Bulls

Free agency likely to be chaotic for Bulls, NBA

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Free agency likely to be chaotic for Bulls, NBA

Veteran swingman Caron Butler's presence at the Berto Center on Monday might lead observers to believe the Bulls are zeroing in on one their prime target in free agency, but according to league sources, the organization is casting a wide net in their pursuit of an upgrade in perimeter scoring. While the return of incumbent starting shooting guard Keith Bogans hasn't been ruled out -- Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and Bogans' backcourt mate, league MVP Derrick Rose each advocated for the veteran last week -- Butler, a native of nearby Racine, Wis., who trains in Chicago at Tim Grover's West Side A.T.T.A.C.K. Athletics facility in the offseason, is among several candidates under consideration.

The 6-foot-7 former All-Star's health is a chief concern, as it remains to be seen if he will regain his previous form. Additionally, the potential acquisition of Butler would likely mean small forward Luol Deng would be forced to at least occasionally defend shooting guards, something he's done in the past, but may not be ideal in every matchup.

Furthermore, whether Butler -- or, for that matter, small forwards Grant Hill and Josh Howard (who is set to visit Chicago in the near future, according to the Washington Post), and shooting guards Jason Richardson, Nick Young and former Bull Jamal Crawford -- would be willing to take a mid-level exception starting at 5 million per season, is another matter up for debate. Aside from Young, the aforementioned players are all veterans who have not won championships and are perhaps willing to sacrifice financially, as they have received major paydays in the past, but could see Chicago as the best opportunity to win a title.

Another name that has been linked to the Bulls in the prelude to what's sure to be a chaotic free-agency process -- beginning Friday, the same day NBA training camps open -- is Mike Dunleavy, a league source told CSNChicago.com. Dunleavy, who most recently played for the Pacers, the Bulls' Central Division rival and first-round playoff opponent last season, differs from some of the other names in that he's a proficient long-range threat, but not as much of a slashing type.

Vince Carter, currently of the Suns, is expected to be waived by Phoenix, freeing up 14 million for the team by ridding them of the former All-Star's contract and giving the Bulls yet another option. It also wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for the Bulls to explore sign-and-trade scenarios -- engaging Atlanta about Crawford and the Nuggets, in regard to shooting guard Arron Afflalo, one of the hottest names on the market as of late, have reportedly been discussed -- or outright trade options, with the likes of Taj Gibson and Ronnie Brewer as bait.

As one veteran free agent told CSNChicago.com via text message, "Teams who wait will pay a premium for guys they could have got early in the process for much cheaper." Such is the price of the NBA's prolonged labor dispute, as well as the waiting game seemingly half the league is playing while anticipating how the bigger dominoes -- such as whether superstars Chris Paul and Dwight Howard are dealt before the season, let alone the destinations of top free agents in the middling class of 2011, like David West, Tyson Chandler and Nene -- will fall.

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

It's been a whirlwind of a summer for point guard Tyler Ulis, but he finally feels like he's found a home. Literally.

The 5-foot-9 point guard was cut by the Suns in late June, latched on with a training camp invite by the Warriors and was subsequently waived on Friday. It was then that Ulis, working out in California, received a call from his agent. He had been claimed on waivers by the Chicago Bulls. His hometown Bulls.

"I grew up watching (the Bulls)," he said after his first practice on Tuesday. "Growing up in this city, you always want to be a Bull and you’re always willing and hoping that you’ll be here one day...I'm home now. It's a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to it."

Ulis is back in Chicago for the first time since he was breaking records for Marian Catholic High School. Ulis became a five-star recruit for the Spartans and in 2014 signed on as the next point guard in the long line of successful floor generals under John Calipari and Kentucky.

Ulis backed up the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, as a freshman but saw his role increase as a sophomore. He blossomed, earning Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the SEC. Only Anthony Davis had ever earned both honors in a single season.

He declared for the 2016 NBA Draft with hopes of becoming a first-round pick. But unlike the Calipari point guards before him, Ulis slipped all the way down to the second round before the Phoenix Suns scooped him up with the 34th pick.

"Honestly I really did think (the Bulls) were going to draft me," Ulis said on Tuesday when recalling the 2016 NBA Draft. The Bulls took Denzel Valentine with the 14th pick. "But I'm here now so that's all that matters."

In 132 games, Ulis averaged 7.6 points and 4.1 assists in 21.1 minutes. He started 58 of those games, and while his shooting left plenty to be desired he handled the offense well and brought that same pesky defense he showed off at Kentucky. It wasn't enough, even for the guard-deprived Suns. They released Ulis before free agency this summer - which ruffled the feathers of franchise guard Devin Booker - in a rather unexpected move.

"My Mom always taught me (to) never expect anything," Ulis said of his release from the Suns. "When you're on a losing team like that anything can happen. I feel like I showed I could play at this level but they went a different way."

The Suns' loss - they may resort to starting 38-year-old Jamal Crawford at point guard this year - could be the Bulls' gain. Expectations should be harnessed for Ulis, especially with him joining the roster this late in the preseason, but the Bulls, like Phoenix, have question marks at the point.

Kris Dunn is entrenched as the starter, but Cameron Payne struggled mightily in the preseason and Ryan Arcidiacono doesn't project as a contributor. That leaves an opening for Ulis to potentially fill on the second unit, and apparently he's making a statement early in practice.

"Tyler had a real good practice," Fred Hoiberg said. "I think I think he changes the pace when he’s out there on the floor. He picks up full-court, he gets up underneath you. He can make a shot. He’s got good vision and can make a play with the ball in his hand. So I was very impressed with his first workout."

Ulis is working on a 45-day two-way contract, so it's unknown how much he'll contribute. He could be shuttled back and forth between Chicago and the Windy City Bulls, but there's certainly an opportunity for him to stick. He'll be playing catch-up and learning on the go, but doing so in his hometown wth friends and family around him for support will work to his advantage.

"Being a smaller guard growing up in a big man’s sport, you get looked over. So I’m the underdog," he said. "And I feel like this team is an underdog, so we should all be excited to get the season started and prove people wrong."