Bulls

Bulls: Jimmy Butler named finalist for Team USA's 2016 Olympic basketball roster

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Bulls: Jimmy Butler named finalist for Team USA's 2016 Olympic basketball roster

Jimmy Butler has been named one of the 30 finalists for Team USA's Olympic men's basketball roster, which will eventually be cut to 12 players this summer.

Butler, the league's most improved player a year ago, has taken his game to another level in his fifth NBA season, averaging 22.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists in a league-high 38.2 minutes per game.

[RELATED: Butler makes big impression in front of USA's Colangelo]

Butler joined Team USA's basketball camp in Las Vegas this past summer after signing a five-year max deal with the Bulls.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Butler is the only member of the Bulls named a finalist. Derrick Rose played for Team USA in the 2014 FIBA World Championships but was not named a finalist.

Former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is an assistant for the team under Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. The 2016 Olympic Games begin Aug. 5 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The Bulls have not had a player compete for Team USA in the Olympics since Scottie Pippen in 1996.

In the 2012 Olympics the Bulls had Luol Deng (Great Britain) compete.

Pau Gasol will compete for Spain's national team in Rio, though he is likely to opt out of his Bulls contract after this season.

The finalists, along with Butler, are: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, LaMarcus Aldridge, Harrison Barnes, Bradley Beal, Mike Conley, DeMarcus Cousins, Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, DeMar DeRozan, Andre Drummond, Kevin Durant, Kenneth Faried, Rudy Gay, Paul George, Draymond Green, Blake Griffin, James Harden, Gordon Hayward, Dwight Howard, Andre Iguodala, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Love, Chris Paul, Klay Thompson, John Wall and Russell Westbrook.

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

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USA TODAY

Could Ryan Arcidiacono be in line for more minutes?

The Bulls backup point guard situation will be in dire straits all season, with no established veteran behind Kris Dunn. And although the front office has seemingly committed to Cameron Payne as the backup PG (for at least this season), Ryan Arcidiacono showed enough in the season opener to justify giving him meaningful plying time in the rotation. 

Here are the stat lines of Arcidiacono and Cameron Payne from the season opener in Philadelphia:

Arcidiacono: 8 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 2-for-3 from the 3-point line

Payne:           0 points, 5 assists, 1 rebound, 0-for-1 from the 3-point line

With so many capable ball handlers and score-first players on the Bulls, point and assist totals aren’t as important as the rebounds and 3-point attempts. To provide the necessary space needed for driving lanes, there has to be openings in the defense caused by defenders sticking close to player they believe are a threat to shoot.

And that is where the problem lies with Payne.

Ryan Arcidiacono—while by no means a dominant scorer—showed a willingness to attack off of the pick-and-roll, even showing off an impressive ball-fake:


Payne, despite coming into the league with the reputation of a scorer, has yet to be aggressive enough to make teams think twice about giving him wide-open on the perimeter. And he is not one to attack the basket with purpose, averaging less than half a free throw per game for his career. Payne's general lack of aggressiveness when on the floor is often times made worse by his occasional poor post entry passes that seem predetermined:

Even if the above play was designed to get the ball to LaVine in the mid-post, Payne chooses a terrible time to make the pass. When he starts the motion to give the ball to LaVine, Ben Simmons is positioned in front of LaVine to force a tougher pass, as rookie Landry Shamet gambles over the backside to get the steal.

Had Payne chose to swing the ball around the perimeter, or give it to Bobby Ports and then get it back, he could have created an opening for the LaVine pass.

Obviously, the Bulls 19-point loss can’t be blamed on solely on Payne, the terrible defense was a group effort, as was the sometimes questionable shot selection. But with the defense already appearing to be perhaps one of the league's worst units, Fred Hoiberg would be wise to put Arcidiacono in more.

Hoiberg is in a crucial year where he needs to show that he can be the head coach of this team when they finally become competitive.

And for Hoiberg to show that type of growth as a coach, he needs to set the tone that minutes are earned not given, something he has already started with his moving of Jabari Parker to the bench. Payne only received 22 minutes, compared to 28 minutes for Arcidiacono, and it is tough to see that changing if things continue on like they did on Thursday night.

Zach LaVine, Bobby Portis show offensive promise in opener: 'That's what we expect'

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USA TODAY

Zach LaVine, Bobby Portis show offensive promise in opener: 'That's what we expect'

PHILADELPHIA -- It’s not a surprise to see Zach LaVine leading the Bulls’ offense.

The $78-million man was terrific despite a 127-108 loss to the 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday. LaVine poured in 30 points on 11 of 19 from the field.

What may come as a surprise is the brilliance of Bobby Portis. Portis was excellent in his own right, recording 20 points and 11 boards while playing his usual aggressive brand of basketball.

Unfortunately, both players found themselves in foul trouble early in the second half as Philadelphia started to impose its will with a 19-3 run to start the third quarter.

The Bulls got off to a blazing hot start, scoring 41 points in the opening quarter. They trailed by just seven at the half thanks in large part to LaVine and Portis. The duo worked well together in the pick-and-roll, at times confusing the 76ers on how exactly to play it.

“I expect that,” LaVine said when asked about the team’s early offensive output. “That’s what I expect from myself and I know Bobby is right there with me. Bobby had it going and that’s what he’s been doing for the last year or so, too, so that’s what we expect.”

Perhaps the play of Portis shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering his success against Philadelphia in his career. He tallied a career-high 38 points in a one-point loss to the Sixers last season. He’s also shot 55 percent against them for his career in 11 games coming into tonight, his second-highest mark against any team.

With rookie Wendell Carter Jr. struggling in his first NBA start, Portis saw some time at the five, something Hoiberg alluded to as a possibility prior to the game. Portis earned the start in place of the injured Lauri Markkanen with an impressive preseason. His play carried over into opening night.

Portis may not be long for the starting lineup once Markkanen returns, but he certainly showed his worth Thursday.

As for LaVine, he showed flashes of a guy that can be the focal point of an offense. While he had the jumper working, his finishes around the rim were more impressive. Especially when you consider a few of them came against Joel Embiid, the runner up for Defensive Player of the Year last season.

“I love Zach’s attack,” Fred Hoiberg said. “I thought, especially early in the game, he didn’t settle for shots. He was getting around his guy and seeking contact and doing a good job getting to the free throw line.”

The Bulls weren’t expected to win this game and will experience plenty of growing pains this season – especially while the injuries continue to pile up.

What Bulls fans can glean from opening night is that the team’s investment in a healthy LaVine may prove to be money well spent.

 “Yeah, man,” LaVine said after he was asked if he’s feeling healthier than he did last year. “A year after tearing my ACL I feel like I’m back to myself – athletically, speed-wise, quickness. I’ve got my legs under me. I just needed y’all to give me a little bit of time.

“I was about 70 percent last year and I think I did alright. I feel good now. It feels good to be back in my own skin again.”