the future Hall of Famer acknowledged what Bulls fans have known for weeks: Coach Fred Hoiberg and his team are in a difficult spot as they try to win games and make the playoffs while developing players for the future in the process.
After some initial success following a trade deadline deal that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow, the Bulls have played lifelessly in five straight defeats.
When asked if the Bulls' commitment to developing younger players can frustrate the rest of the team, Wade was diplomatic in his response but acknowledged some frustration with the circumstances.
"I don't know," he said. "I wish upper management could be answering these questions because I'm tired of answering the same ones every game. I don't know. I wish I had the answer, I don't ... I just want to get out there and try to play, try to lead.
"And try to find a way that me and Jimmy can be better to help these guys," Wade said of All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler. "We got to go look at the film, sit down with coach ... we got to figure out a way for us to be better so we can help everybody else be better."
Wade came to the defense of Hoiberg while discussing the issues the Bulls are facing both in the short term and long term.
"A lot of people have a lot of things they can say about Fred as a coach, but I will defend him on this: This is a tough situation he's put in right now," Wade said. "That's why sometimes I'm glad I'm on this side of the coin. I'm glad I got a jersey on; I don't have to make certain decisions, because it is tough. But no one is really going to care too much. Fred gets a nice paycheck, I get a nice paycheck, Jimmy gets a nice paycheck, blah, blah, blah -- so people don't care when you get paid good. So we all have to figure it out together. We're all in this together. This 2016-17 team, we all go down together no matter what the story, and it's on us."
Butler said he does not believe his team has quit on the season, despite the way players have performed lately. Wade was a minus-37 on Sunday, while Butler shot 2-for-11 from the field and scored just five points.
"I don't think we're giving up," Butler said. "We're just not playing any type of good basketball right now. We got to get back to doing the basics before we try to do anything else. Getting back in transition, guarding the way we're supposed to be, taking the right shots. I'm sure we're going to talk about that for a while tomorrow before we play Charlotte, but we're not giving up. I can tell you that."
When asked what the Bulls can do to shake the notion that they've quit, Wade was honest in his assessment.
"Can't," he said. "You got to play the next game. That's all that counts."
Does Wade still think like the Bulls are engaged enough to push for a playoff berth? They are currently 1.5 games behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the final spot in the Eastern Conference.
"You'd have to ask each individual that question," Wade said. "I can't answer it for everybody. I'm here. I'll show up the next game and try to do what I can."
Wade did say it's unlikely he'll try to motivate his teammates by calling them out again. He was fined and benched for the start of a Jan. 27 loss to the Miami Heat after he and Butler ripped teammates following a loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Jan. 25.
"I realized what my place was in this organization," Wade said. "When I spoke out and said what I needed to say, it wasn't taken highly [by the front office], so my job is to play. I have to be better on the basketball floor and I have to figure out a way to do that. Right now, just running pick-and-rolls all game, that ain't it because [teams] are just watching us, unless somebody's going to shoot step-back 3s all night."
For his part, Hoiberg brushed off the notion that players are quitting on the season. Hoiberg blamed Sunday's performance, in part, on the way the Bulls started: 1-of-17 from the field. Wade said he hoped to sit down with Hoiberg and Butler and try to find a way to right the Bulls' sinking ship.
"I have to get with coach," Wade said. "I have to get with Jimmy, find a way so that I can be better as a player. The rest of it doesn't matter at this point. I don't think talking is really the thing, calling somebody out isn't a thing. We're here, man. It's unfortunate. We got to figure out a way to win games no matter what. That's all it is, or we're going to walk our way into the summer a little early and go from there. So we got to find a way."
Wade also noted that, aside from a loss to the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, the Bulls' losses in the five-game slide have come to teams gearing up for the playoffs. Wade knows his team is in a different kind of preparation for the future at the moment.
"They're ready," Wade said of the Bulls' recent opponents. "They know what they got to do. We're still experimenting. Like I said the other day, we're going to take some lumps; some of them are going to be big lumps. Some of them are going to be small lumps. Tonight was a big one."