Bulls

Bulls: Rose, Butler rebound from ugly start, show their importance

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Bulls: Rose, Butler rebound from ugly start, show their importance

The worst nightmare and greatest feeling of optimism for the Bulls was on full display in Game 2 against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Consider the imagery.

Those long, drawn-out scoring droughts that can be deadly against the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers in Round 2 juxtaposed with Jimmy Butler catching fire in the fourth quarter and Derrick Rose recognizing it, making sure to be aggressive enough to have his presence felt but not domineering enough to take Butler out of his rhythm.

The delicate dance the backcourt will walk in this postseason will likely play the biggest part in their fortunes, as no matter how Rose looked in Game 1, Game 2 was a reminder he’s in his seventh game back from knee surgery — it just so happens to be in the high-pressure, no-excuses environment of the playoffs.

“When you’re missing shots, you have to do other things to help the team,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Whether it’s playing defense or making plays, I thought Derrick did that. He got lost in the game and started doing other things then found his offensive rhythm.”

[SHOP: Buy a short-sleeve Derrick Rose jersey]

The duo combined for 36 of the Bulls’ 52 second-half points after a near-disastrous start — the kind they can’t afford to have from this point forward. Rose went scoreless in the first half, missing all seven of his shot attempts while Butler missed his first six 3-point attempts.

“First half, I was missing shots,” Rose said. “I was just trying to get everybody into the game. We went up one at halftime. The second half, it’s a different game. It’s kind of like the restart button where you forget about the first half and just go out and play.”

No one would ever accuse Rose of hesitating, so it was no surprise when he unexpectedly received a kickout pass from Mike Dunleavy, he looked down before stepping back to launch a triple — where finally he and the ball were on the same accord.

A few possessions later, the crevices of a ridiculously tough Bucks defense provided just enough sunlight for Rose to slide through and get a lefty layup to fall, right before he tossed a crosscourt lob pass to Butler for a layup that signaled the Bulls finally finding their offensive rhythm.

For Butler, it didn’t take much for him to catch the feeling Rose had in the third quarter of Game 1 — having the ball on a string, the game in your hands and knowing no one can truly stop you on a given night.

[MORE: Butler's 31-point performance sends Bulls to 2-0 series lead over Bucks]

“I think I took a lot of bad shots that happened to go in,” said Butler, who shot 10 for 19 from the field for a game-high 31 points and nine rebounds.

But Butler’s emergence is the strongest reminder that Rose doesn’t have to do it all by himself anymore, which he certainly has appeared to recognize given his strong floor game. Rose’s nine assists were his 11th playoff game with nine or more, and he didn’t turn the ball over at all in the second half.

“He definitely makes it a lot easier,” Butler said. “When he’s on the floor, people pay attention to him a lot more than they do me. So all I have to do is step up and make my shots.”

Rose’s jumper with less than a minute remaining complemented Butler’s fourth-quarter explosion where Butler scored 14, and quietly, is averaging 28 points on 55 percent shooting in the first two games this series.

“Huge. Huge. It’s always a plus when you got a guy that talented and confident in his game,” said Rose of Butler. “We’ve seen him put the work in. And he’s actually out there showing that it’s paying off. If anything, it pushes us as a team to work on our game individually and with everyone doing that, it gives us a good chance to win.”

The Bulls still shot just 37 percent in the second half, but Rose and Butler combined to go 11-for-18 — meaning their teammates hit just five of their 25 attempts after halftime.

“We’re playing the game the right way, and that will get guys their shots,” Butler said. “Any night someone can score 30. All I have to do is step up and make my shots.”

It’s a reminder they need to play more to develop more continuity, because they’ll need it sooner rather than later.

Michael Porter Jr.: 'I'm the perfect fit for today's NBA game'

Michael Porter Jr.: 'I'm the perfect fit for today's NBA game'

Michael Porter Jr. grabbed some attention when he remarked that he was "perfect fit for today's NBA game" during an appearance on The Will Cain Show.

The interview went a long way towards showing off the uber-confident nature of Porter, who has consistently talked about being the best player in his class throughout the draft process. Porter also remarked that he was "an immediate impact guy," and that he "doesn't want it to take long to be one of the best players in the NBA."

His hubris has been intruiging considering the mystery surrounding the prospect.

During the interview Porter added that he would be open to doing more workouts for NBA front offices ahead of Thursday's NBA Draft. The only workout he has completed so far was his pro day workout in Chicago, and multiple reports have cited that Porter did look good shooting, though he was in an isolated setting with no defenders.

The one thing Porter has not done much throughout the process is talk about his weaknesses, which is somewhat concerning seeing as he has much to improve on. The general consensus is that a healthy Porter can get buckets at will. But if he can improve his ball-handling, rebounding and passing skills, he will be much more than a go-to scorer. Tightening his ball-handling skills is likely the key, as the ability to grab the rebound and push in transition would be a huge boon for Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg's offense.

The biggest question when it comes to Porter on the Bulls is can he fit with Lauri Markkanen? Despite receiving many favorable Kevin Durant and Paul George comparisons leading up to the draft, there is a rising sentiment that his best position in the NBA may be the power forward spot. It is not yet known if he has the foot speed to stay in front of quicker wings in today's NBA. But at six-feet-ten-inches, it is easy to imagine him having a huge advantage against slower power forwards rather than wings. While Markkanen is not currently built to be a full-time center, playing him at the five with Porter at the four would present Hoiberg with a potentially devastating closing lineup.

Versatility is the name of the game in today's league, and Michael Porter Jr. may be the key to unlocking the full potential of Hoiberg's pace-and-space attack. 

Paul Zipser says he is unlikely to return to Bulls

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USA TODAY

Paul Zipser says he is unlikely to return to Bulls

Just two years after being drafted in the second round, Paul Zipser told German media that he doesn’t see the Bulls wanting him next season.

The Bulls have until mid-July to pick up Zipser's option.

"I would not be surprised if they no longer want me.” Zipser said in German and translated via Google Translate

“Actually, I'm pretty sure I will not play in Chicago soon.”

Last month, Zipser had surgery on his fractured left foot, in his native country of Germany, which grew speculation the Bulls wouldn’t pick up his player option for next season. Zipser said the surgery "went perfectly."

Zipser showed some flashes of potential in his rookie season, averaging 5.5 per game and 2.8 rebounds in 44 games. But this past season, he played more games, but injuries derailed him from improving his overall production. He finished with four points and 2.4 rebounds in 54 games, including 12 starts.

Zipser explained that things changed from his first year to his second year.

“They were very varied," Zipser said. "The first year was just going very well. I fought my way into the team from the beginning and showed how I can help the team. The Bulls just needed someone like me. That's why it worked so well. We benefited from each other - that's why we were successful.”

“That was very different. It was not right from the beginning, and I was already struggling with my injury. It was not quite clear what it is. If you have pain in your foot, you automatically go down a bit with intensity. You just do not want to hurt yourself and be completely out. It was then difficult for me to keep my head in the sport - I did not manage that well. Nevertheless, the injury should not be an excuse.”

Nothing is official yet, but it sounds like Zipser might not dress up in a Bulls uniform next year.