Bulls

Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler takes high road on Bulls' sputtering rebuild

Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler takes high road on Bulls' sputtering rebuild

Jimmy Butler never has been afraid to do the dirty work, whether that’s on the court with defense or off it in the form of direct leadership.

But the former Bull also isn’t averse to taking the high road when it’s his genuine path of travel.

So it was Saturday morning at Wintrust Arena at NBA All-Star media day. With the Bulls floundering in their third season of a full rebuild since trading Butler, the now five-time All-Star could’ve piled on to a franchise that has become a punching bag to some.

Instead, Butler, who is leading a Heat renaissance at 35-19, not only spoke highly of the Bulls and its beleaguered management team, but also didn’t fully rule out playing again for the franchise he never wanted to leave.

“I got faith in management here. They have to know what they’re doing. I think their decision (to rebuild) was right for them. I’ll continue to wish them the best,” Butler said. “I think they got some really great young talent. They’ll figure it out. They got nothing but time.”

That’s to be determined. Multiple media outlets, including NBC Sports Chicago, have reported that changes are expected this offseason after the Bulls so publicly stated expectations to challenge for the playoffs and become relevant again and instead find themselves mired with a 19-36 mark.

But that’s no longer Butler’s concern.

“It just goes to show the Heat are great at bringing in guys that can get stuff done,” Butler said, when asked how it feels to have Miami, which also has Bam Adebayo as an All-Star, so well represented. “Guys that are overlooked, that work incredibly hard and try and perfect their craft. I think they put each one of our guys, including myself, in a position to be successful and to being acknowledged and recognized for having incredible talent.”

Butler rose from being the 30th pick in the 2011 NBA draft and barely playing as a rookie to becoming a two-way tour de force with the Bulls, for whom he earned three of his All-Star berths. He’s averaging 20.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.1 assists this season.

“I’ve been to an All-Star Game before, but I think it’s always a little bit special where my whole NBA career started here in Chicago,” Butler said. “It’s incredible. Chicago fans, they love their teams through the good and the bad obviously. I still have homes here. I’m always here during the summertime. I got a lot of love for this city, and I’m so fortunate that this city still has a lot of love for me.”

The Heat have welcomed Butler’s work ethic and direct leadership approach. Butler has been equally complimentary of the Heat and praised Pat Riley, the team president.

“I think that culture was already there. It just fit me. I just brought myself,” Butler said. “The culture was going to stay the same with or without me.

“Everything I heard about Pat is legit, for real. He’s straight to the point, direct, involved in everything and I love it. It shows that he cares and he wants to win, and he wants to win now. You know, none of this is guaranteed. He realizes it, everybody in Miami, the organization realizes it. And we’re trying to make it happen.”

Meanwhile, the Bulls are enduring another injury-plagued season, trying to find their footing.

Butler is under contract through 2022-23 with the Heat, owning a player option on the final season. Perhaps he was merely paying lip service to the possibility of returning here one day. But it’s true he never wanted to leave.

“Like, come on, this is Chicago. This is home for me for a long time, still is home for me now. It’s a definite possibility – maybe toward the end of my career. Who knows?” he said. “We’ll find out when that time gets here.”

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Cleveland Cavaliers will look to salvage stilted rebuild when NBA resumes

Cleveland Cavaliers will look to salvage stilted rebuild when NBA resumes

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, we'll be examining the impact of the NBA's current on hiatus on each team in the league. Today, the Cleveland Cavaliers — whose rebuild suffered through a stilted season — are up.

Past installments: Chicago Bulls | Golden State Warriors

The Cleveland Cavaliers decided on a bold change of direction last spring when they hired highly-successful college coach John Beilein for his first NBA coaching job at the age of 66.

But Beilein almost immediately clashed with many of his veteran players who complained about his “college-style” coaching that included lengthy practice and film sessions. Later, Beilein was alleged to have used the term “thugs” in a speech to the team, which he attempted to explain away as meaning to have said “slugs” in regard to the players' effort and energy level.

From that point on, it was only a matter of time before Beilein would have to be replaced as head coach since most of the players had completely tuned him out. Beilein resigned on Feb. 19, walking away from the four-plus years remaining on his contract. The Cavaliers tapped assistant J.B. Bickerstaff to replace Beilein, eventually signing him to a multi-year extension. The Cavs had a 19-46 record at the time the NBA schedule was suspended, worst in the Eastern Conference.

Player Development

Beilein was hired to develop the talent for one of the league’s youngest teams that included three first round picks from the 2019 draft: Darius Garland, Kevin Porter Jr. and Dylan Windler.

But from the start of the season, it was clear that pairing Garland with 2018 lottery pick Collin Sexton wasn’t a good idea. Both young point guards needed the ball in their hands to be successful, and Garland struggled as the de facto shooting guard, averaging 12.3 points a game on 40.1% shooting from the field (though he did shoot a respectable 35.5% from 3 point range). Sexton wound up leading the Cavs in scoring at 20.8 points per game while shooting 47.3% from the field and 38% from long distance. But the second year guard never developed as a facilitator in the offense, averaging just three assists over 33 minutes per game. His ball-dominant style appeared to frustrate many of his teammates.

Porter showed potential as a slashing wing, averaging 10 points in 23.2 minutes per game, while Windler missed all of his rookie season because of injury. Cedi Osman, 24 years old, failed to take hold of the starting small forward job, averaging 11 points per game, while the team gave up on combo guard Jordan Clarkson, trading him to Utah just before Christmas for underwhelming former lottery pick Dante Exum. Clarkson immediately thrived as a high-scoring sixth man with the Jazz, while Exum struggled to find a role in Cleveland, averaging 5.6 points and 1.4 assists in 24 games.

Roster Decisions

It seems like the Cavs have been trying to trade Kevin Love ever since he agreed to a multi-year contract after LeBron James left in the summer of 2018. Love was rumored to be available before this year’s trade deadline, but few teams were interested in taking on the three years and $90 million remaining on the contract of a 31-year-old power forward with a lengthy injury history.

The Cavs will also most likely have veteran center Andre Drummond back next season. Drummond holds a $28.7 million player option for 2020-21, and its hard to imagine another team offering a max-level multi year contract for a low post center whose skills don’t really translate to the modern NBA game.

Depending on how the lottery shakes out, the Cavs could have a top three pick in this year’s draft, and they could go in a variety of directions. Dayton star Obi Toppin and Israeli forward Deni Avdija present possibilities to bolster their frontcourt. Cleveland could also go for the top shooting guard available, Georgia’s Anthony Edwards.

Outlook

After the Beilein experiment failed so quickly, general manager Koby Altman will be under enormous pressure to get the rebuild back on track this offseason. It won’t be easy to find a trade partner for either Drummond or Love, and it appears the Cavs won’t be able to move forward starting a pair of undersized point guards in Sexton and Garland. Plus, Exum has one year left on his contract at $9.6 million.

Bickerstaff is anxious to put his stamp on the team after replacing Beilein following the All-Star break. It’s the third time in Bickerstaff’s coaching career he’s taken over an NBA team during the season, and he’s hoping to be given some time to get through the painful early stages of a complete rebuild. Unfortunately for the Cavs, there isn’t a superstar player like Luka Doncic or Zion Williamson in this year’s draft, and LeBron isn’t walking back through that door for a third stint in Northeast Ohio.

Better keep that 2016 NBA championship trophy nice and shiny while asking the fans to be patient once again.

Check back in Monday for a breakdown of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Gold medalist Ryan Held reps Bulls at the Olympics

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USA Today

Bulls Talk Podcast: Gold medalist Ryan Held reps Bulls at the Olympics

Filling in for Host Jason Goff, Leila Rahimi talks with Olympic swimmer and gold medalist Ryan Held who at a swim meet donned a Ryan Arcidiacono rookie jersey. He goes into his fandom of the Bulls, why he chose Ryan Arcidiacono as his favorite current Bull, and responses he got from Bulls fans around the world.

(1:02) - Why he chose to rep the Bulls on an international platform

(6:16) - When did Ryan Held's Bulls fandom start

(12:05) - His favorite Bulls players to watch

(15:14) - Finding time for the Bulls with a swimming schedule

(18:50) - Advice to fellow athletes during this pause in sports

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Talk Podcast

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Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.