Bulls

Bulls: Jimmy Butler receives positive news from Dr. James Andrews

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Bulls: Jimmy Butler receives positive news from Dr. James Andrews

SAN ANTONIO--If Jimmy Butler had serious concerns about the state of his left knee, the Bulls hope his visit to Dr. James Andrews put it to rest as they embark on their last quarter of the season.

The Bulls issued a statement following Butler’s visit to Dr. Andrews’ office in Pensacola, Fla., stating Dr. Andrews “gave a confirmatory opinion and supports the current management of Butler’s condition and return to play.”

Butler is headed back to Chicago and will continue treatment, as the statement released by the team said he’ll return to play “when appropriate.” Butler could miss a few more games or return sooner depending on how he feels and where his confidence lies in his body.

“He’s going to work-out tonight, and he’ll be re-evaluated tomorrow to see how tonight went,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said before the Bulls lost to the San Antonio Spurs Thursday night. “If everything goes okay, again, we’ll monitor it. I’m sure he’ll want to get another good workout in tomorrow, see how he’s feeling. I wouldn’t rule it out, but at the same time we’re going to be safe with it.’’

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

The Bulls will play the Miami Heat Friday at the United Center, and it’s unknown whether he’ll be totally ruled out upon the team’s return to Chicago.

Being a former NBA player, Hoiberg could appreciate and understand Butler needing some form of confirmation that his knee is good enough to play on, so he won’t step on the floor with any doubts.

“I think that’s a big part of it. The mental aspect is huge in something like this,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy went down and saw one of the best doctors in the world that’s worked on a lot of athletes, and was told that everything was structurally sound in there. That’s what he was looking to hear and wanted to hear, and now it’s about going out there and getting comfortable, and sitting down with Jimmy, putting a plan together on how exactly we’re going to move forward with it.’’

Butler wanted a second opinion on what was termed a left knee strain and cost him 11 games in February, and discomfort after coming back for one game before sitting out Monday against Milwaukee.

Butler looked like himself in 34 minutes but didn’t feel like himself, with swelling in his knee along with back pain. Hoiberg took some shots because of Butler’s heavy usage the day after Saturday’s game.

[MORE: Bulls' errors spoil valiant effort in San Antonio]

“Jimmy’s as well conditioned an athlete as I’ve been around,” Hoiberg said. “He does so much to keep himself in great shape. I think that’s why everybody was comfortable with Jimmy coming back 100 percent after his two weeks where he was going through his full workout regimen, and didn’t have any pain or swelling in the knee.”

With most players on this roster who’ve returned from injuries the past couple seasons, they’ve done so with a minute restriction, which didn’t seem to be the case with Butler initially.

That could change, though.

“We’ll discuss all that in the next couple days,” Hoiberg said. “Tonight will be a big step in if that pain has completely subsided and if his back is feeling better, and again get another workout in tomorrow and then we’ll make that determination.’’

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

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USA TODAY

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

The theme of the 2018-19 NBA season will be: “old faces in new places”. Like a season-long game of the NBA on TNT crew’s “Who he play for?” game, this year will be about fans trying to get used to the idea of LeBron James in purple (I won’t call it ‘Forum Blue’)-and-gold, DeMarcus Cousins being on a championship-contending franchise and Kawhi Leonard being the new face of Toronto.

The Warriors are still the easy favorite to make it four NBA championships in five years, but they will be tested perhaps more than any year before in a loaded Western Conference, where even the lowliest of teams (here’s to you Phoenix and Memphis!) made solid offseason moves geared towards winning games.

Over in the now-LeBron-less East, there is hope amongst at least four-to-five teams that they could actually have a shot to win the conference. The Pacers still have budding superstar Victor Oladipo, the Sixers still have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and the Raptors and Bucks made head coaching changes that could lead to deep playoff runs. But with the rest of the Eastern conference being stuck between lottery contention and middle of the pack, expect the half-experienced, half-youthful Celtics to takeover as East juggernaut.

But whether or not your favorite franchise is aiming for a high draft pick or a postseason berth, there is tons to be excited in a 2018-19 NBA season that will surely be an intriguing one. Check out Week 1 of our NBA Power Rankings right here.

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

The Bulls and Bobby Portis were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension by today’s deadline, which will make the power forward a restricted free agent next offseason.

According to The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson, Portis’ agent Mark Bartelstein and Gar Forman had “lengthy face-to-face negotiations” on Monday prior to the deadline. The two sides weren’t able to come to an agreement.

The negotiations – and lack of a deal – come after a summer and training camp in which Portis continued to show progression. After beginning the preseason coming off the bench Portis quickly played his way into the starting lineup alongside rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Portis finished five preseason games averaging 17.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in just 22.4 minutes.

Portis, the 22nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, has seen his role increase each of his three seasons. He made a jump last season in Year 3, averaging 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes. He was one of three players, including DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love, to average 21 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 3-pointers per 36 minutes.

Though the Bulls certainly had the room to sign Portis to an extension, there were obvious reasons on both sides to wait on a deal. For starters, the Bulls will still be able to match any deal Portis receives in free agency next July, much like what happened with Zach LaVine and the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls maintain their abundance of cap space for the 2019 offseason, when they’ll be able to offer a max contract to the top-tier free agents, and they get to see if Portis makes another jump.

For Portis, it’s a case of him betting on himself. If the Bulls came in with a number he wasn’t satisfied with – to help keep their max cap space – he now finds himself on a contract year playing for his next contract. Still only 23 years old, Portis should cash in in July.

Two players from Portis’ draft class were able to cash in. Pacers center Myles Turner signed a reported four-year, $80 million extension and Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. agreed to a four-year, $45 million deal. Portis likely would have fallen somewhere in between those two deals had an agreement occurred.

The Bulls are hardly in an easy situation with Portis. Though they value the versatile power forward, Lauri Markkanen is entrenched at the position for the foreseeable future and the team just spent last year’s No. 7 overall pick on center Wendell Carter Jr. Portis realistically is stuck behind both those players, though he certainly has starting level NBA talent.