Bulls

Thibodeau doesn't want to trade Jimmy Butler, owner Glen Taylor getting involved

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USA TODAY

Thibodeau doesn't want to trade Jimmy Butler, owner Glen Taylor getting involved

The Jimmy Butler saga continued on Friday, taking an interesting turn when ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Minnesota's front office had not been trying hard to trade Butler, but that in fact, they were doing quite the opposite:  

It is quite easy to believe that President of Basketball Operations and head coach Tom Thibodeau would be reluctant to move him.

They have an extensive history together, and Butler was the driving force behind Minnesota ending the NBA's longest playoff drought. But the thought of holding on to Butler past Monday's media day seems outrageous given the amount of negative attention already surrounding the franchise. 

Thibodeau is the decision-maker in this matter, but Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor could step in should this situation drag on longer, as he has in the past. Taylor gave the final OK when the franchise traded past stars Kevin Garnett and Kevin Love, and he will certainly get involved if Thibodeau is turning down quality trade offers. And reports state that Taylor is getting involved, as they likely try to get a deal done soon.

Thibodeau has multiple years left on his contract, so it is unlikely Minnesota lets him go, even if he takes a decidedly anti-trade stance on Butler.

Butler has made his list of preferred teams known, but as we saw in the Kyrie Irving deal, those list rarely are a factor. No matter what, it will be tough for Minnesota to get a deal comparable to what Chicago received for Butler, seeing as he is now older, and still somewhat injury-prone. But making sure to wait for the best trade available will heavily impact the long-term outlook of the Timberwolves.

Denying that you have interest in trading a player who has publicly demanded a trade is perhaps the most on-brand thing Thibodeau has ever done. But for once, he may be thinking about the future, as this lack of interest in trading Butler could just be a tactic to further drive up the asking price. 

Either way, stay Thibs, Thibs. 

In shutting down Trae Young, Kris Dunn showcased the spectrum of his value

In shutting down Trae Young, Kris Dunn showcased the spectrum of his value

Trae Young is one of the most dynamic basketball players on the planet — he’s currently the fifth-leading scorer in the NBA (27.9 points), a 37.6% 3-point shooter (on 8.9 attempts per game) and a transcendent facilitator in the halfcourt and open floor. Some would be daunted, faced with such an adversary (especially given his recent history against the Bulls).

Not Kris Dunn, who took lead responsibilities guarding Young in the Bulls’ 136-102 drubbing of the Hawks, Wednesday night. For him, it was just another game.

“Nah, not at all,” Dunn said when asked if matching up with Young provided him with extra motivation. “It's part of the game. I'm guarding the best player, I'm motivated for all of it. That's what I want. I want the best player. I wanna see what I got. I like the competitiveness of it.

“My job is to guard the best player on the other team. Since I've been starting, I've guarded Buddy [Hield], D'Angelo [Russell], Jimmy [Butler], Trae. You look at the tape, I've been doing a good job,” Dunn said.

Young finished his night with 15 points on 4-for-14 shooting (1-for-6 from 3-point range), seven turnovers and 13 assists. That assist figure is a gaudy one, but Dunn hounded Young — on-the-ball, over screens, everywhere he turned — all night, and clearly shook his rhythm with every poke, bump and step. Of Young’s seven turnovers, two were straight steals by Dunn:

 

“KD takes the challenge and has great respect for Young. Tries to fight him all over the floor,” Jim Boylen said. “He's a good player, man. But KD's a good player, too. KD's a top-level defender in this league.”

That sentiment permeates the Bulls’ locker room. Dunn’s defensive energy does, too. 

“He puts a lot of pressure on the ball. I just know from my personal experience playing against him, you have to be very careful, because he has quick hands,” Tomas Satoransky said after Wednesday morning shootaround. “I think the offense feels very crowded with him on the ball. So I think that's a very strong point that he brings to that starting lineup.” 

“Everybody knows on this team, I take a lot of pride in my defense. You know, I try to anchor it,” Dunn said. “And I think my defensive energy allows everybody else to put their hard hat on and guard, too.”

Since Nov. 27, the Bulls sport the third-ranked defense in the league (with a 102.4 rating). Dunn’s first game in the starting lineup? Nov. 29 in Portland, two days after Chandler Hutchison suffered a shoulder injury that has rendered him inactive ever since.

And even in spite of his offensive deficiencies — Dunn is currently shooting 19.3% from 3-point range — his greatest skill, stealing the basketball, opens up the area of the Bulls’ offense in which they’re at their most efficient: transition. 

Per Cleaning the Glass, 17.3% of the Bulls’ overall possessions come in transition (fourth-highest in the NBA), and they turn 66.5% of their steals into transition plays (ninth in the NBA). The Bulls score 127.0 points per 100 transition plays, 144.8 when said possessions come off steals (those figures rank 8h and 7th in the NBA respectively).

“When we play in transition, I think that's when we're at our best. And in order to get in transition you gotta get stops,” Dunn said. “We got a lot of athletes, a lot of young guys who can get up the floor, and that's what we gotta do.”

Dunn is tied for third in the NBA in steals per game with two. The Bulls, as a team, lead the league in steals per game (9.6) and opponent turnovers per game (18.4).

“He's a ballhawk,” Zach LaVine said of Dunn. “He's gonna make it tough on ’em. I think the dude can mess around and be a first team all-defensive player.”

That idea is also not an uncommon one around the Bulls. Dunn, himself, admits to aspiring to that level of acclaim. 

“I feel like I'm a top defender in this league, and I take pride in it, and I should… Do you see a lot of defenders do what I'm doing? What I do is a little different,” he said with a grin. “But nah, all jokes aside, you know, that's one of my goals. That's always gonna be one of my goals until I get on there.”

LaVine and Dunn both stressed, though, that team success is requisite to any individual recognition. That’s the priority, above all. For now, Dunn remains indelibly confident, and the Bulls need him to be. 

“I'm just going with the flow, you know, whatever the coaching staff needs from me, the team needs from me, I'm gonna go out there and do it,” Dunn said. “I tell people this all the time, I'm a [Swiss Army Knife]. I can do a little bit of everything.

“I'm not worried about where you put me on the floor. I'm a hooper, Imma go out there and hoop.”

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Zach LaVine puts on rare scoring display in Bulls' win over Atlanta Hawks

Zach LaVine puts on rare scoring display in Bulls' win over Atlanta Hawks

On some nights, basketball can feel pretty simple. For the Bulls’ offense — a unit in desperate need of a breakout — tonight was one of those nights.

“I told him, whenever you get it, just shoot it. No matter where you at,” Coby White said of Zach LaVine (who else?) after the Bulls routed the Hawks 136-102. “It just seems like when he gets in a rhythm, he's impossible to stop.”

At present, that sentiment resonates strongly. LaVine scorched the Hawks Wednesday night to the tune of 35 points on 12-for-16 shooting, 7-for-7 from 3-point range. And he did it all in just 25 minutes, sitting the entire fourth quarter of a resounding victory that the Bulls, mercifully, polished off early.

“You know, I get it going. And I want it to stay that way,” LaVine said. “It finally got all put together… It feels good. You wanna have wins like that. It does good for the team and obviously for the body [resting the entire fourth quarter].”

Trouncing the Hawks simultaneously snaps a three-game losing streak for the team and a shooting funk for LaVine. He shot only 33.3% from the field on 19 attempts per game in the three games that comprised that losing streak — hard-fought losses to the Warriors, Heat and Raptors. The Bulls’ total margin of defeat from those three contests was eight points.

“That's what we've been trying to put together,” LaVine said of the Hawks game. “Even though we've had our losses, we’ve been competing every game, we've had stretches where we look really good, where we look like the better team. But we're coming out with the losses.”

Not so tonight. But of course, it’s facetious to call the type of display LaVine put on ‘simple’. Every NBA game, no matter what colors the competing teams sport, features the best basketball players in the world. There are no easy nights at the office in this profession.

Which makes just how easy he can make it look all the more astounding. And all the more worth appreciating.

“Zach's efficiency obviously is just unbelievable,” Jim Boylen said. “He wants to be great, and he's working, and his habits are good. So I'm happy for him.”

LaVine joins a list of only 13 players in NBA history to score 35 points in 25 minutes of play with this performance, including Ben Gordon and *drum roll* Michael Jordan. He is also the 20th player in league history to attempt seven or more 3-pointers in a game and make them all. When he’s on, it’s a spectacle. Appointment television.

But, for LaVine, the focus remains on the team. And the future.

“I don't think every game's gonna be like this, obviously,” he said. “But we need to have more of them.”

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