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Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Dwyane Wade says, 'I'm still here'

Associated Press

MIAMI -- Dwyane Wade knows what he's going to hear for the next few days. It's the same question he's been getting for the past few weeks.

"So, why didn't you pick the Bulls?"

Hey, when you're a native son of Chicago and you rebuke the advances of your hometown team, that's a fair question. And the newly re-signed Miami Heat guard fully expects to be on the receiving end of it often between now and Sunday, while hosting a number of charity-themed events to help underprivileged kids.

Dwyane Wade
Because of charitable and business commitments, Dwyane Wade has stayed in and worked out in Chicago instead of Miami.

"I expect to hear that for a while," Wade told The Associated Press Wednesday from Chicago, where his Wade's World Foundation will hold events involving more than 1,000 children this weekend. "But kids are fans of the game of basketball and fans of certain players as well. They think it's cool in a way. It's moreso the adults who don't understand why you didn't choose their cities."

Wade became a free agent July 1, and met with the Bulls twice, eventually conceding that he was deeply torn between offers from Miami and Chicago. Even his family couldn't come to a consensus on where the 2006 NBA finals MVP should spend the next few seasons playing.

By now, everyone knows how the story ends.

Chris Bosh picked Miami, Wade quickly decided to join him and one day later, LeBron James gave the Heat a sweep of the three biggest prizes available during this summer's free-agent period. So now, Wade finds himself in the delicate balance of enjoying Chicago while trying to avoid the city's disappointment.

"Whatever jersey I'm wearing, I'm still here," Wade said. "I'm still in the community, I think I'm doing something impactful and bigger than the game of basketball. It had nothing to do with Chicago. It had nothing to do with the Chicago Bulls. It had everything to do with Miami and what we had a chance to do down there."

So far, Wade -- who hosts two basketball camps in Chicago, plus has a mother who holds events at her church in the city -- said the support he's seen from his hometown has been unwavering.

"The kids can separate it. It's moreso the adults we have to fight against," Wade said. "It's just not their lives. ... At the end of the day, I'm sure that if I'm happy, they will be happy for me in the long run. It's the same thing in Ohio for LeBron. He looks happy. He says he's very happy with his decision and I think people can respect that."

Whatever jersey I'm wearing, I'm still here. I'm still in the community . . . It had nothing to do with Chicago. It had nothing to do with the Chicago Bulls. It had everything to do with Miami and what we had a chance to do down there."

-- Dwyane Wade

Wade's weekend of events includes a benefit with rapper-actor Common to support a youth center; a bowling party where teams of six can rent a lane for $2,500; a youth summit; a "Chicago's Got Talent" showcase for kids; and a back-to-school supplies giveaway with haircut stations and even places where kids can get uniforms for the coming school year.

"I didn't want this to be about celebrities," Wade said. "I wanted this weekend to be about the city of Chicago, to its core. At the end of the day, this is for the community and about them."

His summer gets hectic from here.

Wade is scheduled for business meetings in New York next week, continuing to build his brand and add to his marketability. And on Sept. 8, Wade and his ex-wife are set to begin a custody trial that is projected to last for two weeks. The trial is in Chicago, meaning it's quite possible the six-time All-Star won't be back in Miami to start preparing for the season as quickly as he'd like.

Wade has been working with Heat assistant coach David Fizdale of late, and expects to continue doing so for the rest of the summer.

"I'm sure the Heat are going to do an unbelievable job of giving me the things I need," Wade said.

Wade has also been in regular contact with close friend Udonis Haslem, his teammate in Miami for the past seven years. It's been a tumultuous summer for Haslem. His mother died recently after a long illness, and he now faces a felony marijuana-possession charge following a traffic stop on Sunday.

"He's doing all right," Wade said. "Without knowing exactly everything that has happened, I know this has been hard for UD, because he's been going through a lot. This offseason, there's been a lot on him. I told him this is a challenge that he has to overcome. Everyone has that time, and this is his time. UD is a stand-up guy. It's unfortunate he's involved in this mistake. But he'll move on."

Wade expects the same from those that are upset over him not picking the Bulls.

Much in the same way James speaks of his native Ohio even after leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers, Wade insists he'll continue keeping close ties with his hometown. Wade may live and work in Miami, but deep down, Chicago remains home, something he'll try to prove yet again this weekend through his foundation events.

"It's been a good summer," Wade said, "and it's going to continue being a good summer."