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.

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Donte Ingram's 2018 keeps getting better and better.

The March Madness hero, who buried a game-winning 3-pointer in the first round of Loyola's win over Miami, will play on the Bulls' Summer League team.

Ingram, a Simeon Academy graduate, had himself an incredible senior season with the Ramblers, who advanced all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

In five NCAA Tournament games Ingram averaged 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Ramblers. He also had 18 points in the MVC Conference Championship Game to secure the Ramblers' March Madness berth.

He'll join first-round draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison on the Las Vegas Summer League team, which will begin play early next month.