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Butler waves bye-bye to Clips, hello to Bulls

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Butler waves bye-bye to Clips, hello to Bulls

Thursday, March 3, 2011Posted: 2:12 p.m. Updated: 11:51 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

ORLANDO--He may not be the high-profile name Bulls fans longed for, but with all of the buzz in the Windy City about the acquisition of Rasual Butler, one wouldn't know the difference. Truth be told, if the Bulls suited up one of their three assistant coaches that used to play in the NBA--Ed Pinckney or former Bulls Adrian Griffin and Rick Brunson--there would probably be a similar hullabaloo.

That's no knock on Butler, a solid NBA player throughout his eight-year pro career (as were the aforementioned trio), but the state of excitement surrounding the Bulls these days is such that even the signing of a player that saw limited minutes for the Clippers before being bought out--don't read too much into the fact that he averaged only five points per game for a team already out of the playoff chase, as Butler has playoff experience and put up almost 12 points an outing just a season ago, a career-high number--garners significant attention. That's the mark of an acknowledged contender, regardless of some observers continuing to insist they're supposedly flying under the radar.

Think about it: Chicago has the league's MVP frontrunner in All-Star point guard Derrick Rose, a Coach of the Year favorite in first-year head coach Tom Thibodeau and with a fully-healthy roster--specifically the inside tandem of power forward Carlos Boozer and center Joakim Noah--for the first time all season, the Bulls have rightfully become the NBA's "it" team of the moment. Add in Luol Deng having his best all-around (and injury-free) season, a cast of selfless and capable role players, a deeply-ingrained defensive identity, a beautifully team-oriented brand of basketball and a short memory of both highs and lows--which will be tested in the aftermath of Wednesday's disappointing collapse in Atlanta--and preseason prognostications of merely advancing to the postseason's second round seem like an insult.

However, to quote a fictional superhero's uncle, with great power comes great responsibility and as superhuman as Rose appears on some nights, the 22-year-old has just two teammates, ancient veteran Kurt Thomas and little-used fan favorite Brian Scalabrine, that have appeared in the NBA Finals, which has increasingly gained steam as a realistic goal for the Bulls. It's not a now-or-never thing for Chicago, not with a large window for the team's core nucleus--in addition to Rose, Noah and Deng are both only 25, while Boozer, at 29, in his prime--but if indications that the other Eastern Conference powers (Miami, Boston, Orlando and now New York) have exploitable flaws are correct, then, as Rose famously queried on media day, "Why not?"

Which brings us back to Butler. No, the 6-foot-7 swingman isn't a game-changing player on his own, but in the arms race that's occurred in the East since the whirlwind trade deadline and has carried over to lockout-driven buyouts, the sharpshooter could be another valuable weapon.

Opposing defenses will undoubtedly gear up to stop Rose's penetration and clog the lane, which serves the dual purpose of helping to neutralize Boozer and Noah (not to mention active young big men Taj Gibson and Omer Asik) on the interior. While Rose has greatly improved his jumper, Boozer is a threat from the mid-post, Deng has extended his range and Noah can knock down the occasional 15-footer, the Bulls' lone true long-ball specialist is currently Kyle Korver.

The addition of Butler, a career 36-percent shooter from deep, provides Chicago with another deep threat, as well as an adequate defender at both wing spots, something essential if he intends to crack Thibodeau's rotation. While he isn't a great shot-creator, his length, experience and ability to play off elite playmakers--Butler thrived as a catch-and-shoot player with Chris Paul in New Orleans--will, at the very least, give the Bulls added depth for the upcoming battles of the postseason.

Sure, picking up Butler--not the defender Ronnie Brewer is and slightly below the caliber of marksman Korver is, but able to do a little bit of what each backup swingman brings to the table--isn't the big, over-the-top splash some had hoped for, but the Bulls have potentially improved, at little to no risk, without mortgaging their future, namely Gibson or Asik. And in April and May (maybe even June), the benefit of a seemingly small move could be bigger than expected.
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

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USA TODAY

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

If you haven't heard, Neil Funk is cutting 20 road games from his 2018-19 Bulls' play-by-play schedule.

Friday, the Bulls announced that Adam Amin, Andy Demetra and Kyle Draper will fill in for Funk for the first five of those games.

Amin, a play-by-play commentator for ESPN, will games on Oct. 22 against the Mavericks and Nov. 14 against the Celtics. He grew up in Addison, resides in Chicago and also does play-by-play for Bears preseason games.

Demetra is from Oak Brook and currently is the play-by-play broadcaster for Georgia Tech basketball and football. He will call games on Oct. 26 against the Hornets and Oct. 27 against the Hawks. He has previous play-by-play experience with the SEC Network, Pac-12 Network and Fox Sports South.

Draper will call the Bulls' Nov. 7 game against the Pelicans. He is the Celtics' pregame and postgame host for NBC Sports Boston and an occasional play-by-play annoucer and sideline reporter for the Celtics.

The Bulls said they will continue providing updates on substitute broadcasters as they are scheduled.

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

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USA TODAY

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

Finishing 9th in the Eastern Conference last season cost Stan Van Gundy his job as Pistons head coach and President of Basketball Operations. Van Gundy was replaced on the bench by 2017-18 Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, who was fired after the Raptors were swept by Cleveland in the conference semi-finals.

Casey’s job in Detroit is to find a way to develop the young players on the roster while getting the team to the playoffs. He has a pair of All-Star caliber players in the front court, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, along with highly-paid, erratic point guard Reggie Jackson.

Griffin has battled injuries in recent seasons, but Van Gundy decided to roll the dice at mid-season a year ago by trading Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley AND a 1st round pick to the Clippers for the former slam dunk champion in a desperate bid to save his job. The trade didn’t work out for Van Gundy, but it’s possible Griffin could enjoy a resurgence in Detroit this season.

The 29-year-old power forward scored 26 points, pulled down eight rebounds and dished out six assists in the Pistons’ 103-100 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Drummond had a monster game with 24 points and 20 rebounds. As Bulls fans know all too well, Drummond has made the 20 rebound game commonplace when facing Fred Hoiberg’s squad in recent years.

As for Jackson, a severely sprained right ankle limited him to just 45 games last season, probably costing Detroit a chance to make the playoffs. The 8th year pro is lightning quick, with the ability to disrupt defenses by getting into the paint and challenging bigger defenders at the rim. Jackson scored 19 points in the season opener against Brooklyn, and he’ll be a problem for the Bulls Saturday night, especially if Kris Dunn is unavailable.

Casey is still trying to figure out how to use the rest of the roster Van Gundy built, with recent 1st round pick Henry Ellenson and former rotation player Jon Leuer getting DNP-CD’s against the Nets. Meanwhile, two other expected rotation players, small forward Stanley Johnson and swingman Reggie Bullock missed the opener because of injuries.

That left second year guard Luke Kennard and 2018 2nd round draft pick Bruce Brown as the other starters in game one, something that’s unlikely to continue once everyone’s healthy.

So, how do the Bulls even their record at 1-1 on Saturday? Here are my three keys:

1. Keep Drummond and Griffin off the offensive boards. This is much easier said than done. Drummond in particular is relentless going after missed shots, and his bulk will cause problems for 19 year old rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Hoiberg hinted at possible line-up changes on Friday morning, which could include starting veteran Robin Lopez at center to battle Drummond inside. Griffin has turned into more of a jump shooter now and doesn’t have the multiple jump capability that characterized his early seasons in the NBA, but he’s still a threat to create 2nd shot opportunities.

2. Close out on three-point shooters. Of all the defensive issues for the Bulls in Philadelphia on Thursday, losing touch with shooters in transition was probably the most troublesome. Robert Covington seemed to be open at the three-point line throughout the game, and Bulls players struggled to handle cross-match situations. Kennard had one of the best games of his rookie season against the Bulls, and Jackson, Ish Smith and Langston Galloway are all capable of heating up from long distance.

3. Attack Detroit’s interior defense. The Bulls were at their best offensively in the first quarter against Philadelphia when they drove to the basket to set up easy scoring chances. Zach LaVine was getting to the rim at will in scoring 15 of his 30 points in the opening 12 minutes, and his penetration also set up Bobby Portis for open looks from the three-point line. Hopefully, Dunn will return to stabilize the point guard position and give the Bulls' first unit another shot creator so they can sustain their pace and scoring potential over four quarters.

Saturday’s home opener is definitely winnable against a Detroit team still finding its way under a new coaching staff. Better effort and attention to detail on the defensive end along with a fast-paced, drive and kick offensive attack should make for an exciting opening night at the United Center.

Make sure to join Kendall Gill, Will Perdue, Kelly Crull and me for a special one hour edition of Bulls Pre-Game Live at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago and the new My Teams app, followed by the play by play call with Neil Funk and Stacey King at 7 p.m. And, stay tuned after the final buzzer for reaction and analysis on an expanded edition of Bulls Postgame Live.