Jimmy Butler, on his future with the Bulls: 'I don't think anything's for certain'

Jimmy Butler, on his future with the Bulls: 'I don't think anything's for certain'

The Summer of Jimmy Butler Answering Rumors added another chapter on Wednesday, with the Bulls' All-Star answering questions on ESPN's The Jump with Rachel Nichols.

Butler was asked a bevy of questions about his opinion on trade rumors involving himself, the trade that sent Derrick Rose to the Knicks and whether he believes he'll remain with the Bulls.

It's been a busy offseason for Butler's Bulls, which missed the playoffs last year for the first time in eight seasons. In addition to the Rose trade and drafting Michigan State's Denzel Valentine, the Bulls reportedly dangled Butler's name in trade discussions on draft night.

And though general manager Gar Forman vehemently denied the Bulls were shopping the 26-year-old Butler, the constant rumors appear to have taken a toll on Butler's belief about his future in Chicago.

"I don't think anything's for certain, I really don't," Butler responded when asked if he believed he'd be with the Bulls next season. "I love the city of Chicago, Chicago basketball, I think everybody knows that. They drafted me, I've been here my entire career, but nothing's for certain."

Butler also admitted that the Bulls' inconsistent play that resulted in a 42-40 record - their worst since 2010 - magnified the reported rift between him and Rose.

"I can't say I was surprised by (the Rose trade). I knew it had to be one of us, to tell you the truth. Obviously I enjoyed playing with him. I came into the league when he was the MVP, I got so much respect for the guy. I have no bad things to say about him and I wish him the best moving forward," Butler said.

"Because we didn't win I think everything comes up. I think if we win there's nothing to say, we're fine, we get along together, we'd probably still be teammates to tell you the truth."

Despite the trade rumors, the Marquette product says his relationship with Forman and the rest is "good."

"I can't say we talk about everything because we don't but I think most of the imporant things, I get a phone call or a text message and we'll talk," Butler said. "They'll take my opinion on some things, but I'm a player."


The best thing Zach LaVine has done for the Bulls, according to Stephen A. Smith

The best thing Zach LaVine has done for the Bulls, according to Stephen A. Smith

Chicago played a tremendous host to the NBA’s 69th All-Star Game and the preceding weekend of festivities. The Bulls, though, spent much of their time at the center of the NBA universe being lambasted from all sides by pundits and fans, alike. 

The bright spot amid the tumult was the team’s best player and bona fide cornerstone, Zach LaVine, who made the only appearance in an All-Star event by a Bull while gracefully juggling television spots and community engagement appearances throughout the weekend.

RELATED: Bulls Talk Podcast: NBA All-Star 2020 weekend recap and Bulls front office changes?

One national personality offered a refreshing perspective on LaVine’s ascension in his sixth season: ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.

“I’ve always seen the growth from Zach LaVine,” Smith told NBC Sports Chicago. “He’s a really good person, he’s a damn good player, incredibly athletic — had a nasty injury a few years ago, came back from that — so to see the athleticism and the ability he’s had… I remember his agent Bill Duffy used to brag about what he was going to be, and he’s lived up to it.”

That growth, in Smith’s opinion, is the greatest thing that could have happened for a Bulls team mired in a choppy rebuild. But not for the reason you might think.

“I think the greatest thing that Zach LaVine is doing for the Chicago Bulls right now is making the Chicago Bulls fans see that change needs to occur,” Smith said. “Cause when you have somebody like him — what’re you doing with him? What’re you building around him? What kind of things are you doing to facilitate the level of success he obviously craves? When you have talent like him, you don’t just let it go to waste, and right now there are legitimate questions about whether or not that’s exactly what the Bulls are doing.”

Change could very well be coming for the Bulls this offseason, though it remains unclear exactly what said change would entail. But if this season has shown this city anything, it’s that LaVine is a part of the solution, not the problem.

“I think he does, I think he does,” Smith said when asked if LaVine has the potential to be a true franchise player to build around. “I'm not saying he's the second coming of Michael Jordan, but he's a damn good basketball player with a tremendous upside. He's got the right mentality, he's got the right approach and the right focus. He certainly has tremendous athletic ability. he's not scared of anybody. And he can do some things.”

Desirability as a destination will be key to the Bulls in the next phase(s) of the rebuild. Smith lamented that aspect of the organization, as well.

“But you haven't put anything around him from an organizational perspective, from a coaching perspective, from a player personnel perspective. You haven't done anything. And the Bulls are gonna have to do something because you do not have a talent like that and just stand around and do nothing. Cause if you don't do anything with him, there's no star alive that's gonna think about coming to Chicago to play for you.”

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Developing the young core remains the focus over final 27 games for Bulls

Developing the young core remains the focus over final 27 games for Bulls

With the Bulls headed to a third straight trip to the NBA Draft Lottery, the focus over the final two months of the NBA regular season now shifts to the development of the team’s core players.

Wendell Carter Jr. should be ready to go after missing the last 18 games before the All-Star break because of a high ankle sprain. Carter Jr. has already established himself as a quality defender and screener, but we still don’t have any idea what his ceiling could be as an offensive player. Before he was injured in early January, Carter Jr. had started mixing a couple of 3-point attempts into his shot profile, and while his success rate of 21.4% is nothing to get excited about, his shooting form suggests he should be able to improve over time.

Not many NBA teams are using dumping the ball into the low post as a big part of their offense, but the Bulls should try to get Carter Jr. more touches with his back to the basket to keep defenses honest. During his one collegiate season at Duke, Carter Jr. showed the ability to finish with either hand near the rim, and he has the ability to draw fouls against taller centers. NBA analytics will tell you layups, dunks and 3-pointers are the way to go in the modern game, but Carter Jr. is capable of getting some easy baskets inside and stepping out to knock down mid-range jumpers. Whether Carter Jr. becomes a consistent 3-point threat or not, he still can be a bigger part of the Bulls offense. 

The Bulls are also hoping to get starting forwards Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter Jr. back at some point in the coming weeks. We pretty much know what Porter Jr. is at this point, a capable 3-point shooter and solid third scoring option. Problem is, Porter Jr. has been dogged by injuries over his NBA career, the latest being a fractured foot that’s cost him most of the season. There’s virtually zero chance Porter Jr. passes up his $28 million player option for next season, so he’ll be on the roster next season.

All kinds of questions about Markkanen, who was going through a puzzling third-year slump before being sidelined with a stress reaction to his pelvis. Markkanen was expected to make the jump to All-Star level status this season, but he got off to a poor shooting start and didn’t show the kind of aggressiveness on the offensive end we had come to expect. Markkanen says the new offensive system calls for him to be more of a spot-up 3-point shooter, which has limited his ability to attack the basket or post up against smaller defenders.

Whatever the reasons for his regression this season, the Bulls would love to get Markkanen back on the court at some point over the final two months just to give him a chance to reestablish his effectiveness at the offensive end and give him some positive feelings heading into the offseason. Markkanen will also be eligible for an extension to his rookie contract this summer, and those negotiations could prove to be difficult with the 7-foot forward having missed so many games because of injury over his first three seasons.

Another big question mark for the Bulls involves the point guard position. Tomas Satoransky was signed as a free agent last July with the idea he would handle the starting position until top draft pick Coby White was ready to run the offense on a regular basis. The Bulls have used White as an instant offense shooting guard off the bench, but he has been getting more chances to run the point in recent games, dishing out a career-high nine assists against the Pelicans on Feb, 6 and seven helpers against Washington in the last game before the All-Star break. Why not give White more opportunities to play as a point guard with Zach LaVine on the court, giving the Bulls another shot creator to ease some of the defensive pressure against LaVine.

While the season began with talk of making the playoffs, the bigger objective was developing the players who can make the Bulls more than a seventh or eighth seed in future seasons. If you’re looking for bright spots, it looks like Chandler Hutchison has figured out how he can be effective at the NBA level as a slashing small forward who can finish at the rim with power. If Hutchison can improve his outside shot and stay healthy, the Bulls might just have a long term answer at that position.

Now it’s about continuing to develop the so called “core four” of LaVine, Markkanen, Carter Jr. and White. The Bulls are hoping they’ll have a better idea by season’s end whether this is the right nucleus to build around or if it’s time to consider significant roster changes this summer.

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