Bulls

Jimmy Butler on first game back in Chicago: 'I’m just gonna try to score like five points'

Jimmy Butler on first game back in Chicago: 'I’m just gonna try to score like five points'

Longform podcast interviews are good for getting honest answers out of notable guests.

Bill Simmons got former Bulls wing Jimmy Butler to open up about a wide range of topics in an hour-plus interview on The Bill Simmons Podcast. Butler said plenty of interesting things about his time with and exit from the Bulls.

For starters, Butler opened up about how his draft day trade went down from his perspective. He said he was in Paris, playing cards with Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union.

“It was a great game of spades,” Butler said.

Butler recalled a comical reaction to his agent calling him in the middle of the game to let him know a move to Minnesota was likely.

“I said ‘OK, cool, I’m going to get back to my spades game’ because once again I can’t control that,” Butler said.

Butler said he had an exit interview with Gar Forman and John Paxson after the Bulls were knocked out of the playoffs. After the meeting, Butler explained that he wasn’t sure what direction the team would go in, either to build around Butler or go through a rebuild.

“I have nothing against anybody on that team, anybody in that organization, but they were so stuck on not building around me, but maybe building with me as they would say, or going young, a rebuild,” he said. “It was one or the other, but I just wanted to know. Was it clear when I left that meeting what we were going to do? No.”

Butler did eventually start to think that he would get traded from Chicago. He turned to Anthony for his experience in being traded.

Anthony is back in trade rumors again and while Butler wouldn’t say anything about Melo’s latest rumors, he did say he asked Anthony about going through the trade process.

“It was new to me,” Butler said. “It was shocking at first, but then it settled in. It was like it’s a business. You can’t act like you didn’t know eventually that this was going to happen. I may not have known that it was going to happen that day, but I knew I wasn’t going to be there.”

Butler is now reunited in Minnesota with former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and former Bulls teammate Taj Gibson. Simmons asked Butler if Thibodeau sleeps more than three hours. Butler's response: “No way.”

Butler’s return date to Chicago isn’t yet set with the NBA schedule set to come out in August. Simmons asked Butler about what his return to the United Center could be like.

“I’m just gonna try to score like five points in my first game back,” Butler said. "That’s all I need.”

While that answer doesn't really explain why he said he will try to score only five points, Butler thinks the Chicago crowd will give him some love. He was adamant that he wouldn’t cry though. That will be tested during the highlight reel the Bulls are likely to play for him in his return.

Butler also said he has no bad blood with owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Reinsdorf called him after the trade and Butler said he respected him for that.

“The ownership was phenomenal when I was there… as in great people,” Butler said. “(He) was always doing everything in the community, which means so much to me.

“They always put everybody in a position to be successful when it came to in that community and just being really great people and wanting it to be a family-like atmosphere.”

Butler also said he’s the best at dominoes, for whatever that’s worth.

Steve Kerr thinks he could have shut down Steph Curry in his prime

Steve Kerr thinks he could have shut down Steph Curry in his prime

If Steve Kerr owned a time machine, he knows exactly who he would have taken down if the Jordan-era Bulls had the chance to play the present-day Golden State Warriors.

“I would probably shut down Curry pretty well because I would have been matched up with him. I know his game so well as a coach now that it would have been easy for me to just lock him up,” the former Bulls guard told reporters with a wink.

But what Kerr is saying may have some merit. 

We ran simultion NBA Finals on What If Sports and if the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls and the 2016-2017 Golden State Warriors faced off, things got interesting.  The series went seven games, but the Warriors come out superior. Curry averaged 17 points per game with a 42.9 percent shooting. 

But Kerr is still confident in his defensive history.

“Me? I can stay in front of anybody, that kind of speed and lightning quickness.”

A reporter reaffirmed these skills, calling out how noticeable they were in action.

“Thank you. Somebody recognizes it,” Kerr said.
 

The Bulls will always be linked to the Warriors — symbolically, practically and through history

The Bulls will always be linked to the Warriors — symbolically, practically and through history

Whenever the Bulls and Warriors meet for the foreseeable future, it’ll be a reminder of how the two franchises are inextricably linked symbolically and practically — even if no one would consider the two franchises mirror images in any way that truly counts.

Starting on the sidelines, as Warriors coach Steve Kerr will forever be etched in Bulls lore with a championship-sealing jumper in Game 6 of the 1997 Finals off a pass from Michael Jordan, the second title of their second three-peat.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg was rumored to be in the running for the Warriors job after the Warriors fired Mark Jackson in 2014, when Hoiberg was still at Iowa State and Kerr was in the broadcast booth.

Reportedly, Hoiberg was a backup plan if Kerr wound up taking the New York Knicks job being offered to him by…former Bulls coach Phil Jackson.

Kerr has spoken highly of Hoiberg before games, even going as far as saying he’s stolen some of Hoiberg’s offensive plays — and it’s easy to see the similarities in philosophy, with both placing an extreme emphasis on ball movement and 3-point shooting.

With the Bulls crushing their own 3-point records — hitting fewer than 10-pointers six times in the last 21 games, they’re doing their best to copy the blueprint the Warriors have unleashed on the basketball world.

“I don’t know if we’ve revolutionized the game,” Kerr said at morning shootaround. “We just picked up on where the game was been heading over the last ten years with the added spacing and turning small forwards into power forwards and power forwards into centers. Really spacing the floor. It was happening before we did it. We have the personnel to shoot a ton of 3’s. It’s effective for us. Teams have to find whatever’s most efficient for them. We just try to play according to our talent.”

There’s the simple fact the Warriors erased the 1996 Bulls from the record book as far as regular season wins with a 73-9 mark in 2016, although they couldn’t finish the job in the Finals by blowing a 3-1 lead to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Warriors have joined the Bulls of that vintage, the Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant Lakers and James’ Miami Heat as the road shows of modern-day basketball, drawing massive crowds, sparking historical conversations and taking opposing teams’ best shots on the road 41 times a year.

Stephen Curry has earned a new respect for what Jordan’s Bulls had to go through during that eight-year period in which the Bulls dominated to win six NBA titles.

“Until you win a championship you don’t know how hard it is,” Curry said. “Only highlight that even more, all that goes into it, year after year after year, being that team everybody is chasing. I have an appreciation before but going through a couple championship runs, you have an appreciation for the dynasty that they were. It’s always nice to be in the city they did it in.”

Then there’s the petty, as Jordan Bell will get the start in place of Draymond Green, a man who looked like a mummy at shootaround with a sore shoulder but had his elbows and knees wrapped in ice.

Bell, of course, remains a point of contention for Bulls fans as he was traded for $3.5 million on draft night to the Warriors and let everyone know what he thought of it when the two met in late November, making a money reference with his hands when coming out for his first start of the season.

Although his playing time has been spotty, he blocked six shots against the Bulls and grabbed six rebounds as an uber-athletic big man in a 49-point humbling loss in Oakland on Nov. 24.

Whether Bulls fans are in love with Bell and what he represents or merely the notion of trading a second-round pick when starting a rebuild, seeing him is a sore spot.

Kerr, though, hopes Bell has moved past the pettiness with the Bulls, as one would certainly like to think he’s happy where he is as opposed to vying for minutes with the glut of bigs the Bulls already have.

“I would hope that’s a thing of the past,” Kerr said. “Jordan’s been in the league for more than half a season. He had his fun the first time we played the Bulls with his comments and whatever he was doing on the floor. I liked it. I thought he was getting himself motivated. That doesn’t last long, in this league you gotta be motivated every single night. He’s past that now.”

Bell, assuming he develops into more than just a spot starter, represents where the Warriors are currently and where the Bulls are trying to get to: selecting physically unique players whose skill sets essentially make them unicorns on the floor.

The Warriors have that in Kevin Durant and to a lesser degree, Green, because of Green’s versatility on defense and with his playmaking, allows the Warriors to be special.

The Bulls have someone in the mold of a matchup nightmare in rookie Lauri Markkanen, who just broke the rookie record by being the fastest in NBA history to hitting 100 triples.

Markkanen did it in 41 games, breaking the mark held by Portland’s Damian Lillard. Curry, widely regarded as the best shooter in NBA history, accomplished the feat in 58 games in the 2009-10 season.

Curry’s taken note while joking Markkanen should “slow down and stop breaking all those 3-point records for rookies. I’m pretty proud of being in those groups.”

“He’s an amazing talent,” Curry said. “Got an extremely unique skill set at his height and size, being able to put it on the floor, being able to shoot the way he does, scoring a lot of different ways… He’s only gonna continue to get better. Other than that, he’s gonna be a force to reckon with as he goes through his career.”

Kerr is among Markkanen’s fans, although he won’t be one at the United Center when he tries to stop Markkanen from adding to the impressive resume.

“These things are so hard to predict but you knew at minimum he was gonna be a great 3-point shooting big man which is important to have these days,” Kerr said. “I think the question was defensively could he hold his own and could he do more than shoot and I think he’s proving all of that. He’s been good defensively.

“He’s not a one-trick pony on offense. He’s not just standing out shooting. He can put it on the floor, he can post up and he’s so young, all that stuff is gonna get better. I know our coaching staff, preparing for this game, have a ton of respect for what the Bulls are doing and Markkanen in particular in terms of his potential. We think he’s gonna be an All-Star.”