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.

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

lavine-and-parker.jpg
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."