Bulls

Jimmy Butler on call: 'Was it a ticky-tack call? Yes.'

Jimmy Butler on call: 'Was it a ticky-tack call? Yes.'

NEW ORLEANS — Some would say being named as an All-Star starter is a mark of true superstardom in the NBA, while others would say the whistles going in a player’s direction is how superstar respect is truly applied.

In Jimmy Butler’s case, the tweet from official Zach Zarba when Butler’s potential game-winning jumper came up short Thursday night could be the best example of how Butler has risen in stature.

Of course, Butler doesn’t see it that way, as Celtics guard Marcus Smart touched Butler’s elbow on his release and could have affected a shot that hit the front rim—and the NBA agreed in its two-minute report released Friday afternoon.

Butler made the subsequent free throws and doesn’t see why there’s any level of controversy.

“A foul’s a foul,” said Butler at the NBA’s All-Star media availability at the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans Friday afternoon. “Everybody keeps asking me if he fouled me or not, or the call. If I hit your elbow when you’re shooting a jump shot, and you miss it, you’re gonna be howling. It’s a foul. You can’t knock that it was a foul.”

Joking that Celtics guard and fellow All-Star Isaiah Thomas is still upset with him for the call, as Thomas blasted the officiating after the game, he seems to understand on some level the amount of discourse that call has picked up in the past day or so.

Butler, one of the most physical players in the league given his position and size, would surely howl if he were on the other end of a call but since it went his way and enabled the Bulls to hit the All-Star break on a high, would only relent ever-so-slightly.

Was it a ticky-tack foul? Yes,” Butler said. “But I would’ve made it if he didn’t hit my elbow, I believe.”

However, on the subject of superstar calls, Butler wouldn’t give any credence to the notion he gets the same benefit of the doubt as All-Star participants LeBron James, Kevin Durant and James Harden.

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Whether it’s Butler’s belief that he’ll always be viewed as the underdog or that he’s not yet recognized among the game’s truly elite players, he made certain to leave no room for interpretation.

“I don’t get superstar calls,” Butler said. “I’m pretty sure that when I get fouled, I get fouled.”

Bulls in the playoffs: Nikola Mirotic can't miss and the Pelicans are up 3-0

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USA TODAY

Bulls in the playoffs: Nikola Mirotic can't miss and the Pelicans are up 3-0

When the Bulls traded Nikola Mirotic to the Pelicans on Feb. 1, the consensus belief was that the deal was a win-win for both sides.

That still may be true, but the way Mirotic has played the last two weeks has made invaluable to the Pelicans, who hold a commanding 3-0 lead on the Blazers following Thursday night's blowout win.

Mirotic was back at it again, scoring a playoff career-high 30 points on 12 of 15 shooting, making 4 of 6 3-poiners, and added eight rebounds, three steals and a block. Oh, and he did all this in 30 minutes.

Mirotic has been great in three games against the third-seeded Blazers, averaging 21.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 2.3 blocks while shooting a ridiculous .585/.478/1.000.

But it's really been a two-week tear for Mirotic during the Pelicans' eight-game winning streak going back to the final 10 days of the regular season.

In those eight games Mirotic has averaged 24.0 points, 10.9 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 1.4 steals and has shot 57 percent from the field.

The Bulls are happy to have the 22nd overall pick in June's draft, but at this rate would they rather have Mirotic still in the fold? He seems to have turned the corner. Remarkable stuff. At the very least, it's easy to root for him.

Rajon Rondo, Pelicans: #PlayoffRondo, who we featured two days ago, was also back at it in Game 3, going for 16 points on 7 of 12 shooting, five rebounds and 11 more assists. He now has a league-high 37 assists in three games against the Blazers and has played excellent defense on that dangerous Blazers backcourt. He's also shooting 50 percent from the field. This is incredible stuff.

Marco Belinelli, Sixers: More remarkable stuff from a player who was an afterthought until about a month ago. Belinelli, who played 52 games with the Hawks before his release, has exploded in the postseason with Philadelphia. He scored 21 points on 7 of 13 shooting and hit four more 3-pointers, giving him 10 in the series. The Sixers are up 2-1 thanks in large part to Belinelli's 20.7 points and 1.7 steals. He remains a key cog off the bench.

NBA Draft Tracker: A third Holiday brother in the NBA

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USA TODAY

NBA Draft Tracker: A third Holiday brother in the NBA

Next season there will be three Holiday brothers playing in the NBA. Justin is currently a starter for the Bulls, while Jrue is doing big things for the Pelicans in their opening round playoff series against Portland.

Aaron Holiday is a 6-foot-1 point guard coming off a big junior season at UCLA. He was on the court for an incredible 37.7 minutes out of 40 for head coach Steve Alford, averaging 20.3 ppg, 5.8 assists and 3.7 rebounds. Holiday shot .461 from the field and an impressive .429 from three point range.

What Holiday lacks in height, he makes up for with athleticism and competitiveness. The Bruins were overmatched many nights in a strong Pac-12 Conference, but Holiday was able to lead them to an NCAA tournament appearance with his scoring ability and defensive intensity. His ability to drive by an initial defender and get into the lane set up scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates. Holiday’s quickness and long range shooting ability should serve him well as he heads to the professional level.

Where does Holiday fit for the Bulls? It seems pretty unlikely the Bulls will draft a point guard this summer, given the fact John Paxson told reporters in his end of the season news conference that Kris Dunn would be the starter at that position with Cameron Payne as the backup. The Bulls also have Jerian Grant under contract for next season and Ryan Arcidiacono could be back on a two-way deal.

Given the fact the NBA has become a point guard driven league, Holiday has a good chance to hear his name called among the top 20 picks. Washington could be a landing spot at 15 since the Wizards have been trying unsuccessfully over the last few seasons to find a consistent backup for John Wall.

It’s very unusual for three brothers to make it to the NBA. The Jones (Caldwell, Charles, Major and Wil), Russells (Campy, Frank and Walker), Barrys (Brent, Jon and Drew) and Plumlees (Mason, Miles and Marshall) are included on the short list of siblings to accomplish that feat.

Next season we’ll be able to add the Holidays to that list, and don’t be surprised if Aaron winds up having a long and productive career like his older brothers.