Bulls

Hard work this off-season pays off for Butler in summer league debut

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Hard work this off-season pays off for Butler in summer league debut

LAS VEGAS After being deprived of a summer league heading into his rookie season due to the NBA lockout, Jimmy Butler made the most of his Sin City professional debut Tuesday night. The second-year swingman scored 25 points in an impressive, assertive fashion he drove to the hole relentlessly and was awarded for his aggression, as he got to the free-throw line 12 times, making 10 attempts from the charity stripe in the Bulls loss to the Celtics but more importantly, he reaped the benefits of his hard work.
Even during his debut campaign, Butler was lauded by teammates and coaches alike for his diligent workout routine and with mentor Ronnie Brewer, waived by the Bulls and sharpshooter Kyle Korver in Atlanta, hes now earmarked for a significant role as a backup wing on a team that doesnt have any other options on the roster behind incumbent starters Rip Hamilton and Luol Deng. Thats likely to change as the Bulls continue to search for free-agent options, but Butler will certainly factor into the rotation next season, especially if he continues to make steady progress.
I was just trying to stay aggressive and by me being aggressive, hopefully my teammates could take after that and start to be aggressive, too. I feel like if you play nervous and I was, too, at some point in time but I tell them its basketball. Youve been doing this for however many years youve been playing. This is what you love to do, so go out there and play, and play hard, Butler said after Tuesdays game. I feel like this is what I have to do. I have to lead by example and if Im calm and Im playing basketball hard, then my teammates are going to play basketball hard. Yeah, Im second year, still a rookie kind of, but I feel like Im kind of the vet on this team, so Ive got to lead and by leading, if thats taking over games, Ive got to try to do that, get to the line.
Perhaps even more significantly, Butler showed signs of being a leader on the floor, something he took from the likes of Brewer and is already trying to pass on to teammates, such as first-round draft pick Marquis Teague, who had an admittedly rough NBA debut.
Just to get my confidence up in every part of my game and learn how to be a better leader, and show Marquis the ropes. I think thats the biggest thing for me, like Ronnie and all those guys did for me. They took me underneath their wing and I just want to be able to do that for Marquis, Butler explained.
I think were going to be all right. Were getting a feel for each other, for each others game. Its different in practice than it is in a game, so when you get out there, youve got to know what guys are going to do. We got the feel of that this game, but overall, I think in the first half, we let them do whatever they wanted to doshoot open jumpers, not guarding the ball tough enoughand thats why they got up 20, but then when we started playing Chicago Bulls basketball, we cut it down to a pretty marginal lead.
Among those closely observing Butlers performance were Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and general manager Gar Forman, both of whom liked what they saw.
Hes had a great summer. Hes been living in the gym and the weight room. Just very focused, working hard every day and Im looking forward to watching him all week, but even in that first half, I think you can see hes making progress, gaining confidence, Forman told CSNChicago.com at halftime. I dont know how itll play out, but hes got an opportunity. I think hes close to making the most of the opportunity and even when he got minutes last season, hes a very good defender, tough, hard-nosed kid and I think hes been really working on his offensive skill, working on his shot quite a bit, so hes got a great opportunity in front of him and hes poised to take advantage.
Cautiously added Thibodeau: Theres a long way to go. This is a first step. Hes worked hard this summer. Hes got to make more progress, but hes coming along nicely and well see how it goes from there.
Thibodeau wouldnt make any assurances about Butlers regular-season role, but acknowledged that the Texas native has an opportunity, if he follows the coachs noted step-by-step methodology.
Everything is based on performance, so theres a lot of things that hes capable of doing, he told CSNChicago.com. Hes got to continue to work hard all summer, play well here in the summer leaguethats the next stepand come back, continue to work hard the rest of the summer, then play well in the fall and well go step by step. But playing time is something thats earned.
As far as the present, however, working in Butlers favor is the fact that Bulls assistant Adrian Griffin is the head coach of the summer-league team. Griffin works with most of the Bulls wing players and Butler was his pet project last season.
Jimmy, obviously you can tell he was more seasoned than most of those guys out there, said Griffin. Hes our horse, hes our go-to guy. Hes worked hard, he looked good. He still has a lot of work ahead of him.

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."