Bulls

Bulls: Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic on the mend

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Bulls: Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic on the mend

CHARLOTTE—There’s been no time frame on the return for Jimmy Butler, although Fred Hoiberg said the All-Star guard is feeling better compared to his nasty spill in Denver Friday night.

“Jimmy is receiving treatment back home. He feels better,” Hoiberg said at the morning shootaround at Time Warner Cable Arena, where the Bulls play the Hornets. “We still don’t have a time frame on everything but the important thing is he’s feeling a lot better than he was a couple of days ago. He still has a lot of soreness in there. I would doubt he would play Wednesday but then we’ll kind of make a determination from there.”

[MORE BULLS: After firing Derick Fisher, could Knicks hire Tom Thibodeau?]

There’s a bit of ambiguity with Butler, considering he had to be held back from playing Wednesday night in Sacramento only to come back Friday and injure himself in the second quarter.

Perhaps it’s that reason where the Bulls won’t commit to a timeline, with just one more game before All-Star break and then a long break before the team reconvenes again, in Cleveland on a Thursday night.

“Good question. It’s what it is right now,” Hoiberg said. “It’s an injury that a lot of it is based on how he recovers and the important thing is he’s making progress. We’ll continue to get him treatment and if he can continue to make progress a lot of this will be based on he feels.”

Surgery appears to be ruled out, even a minor procedure and it’ll be a matter of pain management for Butler until the offseason.

“He’s still got a lot of stiffness in it,” Hoiberg said. “It was an injury that had a lot of pain associated with that. It’s just about hopefully continuing to improve every day understanding that there’s going to be a lot of soreness involved with this particular injury.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Speaking of ambiguous, Nikola Mirotic’s status has improved as he was released from the hospital a few days ago and is just starting to eat again. The initial prognosis surrounding his appendectomy was that he would be back following the break but with his hematoma setback, the team hasn’t stated when he will return to action.

“He still hasn't done much physical activity, it's going to be about getting him back in shape,” Hoiberg said. “Which when you're really on a liquid diet for five days, it's about building the strength back up. That's what it's going to be about for Niko and hopefully that will start soon.”

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

The next preps-to-pros leaper, Anfernee Simons confident 'I'll be able to make this jump'

Anfernee Simons looks more like a ball boy than a 2018 NBA Draft prospect right now. He’s not considered small, what with having a 6-foot-3 frame with a massive 6-foot-9 wingspan, and he weighed in at last week’s NBA Draft Combine at 183 pounds, “heavier” than Lottery-bound guards like Trae Young, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Collin Sexton.

But there’s plenty of potential to unpack from the soon-to-be 19-year-old, baby-faced combo guard. Don’t let the appearance fool you. Simons is one of the most talented players in the class, and a team patient enough to let him develop at his own pace could reap major benefits in due time.

You won’t find much video on Simons, as the IMG Academy star is preparing to be the first prospect to go preps-to-pros without a year in college since Thon Maker did so in 2016.

Simons, a consensus five-star recruit in the 2018 class, originally committed to Louisville in November 2016 and then decommitted the following September shortly after Rick Pitino was fired. Since he had graduated from Edgewater High School in Florida and was playing a post-grad year at IMG Academy, he became eligible for the 2018 NBA Draft because he is a year removed from high school. That’s where he played this past season, declaring for the draft and signing with an agent in late March.

“The opportunity is there. Me and my parents talked about it a lot and I feel like I’m confident in myself that I’ll be able to make this jump,” he said at last week’s Combine. “So I just felt like, do it now and not waste any time.”

Simons has been on the radars of NBA teams, even if he’s not a household name like Ayton, Doncic and Bagley. He’s currently projected outside of the Lottery, in part because teams haven’t seen him compete against collegiate level talent and because his wiry frame almost surely means time in the G-League as a rookie. But again, the skill set is there.

Simons is a point guard with solid range beyond the arc. He may struggle off the ball because of his size, though that long wingspan and a quick release from his chest should allow him to get off shots. He’s a blur in transition and finishes well at the rim – his 41.5-inch vertical was tied for third best at the Combine, and his three-quarters court sprint was eighth fastest.

He’s a mixed bag defensively. Wingspan is the fun buzz word these days, and that will help him at the next level, but his small frame means there’s work to be done. A strength and conditioning coach will salivate at bringing Simons into the weight room and getting his body NBA-ready.

“Just staying durable through 82 games,” Simons answered when asked about his biggest challenge physically at the next level. “Taking care of your body is real pivotal so I feel like learning how to take care of my body now is a good thing.”

Simons maturely answered that the “unknown” of his game will be both a positive and minus during the pre-draft process. While fellow prospects he may face in team workouts don’t know as much about him and, thus, his game, teams also need to find out more about Simons’ game and off-court habits.

“Coming in young, people don’t know who I am and haven’t seen me play much. That’s the good side about coming in early,” he said. “It could be the same thing (negatively). People haven’t seen me like that, so I feel like they don’t know who I am. They probably think I’m too young to play in the league.”

Simons met with the Bulls and has scheduled a pre-draft workout with them. Though the Bulls feel like their rebuild could go quicker than anticipated – especially if they hit on their No. 7 pick – there could be plenty to gain from drafting for upside on a player like Simons.

Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne will both be free agents in 2019, and Denzel Valentine’s long-term future isn’t set in stone in Chicago. That leaves plenty of openings in the backcourt behind Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine. Simons won’t be ready to contribute much in 2018-19, but the Bulls wouldn’t need him to. A handful of outlets projected Simons as a top-5 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The Bulls could snag him a year earlier, let him develop in Hoffman Estates and bring him up in a year when they’re a step closer to contending.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bulls use Lauri Markkanen as centerpiece of a trade to bring in a superstar?

On this episode of SportsTalk Live, Hub Arkush (670 The Score/Pro Football Weekly), Danny Parkins (670 The Score) and Lauren Comitor (The Athletic) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Manny Machado Mania continues in Chicago. Do the Cubs even need to trade for him to win the World Series this year?

Ricky Renteria has to bench another player for not hustling. Is this becoming a problem on the South Side?

Plus, Lauri Markkanen is named to the All-Rookie team. Could he be the centerpiece of a trade if the Bulls want to acquire a superstar or move up in the draft? 

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: