Bulls

Bulls: Until Rose and Butler succeed together, speculation will always loom

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Bulls: Until Rose and Butler succeed together, speculation will always loom

Two things are for certain in this pseudo Derrick Rose-Jimmy Butler issue, if there is in fact, an issue between the backcourt members (for which there's no definitive evidence).

One, this talk will continue, no matter how unfounded the rumors are or how much it's rooted in conjecture and innuendo, until Rose comes back on the floor and elevates his play to the point that makes the talk moot.

Rose is at the point where only his play will shut up his critics and anything he says will be fodder for those who swear by the school of thought that he doesn’t get it and will never return to anything resembling his younger self.

Secondly, and this is something both parties should know already, which is the Bulls can’t get to where they want to be in the postseason unless Rose and Butler are at optimum efficiency.

[SHOP: Buy a Jimmy Butler hoodie]

Neither is good enough on his own to overthrow LeBron James. Neither is at the top level of superstardom, where one’s presence alone lifts all tides.

Only James, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis and on a really good day, Chris Paul, do that singularly. Everyone else at this point needs a player of similar talent (not skill) to aid in making every single teammate better.

No matter how many times both deny there’s any existence of a feud or real issues, it’s gonna be there. Unfortunately, the age of new media dictate there’s a good guy and a bad guy, and right now everything Butler says about asserting himself as a leader will be viewed as a referendum on a perceived lack of leadership from Rose’s end.

Or worse, that Butler’s words are somehow aimed at Rose because of this perceived rift between the two.

[MORE: Bulls launch 39 triples in preseason win over Bucks]

Stemming from the events of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals when the Bulls, for lack of a prettier word, quit in the second half against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the rumors began to fly.

Rose and Butler had a strange energy around them in the second half, but so did everyone else wearing white that night. It was evident, from the officials to the coaching staff to the diehards who witnessed it, that the Bulls en masse didn’t have it that night.

Whether it was the drama from the outside surrounding their coach engulfed the team or the fact playing against James and his merry men were so relentless, the Bulls made a collective decision not to go back to Cleveland for a decisive Game 7, it was clear the Bulls didn’t have the requisite intensity for such a moment.

If it happens again, or at any point during the season, Rose and Butler should be held accountable. Highest-paid backcourt requires those two stand on the front line together, no matter how they feel about each other — and again, there’s zero evidence the two have an issue with each other.

There’s also little evidence the two know how to maximize production with the other on the floor because the sample size isn’t there. Both men spent time on the sidelines last season and only in the playoffs were they able to play in concert — not the optimum time to figure out each other’s tendencies.

It’s like getting to know your spouse after you get married, it’s a recipe for a quick divorce.

[ALSO: McDermott shakes off slow start, shines in preseason opener]

And although this Rose-Butler pairing is a basketball marriage, this season will be as much about getting to know one another in a basketball sense than it is figuring out if they can work together.

Butler is a max player who’s emerging. Rose is a former MVP looking to reclaim standing in the league but very much has an uncertain present and future.

Both have to get to know each other under those circumstances and none else.

Butler wants to be a leader because there’s room for it.

Rose has never proclaimed himself to be a vocal leader and none of his teammates have referred to him as such. They’ve said “we follow Derrick”, which is said much in the vein of Rose’s reputation as a MVP player and his play more than him actually being a galvanizing force in the locker room.

So when Butler says he wants to be a vocal leader, it’s likely more a thought concerning the void left by the barking from the sidelines with Tom Thibodeau leaving town. It was Thibodeau’s team more than it was a player-run club in recent years, partly due to his strong personality but also because there’s been plenty of roster turnover during that time no one personality would have the tenure to be a vocal leader if he even had the personality for it.

The players who’ve been here, it doesn’t fit what they do best. Taj Gibson is a grinder. He plays hard, plays consistently but isn’t trying to fill that role.

Joakim Noah leads in some form, more emotionally than vocally.

But look up and down the roster to see who Butler could possibly usurp as a vocal leader.

There doesn’t appear to be anyone preventing him from asserting himself vocally.

With Butler’s new status comes inherent responsibility — the equal responsibility on making his on-court relationship with Rose work.

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.