Though the Bulls were pleased to talk about the selection of Bobby Portis as a first-round pick, a first-round selection from 2011 wasn’t far from anybody’s mind as Gar Forman and Fred Hoiberg addressed the media on Thursday night.
Jimmy Butler’s impending free agency — restricted free agency, it should be said — will be priority No. 1 come July 1, as all the rumors about Butler possibly looking for a shorter contract will be met with intent.
“Our goal all along is to have Jimmy here long-term, and we feel real confident in our situation, how well he fits and that Jimmy’s comfortable in Chicago,” Forman said.
Butler’s supposed friction with Derrick Rose was addressed, as there was loud speculation about the two’s on-court relationship developing issues during the Bulls’ playoff run, most notably in Game 6 of their second-round playoff loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I’ve read about the friction. I haven’t seen it,” Forman said. “We talked to Jimmy all the time. Jimmy’s been in the building. We talk about a number of things, not only with Jimmy and Derrick but with all our players. There’s no reason at all that those two, their games shouldn’t fit together perfectly. “
Hoiberg, though he hasn’t coached either yet but has talked with both in his early weeks of taking over, believes he can devise an offensive scheme that maximizes what both can do without leaving one to feel the other is infringing on his territory or space on the floor.
“And I think in both of our minds you have two guys who want to attack, who want to run, who want to play off the dribble, can playmake for themselves or others,” Forman said. “They haven’t had a chance to do it a whole lot because of the injuries. There’s no reason those two shouldn’t be able to play off each other and be one of the best backcourts in the league.”
Hoiberg: “I agree. I think they complement each other beautifully. I’m looking forward to putting those guys in spots where they can continue to be All-Star caliber players.”
It’s believed Butler wants a shorter contract so that he can both maximize his ability to get a larger contract when the salary cap rises starting next summer and perhaps to get out from under Rose’s shadow, if there’s such a thing.
If he wants a two-year deal, it coincides with Rose’s contract expiring as well as Pau Gasol’s deal coming to a close, perhaps not wanting to be stuck through a possible rebuilding process if the Bulls can’t remain competitive.
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“Our goal is on July 1 to sit down with him and hopefully come to a deal in a timely fashion," Forman said. "We’ll sit down and talk about that and talk about what he’s looking for and what we’re looking for and hopefully come to something where it’s beneficial to both sides and go from there. Obviously Jimmy is a huge, huge part of what we’re doing, and we’ll do everything we can and anticipate him being in Chicago.”
The Bulls have control of the situation, to a degree, with Butler’s restricted status. If Butler and the Bulls can’t come to a long-term agreement, Butler can bet on himself, as he did this past fall when he and the Bulls couldn’t agree on an extension, and take the one-year qualifying offer that will grant him true free agency in July 2016.
There’s other options for both sides, such as Butler finding a team that will tie up their cap to sign Butler to an offer sheet that the Bulls will certainly match (not likely) or the Bulls extending what’s called a “maximum qualifying offer,” which has never been done in this era of collective bargaining but could be to the Bulls’ benefit (likely).
As with everything that happens with the Bulls, all roads lead to something Rose-related. And like everything with the Bulls, future dealings have question marks all around, despite the likelihood Butler will be in Chicago for at least one season — they just want the partnership to be an extended, fruitful one.