The Bulls are sliding, but Zach LaVine isn't going down without a fight

The Bulls are sliding, but Zach LaVine isn't going down without a fight

PHILADELPHIA — With an early tipoff Sunday, the Bulls didn’t hold a morning shootaround.

That didn’t stop Zach LaVine, who missed Saturday’s practice with a stiff neck, from heading over to Wells Fargo Center to test his injury.

“I’m a competitor. I’m going to try to fight for my team,” LaVine said. “I don’t care if it’s one vs. 100. I’m going to go out swinging. I’m going to get my punches in. We’re encouraging each other. That’s why I wanted to fight through this injury just to let them know that I’m trying to help.”

LaVine did that.

His 32 points and eight assists weren’t enough to prevent the Bulls from dropping their fifth straight and falling to 3-21 vs. (current) winning teams following a 118-111 loss to the 76ers.

But his nearly 40-minute performance on a night he didn’t feel 100 percent resonated throughout the locker room.

“That was big-time from Zach,” Tomas Satoransky said.

LaVine and Satoransky are the only Bulls to start all 54 games in this most injury-plagued of seasons. Coby White has played all 54 games off the bench.

In this day and age of load management and players sitting for bumps and bruises, LaVine is dead set on playing all 82 games. Bad record for his team or not.

“If I can play, I’m going to play. Obviously, it hurts. But I felt pretty good out there. Once adrenalin gets going, I’m good man,” LaVine said. “I don’t like missing games. Since I hurt myself and I had to miss all those games, it takes a toll on you. I love basketball. I’m going to play if I can.”

LaVine is referring to the torn ACL that sidelined him for much of 2017. He admitted until he received some massages on his neck, he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to go.

“I was moving like a robot,” he said.

But not only did LaVine play, he went on one of his patented scoring barrages, sinking five 3-pointers in the third quarter alone. Then, the 76ers started double-teaming him on most every possession. The result was a season-high nine turnovers for LaVine, including two errant passes in the last two minutes that helped seal the Bulls' fate.

“You want to look for your shot. But if there are two on you, somebody is open. Just tried to be aggressive with the pass and still make the right decision,” he said. “I made some bonehead plays throughout the game, careless passes. That stuff comes back to get you. So I’m upset about that. But I’m still trying to make the right play.”

Coach Jim Boylen said the performance is another example of LaVine’s growth.

“His habits are really good,” Boylen said. “It speaks to his growth, his wanting to be a primary guy and performing as a primary guy even when you don’t feel well. That’s what big-time guys do. And I thought he did it. If you had saw the way he looked and how he was moving to how he fought through today, it was a great thing for us and great thing for him.”

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NBA forces Jimmy Butler to change jersey just before Heat-Nuggets tipoff

NBA forces Jimmy Butler to change jersey just before Heat-Nuggets tipoff

Throughout his career, including his rise to stardom with the Bulls, Jimmy Butler always has been comfortable making the grand, uncomfortable statement.

So it shouldn't surprise anyone to hear Butler reply "I don't care" when asked if he received a league explanation for making him switch jerseys just before the Heat's Saturday tipoff against the Nuggets, both teams' first game in the NBA's 22-team restart.

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Butler took the court for a game won by the Heat 125-105 wearing his No. 22 with no name on the back, a stance he revealed two weeks ago he wanted to take for his statement on racial inequity.

 “I love and respect all the messages that the league did choose. But for me, I felt like with no message, with no name, it’s going back to like who I was. And if I wasn’t who I was today, I’m no different than anybody else of color," Butler said on July 14. "And I want that to be my message in the sense that just because I’m an NBA player, everybody has the same rights no matter what. That’s how I feel about my people of color.”

The NBA's restart has featured ample opportunity for players, coaches and referees to address the systemic racism plaguing the country, with most wearing "Black Lives Matter" T-shirts as they warm up on a court emblazoned with the same message. Most teams also have been taking a knee during the playing of "The National Anthem" before games.

But Butler's preferred jersey statement didn't fall under the social justice messages agreed to by the league and players association. So just before tipoff, he walked to the Heat bench, took off his no-name jersey and replaced it with one wearing his name "BUTLER" underneath his No. 22. The agreed-to social justice messages like "EQUALITY" and "JUSTICE" appear above the names on other jerseys.

This appeared to be a compromise since Butler got his wish to have no name above his No. 22. He said he hopes the league changes its position and hasn't ruled out making the same symbolic act before each tipoff even if the league doesn't.

"I decided to change because my teammates probably needed me a little bit today," Butler said.

That they did. Butler posted 22 points, seven assists and four rebounds in the victory over the shorthanded Nuggets.

Butler also commented this week on the Knicks' hiring of Tom Thibodeau. Butler rose to stardom under Thibodeau's coaching with the Bulls and flourished for one season with him in Minnesota before forcing his way out of town with a trade to the 76ers. Thibodeau, who also served as the Timberwolves' president of basketball operations, had traded Zach LaVine, the draft rights to Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn to the Bulls for Butler.

"Obviously, I'm happy for him," Butler said. "I think he's going to do well. He's going to turn those young guys into some real players, some superstars, some All-Stars. All of that good stuff.

"I know he's been itching for this. I know he has been preparing for it. When you talk about Thibs on the big stage, I think they go hand in hand."




Bears, Bulls and Cubs all in top 20 of Forbes’ most valuable sports teams

Bears, Bulls and Cubs all in top 20 of Forbes’ most valuable sports teams

Forbes released its annual sports team value rankings on Friday. Three Chicago teams made the cut: the Bears, Bulls and Cubs.

The Bears checked in at No. 13 with an estimated value of $3.45 billion, making it the sixth-most valuable NFL franchise behind the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, New York Giants, Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers — quite the return on investment for the reported $100 the McCaskey family bought the team for in 1920.

Meanwhile, the Bulls and Cubs tied at No. 17 with twin $3.2 billion valuations. Jerry Reinsdorf and a group of investors purchased the Bulls for $16.2 million in 1985; the Ricketts family purchased the Cubs for $700 million in 2009.

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By Forbes’ calculations, that makes the Bulls and Cubs the fourth-most valuable franchises in their respective sports. In the NBA, the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors registered higher valuations than the Bulls. The New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox checked in ahead of the Cubbies.

All three Chicago teams gained value over the course of the year. In Forbes’ 2019 rankings, the Bulls and Bears were valued at $2.9 billion, and the Cubs at $3.1 billion.

The NFL boasted 27 teams in Forbes’ top 50, by far the most of any sports league (the Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and Tennessee Titans were the only clubs not represented). The NBA was second with nine.

And with three teams listed, Chicago tied with San Francisco and Boston as the third-most represented markets in the top 50. New York, with six teams, was first in that category; Los Angeles, with five, was second.