Bulls

Howard to Bulls a real possibility or just speculation?

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Howard to Bulls a real possibility or just speculation?

The idea that Magic center Dwight Howard could end up in Chicago, once a far-fetched notion, is picking up steam in some circles these days. Orlando, seeking to avoid a situation similar to the one Denver endured through the first half of last season with Carmelo Anthony, before he was traded to New York -- or worse, the fate Cleveland suffered when LeBron James left town, let alone when Shaquille O'Neal departed the Magic Kingdom and the team received nothing in exchange -- is starting to show signs that the perennial All-Star and reigning two-time Defensive Player of the Year could be traded prior to this season's Christmas Day start date, if not sometime prior to the anticipated February trade deadline.

Regardless of when it happens, the fact that the organization is even considering the move means it's likely to happen, for when it comes to NBA trade rumors, where there's smoke, there's usually fire, even if the inferno is coming from the house down the street instead of the one neighbors say is a tinderbox. That's why talk of the Bulls being a potential suitor for Howard can't be ignored.

Now, it's much more likely that the best center in today's game ends up in Los Angeles, where he can pursue his off-court entertainment exploits, reside in his preferred warm climate (remember, the Atlanta native was drafted by the Magic straight out of high school) and either look to start a Clippers revival -- with or without Blake Griffin, although one would think Orlando general manager Otis Smith would insist on the Rookie of the Year being included in the deal, at least for leverage purposes -- or pair up with Kobe Bryant and try to win a title before the future Hall of Fame shooting guard walks off into the sunset.

Even the Nets, with their scant real assets -- Brook Lopez was a lot more intriguing after his rookie season -- impending move to Brooklyn and a long shot at holding on to All-Star point guard Deron Williams (a player in the same boat and who has issued contradictory statements about his desire to remain in the Big Apple region, further complicated by talk of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban plotting to repatriate the floor general to his hometown of Dallas), can't be counted out in the sweepstakes.

But neither can the Bulls. As Bulls.com's Sam Smith first suggested and Yahoo! reported, the Bulls are capable of putting an offer on the table that could seem more appealing to the Magic than other candidates to land Howard.

Chicago could send Orlando a more than adequate replacement center in Joakim Noah, whose popularity in central Florida remains high in the wake of his two college national championships ("Gator Nation" maintains a strong presence at Bulls games in the Sunshine State, even in Miami), while Luol Deng would fill a team need for a strong wing scorer and defender and Taj Gibson would bring a promising young power forward they could either lock up for the future or let walk in free agency to keep financial flexibility. A starting lineup of point guard Jameer Nelson, a re-signed Jason Richardson at shooting guard (holding onto cap space for Howard would be less of a concern, presumably giving the Magic room to offer the veteran more than the mid-level exception many of his current suitors reportedly plan to start negotiations with) and a frontcourt of Deng, Gibson and Noah smells like a playoff team in the East, complete with youth, balance, scoring and defense, if not a superstar.

If necessary, the Bulls would probably be open to taking on Hedo Turkoglu's contract, including a player like Ronnie Brewer as a throw-in or any other little tweak Orlando needed to make it happen. Of course, it's all a pipe dream.

Sorry to be a tease if you actually believe Howard's relocation to the Windy City is imminent, but not only would Orlando be reluctant to trade the superstar center -- one of the few legit players at the position, historically the spot considered most important to title contention, these days -- within the Eastern Conference, but as in the case of the aforementioned Anthony and the simultaneous saga of Chris Paul, Howard would likely have to decide in advance that he'd be willing to sign a long-term extension with the Bulls after this season. With players having increasing control of their destinies -- something unchanged by the reported terms of the tenative settlement agreement -- Howard would have to be willing to be Derrick Rose's sidekick in a city, not just a team, that's all about Rose, all the time.

The Bulls, only a series away from reaching the Finals last season, has a mostly selfless nucleus intact and wouldn't be inclined to gut it without a guarantee the team would be markedly better. As alluring as the idea of Rose and Howard -- and Carlos Boozer, assuming the Magic preferred him to Deng in a deal -- together would be, the new financial restrictions imposed on teams might make it difficult for Chicago to fill in the gaps effectively.

Meanwhile, Howard's West Coast possibilities make a lot more sense, as the Lakers have reportedly finally agreed to make Andrew Bynum -- like Noah, an instant replacement -- available and Lamar Odom is a versatile veteran, although they could need to enlist another team for Orlando to acquire draft considerations. There, Howard could immediately contend for a championship, but after Bryant retires, he'd be poised to be the Lakers' alpha-dog, as well as follow in the footsteps of the franchise's legendary centers like the recently retired Shaquille O'Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and George Mikan.

The other Staples Center tenants, the Clippers, also could have some appeal, although with longtime owner Donald Sterling's spendthrift ways, the team's level of financial commitment to players is always in doubt. But equipped with a budding star in Griffin, underrated young shooting guard Eric Gordon, two centers in veteran Chris Kaman and a coveted young free agent DeAndre Jordan, not to mention other talented young pieces, the assets at their disposal could tempt Orlando, Howard could still feed his spotlight jones -- whether the Clippers are the city's glamor team or not -- and he wouldn't have to take a back seat to anybody.

Even making a deal with the Nets -- while also in the East, the franchise is a non-contender for the time being -- would be better for Orlando's competitive hopes and still give Howard, depending on his belief that they'd be able to retain Williams, what he wants. In short, Howard coming to Chicago is about as feasible as LeBron James wearing a Bulls uniform, and we all know how that turned out.

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.