Bulls

Kobe Bryant heaps praise on Bulls' Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose

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Kobe Bryant heaps praise on Bulls' Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose

LOS ANGELES—When Kobe Bryant came to the United Center to prepare for a holiday matchup against the Bulls in 2013, he figured he’d be the only player in the building working up an early sweat.

But he wasn’t alone on this January day, as Jimmy Butler was joining him in full lather, as Butler was tasked with guarding the man who was pushing his body to the limit in order to drag his star-studded but inconsistent Lakers team to the postseason.

“I was there early and he was there just as early and working on his game,” Bryant recounted.

Bryant, then still at the tail end of his prime averaging 27.3 points, 6.0 assists and 5.6 rebounds, was harassed by the unknown kid into a 7-for-22 performance in the Bulls’ 95-83 win.

Butler, then a novice offensive player, scored 10 points but hit a crucial late turnaround jumper with the shot clock running down over Bryant’s extended arms. He’d already started his upward trajectory toward stardom, but it looked like Butler would be more solid contributor than franchise cornerstone.

“I think it’s just a testament of hard work,” said Bryant of Butler’s yearly improvement. “He’s developed every single year. He’d added a pull-up jump shot left, right. He pulls left shoulder, right shoulder. It’s just nothing but hard work. It pays off.”

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High praise from the player Derrick Rose called “The Michael Jordan of our generation” before the Bulls’ highlight-pleasing win over Bryant’s struggling Lakers at the Staples Center Thursday, a 114-91 handling.

“He’s someone I looked up to ever since I came into the league,” Rose said. “Someone I did commercials with, someone who always gave me advice about the game. Just coming into the league, he’d seen how hard I worked.”

Butler said going against Bryant this last time—or any time—is special and the two shared moments throughout the game, not uncommon for Bryant to pass on knowledge to the younger generation as he goes on his farewell tour.

Bryant has battled injury and attrition as his career wound down. Months after the aforementioned 2013 meeting, he tore his Achilles right at the end of the regular season and has dealt with plenty more since, so he knows what Rose is dealing with.

“I think he’s fine. I think it’s a matter of him adjusting to what his body allows him to do night-in and night-out,” Bryant said. “It’s a tough adjustment to make, but he’s so big. He can use his body to bump guys off and create separation and create space on those rare nights he’s going up against a guy who he’s not quicker than.”

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Bryant missed the last game before the Bulls’ matchup and Rose missed most of the game against the Miami Heat Monday when his hamstring got sore in the first half.

But both had his moments under the Staples Center lights Thursday, as Rose effectively ended things with a Showtime-esque behind-the-back pass to E’Twaun Moore late in the fourth quarter.

“For all his accolades and his resume, it speaks long,” Rose said. “He leaves the game in good hands. It’s a bunch of guys that’s giving their all to the game. For Kobe, he’s gonna be a legend no matter what. He’s our Michael Jordan.”

Michael Porter Jr.: 'I'm the perfect fit for today's NBA game'

Michael Porter Jr.: 'I'm the perfect fit for today's NBA game'

Michael Porter Jr. grabbed some attention when he remarked that he was "perfect fit for today's NBA game" during an appearance on The Will Cain Show.

The interview went a long way towards showing off the uber-confident nature of Porter, who has consistently talked about being the best player in his class throughout the draft process. Porter also remarked that he was "an immediate impact guy," and that he "doesn't want it to take long to be one of the best players in the NBA."

His hubris has been intruiging considering the mystery surrounding the prospect.

During the interview Porter added that he would be open to doing more workouts for NBA front offices ahead of Thursday's NBA Draft. The only workout he has completed so far was his pro day workout in Chicago, and multiple reports have cited that Porter did look good shooting, though he was in an isolated setting with no defenders.

The one thing Porter has not done much throughout the process is talk about his weaknesses, which is somewhat concerning seeing as he has much to improve on. The general consensus is that a healthy Porter can get buckets at will. But if he can improve his ball-handling, rebounding and passing skills, he will be much more than a go-to scorer. Tightening his ball-handling skills is likely the key, as the ability to grab the rebound and push in transition would be a huge boon for Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg's offense.

The biggest question when it comes to Porter on the Bulls is can he fit with Lauri Markkanen? Despite receiving many favorable Kevin Durant and Paul George comparisons leading up to the draft, there is a rising sentiment that his best position in the NBA may be the power forward spot. It is not yet known if he has the foot speed to stay in front of quicker wings in today's NBA. But at six-feet-ten-inches, it is easy to imagine him having a huge advantage against slower power forwards rather than wings. While Markkanen is not currently built to be a full-time center, playing him at the five with Porter at the four would present Hoiberg with a potentially devastating closing lineup.

Versatility is the name of the game in today's league, and Michael Porter Jr. may be the key to unlocking the full potential of Hoiberg's pace-and-space attack. 

Paul Zipser says he is unlikely to return to Bulls

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USA TODAY

Paul Zipser says he is unlikely to return to Bulls

Just two years after being drafted in the second round, Paul Zipser told German media that he doesn’t see the Bulls wanting him next season.

The Bulls have until mid-July to pick up Zipser's option.

"I would not be surprised if they no longer want me.” Zipser said in German and translated via Google Translate

“Actually, I'm pretty sure I will not play in Chicago soon.”

Last month, Zipser had surgery on his fractured left foot, in his native country of Germany, which grew speculation the Bulls wouldn’t pick up his player option for next season. Zipser said the surgery "went perfectly."

Zipser showed some flashes of potential in his rookie season, averaging 5.5 per game and 2.8 rebounds in 44 games. But this past season, he played more games, but injuries derailed him from improving his overall production. He finished with four points and 2.4 rebounds in 54 games, including 12 starts.

Zipser explained that things changed from his first year to his second year.

“They were very varied," Zipser said. "The first year was just going very well. I fought my way into the team from the beginning and showed how I can help the team. The Bulls just needed someone like me. That's why it worked so well. We benefited from each other - that's why we were successful.”

“That was very different. It was not right from the beginning, and I was already struggling with my injury. It was not quite clear what it is. If you have pain in your foot, you automatically go down a bit with intensity. You just do not want to hurt yourself and be completely out. It was then difficult for me to keep my head in the sport - I did not manage that well. Nevertheless, the injury should not be an excuse.”

Nothing is official yet, but it sounds like Zipser might not dress up in a Bulls uniform next year.