Bulls

Bulls: Tables turn for Jimmy Butler in restricted free agency

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Bulls: Tables turn for Jimmy Butler in restricted free agency

Rubber, meet road.

While Bulls general manager Gar Forman intimated the Jimmy Butler situation would be resolved sooner rather than later at the announcement following the selection of first-round draft pick Bobby Portis, actions still had to follow from both sides.

The Bulls fired the first salvo, so to speak, in extending a qualifying offer and maximum qualifying offer to their restricted free agent. A maximum qualifying offer essentially limits Butler’s options as far as seeking an offer sheet from a prospective suitor, as the Collective Bargaining Agreement prevents a team from offering anything less than a three-year contract (which the Bulls will assuredly match) but it can’t contain any early termination options.

The Bulls don’t believe Butler wants out of Chicago like the rumor mill has suggested in recent weeks, but extending the maximum qualifying offer certainly gives the impression they were at least concerned about the possibility.

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In this era of the CBA, that mechanism hasn’t been used, and rarely has a player of Butler’s caliber actually signed the initial qualifying offer—which on par, causes a player to lose money that will be hard to recoup with a very limited time to maximize earnings’ potential.

Detroit’s Greg Monroe rolled the dice on it last summer, turning down a deal in excess of $50 million when the Pistons wouldn’t trade him, choosing to sign a qualifying offer that would grant him unrestricted free agency while playing for just $5.4 million.

Monroe was dealing with a different set of circumstances than Butler, choosing not to take a chance on a new coach and new regime in Stan Van Gundy after years of losing and frustration.

Butler will have a new coach this season in Fred Hoiberg, but that could save his body from leading the league in minutes as he did under Tom Thibodeau, and he knows the Bulls’ brain trust very well.

Add to it, the Bulls have made the playoffs every year and seemingly have been on the doorstep of conference supremacy, as Butler has progressed and developed every year since entering the league in 2011.

Perhaps it’s as simple as Butler wanting to hear how much other teams want him. After all, he wasn’t heavily recruited coming out of high school, having to enroll at junior college before going to Marquette, where he had to fight to become the last pick of the first round.

Heck, his contract negotiations before the season with the Bulls were contentious enough, as the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement—one that if the Bulls signed him to would be an outright bargain for the next four seasons.

So now, Butler finally has a say—somewhat.

He bet on himself to become a bonafide All-Star this season, heard “MVP” chants during fourth quarters of playoff games and now doesn’t have to beg for what he believes he’s rightly earned.

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Butler can take meetings with other franchises, although the current setup makes it hard for even the most interested team to come forward because of how impossible it is to obtain his services now. But he can sit back and listen to how coveted he is, how he’d be featured as a star should the opportunity present itself and for the first time in a very long time, Butler doesn’t have to fight.

He can weigh his options, and take the five-year, $90 million deal that has the potential to set his family up for life—or accept a shorter contract in order to catch the huge windfall that will hit the salary cap due to the new TV contracts in the next couple of years.

Whether he wants to get out of Chicago is immaterial at this point, which will only be displayed if he takes the one-year qualifying offer of around $4.4 million just to be free next summer.

What matters is Butler will be in a Bulls uniform next year playing for Hoiberg, being able to deal with the outcome of a situation he dictated—to a degree.

He won’t be begging or wondering, he will have seen all of his desirable options laid in front of him, being treated like the prize instead of the afterthought.

For once, everyone will be marching to his beat—which could be enough.

Hoiberg, Bulls already facing touch decisions on Opening Night

Hoiberg, Bulls already facing touch decisions on Opening Night

The Bulls’ starting point guard missing the team’s season opener is less than ideal, but that is the dilemma Fred Hoiberg and company are faced with.
 
Hoiberg made the announcement during shoot around that Kris Dunn would miss the first game of his third NBA season for personal reasons, but noted that his absence is “excused.” 
 
The Bulls will turn to Cameron Payne as they get set to play the Sixers in Philadelphia Thursday night. The 24-year-old guard out of Murray State will be tasked with running the offense against one of the better defensive teams in the league.
 
Because of injuries and the numbers game at guard, Payne hasn’t had a chance to show Bulls fans much since he came over from Oklahoma City in a trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder.
 
“I feel like I can be way better,” Payne said when asked about the opportunity to show what he can do. “I know I didn’t make a lot of shots but it’s really not about that. It’s about getting my team involved and make sure everyone gets the ball in their spots to contribute.”
 
Payne showed flashes over the last 22 games of the 2017-18 season (14 starts), shooting 42 percent from three and averaging 4.6 assists per game in that stretch. The shooting stroke didn’t show up early in the preseason for Payne. 
 
He was better in the team’s final exhibition against Denver and has shown enough to Hoiberg to earn the starting nod. He’ll have his work cut out for him tonight.
 
“Obviously we’ve been working on different coverages based on having a full roster, but things like this happen,” Hoiberg said when asked what this does to his game prep. “It’s going to be electric in here. They’re going to come out and play extremely hard and extremely physical. That’s who they are and we have to be ready for that. It’s a little bit of shock and awe with (the Sixers). You have to weather that first storm and hopefully give ourselves a chance with great effort.”
 
After Payne, the Bulls will have Ryan Arcidiacono as the first point guard off the bench. They’ll also have the services of newcomer Tyler Ulis, who will be in uniform tonight. Hoiberg mentioned that he feels comfortable with Zach Lavine bringing the ball up as well. He also mentioned that Jabari Parker will have his hands on the ball an awful lot with the team’s second unit.
 
The season hasn’t even started yet and the Bulls are already missing several key players. After an impressive rookie season, Lauri Markkanen will start the season on the shelf with a high grade lateral elbow sprain. Denzel Valentine will also miss tonight’s game with an ankle injury. The team may have Cristiano Felicio, also dealing with an ankle injury, depending on his pregame workout goes.
 
“It’s not ideal but it is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “It happens at this level. You just have to go out and do the best job you can. It’s an opportunity for our guys to step up with two of our better players out of the lineup – really three with Denzel as a guy that can make plays in that second unit.”   

Bulls will open against Sixers without Kris Dunn

Bulls will open against Sixers without Kris Dunn

The Bulls faced a steep test opening their 2018-19 campaign against the Philadelphia 76ers.

That task won't become any easier with Kris Dunn missing the game for personal reasons, head coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters at shootaround on Thursday.

Dunn's exlusion opens up an opportunity for Cameron Payne, who will enter the starting lineup. Payne started 14 games for the Bulls last season, averaging 9.4 points and 5.6 assists in 26.5 minutes.

It also moves up Ryan Arcidiacono and Tyler Ulis, both of whom will be active, in the rotation. Expect both to see at least some playing time, especially with Denzel Valentine also out while recovering from a sprained ankle suffered in training camp.

It could mean an even bigger evening for Sixers point guard Ben Simmons. The reigning Rookie of the Year posted 19 points, 15 rebounds and 8 assists in Philly's season-opening loss to the Celtics on Tuesday.