Bulls: Jimmy Butler named to All-Star team while Pau Gasol misses out


Bulls: Jimmy Butler named to All-Star team while Pau Gasol misses out

Jimmy Butler has tried his best to hide the disappointment from not being selected a starter on the Eastern Conference All-Star team after the results from fan voting were revealed last week, but there was little doubt he’d be named as a reserve.

“Nope. I have no idea what’s going to happen,” said Butler at the Bulls’ morning shootaround held at UCLA’s campus.

“If I’m an All-Star, God meant for it to happen. If I’m not, I’m going on vacation with my brothers.”

Butler will have to put off that vacation in some sunny warm environment and pack up his parka for Toronto, since he was selected by the coaches as a reserve along with Detroit’s Andre Drummond, Atlanta’s Paul Millsap, Toronto’s Chris Bosh, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan, Boston’s Isaiah Thomas and Washington’s John Wall Thursday afternoon.

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“Nobody knows what is going to happen, let’s get that out of the way now,” Butler said. “When the time presents itself, we can talk about it then.”

TNT’s Charles Barkley called Butler the best shooting guard in the NBA and said he deserved to be in the starting lineup but fans voted for Miami’s Dwyane Wade and Toronto’s Kyle Lowry for the guard spots. Butler’s numbers have risen again for his second consecutive All-Star appearance, averaging 22.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists in a league-leading 38.3 minutes per contest.

“He has his opinion along with everybody else so it’s fine with me,” Butler said. “Everybody knows how hard I play, what I’m trying to accomplish. Just being an All-Star period is enough for me.”

Pau Gasol made a late push in the fan voting and almost repeated as starter but missed out by 360 votes. Earlier in the day he was optimistic the coaches would vote him in, while rightfully bemoaning the big men being shut out in the voting due to the NBA removing the center position from the ballot.

“The way it is now, it’s point guards, shooting guards and small forwards in the starting lineup. It’s unfair for the bigger guys who play well and work hard, but we don’t have that type of shot,” Gasol said. “It is a game where people want to see those flashy guys. I fell short so let’s see what happens if the coaches pay justice (laughs). Either way, I’m happy and proud of how I’m performing this year, at a high level, regardless of whether I’m on the team or not.”

[MORE: Beyond the Box Score: Turnover Troubles]

Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins said the same thing earlier this week in an interview with Yahoo’s Marc Spears, as he wasn’t voted despite averaging over 27 points and 11 rebounds.

“It’s disrespectful to big men,” Cousins told Yahoo Sports. “It’s not really fair. But that’s how it is.”

“Of course, it’s going to be most winning teams’ [players], the most popular players [selected]. The other guys that play for the Milwaukee Bucks, and in our case the Sacramento Kings, who are playing just as good basketball, will never be seen. I don’t think it’s fair.”

Cousins was named as a reserve, somewhat righting the wrong but Gasol was on the outside looking in, missing out on his sixth All-Star appearance while Butler made his second. 

2-time All-Star Luol Deng signs 1-day contract to retire as a Bull

2-time All-Star Luol Deng signs 1-day contract to retire as a Bull

Luol Deng experienced plenty of highs and lows throughout his nine-plus seasons with the Bulls.

But his love for the organization that acquired him in a 2004 draft-day trade never wavered, even after it traded him to the Cavaliers in January 2014 in a move to exit the luxury tax.

That’s why Deng signed a ceremonial, one-day contract Thursday so that he could retire as a Bull.

“From the moment we made Luol Deng the seventh overall pick of the 2004 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls became a better team,” Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said. “Luol carried himself with first-class professionalism and leadership, helping lead his Bulls team to eight playoff appearances during his time in Chicago. We’ll always remember his All-Star career and the fierce competitiveness he brought to both ends of the floor every night.”

“We’re very fortunate and humbled that Luol has chosen to retire as a Chicago Bull,” Bulls COO Michael Reinsdorf said. “He was a role model on and off the court during his nine-plus years in Chicago, and he gave everything he had to help us win. I want to thank Luol for not only what he accomplished on the court for the team, but also for the leadership he demonstrated through his philanthropic efforts.”

Deng, a two-time All-Star, is all over the franchise leaderboard. He’s tied for fourth by playing in parts of 10 seasons with the Bulls. He’s sixth in games played, fifth in minutes, fourth in points, fifth in field goals, ninth in rebounds, fifth in steals, seventh in 3-pointers and eighth in free throws.

But Deng’s impact with the Bulls moved past numbers. When he arrived with Ben Gordon, one season after the Bulls drafted Kirk Hinrich, Deng helped pull the Bulls from their post-dynasty funk and transform them into a perennial playoff team. He chose to play through a torn wrist ligament so that he could represent his adopted homeland of Great Britain at the 2014 Summer Olympics.

He became a two-time All-Star as Tom Thibodeau’s indispensable, two-way forward, consistently ranking near the top of the NBA in minutes played. And his community service through his Luol Deng Foundation featured Chicago and global reach.

The day after the trade to the Cavaliers, Deng talked to this author at length while standing inside the Cavaliers practice facility.

"I had an opportunity to play for a great organization. I've been very lucky to play 10 years for the only team that I ever knew as a kid," Deng said that January 2014 day. "I only knew Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the Bulls when I was 7 years old and in Egypt. For me to be the fourth-leading scorer on that team, did I ever think a refugee kid in Egypt would even play for the Bulls? There's a lot of amazing things that have happened."

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Kris Dunn takes team-first approach to reserve role behind Tomas Satoransky

Kris Dunn takes team-first approach to reserve role behind Tomas Satoransky

Not even a reserve role can shake Kris Dunn’s resolve.

Continuing his completely different tone from the end of last season in his comments to reporters, Dunn took the news that he’ll back up Tomas Satoransky in stride Thursday in advance of the Bulls’ final preseason game versus the Hawks.

“Just being positive, cheering guys on. Just bringing my energy. I’m an energetic guy. That’s just my personality. I just bring it to the gym and allow that good energy to resonate on the floor and to the other guys,” Dunn said at the Advocate Center. “You need (depth) in the league. There are going to be games where the starters come out flat and the second unit is going to have to pick it up and allow them to come back in and finish the game. Just having depth is a good thing because injuries occur. You need backups you can trust.”

At the tail end of last season, as Dunn got publicly challenged by executive vice president John Paxson and phased out of the Bulls’ core in the team’s public comments, the guard acted sullen at times. But he reported to voluntary September workouts with a renewed energy and mental approach after a self-proclaimed offseason of reflection.

“I just appreciate Coach (Jim Boylen) talking to me and being straightforward and being truthful to me,” Dunn said. “I’m going to do my job and do what’s best for the team.”

Dunn started two of the first four preaseason games but largely played with reserves. Does he feel he got a fair shot at keeping his starting job?

“I’m not really going to speak on that. I feel I’m in a great spot. I love what the coaching staff is doing with me and the team. We have a great group of guys,” Dunn said. “We’re going to play hard every game and hopefully make that playoff push.”

And Dunn, who recorded six steals last Friday in Indiana, believes he still has an important role.

“My greatest strength right now is defense. I know that. My teammates know that. It’s no surprise to the team,” he said. “I bring it each day.”

Boylen is appreciative of Dunn’s attitude.

“Before I could even get out the words, ‘Kris, I’m going to bring you off the bench to start the season,’ he had already said, ‘Coach, I’m going to do whatever you need me to do and I’m ready for what you want me to do.’ Before I could even get it out. It was a two-minute conversation,” Boylen said. “I’ve always said he has great heart for the team. He has always been very coachable. He accepts criticism. He owns his mistakes. His response is all about the team and what we’re trying to build. It’s role definition and it’s role acceptance. His role acceptance is off the charts.”

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