Bulls

List of greatest NBA players by jersey number is packed with Bulls

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List of greatest NBA players by jersey number is packed with Bulls

The vintage sports apparel company Mitchell & Ness published a fun story Tuesday, listing the greatest basketball players to wear numbers 0-99.

And on that list were nine former Bulls who wore 10 different numbers that Mitchell and Ness believed were the best ever.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

And if you're wondering, Gary Payton edged out Fred Hoiberg for No. 20's best player. And the No. 32 Hoiberg wore with the Timberwolves? We suppose Magic Johnson has an argument for winning that number, too.

00: Robert Parish (1996-97)

The 7-foot Hall of Famer will be remembered for his 14 seasons in Boston in which he won three championships, but he also finished his 21-year NBA career with the Bulls in 1996-97. He earned his fourth ring, averaging 3.7 points in 43 appearances. He appeared in two playoff games that year for the Bulls.

23: Michael Jordan (1984-1998)

Probably the easiest decision Mitchell and Ness had, other than the few numbers that only one player has worn in league history. In 13 seasons with the Bulls (and two with the Wizards) Jordan cemented himself as the greatest player of all-time, winning six championships, six Finals MVPs, five regular-season MVPs, Defensive Player of the Year in 1988, and earning 14 trips to the All-Star Game.

42: Nate Thurmond (1974-1976)

Like Parish, Thurmond made his way to the Windy City for the end of his career with a Hall of Fame resume already in hand. After 11 seasons with the San Francisco/Golden State Warriors in which he averaged 17.4 points and 16.9 rebounds and made seven All-Star appearances, he played for the Bulls for parts of two seasons. In his first game with Chicago he recorded the first quadruple-double in NBA history (22 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists, 12 blocks). He averaged 7.3 points and 10.5 rebounds in 93 games before the Bulls traded him to Cleveland.

45: Michael Jordan (1995)

Following his infamous "I'm back" press release, Jordan returned to the Bulls donning No. 45. In 12 games he averaged 26.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists for the Bulls. Not bad for a guy who had just taken two years off to play minor-league baseball. No word on how John Stockton was named the better No. 12, which Jordan wore for a single game on Valentine's Day in 1990.

48: Nazr Mohammed (2012-2015)

Yes, really. Mohammed is one of two NBA players to have donned No. 48. The 17-year journeyman has worn the number eight different teams, most recently with the Bulls. In three seasons he has averaged 1.9 points and 2.5 rebounds per game, though he'll always be remembered most for his shove of LeBron James in the 2013 NBA Playoffs. Mohammed is a free agent this offseason and has indicated he'd like to continue playing.

53: Artis Gilmore (1976-82, 1987-88)

Gilmore arrived in Chicago after five seasons with the ABA's Kentucky Colonials. And in six seasons with the Bulls, Gilmore averaged 20.1 points and 11.5 rebounds, was named an All-Star four times and led the NBA in field-goal percentage in 1981 and 1982. He returned to Chicago in 1987 in what would be his final NBA season, averaging 4.2 points and 2.6 rebounds in 24 games. He was inducted into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011.

54: Horace Grant (1987-1994)

The No. 10 pick in the 1987 NBA Draft, Grant played the first seven years of his career in Chicago. He averaged 12.6 points and 8.6 rebounds, helped Michael Jordan and the Bulls to their first three-peat and added a fourth championship later in his career as part of the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers. 

77: Vladimir Radmanovic (2012-13)

Remember VladRad? Though he appeared in just 25 games for the Bulls in 2012-13, averaging 1.3 points and 1.1 rebounds in his final NBA season, he made the list thanks to his unique number. He edged out Andrea Bargnani, who has worn the number the last two seasons in New York. The number has been worn by nine players, including famous 7-foot-7 center Gheorghe Muresan.

90: Drew Gooden (2007-2009)

Our trip down memory lane continues with the only NBA player to ever wear No. 90. Gooden spent parts of two years with the Bulls, being dealt to Chicago at the 2008 trade deadline and then being dealt from the Bulls at the 2009 trade deadline. In 49 games he averaged 13.4 points and 8.8 rebounds while wearing the unique jersey that has landed him on a list with the likes of Jordan, Olajuwon, Stockton, Abdul-Jabbar, Malone, Bryant and Mikan. Well done, Drew.

91: Dennis Rodman (1995-1998)

Here's a shocker: Dennis Rodman has done something unique to get him on this list. The Worm appears on Mitchell and Ness' list three different times, wearing Nos. 91, 73 and 70 in his career (as well as the more standard No. 10). During his three-year stint with the Bulls he complemented his wacky hair-dos with No. 91, averaging 5.2 points and 15.3 rebounds, leading the NBA in boards each year. He also won three rings in Chicago before ending his career with one year each in Los Angeles and Dallas.

It might not be so easy for the Bulls to tank down the stretch

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USA TODAY

It might not be so easy for the Bulls to tank down the stretch

And here you thought the Bulls wouldn't be competing for anything down the stretch. Yes, the Bulls will miss the postseason for the second time in three seasons, and the post-Jimmy Butler rebuild is off and running with a Lottery selection (and potentially two) on the horizon.

And now the race for the top spot in the NBA Draft Lottery is on, with 23 to 27 games left in the regular season and a whopping seven teams within 1.5 games of each other for the worst record in the league. The Bulls are currently sitting 8th in the reverse standings at 20-37, 3.0 games behind the league-worst Suns and Hawks. And in what's largely considered a seven-man draft, Fred Hoiberg and the boys have some work to do to improve their chances of moving into the top-5 or top-3 of the draft.

Yes, the Bulls were sellers at the deadline, dealing leading scorer Nikola Mirotic to the Pelicans. And they lost eight of their last 10 games before the All-Star Break while promising extended minutes for players like Paul Zipser, Cristiano Felicio and even Cameron Payne. All those signs point to a franchise with a full and clear understanding that losses right now mean much bigger wins in June. But it's not as easy as it sounds. The Bulls aren't the only team looking to secure losses, and those other teams may have easier paths of doing so. Here's why.

For starters, not all these clumped-together records were built equally. Yes, the wins and losses all count the same at the end of the day, but if we're projecting how each team may finish the Bulls are certainly poised to play better than the teams around them. In fact, the Bulls are still playing .500 basketball (17-17) since their infamous 3-20 start. Unsurprisingly all seven teams ahead of the Bulls have worse records, as do the New York Knicks (11-24 since Dec. 8), who are just two games behind the Bulls, have lost eight straight and are without All-Star Kristaps Porzingis (torn ACL). Remember, there are teams chasing the Bulls, too.

The Bulls have a seven-game win streak to their name and won 10 games in December; of the teams with worse records than the Bulls, only the Mavericks have a seven-win month this season.

And let's remember, too, the Bulls have gone 17-17 while missing Zach LaVine in 20 of those, Kris Dunn in 11 others and Lauri Markkanen in three. Those three are all healthy now (LaVine likely won't play in back-to-backs, but the Bulls have just three of those sets left) and while they have an ugly -18.8 net rating in four games, the Bulls are 2-2 with all three on the floor and have losses against the top-seeded Raptors and defending champion Warriors. It's safe to assume Dunn, LaVine and Markkanen will all benefit and improve from playing with one another. And while Nikola Mirotic was a large part of the Bulls' success (they went 14-11 with him in the lineup), the trade has opened up more minutes for Bobby Portis, who's quietly averaging 14.8 points and 7.5 rebounds since the Mirotic trade. No, Portis isn't Mirotic, but the dropoff isn't all that significant, especially when considering the defensive end.

What's this all mean? That the Bulls have the best top-end talent of any team in these tank standings, and arguably the most talented overall roster. It sounds laughable, but we're not comparing them to the Rockets and Celtics. Perhaps Orlando's core of Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic (when healthy) comes close, but the Magic also just sold their starting point guard Elfrid Payton for pennies on the dollar. They're clearly in tank mode, and the rest of that roster is a nightmare. Dallas has some nice pieces, but also plenty of shutdown candidates as the season nears its end.

And that's another angle to this. The Bulls really don't have any players who may rest late in the season. Then again, phantom injuries could arise and LaVine might sit down the stretch for precautionary purposes. But Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, the team's elder statesmen at 29 and 28, respectively, aren't exactly tipping the scale between wins and losses. As long as LaVine, Dunn, Markkanen, Portis and Denzel Valentine are seeing 28+ minutes, the Bulls are going to be in good position. Teams like Atlanta and Sacramento are already resting veterans, and Memphis could do the same with Marc Gasol if the Lottery balls depend on it. It's a good thing the Bulls don't have this luxury, as they're leaning on their young talent, but it also means the team isn't going to get much worse.

The biggest hurdle for the Bulls, however, is going to be their remaining schedule. Marvin Bagley fans might want to stop reading. Only four teams in the NBA will face an easier remaining schedule than the Bulls, and none are ahead of them in the race for the top pick. The 76ers, Hornets, Warriors and Heat have easier schedules, and then it's the Bulls, with a remaining SOS of .474. Here's how that compares to the seven teams the Bulls are looking up at in the tank standings:

So the Bulls have an easier schedule than any team in front of them, and the Knicks. And looking at the Bulls' remaining schedule (far right column), it's clear that the three games against the Nets (which includes what should be a fun home-and-home in the season's final week) and two games against the Grizzlies will loom large. It also wouldn't surprise anyone if the Bulls picked up random victories over teams like Boston (March 5), Cleveland (March 17), Milwaukee (March 23) or Houston (March 27). They have a way of playing up to their opponents (see: Minnesota).

When it comes to discussing the league's worst teams, the Bulls might simply be too good. And their schedule might simply be too bad. That's certainly a good problem to have when considering the franchise's rebuild has gone quicker than most expected, even if it means fewer chances to secure a top-3 pick. Then again, the Bulls did fine selecting 7th overall last season in grabbing Markkanen, so perhaps a top-5 pick isn't necessary. It might not even be an option.

Reflective Jimmy Butler looks back on time in Chicago during All-Star weekend

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Reflective Jimmy Butler looks back on time in Chicago during All-Star weekend

LOS ANGELES — Jimmy Butler was absent from the scoresheet of the All-Star Game, unless you count a “DNP-Coaches’ Decision” as activity. Whether due to the All-Star festivities of the weekend or even the grinding minutes he plays under Tom Thibodeau, it wasn’t truly surprising to see him want to have a night off of sorts.

But what was mildly surprising was the reflection he displayed on Saturday at All-Star Media Day in reference to his time with the Chicago Bulls. Usually, Butler’s armor is up because of his feelings surrounding his draft-night departure.

“I learned a lot in Chicago,” Butler said. “Just all through the season and life in general. What to do, what not to do and how to adapt to any situation that you’ve been in. I’ve done that to the best of my abilities. I have a ways to go in that.”

It’s clear he’s still grasping the weight of his words as the best player on a team, or at least, the player whose words impact everything around him.

“A people pleaser? No, I just didn’t say much,” Butler said. “Now I just don’t care. I never talked whenever I was in the league at an early age. It really didn’t matter, nothing I did was gonna make or break us when it comes to losing a game. Now it does and I have a lot to say. Half the time it’s not the right time or right way to say it but it’s okay.”

Whether it was the battles with Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg or the internal struggles in the Bulls’ locker room through his ascension from bench warmer to rotation player to impact player to now, a legitimate star, he’s modifying his approach—just a tad.

“I’ve never been the best player on my own team. I was in Tomball,” he joked, in reference to his beginnings in small town Texas. “I wasn’t in junior college. At Marquette I wasn’t. I’m probably not now. In Chicago I wasn’t. You just pick up on it, watch others and learn.”

He admitted to writing in a journal and reading self-help books now that he’s in Minnesota. The novel he’s reading now, “Faith, Forward, Future” is authored by Chad Veach, a Los Angeles pastor and the subtitle of the book says “Moving past your disappointments, delays and destructive thinking.”

Whether he started the book following a slow start with the Timberwolves in November, where his nightly numbers looked like one of a high-level role player, he took some self-evaluation before leading the charge since, playing like an MVP candidate with 25.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists on 49 percent shooting since the start of December.

“It’s relatively new. Yeah, basketball is still basketball but it’s hard when somebody else is coming in and roles change overnight,” Butler said. “You gotta see where you fit in with the group. At the end of the day you gotta win. I didn’t feel the way I was playing was our best opportunity to win games.”

Bringing along the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, with Towns being a fellow All-Star for the first time, has been a process.

“I’ve never actually had to be a leader,” Butler said. “I just always done what I was supposed to do, didn’t say much and played hard. Now you know, everybody wants to call someone a leader.”

He disputes taking a softer hand, especially as Towns and Wiggins seem to struggle with sustaining concentration at critical moments. The Timberwolves won’t be able to make those mistakes during the playoffs, but he’s being more selective with his words.

“I’m not soft,” he said. “If I see something wrong, I speak on it. If you don’t like it, oh well. You’ll get over it.”

One thing he could take a bird’s eye view of was the aftermath of LeBron James and Kevin Durant’s comments to the “Uninterrupted”, where they were criticized by cable news hosts for speaking out against President Donald Trump.

No stranger to criticism, Butler would likely have the same approach if he dipped his toes into that arena.

“I like it. You got the right to say what you want and you speak on what you think is right,” Butler said. “Good for them. And they are magnified in a very big way. They embrace it and they’re doing the right thing, I’m all for it.”

And if the day comes where he doesn’t stick to sports, Butler’s directness and lack of diplomacy would certainly cause an interesting reaction.

“I don’t care. Whatever I believe in, I believe in,” Butler said. “Everybody else does it. You see everybody on Twitter and the Internet doing it and saying what they want to say. We just have a different job than the person to our left and right.”

Well, not quite a warm and fuzzy Jimmy Butler.