Bulls

After meeting Sunday, Hoiberg, Butler address 'elephant in the room'

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After meeting Sunday, Hoiberg, Butler address 'elephant in the room'

Jimmy Butler couldn't ignore what he called “the elephant in the room” when he walked into the Advocate Center for Bulls shootaround after his comments about wanting Fred Hoiberg to coach the team harder. And neither could the Bulls’ coach.

“I had a great talk with Jimmy yesterday,” Hoiberg said. “We met for over an hour in my office and talked a lot of things out and I think came out in a better place. Sometimes, in a situation like what happened, you can become a better team and a better leader.”

Hoiberg admitted ever-so-slightly there are improvements he can make to his style, even though the team hasn’t fully bought in to his strongest suit, the fast-moving offensive scheme.

“Are there some things I can do better? Sure. Are there some things that all of us can do better? Absolutely,” Hoiberg said. “Are there some things I need to demand probably a little bit more? Sure. But it’s something where I thought we made a lot of progress as a team. It’s getting back to those things we demanded leading into that win streak.”

[MORE BULLS: As Jimmy Butler finds his voice, time for Fred Hoiberg to do the same]

For his part, Butler didn’t regret his comments about Hoiberg but said they came from a place of emotion after two losses in a 24-hour span: a four-overtime loss to Detroit coupled with a dead-legged showing in New York against the Knicks, which prompted his display of frustration afterward.

“I put a lot of it on myself now because I got to lead better,” Butler said. “Can’t allow stuff to happen. Yeah, we lost one I wanted to have at home against Detroit, and then the way that we lost in New York, so you got raw emotion right there.”

After Butler and Hoiberg mutually agreed on the team plane to meet Sunday afternoon, Butler also had to talk with some of his teammates before the morning shootaround.

He said it “opened some eyes” for his teammates considering he did it in such a bold and public manner.

“Because people know when they’re doing things they’re not supposed to be doing,” Butler said. “So hopefully that’s changed. We addressed it in the media, Fred had, so I think it will all turn around for the better.”

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He admits it’s a learning curve for himself, as he earned a max contract this summer with his strong play but never found himself in a position as a team leader. So while a first-year coach is taking steps about learning his team, Butler is taking steps about developing his own style as a leader.

“Tell you the truth, I had more things to say to people individually,” Butler said. “Fred did majority of talking when we were in the film room earlier. But I think when I walked in this building, everybody knew what was going on. I explained my opinion and what I'm gonna do to change things here. Everybody accepted what I had to say.”

It’s been said Butler hasn’t been as accepting of Hoiberg’s offensive style and that he’s broken off plays, so when Butler was asked who should Hoiberg start coaching harder, he pointed the finger squarely at his chest.

“Me. Truthfully, I mean that. Myself,” he said. “I think if you can set an example out of me, the way that I’m playing right now at a high level, that will make it easier for guys to take criticism on this floor, on this team. And then if they see me react like a child and pout and whine, then it gives them reason to do so. But I’m not going to do that, so it won’t give them a reason to do that.”

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Butler denied it had anything to do with some of the lethargic play that occurred last season with previous coach Tom Thibodeau, and it only came out due to the two-game losing streak that dropped the Bulls to 15-10.

“Nope. It goes back to what I always said, if we would've won that game in New York, it wouldn't have never happened,” Butler said. “But because we lost and I was pissed and frustrated, that's what you got.”

“If we run off 20 games in a row, it was a good thing. Winning takes care of everything. If we win, that's good, it needed to happen. If we lose, uh-oh, you know what I mean? At the same time I think it's good. Everybody knows what they have to do what they're supposed to do. Everybody's a leader and gotta bring their best every day.”

Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie

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USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie

Los Angeles—Lauri Markkanen called himself “The Finnisher” when asked what the movie of his life would be called.

Apparently, that moniker didn’t apply to the All-Star Skills challenge as he took down the best big men but couldn’t close against a former Bull, Spencer Dinwiddie, in the final.

The contest highlights players’ ability to dribble around cones shaped like NBA logos, throwing a chest pass into a net while having to complete a layup and then 3-pointer before their opponent does.

Markkanen took down Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid before facing off with Dinwiddie. He held a pose after hitting a triple to beat the uber confident Embiid, in what will likely be used as a memorable gif following the weekend.

His confidence doesn’t come across as blatantly as Embiid’s, but that snapshot shows he’s no humble star in the making. He didn’t even practice for the contest, by his own admission.

“I heard some of the guys did,” Markkanen said. “I didn’t do much, just before the competition, I did a little warm-up.”

Missing on the first pass attempt into the circular net in the final, it gave Dinwiddie the advantage he wouldn’t relinquish, hitting on his second 3-point attempt before Markkanen could make it downcourt to contest.

“It’s a lot harder than I’ve seen,” Markkanen said. “I thought it was gonna be super easy but it was kind of tough. Maybe I need to hold my follow through (on the pass).”

“I saw he missed (the first shot) and I started going. I thought he would’ve missed it too. I think I would’ve gotten it on the third shot.”

Being one of the multi-dimensional big men in today’s game who can be adept on the perimeter as well as the interior, it almost seems like the contest was made for Markkanen. Although he doesn’t do much handling in Fred Hoiberg’s offense, it’s clearly a skill he will develop as time goes on.

The last two winners of the skills challenge were Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis, and Markkanen was well aware of the recent trend.

“The last two years the bigs have won,” Markkanen said. “I’m kind of pissed that I couldn’t keep the streak going after (those two). I think there’s a lot of guys who can do that now, it’s why they changed the format to bigs versus smalls.”

For Dinwiddie, who was discarded by the Bulls last season after a promising start in the preseason so they could pick up R.J. Hunter, he’s taken advantage of an opportunity with Brooklyn.

“I think for Chicago it was just another series of unfortunate events,” he said. “They were in win-now mode. I was an unproven guard on a non-guaranteed contract and they felt Michael Carter-Williams gave them a better shot to win.”

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 5-1

Michael Jordan's Greatest Moments: 5-1

This is part of a four-part series looking back at the historic career of Michael Jordan and the legacy he left on the game of basketball. It all leads up to Saturday when we unveil his top 5 moments on his 55th birthday. Here are 55-4544-23, and 22-6.

5. Jordan wins fourth title and finishes greatest individual season ever, June 16, 1996

It’s hard to comprehend just how much Jordan accomplished during the 1995-96 season. We’ll try:He won his fourth championship, was named NBA Finals MVP for a record fourth time, won All-Star Game MVP, won a record 72 games, was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team, was the league’s leading scorer and became the Bulls’ all-time leader in games played. So when he dropped a casual 22 points in Game 6, it marked the end of one of the greatest seasons in NBA history. Oh, and Space Jam came out a few months later.
 
4. Jordan hits six triples, scores 35 points in first half against Blazers, June 3, 1992

During the 1991-92 regular season, Jordan never made more than three 3-pointers in a single game. In fact, the most 3-pointers he had in any two-game stretch that year was four. So when he began burying triple after triple in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, even Jordan couldn’t believe it, giving a shrug toward the NBC announcers as if to say, “I don’t know, either.” Jordan finished the first half with six triples and scored an NBA-record 35 points. The Bulls cruised in the second half, so Jordan finished with only 39, but his shrug remains one of the most iconic NBA Finals moments in history.
 
3. Jordan battles the flu, scores 38 in Game 5 on his way to fifth title, June 11, 1997

The Flu Game. Jordan was battling a nasty illness in the lead-up to a pivotal Game 5 in Utah, and there were concerns about whether he would even suit up. Hours before tip Jordan got out of bed and made his way to the arena, looking to halt Utah’s momentum after it had taken Games 3 and 4 to tie the series. The Jazz came out red-hot while Jordan looked sluggish, but he responded with 17 points in the second quarter alone to give the Bulls a halftime lead. Jordan then keyed a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter to erase a Jazz lead, and he hit a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left to give the Bulls a three-point lead. The Bulls hung on, and Jordan collapsed into Scottie Pippen’s arms walking off the floor. His final line? 38 points, 13 of 27 shooting, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. Two days later the Bulls won the title in front of a sellout Chicago crowd.

2. Jordan scores 63 points against Celtics in playoff loss, April 20, 1986

Jordan had just turned 23 years old when he took to the Boston Garden floor to face Larry Bird in his prime and the Celtics. These Celtics had gone 40-1 at home, led the NBA in field goal percentage defense, started FOUR future Hall of Famers and had a fifth come off the bench. They would ultimately go down as one of the all-time greatest teams, and Jordan made them look absolutely silly. He played 50 minutes in the double-overtime thriller, shooting 22 of 41 from the field and making 19 of 21 free throws, including the last two with no time on the clock and the Bulls trailing by two at the end of regulation. He scored 54 in regulation, added five in the first overtime and four in the second. He also led the Bulls with six assists. It still stands as the NBA record for most points in any playoff game. Twenty-three years old. Twenty. Three.

1. Jordan scores 45 in final game with the Bulls, securing sixth championship, June 14, 1998

Jordan’s final game with the Bulls was iconic. Like so many of these moments, die hards know exactly where they were. The 45 points were majestic, and while he only had one rebound and one assist he affected just about every possession on both ends. But what we’ll remember most is the final 37 seconds. Jordan drove to the basket for layup that cut Utah’s lead to one, then stripped Karl Malone from behind on the next trip down. That gave the ball back to the Bulls with 20 seconds left. Jordan let the clock tick down to around 9 seconds before making his move from the left wing, driving right on Bryon Russell, (maybe pushing off) and pulling up for a jumper at the foul line. The shot was good with 5.2 seconds remaining, and John Stockton’s ensuing 3-pointer was off the mark. It gave Jordan and the Bulls their sixth NBA title, and marked the perfect ending to his Bulls career: getting it done on both ends, in the clutch, and finishing with a victory. Because it encapsulated so much of his 14-year career in Chicago, it’s our top Michael Jordan moment.