Bulls

Jimmy Butler 'a man possessed' in record-breaking performance

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Jimmy Butler 'a man possessed' in record-breaking performance

By Jessica Patton

TORONTO — Jimmy Butler might have bested Michael Jordan’s record, but don’t compare the two just yet.

With 40 points in the second half to lead the Bulls' 115-113 comeback victory against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, Butler eclipsed Jordan’s record of 39, something that he didn’t even know until after the game.

‪“I am just happy we won to tell you the truth. I don’t want to be compared to him because you’ve seen what he’s done for this game,” a smiling Butler said.

“I made a couple of shots. It shows how much confidence my teammates and my coach has in me to put the ball in my hand late.”

The 26-year old had been held to just two points before taking a DeMarre Carroll elbow to the face that caused him to leave the game and get stitched up.

When he returned, the Texas native was an animal, shooting fade away shots, hitting 3-pointers and getting to the free-throw line. It almost appeared as if Butler could do no wrong.

Put simply by teammate Taj Gibson, “He came back a man possessed.”

[MORE BULLS: Jimmy Butler drops record 40 points in second half to fuel Bulls comeback]

Pau Gasol, who has witnessed a lot of great performances in his 14 years, ranked Butler’s play high on his list, not for the points the guard tallied but for how and when he scored.

“He did it in a very efficient way, and he did it in a way that was critical for us to win the ball game,” explained Gasol, who had 19 points. “It’s not that you’re up 20 and suddenly you get hot, you make shots, shoot a low percentage and still score a lot of points. He did it in a way that was critical for us and just played an incredible second half for our team.”

Butler was sensational on the offensive end, adding five assists to his 42 points, but he was equally strong on the defensive end, proving he is one of the best all-around guards in the NBA. His defensive awareness held DeMar DeRozan to just two points in the fourth quarter and frustrated Kyle Lowry at times, as well.

“He did it on both ends,” Gasol said. “To me that’s even more impressive, that you’re not guarding a non-threat offensively.”

While Butler knows Carroll didn’t punch him on purpose, the four-year veteran was a little mad that he ruined his swagger. The hit left him with a lacerated lip that was already visibly swollen after the game and according to Butler will force him to “not go on a date for a while.”

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Once the final buzzer sounded, ending the victory for the Bulls and putting Butler in the record books, the team came together after the game to make sure they took in the moment.

“We were just talking about, 'We have to build off of this, don’t settle,'” Butler explained when asked about the huddle. “Try to win as many games as possible.”

Next up for the Bulls is a game against the division-rival Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday. All eyes will be on Butler to see how he follows up his record-breaking show.

“My confidence is always high. I know how much work I put in in the summertime. I am not going to make the shots every night, but I have to be able to change the game in different ways.

“Tonight was one of those nights where I made the shots go in.”

Bulls player preview: Cristiano Felicio gives center depth

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USA TODAY

Bulls player preview: Cristiano Felicio gives center depth

NBC Sports Chicago will preview a different Bulls player every weekday leading up to the start of training camp in late September.

Previous reviews: Lauri Markkanen | Ryan Arcidiacono | Antonio Blakeney | Coby White | Daniel Gafford | Wendell Carter Jr. | Luke Kornet

How last year went

There might have been a path to significant minutes for Cristiano Felicio, but the Bulls wound up drafting Wendell Carter with the seventh pick and keeping Robin Lopez through the duration of his contract. Felicio saw an uptick in minutes after Carter suffered a season-ending thumb injury in January, but he didn’t do much with it.

His best stretch came over the final 11 games of the season when Felicio averaged a modest 7.0 points on 51.7% shooting, 6.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 21.9 minutes. He’s still a liability defensively, doesn’t have great hands, and 89 of his 95 made field goals were inside 10 feet.

Expectations for this year's role

Something has gone very wrong if Felicio logs any minutes this season. The Bulls quietly overhauled the position, departing with Lopez, drafting Daniel Gafford in the second round and signing Luke Kornet. It’s suddenly one of the Bulls’ deepest positions – with Wendell Carter Jr. in line for 30+ minutes a night – meaning Felicio is fourth on the depth chart with no real ability to contribute at power forward.

Where he excels

Felicio doesn’t have the surest of hands, but he has always looked comfortable rolling to the rim. It began with lobs from Dwyane Wade and has continued the last two seasons with guards like Ryan Arcidiacono finding him around the rim. Last year Felicio averaged 1.10 points per possession on pick-and-roll possessions, third on the Bulls behind Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter. He also scored on 56.5% of those possessions (made field goal or free throws), which edged out Carter for the team lead. Of course, he was limited in not having a perimeter shot to pop out for 3-pointers, but he was a surprisingly nice roll man in his limited minutes.

Where he needs work

Felicio had a Defensive RPM of -1.63 last season, which was the second-worst mark among centers (only Willy Hernangomez was worse). The Bulls were 2.4 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Felicio off the floor, and the Brazilian big had just 11 steals and seven blocks in 746 minutes. It’s not a stretch to say he’s the team’s worst defender. It’s tough to see him improving in that area after four seasons.

Best case/worst case

In a best-case scenario, Felicio shows an improvement on the defensive end and finds some early-season chemistry with Kris Dunn on pick-and-roll action. He’ll be given a chance to compete with Gafford and Kornet for the backup center position. In a worst-case scenario, his deficiencies plague him and he continues to be an $8 million benchwarmer. Most likely, the Bulls continue counting down the days until his salary is off the books.

One key stat

Cristiano Felicio had 7 blocks in 746 minutes last season. How rare is that for a 6-foot-10 player? He’s the only NBA player the last two seasons that tall (or taller) to block seven or fewer shots in at least 740 minutes. The last player to do it was Joffrey Lauvergne in 2017, who blocked just six shots in 980 minutes (he incredibly blocked zero shots for the Bulls in 241 minutes; if you thought the OKC trade couldn’t get worse, you were wrong).

Report: Bulls to add Justin Simon on Exhibit 10 contract

Report: Bulls to add Justin Simon on Exhibit 10 contract

According to reports, the Bulls have signed former St. John's guard Justin Simon to an Exhibit 10 contract.

Simon played three seasons of NCAA basketball, one year with Arizona and two years at St. John's under the tutelage of NBA Hall of Famer Chris Mullin.

The Exhibit 10 contract is a fairly new situation, allowed by the NBA's last Collective Bargaining Agreement. What it means is that a player under this type of contract will get the league's minimum salary on a non-guaranteed deal that can include bonuses up to $50,000. 

The deal will allow Simon to participate in training camp with the Bulls with the goal of making the roster. The most likely scenario in these situations—i.e. when a player does not make the NBA roster— is that the player is waived before the season starts and assigned to that team's NBA G League affiliate.

So in layman's terms, Bulls fans should expect to see Simon in Hoffman Estates with the Windy City Bulls for the 2019-20 season, that is, as long as he doesn't choose to play overseas or elsewhere. With an Exhibit 10 contract, there are two ways a player can guarantee the full amount of their bonus money: spending at least 60 days on the G League affiliate team or getting their Exhibit 10 deal converted into a Two-Way contract (G League+ NBA deal combined, paid based on what league you are playing in at the time).

Simon is an intriguing add for the Bulls. Currently, the Chicago roster doesn't contain any guards shorter than 6-foot-3, and at 6-foot-5 with a massive 6-foot-11 wingspan, Simon certainly fits the mold.

Simon was the 2018-19 Big East Defensive Player of the Year, finishing in the top 10 in the Big East in both blocks and steals. In his junior year, he was also solid offensively, scoring 10.4 points per game while racking up 104 total assists over 34 games.

We all know how Jim Boylen loves players with the "dog" mentality and Simon's aggressive defense surely caught the eye of Boylen and the Bulls front office. 

In the 2019-20 NBA Summer League, Simon played for the Bulls, averaging 6.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 0.6 blocks per game. Unfortunately, Simon did not make a single 3-point shot over his NBA Summer League stint with the Bulls but he has shown the ability to hit the 3-point shot at times at the NCAA level. For his college career, he was a 35.1 percent 3-point shooter but those figures were helped by his sophomore season in which he hit 15 of his 36 shots from deep (41.7 percent).

Simon is not likely to shoot it well from the outside right away at the professional level but this is an important thing to monitor as his jump shot—as with most highly-skilled defensive players—will be the swing skill that will impact his ability to potentially make the NBA roster. 

The Bulls reportedly start training camp on October 1 and fans will likely get their first chance to see Simon in action at the first preseason game vs. the Milwaukee Bucks on October 7 on NBC Sports Chicago.

 

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