Bulls

Jimmy Butler admits he and former Bulls Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose weren't on same page

Jimmy Butler admits he and former Bulls Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose weren't on same page

The return.

This date has been circled on the calendar since the Bulls’ trading Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah following him to New York weeks later, the day the former Bulls get off the team bus and venture to the visitor’s locker room as opposed to walking another 50 feet to their former domain.

Though obscured by the Cubs’ parade and celebration of winning the World Series for the first time in 108 years, there’s plenty of anticipation surrounding Rose’s return to his hometown — bringing about memories of a Bulls career that started out with a bang and much promise but ended with a whimper and a lot of questions.

“I think they’re gonna get a lot of love. But we have a job to do,” Jimmy Butler said Wednesday night following the Bulls’ narrow loss to the Celtics. “No matter what team steps into the United Center, we’re trying to win. We want to win as many games as we can.

“But they’ll probably definitely get a standing ovation, they’ve done so much for this organization. But even more than that, they did a lot for the community of Chicago.”

Rose and Noah have been active in the community, as Noah’s work with Noah’s Arc Foundation has been lauded both in the NBA and at the grassroots level for his hands-on approach and sincerity about stopping gun violence in Chicago.

Rose, a native son of Englewood, has been one to quietly pay for funerals or attend them to show support for the youths who had their lives cut short.

On the floor, though, is where things have differed between the newest face of Bulls and the previous faces of the franchise. Butler was ascending while Rose was rehabbing his game and his psyche. Butler was rising from being a guy who didn’t play much to developing into an All Star while Noah’s body started to break down due to years of wear and tear, heavy minutes and physical strain from playing on undermanned but competitive and gritty Bulls teams.

“I don’t think guys had different visions on what it took to win. I don’t think everybody was on the same page, truthfully, for what guys’ roles was going to be,” Butler finally confessed to CSNChicago.com. “That’s what it came down to, to tell the truth. I think that you look at the talent each individual had, everybody wanted to show how good they could be on any given night.”

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Rose and Noah struggled on the floor and with their bodies last season while Butler struggled with being a leader for the first time, and both sides were clearly frustrated with the other.

It was obvious last season things had to change directions when the transition by all had been bungled. Rose and Noah weren’t meshing with Butler, remembering their first impressions of him as a guy who couldn’t get on the floor, while Butler wanted to be around guys who were as single-minded and obsessed with dedication as he was.

There wasn’t as much internal conflict and mutual dislike as there was a level of discomfort with the way things were going on the floor and in the locker room. Tense moments, yes, as last year’s team seemed like 12 guys going in 12 directions as opposed to divisions of cliques sniping and pointing fingers at one another.

It’s why the vibe is so stark from this season and last year, because the air is cleared and sometimes change is necessary. It’s why Butler, on media day, made mention of feeling more comfortable with a group of guys who know him as an All Star as opposed to a goofy kid from Marquette just trying to make it.

The changing roles made all uncomfortable and honestly, there didn’t seem to be the right infrastructure to help anyone with a transition that was going to feel awkward no matter what, as Fred Hoiberg was in his first year as coach and didn’t quite know what to make of what he was seeing.

Butler admitted his passion, probably displayed in terms of being more passive-aggressive than straightforward last year, was likely misinterpreted.

“Definitely. You can call it what you wanna call it,” Butler said to CSNChicago.com “But you look around here now, and I guess I learned from my mistakes if I was making mistakes. But I want to win. Everybody wants to win, not saying they didn’t, but everybody in here is studying the game, everybody is working. I have no bad things to say about them two, not about Pau (Gasol) either. But we got a new group of guys, and I like the direction we’re moving in.”

One could say it’s addition by subtraction but the additions have helped with the jelling of these Bulls.

Bringing in Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo as players who know the pecking order of the locker room but also guys who are obsessed with basketball as Butler is have helped more than anything.

Butler isn’t the only one working late at night or watching film, which gives him a level of comfort and trust he didn’t have last season. He’s certainly trying his best not to take shots at Rose or Noah, with it being a sensitive situation on the surface along with the face he holds no actual personal animosity with either.

The sands on the hourglass had finally run its course with that group — as it does with all teams that stay together a period of time.

There are no regrets, but it seems all parties are pleased with where things stand.

“Yeah, you get it. It’s like a family,” Wade said to CSNChicago.com “You got through things as a family. As much as we’re around each other as we are. I wasn’t there so I don’t know what happened. But you go through things. At the end of the day, it’s still love and respect. It was time for that group. I think both sides are happy where they’re at. I think it’s gonna be a hell of a game, very competitive.”

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."