Bulls

Hamilton keeps emotions in check during return to Detroit

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Hamilton keeps emotions in check during return to Detroit

AUBURN HILLS, MICH. Ive never been in here, Rip Hamilton said of the visitors locker room at the Palace at Auburn Hills, the arena where he plied his trade for so many years. When I first came in here, I was like, All right, wheres the showers? It felt real crazy.

Thats why I said, Hurry up and let the ball get thrown up, he continued. Once the ball was thrown up, I said, You know what? Do what youve always been doing and thats play basketball.

All the build-up, coming to the arena, going out there and shooting, it was crazy. Im looking on the other side, seeing Tayshaun Prince, seeing Ben Wallace, seeing Rodney Stuckey and I was like, Man, this feels awkward in a way, when youve been here for so long, but once the ball is thrown up, its time to go to battle.

Hamilton scored a modest 14 points and dished out five assists in his dual return to both Detroit and the Bulls lineup, from which he had been absent from for two consecutive games due to a groin injury but even though the crowd to welcome back the ex-Piston was sparse, he appreciated its support.

It was great, man. The fans appreciate what I did here and theyve always been supportive of me, he said. Even when stuff wasnt going so good, theyd always chant my name and stuff like that, so Ive got a lot of love for them. Theyve been by my side since I got here.

Still, he couldnt help but notice the dwindling number of filled seats at an arena thats used to supporting championship teams and contenders in the last few decades, dating back to the Bad Boy Pistons and most recently, Hamiltons 2004 title-winning squad.

Crazy. It looks unbelievable. When I was here and Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace and everybody, I think we had like seven years of straight sellouts, so it was always great. It was always awesome, the fans were always great and to come in here and sto ee it halfway empty, its tough, but a lot of things have changed, said Hamilton. The economys messed up with the car industry going down and things like that. The team that we had is no longer there anymore, so its different.

When he first arrived at the arena with his new team, Hamilton was overcome by feelings of emotion and had to work hard not to let them out until the games final buzzer.

It was fun, man. Couldnt wait for the ball to be thrown up. A lot of emotion early in the game, being on the visitors side. Im not accustomed to it in this building, so it was difficult. I was like, Please, man, dont start crying or anything crazy like that. Just hurry up and let the ball get thrown up, so I can go out there and play, he said. Happy. I was so hyped, I was so excited. I didnt want to cry. I was like, Man, lets hurry up and get this game going on. Stay focused, stay on the prize, do your same routine. Then, you see everybody. You see so many people, like longtime Pistons announcer George Blaha, thats been supportive of me. Arena PA announcer Mason, Al, the picture guy, Arnie Kander, the teams strength and conditioning coach. You see all the guys that have so much love for you and it kind of gets emotional, but you know youve got to go out and try to get the win.

I didnt want to do anything when the Bulls arrived in Detroit. I said, You know what, Rip? Youve got a game. Stay in your room. Dont go anywhere. Kept all the lights off, didnt turn the TV on. I was like, Man, dont get caught up in being back in Detroit and getting so emotional and tied in. I said, Man, youve got all summer to do that. Just stay focused on the prize and try to get a win.

As far as his actual play, the veteran shooting guard was active his trademark perpetual-motion style of moving without the ball was in effect, as was his deadly shooting stroke, but he also continually set up his teammates, particularly big men Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, with easy opportunities around the rim though he was in his first game back from a groin injury.

First quarter was good; I think just adrenaline. Second quarter, I felt a little pull, but there was no way that I was getting off the court. So Ive just got to ice it down, get treatment, stim electronic stimulation, said Hamilton, who described his groin as sore after the game.

Said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: I thought he handled the whole situation really well. Got himself ready to play, was focused and to start the game, he came out and he was playmaking. He wasnt trying to do too much and I think that speaks to his experience. He plays to win and I thought that he was terrific.

Boozer added: It was good to be here for Rip. We knew he had an emotional comeback, but at the same time, I thought he played very well, especially being out a couple games with his injury.

Hamilton said he had no regrets about his tenure in Detroit, but admitted he initially wished it ended differently.

When the lockout ended, I thought I was coming here. I was here for the first day of training camp, but the buyout came, he explained. It was a mutual thing. The direction that they were going and change is good for me. Get an opportunity now to try to get another ring. Its just another chapter in the book, so Im excited about being part of the Chicago Bulls."

Me and Chauncey, both, we always talked about that when we first got here. That was our main goal. OK, lets go out together. When the whole extension came up, that was the whole thing, continued Hamilton, who was portrayed as a key part of dismal Pistons season a year ago, particularly behind the scenes, leading to the ouster of former head coach John Kuester. When youre the highest-paid player on the team and youre the leader, and youre team captain, youve got to take the good and the bad. I always say, You can ask the guys in the locker room. Theyll tell you. Theyll tell you who I am. Ask the coaching staff. Theyll tell you who I am. So, all the sources and the allegations they put out, it hurt me. Because I thought, as long as I lay it all on the line for an organization, regardless, theyll always have your back and I see that wasnt the case.

I had a beautiful time here.

Jimmy Butler leaves game unable to put any pressure on right leg after apparent non-contact injury

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ESPN

Jimmy Butler leaves game unable to put any pressure on right leg after apparent non-contact injury

The NBA may have lost another top superstar due to injury.

On Friday, Jimmy Butler appeared to have suffered a non-contact injury to his right knee. He left the game against the Houston Rockets unable to put any pressure on his right leg and needed assistance getting back to the locker room. 

Here's a video of the incident:

Coach Tom Thibodeau said that Butler will have an MRI when the team returns to Minnesota on Saturday.

Butler drew a lot of headlines last weekend after not playing in the NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

Entering Friday, Butler led the league with 37.3 minutes played per game.

The Bulls also take on the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Saturday night.

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

The final 25 games was supposed to be all about the development of the Bulls’ recent acquisitions and securing a record worthy of one of the last three envelopes at the NBA Draft Lottery.

Only Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn seemed to matter, with Cameron Payne and Cristiano Felicio being the perfect window dressing for development as opposed to just saying a team is tanking.

But Bobby Portis is making a case that he isn’t to be forgotten in the big picture, that his worth is more than just being a punchline to the jokes that followed his incident with Nikola Mirotic.

The only thing Portis didn’t do right in the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was missing a point blank shot that would’ve given the Bulls an improbable and unwanted win, and it would’ve given him 40 points.

Instead he had to settle for a career-high 38 as Joel Embiid was bearing down on Portis when he caught a diagonal pass from Dunn with 1.1 seconds left, having the shorter T.J. McConnell on him and taking a power dribble to gather himself.

“If I could go back I would’ve just went up the first time off the glass like I always do,” Portis said. “We just have to try to close out games better.”

Embiid showed he’s worth all the trouble with his health problems, scoring 30 with 13 rebounds and five rebounds while Ben Simmons put up 32 with 11 assists and seven rebounds as the 76ers improved to 31-25, good enough for seventh place in the East.

In a game that featured remarkable resolve from a purposely undermanned Bulls team as they sat Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, they put themselves in position to win after trailing by 18 early. After leading by five courtesy of a LaVine walk-down triple with 1:02 left, they made a couple critical errors that allowed the 76ers to steal a game the Bulls won’t mind them taking at the end of 82.

Denzel Valentine’s inbounds pass with 5.9 seconds left was intended for LaVine, but Embiid stepped in front for a steal as they were in position to make it a free-throw game the rest of the way.

Similar to the Bulls’ unlikely win over the Orlando Magic before the All-Star break, they returned the favor as 76ers rookie Ben Simmons made free throws after the steal to give the visitors a one-point lead, setting the stage for the final play.

If learning lessons is what the last 100 quarters of basketball is supposed to be about, the Bulls got a big-time lesson in a game that ultimately means nothing.

“These are learning opportunities for our team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I couldn’t be happier, the way we went out and competed. We dug ourselves an 18-point hold and (fought) our way back—have complete control of the game.”

Control was wrestled from the 76ers by Portis’ able and quick hands. Taking more of a scoring posture since Mirotic’s departure, Portis has never been shy about being aggressive.

But now he’s being encouraged in that department, playing a big part in the Bulls’ tying their franchise record of 18 triples with six of his own, scoring 21 in the first half and not backing down one step from the massive Embiid.

“I kind of struggled from (three) in the last six, seven games,” said Portis, who didn’t take much time off during the All-Star break. “I think I’ve shown this entire year, trying to stay consistent and be a spark off the bench.”

Counting the last two games before the break, Portis has been on the best scoring binge of his career—cementing his place in the league when just a few months ago, many were questioning if the Bulls should’ve actually picked up his player option following the Mirotic incident.

His 25.0 points in the last three, along with scoring in double figures for seven straight games are career-bests. With every flex, every energetic plea to the crowd and resourceful score underneath the rim, Portis is becoming a player the Bulls can’t afford to plan without.

The stage was set for a Portis breakout shortly after the incident, when he was serving his suspension to start the season. When the Bulls traveled to Miami and Orlando, he flew on his own to Orlando for dinner with his mentor, former NBA veteran and Magic assistant coach Corliss Williamson.

Williamson, a player who was not to be trifled with during his career, told Portis essentially, “this too shall pass”.

“Just play your game,” Williamson told NBCSportsChicago.com recently. “Don’t put any pressure on yourself about what’s gonna happen after this year. What’s got him here is hard work, how hard he plays in the game. He continues to do that, he’ll be successful.”

Portis recalled the dinner where he was finally able to confide and unleash after weeks of frustration. Calling Williamson a father figure dating back to their Arkansas roots, where Portis played on Williamson’s AAU teams in middle school, Portis put his trust in him and came back reinvigorated.

“We talked for hours about the whole situation,” Portis told NBCSportsChicago.com “He told me when I come back to come 10 times harder. When people play this game and play the right way, they forget about the other stuff. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Scoring 38 tends to remake a narrative.

“Bobby just continues to improve,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a confident kid that goes out and plays with a ton of swagger and toughness. You need that, to go out and play with that type of effort. He’s tenacious on the glass. He’s getting the crowd into the game.”

When speaking of Portis, Hoiberg’s face went from flush to beaming, knowing how far Portis has come in his three years—being a player who wouldn’t take 3-pointers with confidence to now unleashing them whenever a defender’s feet shows the slightest hint of leaning back.

No hesitation.

“Regardless if I’m making shots, I try to leave it all out on the floor,” Portis said. “It felt good making shots, being able to help the team. I wanted the win tonight.”

Portis helped make up for the Bulls not getting their usual production from Dunn, who struggled guarding the bigger Simmons and Lauri Markkanen, who missed all five of his 3-pointers and made just one field goal in 32 minutes.

“You can put he and Lauri together,” Hoiberg said. “It gives you two guys that can stretch the floor and space it, two guys that can rebound, two that can put it on the floor. It’s exciting to think about when Kris gets his rhythm back.”

And now, Williamson’s words have proven to be prophetic for his pupil, because if the Bulls aren’t seeing Portis as a key part of their future, there’s about 25 other teams who’ll be lining up for his services this summer.

“I told him don’t even worry about it,” Williamson said. “Let your game speak for itself. People who really know you, know what type of person you are. You start producing people will forget about it and love you for what you do on the court.”

His game is talking, even if the Bulls’ loss was one they’d rather have taken in silence.