Bulls

Bulls lose Rose to injury, game to resurgent Wade and Heat

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Bulls lose Rose to injury, game to resurgent Wade and Heat

Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler shared space on the list of Marquette’s famous basketball alumna, the Eastern Conference All-Star ballot and Monday, the United Center floor.

Wade, the hometown kid who grew up wanting to be a Bull, has the championship resume, Hall-of-Fame credentials and old-man game that has kept him effective even as his body has prevented him from being the freak of nature he once was.

And while Butler is coming — and probably has supplanted Wade as the league’s best shooting guards, the old man still had a few aces up his sleeve as he helped the Miami Heat pull out a win over the Bulls, 89-84, in the last home game the Bulls will play before embarking on a seven-game western road swing that takes place in the next two weeks.

And the health of Derrick Rose has come into question as he exited the game in the first half, tweaking his right hamstring and hurting his lower back, not returning after 13 minutes.

[WATCH: Catch a full replay of tonight's Bulls-Heat game here]

Wade made every play down the stretch while the Bulls desperately searched for someone to start or finish a play in a game that should’ve been deemed winnable. And as Wade drilled a corner jumper, he let his right hand hang a bit as if he was in Salt Lake City in June, much to the chagrin of the United Center crowd, finishing with 28 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

“I love the matchup, going against one of my Marquette guys,” Wade said. “Just to see his development in his game. I’m a little older now, but you get up for these type of games. He’s one of the smartest defenders. You can’t play with him, you gotta get to your moves.”

While he got to his, the Bulls’ seasonlong pattern of inconsistency and at times jarring miscommunication doomed them as they failed to capitalize on the high of beating the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road.

Butler and Pau Gasol got mixed up on a defensive switch, leaving Chris Bosh open for a jumper with 1:02 left to break an 84-all game, as the two had an exchange headed to the Bulls’ bench.

“On that play, Jimmy tripped,” Gasol said. “When there’s a pick and pop, I take care of the paint and the guards veer back to take care of the shooters, because they’re not post-up players. It’s not a mismatch when we make those switches. He tripped on that play and the switch didn’t happen and Bosh got an open shot.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Yet another example of this team not being able to get on the same page and stay there, even when there’s wins for the taking.

“For whatever reason the ball just stopped and we took tough shots,” Hoiberg said. “We did not do a good job fighting through those times. We didn’t do that. We let a lot of little things bother us and affect us on the floor.”

Heat center Hassan Whiteside and point guard Goran Dragic were out with injury, leaving Wade to do the heavy lifting.

Wade showed the entire YMCA repertoire of moves in his collection — including a baseline fadeaway that hit the side of the backboard before falling in as if he’d planned it — along with other effortless moves and wily plays that helped him to 11 of 21 shooting in 34 minutes.

“I’m a little older now, but you get up for these type of games,” Wade said. “He’s one of the smartest defenders. You can’t play with him, you gotta get to your moves.”

Butler was tasked with guarding Wade while having to face an avalanche of athletic or experienced defenders including Wade but also rookie Justise Winslow and former Bull Luol Deng, illustrating the Bulls’ lack of depth at the swingmen spots.

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The times Wade was guarded by Tony Snell, he treated the guard as if he didn’t exist, literally driving by him or around him on every occasion.

Without Rose, his shooting was necessary but after not forcing it in the first half, couldn’t get going after halftime, hitting just 5 of 15 for 13 points with six rebounds and four assists.

Even as Aaron Brooks started the second half, the Bulls took a nine-point lead but it was doomed, seemingly from the start as their field-goal shooting plummeted to 40.2 percent after shooting 47 in the first half.

The Heat, with Wade and Chris Bosh charging, tied it at 79 with a corner triple from Deng with 4:25 left. After Snell missed yet another open triple, Wade responded by finding Winslow for a dunk with 2:14 remaining, giving the Heat an 84-82 lead.

Gasol got them going with a double-double in the first quarter, quickly erasing the bad taste from his last home game, a one-point showing against the Golden State Warriors.

He finished with 19 points and 17 rebounds and Nikola Mirotic again scored in double figures, but it was easy to see they didn’t have enough playmakers or creative shot takers down the stretch, leaving a bad taste in their mouths as they say goodbye to their home floor for the foreseeable future. 

Reflective Jimmy Butler looks back on time in Chicago during All-Star weekend

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USA TODAY

Reflective Jimmy Butler looks back on time in Chicago during All-Star weekend

LOS ANGELES — Jimmy Butler was absent from the scoresheet of the All-Star Game, unless you count a “DNP-Coaches’ Decision” as activity. Whether due to the All-Star festivities of the weekend or even the grinding minutes he plays under Tom Thibodeau, it wasn’t truly surprising to see him want to have a night off of sorts.

But what was mildly surprising was the reflection he displayed on Saturday at All-Star Media Day in reference to his time with the Chicago Bulls. Usually, Butler’s armor is up because of his feelings surrounding his draft-night departure.

“I learned a lot in Chicago,” Butler said. “Just all through the season and life in general. What to do, what not to do and how to adapt to any situation that you’ve been in. I’ve done that to the best of my abilities. I have a ways to go in that.”

It’s clear he’s still grasping the weight of his words as the best player on a team, or at least, the player whose words impact everything around him.

“A people pleaser? No, I just didn’t say much,” Butler said. “Now I just don’t care. I never talked whenever I was in the league at an early age. It really didn’t matter, nothing I did was gonna make or break us when it comes to losing a game. Now it does and I have a lot to say. Half the time it’s not the right time or right way to say it but it’s okay.”

Whether it was the battles with Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg or the internal struggles in the Bulls’ locker room through his ascension from bench warmer to rotation player to impact player to now, a legitimate star, he’s modifying his approach—just a tad.

“I’ve never been the best player on my own team. I was in Tomball,” he joked, in reference to his beginnings in small town Texas. “I wasn’t in junior college. At Marquette I wasn’t. I’m probably not now. In Chicago I wasn’t. You just pick up on it, watch others and learn.”

He admitted to writing in a journal and reading self-help books now that he’s in Minnesota. The novel he’s reading now, “Faith, Forward, Future” is authored by Chad Veach, a Los Angeles pastor and the subtitle of the book says “Moving past your disappointments, delays and destructive thinking.”

Whether he started the book following a slow start with the Timberwolves in November, where his nightly numbers looked like one of a high-level role player, he took some self-evaluation before leading the charge since, playing like an MVP candidate with 25.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists on 49 percent shooting since the start of December.

“It’s relatively new. Yeah, basketball is still basketball but it’s hard when somebody else is coming in and roles change overnight,” Butler said. “You gotta see where you fit in with the group. At the end of the day you gotta win. I didn’t feel the way I was playing was our best opportunity to win games.”

Bringing along the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, with Towns being a fellow All-Star for the first time, has been a process.

“I’ve never actually had to be a leader,” Butler said. “I just always done what I was supposed to do, didn’t say much and played hard. Now you know, everybody wants to call someone a leader.”

He disputes taking a softer hand, especially as Towns and Wiggins seem to struggle with sustaining concentration at critical moments. The Timberwolves won’t be able to make those mistakes during the playoffs, but he’s being more selective with his words.

“I’m not soft,” he said. “If I see something wrong, I speak on it. If you don’t like it, oh well. You’ll get over it.”

One thing he could take a bird’s eye view of was the aftermath of LeBron James and Kevin Durant’s comments to the “Uninterrupted”, where they were criticized by cable news hosts for speaking out against President Donald Trump.

No stranger to criticism, Butler would likely have the same approach if he dipped his toes into that arena.

“I like it. You got the right to say what you want and you speak on what you think is right,” Butler said. “Good for them. And they are magnified in a very big way. They embrace it and they’re doing the right thing, I’m all for it.”

And if the day comes where he doesn’t stick to sports, Butler’s directness and lack of diplomacy would certainly cause an interesting reaction.

“I don’t care. Whatever I believe in, I believe in,” Butler said. “Everybody else does it. You see everybody on Twitter and the Internet doing it and saying what they want to say. We just have a different job than the person to our left and right.”

Well, not quite a warm and fuzzy Jimmy Butler.

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

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AP

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

There were no Lakers or Clippers in the 2018 All-Star Game, but Los Angeles was well-represented with plenty of homegrown talent, plenty of historians with Los Angeles ties and all the pageantry L.A. can provide.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George and James Harden are among the All-Stars who came home to put on the biggest show of entertainment the league has to offer, and the new format featuring captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry produced one of the most competitive finishes in recent All-Star history as the spectacle wasn’t lost on DeRozan, who plays for the conference-leading Toronto Raptors.

“It was a dream come true,” DeRozan said. “I’ll forever be a part of this, and to come out and be a starter in my hometown, it was a dream come true.”

With Chicago hosting the event in 2020, one wonders if the city or the Bulls will be as represented.

“What better time to do it than in Chicago?” Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen said about his aspirations of being an All-Star sooner rather than later.

New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, to this point, is the only Chicagoan carrying the torch as an All-Star. For years, Chicago could claim their homegrown talent rivaled the likes of Los Angeles and New York, the self-proclaimed “Mecca”.

But now they’ve fallen behind in the way of star power, as Derrick Rose has gone from MVP to one of the biggest “what if” stories in modern-day sports. Jabari Parker was expected to be next in line but his future as a star is murky due to the same dreaded injury bug.

“I didn’t know that. But there’s a lot of great players (from Chicago),” Davis said Saturday during media availability. “Jabari is just coming back, Derrick is going through what he’s going through. That’s fine. D-Wade is getting older. We have a lot of great guys. Guys have been hurt, in D-Wade’s case he’s just getting up there in age now (laughs).”

Davis is arguably the league’s most versatile big man, keeping the New Orleans Pelicans afloat while DeMarcus Cousins is out with an Achilles injury. He’s had to watch the likes of George deal with free agent questions about the prospect of coming home to L.A., even after he was traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City in the offseason.

It still hasn’t stopped the chants from Lakers fans, panting after George in the hope he’ll be a savior of sorts. And even though his contract isn’t up for another few seasons, teams are lining up in the hope they can acquire him through free agency or trade.

It could very well be him getting the chants when the All-Star party comes to Chicago and he could be joined by the likes of Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the big game.

LaVine was in Los Angeles for the weekend and Markkanen opened eyes around the league with his showing in the rising stars game as well as the skills challenge.

Davis could wind up being the object of everyone’s affection and could find himself being recruited by the likes of LaVine.

Even though 2021 is a long way away, a guy can dream, right?

“I mean, I’m cool with a lot of dudes in the NBA. I feel like I’m a likeable guy,” LaVine told NBCSportsChicago.com about recruiting star players to the Bulls franchise. “I can talk about situations like that, it would be my first time being put in a position. It would be a little bit different but I think I can handle it.”

LaVine has his own contract situation to take care of this summer, being a restricted free agent but understands the Bulls’ salary cap position and their long-term goals.

“Yeah I think once the offseason comes and everybody settles down, and I’m comfortable, and I know the position I’ll be in,” LaVine said to NBCSportsChicago.com.

“I think we’ll start having those conversations because we want to get the franchise back to where it was, on that high plateau. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”

“I’m trying to solidify myself in the league to a certain degree. Once you start reaching those points you can talk to anybody to get to where you want to get to.”

LaVine attended several events over the weekend and shared the same space as several All-Stars in non-media settings. It’s easy to see why he would think he could have that affect with his peers.

Being careful about the rules on tampering, he said about a potential sit-down with Davis, “I would bring some Harold’s chicken to the meeting and we’ll be all good.”