Hard work this off-season pays off for Butler in summer league debut


Hard work this off-season pays off for Butler in summer league debut

LAS VEGAS After being deprived of a summer league heading into his rookie season due to the NBA lockout, Jimmy Butler made the most of his Sin City professional debut Tuesday night. The second-year swingman scored 25 points in an impressive, assertive fashion he drove to the hole relentlessly and was awarded for his aggression, as he got to the free-throw line 12 times, making 10 attempts from the charity stripe in the Bulls loss to the Celtics but more importantly, he reaped the benefits of his hard work.
Even during his debut campaign, Butler was lauded by teammates and coaches alike for his diligent workout routine and with mentor Ronnie Brewer, waived by the Bulls and sharpshooter Kyle Korver in Atlanta, hes now earmarked for a significant role as a backup wing on a team that doesnt have any other options on the roster behind incumbent starters Rip Hamilton and Luol Deng. Thats likely to change as the Bulls continue to search for free-agent options, but Butler will certainly factor into the rotation next season, especially if he continues to make steady progress.
I was just trying to stay aggressive and by me being aggressive, hopefully my teammates could take after that and start to be aggressive, too. I feel like if you play nervous and I was, too, at some point in time but I tell them its basketball. Youve been doing this for however many years youve been playing. This is what you love to do, so go out there and play, and play hard, Butler said after Tuesdays game. I feel like this is what I have to do. I have to lead by example and if Im calm and Im playing basketball hard, then my teammates are going to play basketball hard. Yeah, Im second year, still a rookie kind of, but I feel like Im kind of the vet on this team, so Ive got to lead and by leading, if thats taking over games, Ive got to try to do that, get to the line.
Perhaps even more significantly, Butler showed signs of being a leader on the floor, something he took from the likes of Brewer and is already trying to pass on to teammates, such as first-round draft pick Marquis Teague, who had an admittedly rough NBA debut.
Just to get my confidence up in every part of my game and learn how to be a better leader, and show Marquis the ropes. I think thats the biggest thing for me, like Ronnie and all those guys did for me. They took me underneath their wing and I just want to be able to do that for Marquis, Butler explained.
I think were going to be all right. Were getting a feel for each other, for each others game. Its different in practice than it is in a game, so when you get out there, youve got to know what guys are going to do. We got the feel of that this game, but overall, I think in the first half, we let them do whatever they wanted to doshoot open jumpers, not guarding the ball tough enoughand thats why they got up 20, but then when we started playing Chicago Bulls basketball, we cut it down to a pretty marginal lead.
Among those closely observing Butlers performance were Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and general manager Gar Forman, both of whom liked what they saw.
Hes had a great summer. Hes been living in the gym and the weight room. Just very focused, working hard every day and Im looking forward to watching him all week, but even in that first half, I think you can see hes making progress, gaining confidence, Forman told CSNChicago.com at halftime. I dont know how itll play out, but hes got an opportunity. I think hes close to making the most of the opportunity and even when he got minutes last season, hes a very good defender, tough, hard-nosed kid and I think hes been really working on his offensive skill, working on his shot quite a bit, so hes got a great opportunity in front of him and hes poised to take advantage.
Cautiously added Thibodeau: Theres a long way to go. This is a first step. Hes worked hard this summer. Hes got to make more progress, but hes coming along nicely and well see how it goes from there.
Thibodeau wouldnt make any assurances about Butlers regular-season role, but acknowledged that the Texas native has an opportunity, if he follows the coachs noted step-by-step methodology.
Everything is based on performance, so theres a lot of things that hes capable of doing, he told CSNChicago.com. Hes got to continue to work hard all summer, play well here in the summer leaguethats the next stepand come back, continue to work hard the rest of the summer, then play well in the fall and well go step by step. But playing time is something thats earned.
As far as the present, however, working in Butlers favor is the fact that Bulls assistant Adrian Griffin is the head coach of the summer-league team. Griffin works with most of the Bulls wing players and Butler was his pet project last season.
Jimmy, obviously you can tell he was more seasoned than most of those guys out there, said Griffin. Hes our horse, hes our go-to guy. Hes worked hard, he looked good. He still has a lot of work ahead of him.

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


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.