Bulls

Forman, Bulls want to keep Jimmy Butler in Chicago long-term

jimmy-butler-0625.png

Forman, Bulls want to keep Jimmy Butler in Chicago long-term

Though the Bulls were pleased to talk about the selection of Bobby Portis as a first-round pick, a first-round selection from 2011 wasn’t far from anybody’s mind as Gar Forman and Fred Hoiberg addressed the media on Thursday night.

Jimmy Butler’s impending free agency — restricted free agency, it should be said — will be priority No. 1 come July 1, as all the rumors about Butler possibly looking for a shorter contract will be met with intent.

“Our goal all along is to have Jimmy here long-term, and we feel real confident in our situation, how well he fits and that Jimmy’s comfortable in Chicago,” Forman said.

Butler’s supposed friction with Derrick Rose was addressed, as there was loud speculation about the two’s on-court relationship developing issues during the Bulls’ playoff run, most notably in Game 6 of their second-round playoff loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“I’ve read about the friction. I haven’t seen it,” Forman said. “We talked to Jimmy all the time. Jimmy’s been in the building. We talk about a number of things, not only with Jimmy and Derrick but with all our players. There’s no reason at all that those two, their games shouldn’t fit together perfectly. “

[MORE BULLS: Portis pick shows Forman, Hoiberg haven't lost sight of Bulls basics]

Hoiberg, though he hasn’t coached either yet but has talked with both in his early weeks of taking over, believes he can devise an offensive scheme that maximizes what both can do without leaving one to feel the other is infringing on his territory or space on the floor.

“And I think in both of our minds you have two guys who want to attack, who want to run, who want to play off the dribble, can playmake for themselves or others,” Forman said. “They haven’t had a chance to do it a whole lot because of the injuries. There’s no reason those two shouldn’t be able to play off each other and be one of the best backcourts in the league.”

Hoiberg: “I agree. I think they complement each other beautifully. I’m looking forward to putting those guys in spots where they can continue to be All-Star caliber players.”

It’s believed Butler wants a shorter contract so that he can both maximize his ability to get a larger contract when the salary cap rises starting next summer and perhaps to get out from under Rose’s shadow, if there’s such a thing.

If he wants a two-year deal, it coincides with Rose’s contract expiring as well as Pau Gasol’s deal coming to a close, perhaps not wanting to be stuck through a possible rebuilding process if the Bulls can’t remain competitive.

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

“Our goal is on July 1 to sit down with him and hopefully come to a deal in a timely fashion," Forman said. "We’ll sit down and talk about that and talk about what he’s looking for and what we’re looking for and hopefully come to something where it’s beneficial to both sides and go from there. Obviously Jimmy is a huge, huge part of what we’re doing, and we’ll do everything we can and anticipate him being in Chicago.”

The Bulls have control of the situation, to a degree, with Butler’s restricted status. If Butler and the Bulls can’t come to a long-term agreement, Butler can bet on himself, as he did this past fall when he and the Bulls couldn’t agree on an extension, and take the one-year qualifying offer that will grant him true free agency in July 2016.

There’s other options for both sides, such as Butler finding a team that will tie up their cap to sign Butler to an offer sheet that the Bulls will certainly match (not likely) or the Bulls extending what’s called a “maximum qualifying offer,” which has never been done in this era of collective bargaining but could be to the Bulls’ benefit (likely).

As with everything that happens with the Bulls, all roads lead to something Rose-related. And like everything with the Bulls, future dealings have question marks all around, despite the likelihood Butler will be in Chicago for at least one season — they just want the partnership to be an extended, fruitful one.

Robin Lopez taking demotion in stride, wants to return to Chicago

robin_lopez.jpg
USA TODAY

Robin Lopez taking demotion in stride, wants to return to Chicago

Only an errant punch that missed the face of Serge Ibaka prevented Robin Lopez from suiting up for the Bulls since arriving in the summer of 2016, but his availability streak will come to an abrupt end as the Bulls are sitting and Justin Holiday for the foreseeable future.

Lopez didn’t dress for the Bulls’ game against the 76ers, as he and Holiday were replaced by Cristiano Felicio and David Nwaba. Although he was jovial, cracking a few jokes when meeting with the media in pregame, it was clear he was disappointed.

“It was rough for me. I get it. I understand it,” Lopez said. “I always want to be out there playing on the court. That’s what I enjoy, especially playing with these guys. But I’m excited to watch these guys give it a go from the bench.”

With the Bulls being eighth in the lottery standings, Lopez understands the long-term objectives of the organization and said the conversation with the front office went as expected.

“I think pretty much what everybody else has heard,” Lopez said. “I was pulled aside. They told me they wanted to evaluate a few other guys, a few of the young guys. So I get it.”

Starting 138 of 139 games makes his streak ending a bit tougher to stomach, especially considering he didn’t find out about his certain inactivity until right before leaving for the United Center.

“I suppose that’s a little selfish of me, but a little bit,” said Lopez of sadness concerning the streak. “I looked in my closet today and thought I would have a glut of jackets. And I only found two. I didn’t realize this was an issue until about 5 minutes before I had to leave. So I got kind of a ragtag outfit for tonight but hopefully I’ll be better prepared in the games to come.”

Not only will he be armed with better wardrobe but he’ll be bringing a positive disposition to the sidelines that made him loved amongst his teammates.

“All my teammates, whether they’ve been playing with me or sitting on the bench and not dressing, they’ve all supported me,” Lopez said. “I don’t think I’d be too good a person if I didn’t do at least the bare minimum of the same.”

Lopez represented stability and veteran leadership in a tumultuous season, a solid performer when losing was the early norm and upheaval has been constant. It was a reason the Bulls hoped he would garner some interest in the trade market but after hitting for a draft pick in the Nikola Mirotic deal, they had no such luck with Lopez.

Naturally, he was asked about the prospect of being traded over sitting as a healthy scratch.

“That’s hard for me to talk about because I don’t know what situation I could have potentially been in once I had been traded,” Lopez said. “Yeah, it’s … I want to be playing obviously, but we’ve got a great group of guys right here.”

Considering how uncertain things will be for the future, it isn’t a guarantee Lopez won’t be around for the 2018-19 season.

“Yeah. It seems like they still like me. How could they not?,” he joked.

He’s due $14.3 million next season, the last of a four-year deal he signed with the Knicks in 2015. Averaging 12.3 points and shooting 53 percent from the field, he’s productive and valuable on the floor. He’s easy to dismiss with the hoopla surrounding the youth on the roster and the way things clicked when Mirotic stepped on the floor, but seven footers like Lopez aren’t easy to find—even as the game changes.

“I’m a team player. I like to think my play is tied to how the team plays,” Lopez said. “I think we had some really great stretches. The young guys really developed and found a rhythm once we all got healthy. I think we played pretty well.”

With 25 games remaining, he’s unsure of how long his inactivity will last but it’s hard to see him missing the remainder of the season. It would be a bad look for the Bulls and the league to have a healthy player miss two whole months, and Lopez claims no knowledge about that ugly “T” word.

“I’m not familiar with military artillery,” he said.

At least he’s keeping his sense of humor.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls complete 'the process'?

embiid_markkanen.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls complete 'the process'?

On today’s edition of STL Podcast, Luke Stuckmeyer is joined by Mark Schanowski, Nick Friedell and Vincent Goodwill to talk all things Bulls. Will the Bulls complete “The Process” as well as the visiting 76ers have so far? Our panel discusses the tank watch, recaps the epic Women’s Hockey Gold Medal game and much, much more.