Bulls

Butler waves bye-bye to Clips, hello to Bulls

401913.jpg

Butler waves bye-bye to Clips, hello to Bulls

Thursday, March 3, 2011Posted: 2:12 p.m. Updated: 11:51 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

ORLANDO--He may not be the high-profile name Bulls fans longed for, but with all of the buzz in the Windy City about the acquisition of Rasual Butler, one wouldn't know the difference. Truth be told, if the Bulls suited up one of their three assistant coaches that used to play in the NBA--Ed Pinckney or former Bulls Adrian Griffin and Rick Brunson--there would probably be a similar hullabaloo.

That's no knock on Butler, a solid NBA player throughout his eight-year pro career (as were the aforementioned trio), but the state of excitement surrounding the Bulls these days is such that even the signing of a player that saw limited minutes for the Clippers before being bought out--don't read too much into the fact that he averaged only five points per game for a team already out of the playoff chase, as Butler has playoff experience and put up almost 12 points an outing just a season ago, a career-high number--garners significant attention. That's the mark of an acknowledged contender, regardless of some observers continuing to insist they're supposedly flying under the radar.

Think about it: Chicago has the league's MVP frontrunner in All-Star point guard Derrick Rose, a Coach of the Year favorite in first-year head coach Tom Thibodeau and with a fully-healthy roster--specifically the inside tandem of power forward Carlos Boozer and center Joakim Noah--for the first time all season, the Bulls have rightfully become the NBA's "it" team of the moment. Add in Luol Deng having his best all-around (and injury-free) season, a cast of selfless and capable role players, a deeply-ingrained defensive identity, a beautifully team-oriented brand of basketball and a short memory of both highs and lows--which will be tested in the aftermath of Wednesday's disappointing collapse in Atlanta--and preseason prognostications of merely advancing to the postseason's second round seem like an insult.

However, to quote a fictional superhero's uncle, with great power comes great responsibility and as superhuman as Rose appears on some nights, the 22-year-old has just two teammates, ancient veteran Kurt Thomas and little-used fan favorite Brian Scalabrine, that have appeared in the NBA Finals, which has increasingly gained steam as a realistic goal for the Bulls. It's not a now-or-never thing for Chicago, not with a large window for the team's core nucleus--in addition to Rose, Noah and Deng are both only 25, while Boozer, at 29, in his prime--but if indications that the other Eastern Conference powers (Miami, Boston, Orlando and now New York) have exploitable flaws are correct, then, as Rose famously queried on media day, "Why not?"

Which brings us back to Butler. No, the 6-foot-7 swingman isn't a game-changing player on his own, but in the arms race that's occurred in the East since the whirlwind trade deadline and has carried over to lockout-driven buyouts, the sharpshooter could be another valuable weapon.

Opposing defenses will undoubtedly gear up to stop Rose's penetration and clog the lane, which serves the dual purpose of helping to neutralize Boozer and Noah (not to mention active young big men Taj Gibson and Omer Asik) on the interior. While Rose has greatly improved his jumper, Boozer is a threat from the mid-post, Deng has extended his range and Noah can knock down the occasional 15-footer, the Bulls' lone true long-ball specialist is currently Kyle Korver.

The addition of Butler, a career 36-percent shooter from deep, provides Chicago with another deep threat, as well as an adequate defender at both wing spots, something essential if he intends to crack Thibodeau's rotation. While he isn't a great shot-creator, his length, experience and ability to play off elite playmakers--Butler thrived as a catch-and-shoot player with Chris Paul in New Orleans--will, at the very least, give the Bulls added depth for the upcoming battles of the postseason.

Sure, picking up Butler--not the defender Ronnie Brewer is and slightly below the caliber of marksman Korver is, but able to do a little bit of what each backup swingman brings to the table--isn't the big, over-the-top splash some had hoped for, but the Bulls have potentially improved, at little to no risk, without mortgaging their future, namely Gibson or Asik. And in April and May (maybe even June), the benefit of a seemingly small move could be bigger than expected.
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls-76ers

2-22_76ers_matchup_nba_chi_tonight.jpg
NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Bulls-76ers

The Bulls square off against the Sixers tonight on NBC Sports Chicago, with coverage beginning at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live. Here are three things to watch as the Bulls begin the stretch run of their regular season.

1. The new rotation: Most of the Bulls’ rotation looks the same, but the addition of David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne will have a different feel. The Bulls clearly want to get a look at these guys before the end of the regular season, meaning they’re not just going to get sporadic minutes. They’ll have to play through their mistakes, play out-matched at times and be put in uncomfortable situations. But the Bulls need to see what they have, especially in Payne, who has missed the entire season to this point with a broken foot.

2. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons: They’re quite the 1-2 punch and have the Sixers looking at their first playoff appearance since Derrick Rose hadn’t yet torn an ACL. Yeah, that’s a long time. Embiid just finished his first All-Star appearance (starting in his second year) and Simmons is the front runner for Rookie of the Year. The Bulls will have their hands full with these two. Luckily…

3. Kris Dunn is back: The Bulls wanted to get Dunn some run before heading to All-Star Weekend to play in the Rising Stars Challenge, and he looked healthy in that thumping against the Raptors last week. The good news is John Paxson says Dunn won’t be on a minutes limit, which means he’s healthy. That, of course, is more important than how he’s playing. It’ll be fun to see him, LaVine and Markkanen play together down the stretch. Their numbers together aren’t great, but the Bulls are 2-2 with all three in the lineup, and tanking or not…it’s more fun to watch when those three are rolling. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Of Bulls and Blackhawks, which team will finish with higher draft pick?

0109_zach_lavine_bulls.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Of Bulls and Blackhawks, which team will finish with higher draft pick?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times), Hub Arkush (ProFootball Weekly) and Jason Goch (SB Nation) join Kap on the panel.

The guys debate which team will finish with a higher draft pick when the season ends: Bulls or Blackhawks?

Plus, hear their reaction to the MLB’s new pace-of-play rule change.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: