Bulls

Warriors' Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala rewarded for patience with NBA Finals success

Warriors' Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala rewarded for patience with NBA Finals success

Often times patience is necessary in the game of basketball. On offense it could be waiting for a pick and roll to develop. Defensively it may be holding your position in anticipation for the exact moment to jump into a passing lane. But sometimes what the game gives can be taken away in an instant.

For Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala patience and perseverance have been required traits woven into the success of their NBA careers.

After years of being tested they were rewarded with an NBA Championship last season as key reserves for the Golden State Warriors. This season they helped the organization capture the most regular season wins in league history.

Long before winning a title and being part of a 73-win season, Livingston and Iguodola both developed their skills while growing up in Illinois.

Livingston was born and raised in Peoria and won back-to-back IHSA state titles before leaping to the NBA straight out of Peoria Central High School. Iguodala, a Springfield native, sprouted up at Lanphier High School and then headed to Arizona for two seasons under Lute Olson’s tutelage prior to turning pro.

Both players were selected in the 2004 NBA Draft. Livingston went fourth overall to the Los Angeles Clippers, while Iguodala was taken ninth by the Philadelphia 76ers.

Iguodala would spend eight seasons in Philly, eventually becoming an All-Star in 2012 and leading his team to the playoffs five times. A second round exit following a seven game series with the Boston Celtics would be the farthest Iguodala would go in the postseason.

An offseason trade to the Denver Nuggets would offer the first real change Iguodala would experience in his career. In the 2013 playoffs, a first round loss to a talented but inexperienced Warriors team led by Stephen Curry would be the end of Iguodala’s lone season in Denver.

Before the 2013-14 season, he was the centerpiece of a sign-and-trade deal that brought him to the Warriors, where he would start 63 games and be named to the All-NBA Defensive first team. But a Game 7 loss to the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs would bring changes to the organization.

In came new head coach Steve Kerr, whose most notable coaching decision was to start Harrison Barnes over Iguodala. The 30-year-old veteran would be relegated to a sixth man role for the first time in his career. While at the time it wasn’t easy coming off the bench, it did prove to be effective.

The Warriors would catch fire and make it all the way to the NBA Finals. After finding themselves down 2-1 to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kerr decided to go with a small lineup and inserted Iguodala as a starter with hopes providing better defense on LeBron James. The change worked. Three straight wins over the Cavs earned the Warriors an NBA title. Iguodala was named Finals MVP averaging 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists after remerging as a starter.

Livingston’s route to championship glory was much different.

A catastrophic knee injury in 2007 altered the Clippers' franchise point guard’s career. Livingston tore his anterior cruciate ligament, posterior cruciate ligament and lateral meniscus, while also spraining his medial collateral ligament and dislocating his patella and tibo-fibular joint in a late February game against Charlotte. Amputation was a possibility.

Fortunately the worst case scenario would not play out. After a long and painful rehabilitation, Livingston signed with the Miami Heat and returned to the court in October of 2008. He bounced around the league playing for seven different teams over six seasons. He found a little stability and success as a starter with the Brooklyn Nets, before landing with the Warriors as a free agent prior to the 2014-15 season.

Livingston would play in a career-high 78 games, averaging 5.9 points, 3.3 assists, 2.3 rebounds per game as a key reserve along side Iguodola. Although he was only on the court 19 minutes each night, he was a factor on an NBA Championship team. This a fitting reward for a man who had to overcome so much just to be standing on the court, let alone a major contributor off the bench.

Now in his second straight playoffs for the defending champions Livingston is shining even brighter. A team-high 20 points along with four rebounds and three assists was instrumental in a Game 1 victory over the Cavs. Iguodala had 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists in the win.

All these years later the two Illinois natives are experiencing overwhelming success. Not because it was their right. Not due to good fortune. Instead it’s been their unique abilities to persevere and be patient that is at the root of their basketball giving tree.

And the tree was happy.

  

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.