Bulls

Bulls: Fred Hoiberg reflects on Jimmy Butler's 'special' performance

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Bulls: Fred Hoiberg reflects on Jimmy Butler's 'special' performance

With a day to let the adrenaline of a historic 24 minutes wear off, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg went to look back at the film of Jimmy Butler’s 40-point second half that carried the Bulls to victory against the Toronto Raptors.

Usually, one finds unique performances like that to be more special upon reflection, and this was no different.

“You know what, it was a really special performance,” Hoiberg said. “The left-handed runner off the glass, the threes that he hit including that last one that put us up by one, the crazy step-backs, getting himself to the free-throw line, drawing contact, he did a little bit of everything.”

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That applies even for the league office. On Butler’s hotly-contested corner 3-pointer that gave the Bulls a 112-111 lead, the NBA determined in its two-minute report that Butler was fouled by Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll, which would’ve given Butler an opportunity for a four-point play and a chance to distance himself from Michael Jordan’s previous scoring record for a half by one more point.

Nevertheless, Hoiberg found himself in a position to abandon whatever his game plan was in the second half once he saw Butler catch fire. Butler was annoyed about an elbow he caught in the mouth in the second quarter from Carroll on a layup that drew blood, and used the extra motivation to get himself going.

“After he got hit in the lip that hit his switch, that hit a nerve with him,” said guard E’Twaun Moore, who played big minutes against Raptors guard Kyle Lowry down the stretch and had a tip-in to tie the game at 109 with 58 seconds left. “He was like, ‘C’mon man, let’s go out and we’ve gotta go out here and fight.’ That’s all he kept saying, and then he came out in the second half and showed it.’’

It left Hoiberg in a spot where he had to feature Butler offensively, and Butler scored on the first three possessions, even the last one where the team “screwed it up”.

“After that, we just made the decision to put the ball in his hands and run ball screens for him in the middle of the floor,” Hoiberg said. “And he made the right play. He made a nice little pass to Pau (Gasol) and got him an easy little shot in the line. It was just about putting the ball in his hands and having the two best players on the floor.”

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Hoiberg should be credited for finding the delicate balance of riding the hot hand—a player who got more and more demonstrative as the game went on—but also keeping the other players involved.

Butler scored 40, but the rest of the Bulls combined for 27 as the Bulls came back from a 15-point deficit.

“I think the unique thing about this team is we've got a lot of guys that can heat up. Some nights it's going to be Pau. Some nights it's going to be Derrick and it has been Derrick, especially down the stretch,” Hoiberg said. “I think we've had some growth in that area with this team. I think that's why our offensive numbers have been a lot better.”

Sometimes, the game is very simple.

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Donte Ingram's 2018 keeps getting better and better.

The March Madness hero, who buried a game-winning 3-pointer in the first round of Loyola's win over Miami, will play on the Bulls' Summer League team.

Ingram, a Simeon Academy graduate, had himself an incredible senior season with the Ramblers, who advanced all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

In five NCAA Tournament games Ingram averaged 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Ramblers. He also had 18 points in the MVC Conference Championship Game to secure the Ramblers' March Madness berth.

He'll join first-round draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison on the Las Vegas Summer League team, which will begin play early next month.