Butler sits out shootaround with soreness, continues to battle


Butler sits out shootaround with soreness, continues to battle

Jimmy Butler’s return was billed as a team’s best player coming back to save the day, but clearly the Bulls’ All-Star guard isn’t right physically as he recovers from his left knee strain.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg revealed after Monday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks that Butler didn’t participate in the morning shootaround with soreness.

“Jimmy is probably not telling you everything, but he is sore,” Hoiberg said. “He’s out there battling through pain. He didn’t participate this morning because of his body. He has overall soreness and stiffness in his back. Nothing wrong structurally but he just has some overall soreness.”

Butler tried to play it off later after reporters left his locker, but clearly he’s not right.

“My body’s fine, man,” said Butler to CSNChicago.com. “They told me to sit out shootaround. I gotta keep going man. It’s a tough stretch. Gotta keep my body going. If I’m out on the floor, I gotta help us win.”

Butler had a couple explosive plays and was active on defense but struggled through a five for 16 shooting performance, scoring 15 with nine rebounds and four assists in 35 minutes.

“Uhh, I’m alright,” said Butler with a wry smile when asked about his health after the game.\

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Butler’s high-water scoring mark was 24 points in his initial return game against the Houston Rockets on March 5, and he has struggled mightily with the 3-point shot. In the nine games since his return from seeing Dr. James Andrews about his knee, Butler has shot 3-18 from 3-point range (16.6 percent), and that’s including his 2-7 showing Monday, where he hit a corkscrew triple while Paul Millsap fouled him.

It was Butler who Hoiberg drew up the Bulls’ last good chance at tying the game, despite the percentages.

“It’s tough down the stretch when plays don’t go the way you want them to go,” Butler said. “Then you just gotta do things on the fly. We took good shots, some went in, some didn’t. That’s basketball for you.”

Hoiberg was perhaps vouching for Butler considering Butler’s play hasn’t been up to his standards and Butler’s pride is likely taking a big hit considering the high stakes.

“He’s out there continuing to battle and made that huge four-point play for us late,” Hoiberg said. “He is going to give us everything he has. We’ll see how he’s doing in the morning and hopefully get a good effort.”

When Butler was asked where his body is on an 100 percent scale, he stated the cold, hard truth from his perspective.

“Percentage don’t matter,” Butler said to CSNChicago.com “If I’m on the floor I gotta help us win.”


Bulls will sign player to 2-way contract, but NBA roster is set for now

USA Today

Bulls will sign player to 2-way contract, but NBA roster is set for now

The Bulls waived Milton Doyle, Justin Simon and Simisola Shittu Saturday, which is minor news since they were mostly camp bodies competing for possibly a two-way contract.

The bigger development is that the Bulls’ roster is basically set, pending the signing of one player to the second two-way contract still available. No Iman Shumpert. No Alfonzo McKinnie. And that’s just naming two hometown products recently linked to the Bulls via the rumor mill.

The Bulls still want to see what they have in Chandler Hutchison, who did some individual shooting Saturday but missed all training camp with a hamstring injury. Denzel Valentine, currently out of the rotation, is staying ready.

And Shaq Harrison, who missed all five preseason games with his own hamstring injury but now is fully practicing, remains a Jim Boylen favorite.

And that’s what the roster staying set for now is about as much as anything. The buy-in Boylen has received from players dating to voluntary September workouts and bonds that have formed could be disrupted by the waiving of someone like Harrison, whose contract isn’t fully guaranteed but his commitment is.

While the Bulls recognize proven wing depth is a question mark, they value Harrison’s toughness and defensive ability. If Hutchison or Harrison or Valentine---if he gets an opportunity---don’t produce, perhaps a move could be made at a later date.

But expect only the signing of a second player to a two-way contract to join Adam Mokoka for now.

“We’ve been talking about that,” Boylen said. “We’re working on that. We’ve got our list and have reached out to some people. We’re actively in process.”

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Lauri Markkanen is focused on team, not individual, goals for Bulls

Lauri Markkanen is focused on team, not individual, goals for Bulls

You can’t put Lauri Markkanen in a box.

Just as you can’t pigeonhole one of the faces of the Bulls’ franchise offensively, you won’t get him to bite on any statistical goals for himself. As the outside world clamors for him and Zach LaVine to represent the Bulls at All-Star weekend in Chicago, Markkanen is focused on team goals.

“We haven’t made it to the playoffs and haven’t won many games since we’ve been here,” Markkanen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago following Saturday’s practice, alluding to himself, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. “That really bothers us. So we want to win first.”

In fact, as Markkanen fielded questions about a preseason that featured him playing more as a spot-up shooter than the dynamic, double-double machine that defined his February 2019, he shifted the focus to defense and rebounding.

Ho and hum, indeed.

“You’re trying to get me to say 22 (points) and 12 (rebounds) and 3 assists,” Markkanen said, smiling. “I don’t have those kinds of goals. I want to get our wins from 22 to whatever. And I want to get our home wins from nine to whatever. I’m not putting a number on those either. But I think guys are doing a good job of making unselfish plays and making the extra pass. We’re coming together as a team.”

In fact, Markkanen said, at least for now, his only individual goals are to “stay healthy and be consistent.” He reiterated his stance from media day that his goal is to play all 82 games after averaging 60 games his first two seasons.

“I wanted to focus on defense more this preseason and I was a little disappointed in myself in that regard early in preseason. But I watched a lot of film and I think I had my learning moments and I think I got better as preseason moved on,” Markkanen said. “I’ve talked to Coach. We both expect rebounding from me. I think we’re going to be really good offensively. It’s at a high level now, and we’re deeper. If we rebound and can limit their possessions, we have a chance to be really good.”

Don’t mistake Markkanen’s aversion to setting statistical goals for submissiveness. Early in the interview, he called his preseason “maybe not as great as I wanted to play” and acknowledged he needs to increase his free-throw attempts by getting to the rim more.

Of Markkanen’s 42 shots, 24 came from beyond the arc and he attempted just seven free throws in close to 91 preseason minutes. That average of 1.8 free-throw attempts in his four preseason games pales in comparison to the 3.8 he averaged last season.

“I haven’t got to the rim as much. I’m conscious of that. Those are easy points for us,” Markkanen said. “(Driving) is still available to me. But defenses are loading up on me more and trying not to let me get downhill. And we’re not in the post as much (offensively) as we used to be. We’re shooting a lot of 3s.”

Markkanen smiled again as he said this, so it’s clear he likes the Bulls’ approach. He also remains confident his varied offensive game will be on display at some point.

“I don’t always talk to him about his offense to be honest with you,” coach Jim Boylen said. “I talk to him about defending and rebounding and handling the ball. I’ve shown him some of his decisions in transition where he’s handled the ball.

“I want him to compete at the defensive end, rebound, handle the ball and everything else to me takes care of itself. I know he’s going to make shots. Historically, he’s been better when the lights come on.”

Those lights get flipped on for real Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C. You can’t put Markkanen in a box. But he can put pressure on himself to help the Bulls make the playoffs.

“I have really high expectations of myself,” he said. “That’s what keeps me going. I want to win."