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Butler saves Bulls win after Rose leaves with ankle injury

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Butler saves Bulls win after Rose leaves with ankle injury

With Derrick Rose, everything comes with a caveat, even an encouraging, complete offensive performance.

After his most efficient showing of the season, compiling 23 points with six assists on 9-for-18 shooting, one bad step brought the United Center crowd to a murmur when he came up lame after being fouled on a drive by Monta Ellis.

He tried to shake off the left ankle sprain, staying in the game for the next two possessions, but soon went to the bench and to the locker room for the final five minutes of the Bulls’ 96-95 win over the Indiana Pacers.

He walked to the locker room under his own power, showing an evident but not heavy limp. And all could’ve been lost considering the air had been sucked from the Madhouse, feeling more like a sad house until Jimmy Butler stepped out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

[MORE BULLS: Paul George adds another chapter to comeback tour with Pacers]

Butler had been chasing around a red-hot Paul George for most of the night, and with 5.1 seconds left George had a chance to complete a late comeback with a fadeaway jumper at the free-throw line.

But George couldn’t increase his 27-point night, due to Butler’s outstretched arm that disrupted the last chance for the Pacers, leaving George on the floor complaining and frustrated, sealing the Bulls’ win.

“Just knowing where it’s coming,” Butler said. “PG’s a hell of a player, a tough guard for anybody in this league. I was right there to contest it.”

Butler, in the argument with George and Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio) for the best two-way player in the game not named LeBron James, didn’t necessarily win the individual battle with George, as George added seven rebounds and five assists to his ledger compared to Butler’s 17 points, four assists and three rebounds.

“Paul made a strong move into the lane and made a great move to get open,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “Butler also made a great play defensively. I don’t think there was a foul, he just made a good defensive play."

[MORE BULLS: GIF: Pau Gasol feeds Jimmy Butler for sweet alley-oop]

Butler did hit a late jumper to put the Bulls up three with 1:23 left, temporarily holding off the late charge when the Bulls’ free-flowing offense slowed to a crawl late, scoring just 17 in the fourth.

Making just 20 of 32 free throws contributed to the struggles, as well as Rose’s absence.

“We got stagnant,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We had some time of possession errors. I thought our flow was good all night, we had good pace. Just those last eight minutes we shut it down from the paint. We have to push out the lead and continue to do that.”

Rose’s best all-around performance of the season buoyed the Bulls to an early 13-point lead, as he made both of his 3-point attempts, his last in the fourth quarter when the Bulls were reeling.

“His tempo and his shot was really good,” Hoiberg said. “You could tell that first 3 was going in as soon as it left his hands. He’ll keep getting in better shape. I thought he played terrific.”

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Rose was the key to the high-octane, efficient offense, and he displayed his most efficient basketball of the season. He played fast but under control, got to his sweet spots and followed a trend he began in last spring’s playoffs, using the glass on mid-range shots.

After dominating the game early, taking a 13-point lead due to Rose’s aggressiveness in the first quarter, the Pacers climbed back into the game, mostly due to the shooting of C.J. Miles and George.

Miles hit five triples on the way to 19 points, leaving Hoiberg no choice but to sit Nikola Mirotic, Miles' primary defender, after just 19 minutes.

It left a bit of a hole offensively as the game evolved late, but the defense played off some muscle memory when it counted.

“It was a dogfight,” said Taj Gibson (nine points, 11 rebounds), the only player to play the entire fourth quarter on either side. “We had a lot of plays on offense we usually make. A couple of ins and outs, that didn’t deter from my defense. We got some tough stops late, and that’s the ball game.”

The Bulls shot just 32.5 percent in the second half, and were out-rebounded by the smaller Pacers, 26-23, in that span, all playing a part in the comeback along with George and Ellis catching fire. Each scored 14 after the half, and Ellis finished with 20.

But even Rose’s minor injury couldn’t dampen the optimistic spirit afterwards, as the Bulls reminded themselves they still have a defensive mindset that won’t disappear overnight.

Terry Rozier didn’t know Michael Jordan, Bulls 3-peated twice until ‘Last Dance’

Terry Rozier didn’t know Michael Jordan, Bulls 3-peated twice until ‘Last Dance’

It’s as shocking as it is true.

Terry Rozier, 26 years old and an established NBA player employed by the Charlotte Hornets, did not know that Michael Jordan and the Bulls three-peated twice in the 1990s until viewing “The Last Dance.”

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He confessed as much to Jonathan Abrams of Bleacher Report:

"Just actually seeing this documentary, I learned so much," Rozier told Abrams. "I didn't even know that they (the Bulls) won three straight [championships two times]. I'm just being honest... To do things like that in this league, you have to be super special.”

 

Fact check for all of the above: true. And while undeniably humorous to hear Rozier admit this, the larger piece offers a heartwarming testament to Jordan’s influence from the perspective of Rozier, backcourt-mate Devonte’ Graham, Cody Zeller and other members of the team the Bulls’ great now owns. It's an engaging, worthwhile read.

Rozier even said he could have foreseen himself fighting MJ if, in another life, they somehow found themselves on the same team. “The Steve Kerr route,” as he puts it.

The feature also touches on Jordan and Jordan Brand’s $100 million commitment to social justice causes.

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Bulls offseason watch: Key dates for 2020 NBA Draft, Free Agency

Bulls offseason watch: Key dates for 2020 NBA Draft, Free Agency

Tuesday begins the staggered, three-day voyage of 21 NBA teams to Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Fla. for the 2019-20 season restart (the Raptors have already arrived).

For the Bulls, and Bulls fans, that’s not of direct consequence. Excluded from the bubble, supporters and observers will be limited to loose Bulls ties — enter: Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler — and draft lottery dreaming as the NBA’s best battle for the 2019-20 crown in Orlando.

But that doesn’t mean the next five months, which will comprise an unprecedented offseason in the league’s history, don’t hold significance for the Bulls. A likely third consecutive top-10 draft choice is on the way for the team, as are key contractual deadlines for players currently on the roster and a decision on the future of head coach Jim Boylen.

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There remains much unknown about the 2020 NBA offseason — chiefly, from the Bulls’ perspective, the salary cap, luxury tax line and status of the predraft process, the last of which has been halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Also now in play is the matter of a possible eight-team bubble being constructed in Chicago for the squads not joining the league in Orlando, though there are hurdles galore on that front.

What we do have is a framework of a reported schedule to track through the remainder of the summer and ensuing autumn. Here are some key dates for Bulls fans to watch for the time being (all of which are, of course, subject to change given the potentially fluid nature of the league’s calendar amid the pandemic):

NBA Draft

Aug. 17: Early entry deadline for prospects

The last day for underclassmen not automatically eligible to declare for the NBA draft to state their intentions. Moved back from its original date of April 26, as reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Scott Phillips has you covered tracking who’s already declared or testing the waters.

Aug. 25: Draft Lottery

Typically, the early entry deadline and draft lottery would be nearly two months apart, with the combine sandwiched in between. But with the pandemic moving predraft interviews to Zoom, and live, remote workouts currently prohibited, it appears the league will squeeze both into an eight-day span, also per Wojnarowski.

The Bulls have selected No. 7 three years in a row, using those picks to draft core pieces in Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Coby White. And even as the world erupts into chaos around them, they slot seventh in the lottery ranks once again this season. 

But with the NBA smoothing its lottery odds before the 2019 draft, the Bulls will have a modicum higher of a chance of leaping. They enter the lottery with a 7.5% chance of nabbing the No. 1 pick, 32% shot at vaulting into the top four and 19.7% odds of staying locked at No. 7. They also own mathematical chances at No. 8 (34.1%), No. 9 (12.9%), No. 10 (1.3%) and even 11 (0.03%).

Last nugget of note: This year’s lottery intentionally falls 11 days after the conclusion of the NBA’s eight-game seeding round in Orlando; while the eight teams left out of the bubble are locked into their current slots, the final six teams in the 14-team lottery will be populated by those who fall short of the playoffs. Right now, those six are the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards. If any of them vault into the postseason during the seeding games and play-in round, they’ll flip places with the team they usurp outside of the lottery. Both the lottery order, and the order of selections 15 - 30 will be determined by team record from when the league suspended play on March 11. 

Oct. 6: Early withdrawal deadline for prospects

Any not automatically eligible prospects that declared for the draft on or before Aug. 17 will have the opportunity to rescind that declaration (and maintain NCAA eligibility) on or before Oct. 6, per Wojnarowski.

Oct. 16: 2020 NBA Draft

The draft this year will fall three days after a potential Game 7 of the NBA Finals (Oct. 13), according to Wojnarowski. Broadcast, location and logistical specifics appear to be undetermined as of yet.

RELATED: 2020 NBA Mock Draft 6.0

Option/Offer Deadlines and Extension Eligibilities

From there, a few key decision days for players already on the Bulls’ roster loom. First and certainly not least...

Oct. 17: Otto Porter Jr.’s player option deadline

As reported by ESPN’s Bobby Marks, Otto Porter Jr. will have until Oct. 17 to decide whether or not to exercise his roughly $28.5 million player option for the 2020-21 season. His opting in appears all but a certainty (especially coming off an injury-riddled season in which he appeared in just 14 games, and amid a potentially tumultuous cap environment), and will essentially seal the Bulls’ fate as an over-the-cap team this offseason. 

Heaping that $28.5 million figure onto the Bulls’ books would bring the team’s guaranteed salaries for the 2020-21 season to $106,027,707 (numbers via Spotrac) before addressing restricted free agents or contracts for any draftees. The latest reputable pre-pandemic cap projection, from Wojnarowski, was $115 million, which could now be subject to change.

Oct. 17: Qualifying offer deadline

Also on Oct. 17 is the last day for teams to extend qualifying offers to restricted free agents, per Marks. The Bulls have three: Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine and Shaq Harrison. Full breakdown on the considerations at play for each here.

Oct. 18: Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Porter and Cristiano Felicio become extension eligible

The next day, per Marks, three Bulls starters become extension eligible — Markkanen on a rookie-scale basis, while LaVine and Porter are of the veteran designation.

Markkanen’s case is among the more curious in the league. His third season saw marked regression from his second in usage, opportunity and production, but given his skillset and considerable potential, he still represents a possible building block for the Bulls moving forward. A year ago — assuming expected development — we might have thought we’d be pondering a max for Markkanen at this point. Now, with a new front office regime in place, his market value is anyone’s guess. Maybe Arturas Karnisovas and Markkanen’s representation find an amenable compromise before the start of the 2020-21 season. But perhaps just as likely is Karnisovas wanting to see more from him, and Markkanen taking the opportunity to bet on himself making a leap in a contract year and earning some extra dough, as Jimmy Butler did five years ago.

RELATED: Bulls mailbag: Which free agents fit? Lauri Markkanen extension talks?

LaVine has two years and $39 million remaining on a contract he has become one of the more team-friendly in the league given his production since returning full-time from his ACL tear. Porter and Felicio’s deals enter their final years in 2020-21. Frankly, it’d be surprising to see any of them consummate extensions before Karnisovas and new general manager Marc Eversley get a chance to see the Bulls up close and in action.

Free Agency

Oct. 18: Free Agency opens

According to Wojnarowski, free agency is expected open Oct. 18 at 6 p.m. ET, with the moratorium period running from Oct. 19 - 23, and lifting on Oct. 24.

As mentioned, the Bulls will likely be out of the running for any appreciable cap space when that window opens. But they will have their (as of now) non-taxpayer mid-level exception to work with — possible targets for which you can peruse in K.C. Johnson’s latest mailbag.

And for what it’s worth, that luxury tax line could be worth monitoring. In a tweet Monday, Marks mentioned a previous projection of $139 million for next season’s luxury tax. That projection would have to plunge pretty far for the Bulls to need sweating it out, but in the current climate, who knows what could be on the table? If the Bulls somehow found themselves over that line, the difference in last seasons non-taxpayer and taxpayer MLE was about $3.5 million (~$9.2 million to $5.7 million).

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