Jimmy Butler not surprised by lack of commitment from Bulls' brass

Jimmy Butler not surprised by lack of commitment from Bulls' brass

SACRAMENTO—Jimmy Butler was drenched in sweat after he went through morning shootaround in Sacramento, increasing the chance that he’ll play against the Kings as the Bulls are nearing the midway point of their longest road swing left in the season.

Butler’s right heel contusion doesn’t sound like it’s gotten much better but he’s a gametime decision as the Bulls hope to climb back to .500 with a win.

The pain is still at a “six to seven” scale, so with this being a critical time of year he'll play if he can gut it out and be reasonably effective

“The way I look at it is if I’m going to go out there I think to the best of my ability that I can help this team win,” Butler said. “If I feel like I’m going to hurt this team I’m not going to go because I’m going to play the same way I always play, being aggressive on both ends of the floor. So if I can go, I’m going to go. If I can’t then somebody else will have to fill that void.”

Michael Carter-Williams started in Butler’s place Friday and performed well, as Carter-Williams’ presence in the first five will be the case again if Butler doesn’t go.

Butler’s foot was wrapped up after he finished a shooting session.

"Yeah, but I mean we didn’t do too much,” Butler said. "We gotta see what happens when the adrenaline starts going, when you get up and down a little bit. Hopefully it’s a different story."

What also hasn’t changed is both the Bulls’ standing near the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture as well as the Bulls’ lack of verbal commitment to Butler as a player they’ll keep and build around for the future.

Butler is in the middle of a five-year contract he signed after the 2014-15 season, but his name is routinely mentioned in the rumor mill as the Bulls mull a reload or rebuild.

Butler insists the lack of commitment from the front office doesn’t bother him, even as he prepares to play through pain for the franchise yet again.

“Nope. Nothing surprises me nowadays,” Butler said. “You know that. I’m not surprised by anything. Anything is possible. It’s a business at the end of the day. I love it here. They know that. The city knows that.”

Most franchise players are kept in the loop by management and have their opinions valued and gauged to some degree. It doesn’t appear that’s the case with Butler and the front office as it’s been reasonably speculated he doesn’t have the best relationship with general manager Gar Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson.

"Nope. I’m good. I’ll stay in my lane, play basketball,” Butler said when asked if he wants to be kept abreast of potential acquisitions.

"That’s their job. My job is to get better every day, go out there and try to win games," he said. "I don’t tell them what to do. Like I said before, I don’t move guys. That’s not me. So whatever they decide to do as an organization, us an organization, we’re all living with that and we’re all riding with that. We all still have to go out there and try to win no matter the situation we’re put in or the people they put here."

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.