Bulls

Goodwill: Jimmy Butler's desire to stay with Bulls a mark of his stubbornness

Goodwill: Jimmy Butler's desire to stay with Bulls a mark of his stubbornness

Jimmy Butler's stubbornness is now becoming legendary, as he's facing the most perilous time in his career since becoming “Jimmy Butler, All-Star.”

Butler telling the Cleveland Cavaliers “thanks, but no thanks” to a potential trade offer isn't so much of a surprise given Butler's history, the rags-to-riches story that's been told a million times over.

Butler passed on the message to the Cavaliers on Tuesday that he'd rather stay in Chicago, sources tell CSNChicago.com.

It is a surprise given Butler's relationship with the Bulls, a franchise that's seemingly refused to anoint him as the player who will help raise them from mediocrity and to some level of contention.

Turning down a chance to play for a team 12 months removed from a championship and a chance to play with this generation's greatest player is not only a throwback to eras of the past, but it's a testament to Butler's dogged belief in himself.

And although Butler doesn't have veto power in the traditional sense, telling the Cavaliers “no” is sending a tacit message to the other suitors for his services in the Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns and possibly the Denver Nuggets, who have inquired about him in the past.

His message seems to be clear: If I can turn down the Cavaliers, I'll turn down anybody.

It may not be enough to prevent the Bulls from trading him, as a team could see Butler's stance as arbitrary considering he has two years left on his contract as opposed to the one year Paul George has left in Indiana.

But Butler and his representatives have made it clear to the Bulls his preference is to stay and build in Chicago, even if they don't believe in him the same way he believes in himself.

It's not too long ago where the Bulls didn't see fit to pay Butler the $48 million he was asking for after the 2013-14 season, offering $44 million over four years and threatening to play Tony Snell over him, so the charges that Butler isn't good enough to lead a franchise fall on deaf ears when it reaches him.

Whenever Butler crosses a particular threshold and is asked about it, his answer can usually be translated as “I've always known I was going to be this good. You guys are just late.”

So with the Bulls entertaining trade offers before Thursday's draft, Butler's final recourse was to tell the Cavaliers he'd rather load up with his own crew than join LeBron James and his crew to take on the Golden State Warriors.

In this day and age where Kevin Durant is criticized for leaving Oklahoma City to join a so-called “superteam,” Butler wants the Bulls to do something, anything, in the way of competence of team building so his squad can meet James in the playoffs rather than joining him and blending into James' background.

Butler is stubborn enough to believe he can will the Bulls into contention, strong enough in self-belief that he can will himself to stay for a franchise that's indifferent on him and his ability to be a frontline player for a contender.

His stubbornness has gotten him this far and he's not gonna abandon it now, even as the signs are all around suggesting otherwise.

From the Bulls' standpoint, keeping Butler likely means they won't descend to a place in the Eastern Conference where they can obtain one of the top low draft picks, young players with upside at an affordable price. Trading him allows them to start over in a loaded draft and if they make the right deal, receive a treasure trove of potential high first-round picks in exchange.

So in essence it's a team appearing to be more aggressive in wanting to move its star and the star player being more aggressive in wanting to stay, a battle of wills of sorts.

And if the Bulls decide to trade Butler despite his obvious desire to stay and subject himself to yearly rumors and innuendo, it makes the Bulls look bad in a sense considering they have long bemoaned their inability to lure star players in their prime while trading an unlikely star in the middle of his prime to hit the reset button.

Of the 15 All-NBA members, only Butler plays for a franchise that isn't contending or actively making moves with the thought of contending in mind. The New Orleans Pelicans haven't surrounded the best team around Anthony Davis, but they did acquire DeMarcus Cousins with that thought in mind. The Utah Jazz and Milwaukee Bucks are not yet anything more than scary, but they have identified their franchise players and are working within some of the limitations presented by their respective markets.

Butler is supposed to meet with teammate Dwyane Wade in Paris this week, where Wade will likely impart some veteran wisdom on his teammate about taking control of his career in the same way Wade has.

In discussions with management, Butler and Wade expressed the belief that the Bulls aren't big moves away but the right moves from taking another step in development.

Whether the Bulls are confident enough to identify those pieces and acquire them in the meantime remains to be seen, but Butler has played the best hand he has as the clock continues to tick on the Bulls leading to draft night.

And in Butler's career, he can't foresee himself losing a battle of wills, even if he doesn't have the best hand.

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Anyone who lived through the Michael Jordan Bulls remembers those games when he was putting up tons of points, but the Bulls were still struggling overall.

Steve Kerr referenced one of those games to give advice to Kevin Durant during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The TNT broadcast caught the conversation and aired it late in the third quarter.

"When MJ was with the Bulls, we had a playoff game," Kerr began the story. "He kept trying to score and he was scoring, but we weren't getting anything going. Phil Jackson said 'Who's open?' He said, 'John Paxson.'"

Paxson scored 10 of 12 points for the Bulls during a fourth quarter run in Game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals, the series clincher, and famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch that series. Kerr, who later hit his own championship-winning shot on an assist from Jordan in 1997, was trying to get to get his teammates involved.

"I want to trust your teammates early," Kerr said. "What you're doing is you're getting to the rim and then you're trying to hit him. I want you to trust the first guy and then move. Still attack, still look to score, but trust these guys, OK?"

Watch the video above to see the interaction.

Durant scored 29 points in Game 5 to lead the Warriors, but Houston took a 3-2 series lead with a 98-94 win.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

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USA TODAY

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

John Calipari's 2017 recruiting class featured five McDonald's All-Americans and Hamidou Diallo, a former five-star recruit who nearly jumped to the NBA the previous year. It also included a lanky 6-foot-6 point guard named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And for the first part of the 2017-18 season, the Toronto native who played his final two high school years in Tennessee, appeared to be a nice fit off the bench for Calipari.

But something flipped. Gilgeous-Alexander was inserted into the starting lineup for good on January 9 and never looked back. He played his best basketball beginning in late February to the end of the season, a span of 10 games against eight NCAA Tournament opponents. In those games Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists. He shot 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from deep and 84 percent from the free throw line, and added 1.4 steals in nearly 38 minutes per game for good measure. He was one of the best players in the country, and on a team with five McDonald's All-Americans, he was Calipari's best freshman.

"I knew with how hard I worked that anything was possible," SGA said at last week's NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. "It was just a matter of time before it started clicking and I started to get it rolling."

That stretch included a 17-point, 10-assist double-double against Ole Miss, a 29-point showing against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, and 27 more points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Buffalo. Even in his worst game of the stretch, a 15-point effort against Kansas State in the Tournament, he made up for 2 of 10 shooting by getting to the free throw line 12, converting 11 of them.

It made his decision to make the jump to the NBA an easy one - that, and another loaded Calipari recruiting class incoming. He stands taller than just about any other point guard in the class and might have as good a jump shot as any. He's adept at getting to the rim, averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game (that number jumped to 5.6 after he became a starter, and 7.5 in those final 10 games of the season. He isn't the quickest guard in the class, but he uses his feet well, is able to find open shooters due to his height and improved on making mistakes on drive-and-kicks as the season went on.

"I think I translate really well to the next level with there being so much more space on the floor and the open court stretched out," he said. "It only benefits me and my ability to get in the lane and make plays."

There's something to be said for him being the next in line of the Calipari point guards. The ever-growing list includes players like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Murray and DeAaron Fox. It's the NBA's version of Penn State linebackers or Alabama defensive linemen. The success rate is nearly 100 percent when it comes to Calipari's freshmen point guards; even Brandon Knight averaged 18.1 points over a three-year span in the NBA.

"That’s why guys go to Kentucky," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "It prepares them for the next level. Coach (Calipari) does a really good job, especially with point guards, getting them ready for that next level in a short amount of time."

Gilgeous-Alexander didn't test or play in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, but he still came out of Chicago a winner. He measured 6-foot-6 in shoes with a ridiculous 6-foot-11 1/2 wingspan, a full three inches longer than any other point guard at the Combine. He also added, rather uniquely, that he watches of film Kawhi Leonard playing defense. Most players don't mention watching film on different-position players; most players aren't 6-foot-6 point guards.

"(It's) obviously a more versatile league and playing small ball. And with me being able to guard multiple positions, a lot of teams are switching things like the pick and roll off ball screens, so me being able to switch and guard multiple positions can help an organization."

Gilgeous-Alexander's arrow is pointing way up. He appears to be teetering near Lottery pick status, though that could go one way or the other in private team workouts, especially if he's pitted against fellow top point guards like Trae Young and Collin Sexton. But if his rise at Kentucky is any indication, he'll only continue to improve his game, his stock and eventually his draft position.