Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic will meet in semifinals as USA, Spain advance in Olympics

Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic will meet in semifinals as USA, Spain advance in Olympics

The Chicago Bulls will be well represented in the men's basketball semifinals at the Olympics.

Jimmy Butler and Team USA along with Nikola Mirotic and Spain both advanced with quarterfinal wins on Wednesday as both players produced some of their best basketball of the Olympics.

USA Basketball struggled early in the quarterfinals against Argentina but laid the hammer down during a massive second-quarter run that fueled them to a 101-78 victory. Playing his most minutes of the Olympics with over 23 in the win, Butler finished with seven points, four rebounds, four assists and a steal as he went 3-for-10 from the floor. Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant paced the USA with 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists as the Americans are now 6-0 in Rio. Former Bulls forward Andres Nocioni chipped in 12 points in a losing effort for Argentina.

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Spain put together its most impressive showing in Rio in the earlier quarterfinal as they ran past France with a 92-67 win. Mirotic played his best basketball of the Olympics as he led Spain with a team-high 23 points to go along with five rebounds and two steals. Providing Spain with floor spacing, Mirotic finished 5-for-8 from three-point land and was 9-for-15 from the field as he led the team with a little over 26 minutes played.

Butler and Mirotic will face each other on Friday as USA Basketball will play Spain in a highly-anticipated rematch of the last two men's basketball Olympic gold-medal games. The U.S. owns an 11-0 series lead against Spain in men's basketball during international competitions but both the 2008 and 2012 gold-medal games were tight in the fourth quarter. Many expect this semifinal to act as the unofficial gold-medal match with the other side of the bracket being significantly weaker with NBA-caliber talent.

Nick Nurse confident in Jim Boylen, Bulls: 'He'll be a good leader for them'

Nick Nurse confident in Jim Boylen, Bulls: 'He'll be a good leader for them'

Toronto Raptors head coach and lifelong Cubs fan Nick Nurse was in Chicago on Friday to throw out the 1st pitch and sing the 7th inning stretch at Wrigley Field.

It was a major moment for Nurse—who grew up in Carroll, Iowa and played college basketball at the University of Northern Iowa—to be able to talk with Cubs manager Joe Maddon. Maddon actually started his pro baseball career as a catcher for the Quad Cities Angles, based out of Davenport, Iowa, in 1976.

Nurse stated that Maddon is a huge inspiration to him and was clearly overjoyed to speak with someone he considers an excellent leader. Nurse's Chicago trip would not have been complete without a little NBA talk and he had no problem discussing his faith in colleague and Bulls head coach Jim Boylen.

"Well, first of all, Jimmy Boylen, the head coach, is a good friend of mine and he is a hell of a coach."

Nurse went on to joke about not wanting the Bulls to do "too well" of course, as the two teams will see each other four times next season and will both be battling for a potential postseason berth in a new-look, wide-open Eastern Conference. The Raptors, of course, will be looking to make another deep playoff run despite the loss of NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. The Bulls will be looking to at least have a competitive season after finishing with a whopping 60 losses in 2018-19, their first 60-loss season since 2002. 

But when discussing the future outlook of the Bulls, Nurse was confident in the direction of the franchise and Boylen's presence as a strong headman for the team is a major reason why. 

"Everything rises and falls with leadership and...he'll be a good leader for them."

Anthony Davis speaks on the Chicago hoops scene at Nike Rise Camp: 'We are the Mecca of Basketball'

Anthony Davis speaks on the Chicago hoops scene at Nike Rise Camp: 'We are the Mecca of Basketball'

On Friday afternoon the Nike Rise Camp took place at Kenwood High School and it was hosted by new Lakers star and Chicago native Anthony Davis.

Davis is excited to be able to help the Chicago youth with camps like Nike Rise, especially the much younger generations. The Nike Rise Camp is for kids ages 8-17 and focuses on skill development, drills, game programming, and various workshops. 

Davis stated that while he went to many of the illustrious basketball camps—like Pangos, Five-Star, Nike's individual player camps, etc.—he hadn't been to any basketball training camps at such a young age.

These kids are amazing, y'know, they're fun to hang around, they listen, they wanna learn. [There's] some good talent upstairs.....The future is definitely bright for all these young kids so I'm excited to come back and just give them my knowledge and my experience and spend that time with them."

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When asked to describe the relationship Chicago has with basketball, Davis made sure to laud the toughness of the Chicago hoops scene.

"It's basketball in any condition, y'know you gonna find a way to play...their love for the game right now is tremendous...No matter if it's hot, it's freezing cold in the gym, outside it's raining, whatever."

By any means necessary, we wanna play the game.

-Anthony Davis on the mindset of Chicago basketball

On a summer day with 90+ degree weather, the Kenwood Academy gym was even hotter inside but that didn't stop the coaches and trainees from getting in a great workout. 

Davis minced no words when letting the world know how he feels about Chicago hoops, "In Chicago, it means a lot more to us because we are a basketball city and we are the Mecca of Basketball and you can quote me on that."