Bulls

'Kobe Stopper' Butler battles Bryant in Bulls' win

986941.png

'Kobe Stopper' Butler battles Bryant in Bulls' win

Dont pay any attention to them, Jimmy Butler said after Monday nights 95-83 Bulls home win over the Lakers.

The second-year swingman wanted the media to ignore his teammates chants of Kobe Stopper, after Butler, starting in place of Luol Deng, who missed his second consecutive contest with a strained right hamstring, held Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant to 16 points on 7-for-22 shooting.

He had an awful night. He missed shots that he normally makes. Thats who Kobe is, a real tough matchup. Its hard, my teammates were there for me, but I just tried to make everything hard for him, Butler explained. It was all about getting into his space, but it wasnt just me defending him. If I got beat, Joakim or Booz or somebody was always there, so we defended him as a team, I should say.

Maybe it frustrated him a little bit, but he missed a lot of shots. The pull-ups, the open threes, he makes those. When you see Kobe on the highlights, he knocks those down. He just didnt make too many shots tonight.

Butler also chipped in with 10 points of his own, as well as eight rebounds and four assists in over 43 minutes of action.

Jimmys a great defender, Kirk Hinrich said. I thought he did a good job. Upon being posed a question focusing on Butlers efforts, Joakim Noah exclaimed: Jimmy Boy!

Jimmy Boy was huge. Defensively, I think its great for him. Hes making a name for himself. Hes proven that not only is he a great defensive player, but hes showing his athleticism, he hit a huge shot at the end therebig jump shot. It just makes us that much tougher to know that we have guys like that in the lineup.

Even the likes of demanding Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was pleased with Butlers performance.

Jimmy was terrific. A guy like Kobe, you cant guard him individually and so, you have to rely on your entire team, he said. With Kobe, he missed some shots that he normally makes, but you have to guard him with your whole team, in every aspect. He goes from a one-on-one to a back-down to a pick-and-rollvery few guys can do that and hes great in all threeand then, hes great moving without the ball and he can play-make, hes got great will, hes clutch, so you can never let your guard down against him.

Before the game, Thibodeau discussed how Butler is living up to and perhaps exceeding expectations, as he progresses throughout his second NBA season, particularly now that his mentor, Deng, is out of the lineup for the time being.

I think Jimmy has done a really good job. I thought he made the commitment this summer. I thought he put a lot of time in this summer. I thought he played well in the summer league, continued to come in, played behind Luol. The thing I really like about him is doesnt take him a long time to warm up, so usually we ride Luol into the second quarter and some guys need five minutes to warm up, the coach explained.

Jimmy, you put him in the game, hes ready to go, from the moment he gets in. Hes not afraid of the moment and often times, you can finish a game with him. He handles that part well. When hes been given extended minutes, hes handled that well and he showed the other night that hes very capable as a starter. But thats what I expect from everybody. When one guy goes down, the next guy steps up and gets the job done.

But perhaps the biggest measure of well Butler played was the kudos he received from Bryant. The future Hall of Famer has seen many players who tried to defend him come and go, and while he wasnt especially expansive, the basketball purist paid the youngster a deserved compliment afterwards.

I have nothing but praise for the way he competed, Bryant said. I was proud of how he played and defensively, he stuck to his principles.

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Steve Kerr told a Michael Jordan Bulls story to give advice to Kevin Durant

Anyone who lived through the Michael Jordan Bulls remembers those games when he was putting up tons of points, but the Bulls were still struggling overall.

Steve Kerr referenced one of those games to give advice to Kevin Durant during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The TNT broadcast caught the conversation and aired it late in the third quarter.

"When MJ was with the Bulls, we had a playoff game," Kerr began the story. "He kept trying to score and he was scoring, but we weren't getting anything going. Phil Jackson said 'Who's open?' He said, 'John Paxson.'"

Paxson famously hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to clinch the series. Kerr, who later hit his own championship-winning shot on an assist from Jordan in 1997, was trying to get to get his teammates involved.

"I want to trust your teammates early," Kerr said. "What you're doing is you're getting to the rim and then you're trying to hit him. I want you to trust the first guy and then move. Still attack, still look to score, but trust these guys, OK?"

Watch the video above to see the interaction.

Durant scored 29 points in Game 5 to lead the Warriors, but Houston took a 3-2 series lead with a 98-94 win.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

shaikentucky.png
USA TODAY

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

John Calipari's 2017 recruiting class featured five McDonald's All-Americans and Hamidou Diallo, a former five-star recruit who nearly jumped to the NBA the previous year. It also included a lanky 6-foot-6 point guard named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And for the first part of the 2017-18 season, the Toronto native who played his final two high school years in Tennessee, appeared to be a nice fit off the bench for Calipari.

But something flipped. Gilgeous-Alexander was inserted into the starting lineup for good on January 9 and never looked back. He played his best basketball beginning in late February to the end of the season, a span of 10 games against eight NCAA Tournament opponents. In those games Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists. He shot 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from deep and 84 percent from the free throw line, and added 1.4 steals in nearly 38 minutes per game for good measure. He was one of the best players in the country, and on a team with five McDonald's All-Americans, he was Calipari's best freshman.

"I knew with how hard I worked that anything was possible," SGA said at last week's NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. "It was just a matter of time before it started clicking and I started to get it rolling."

That stretch included a 17-point, 10-assist double-double against Ole Miss, a 29-point showing against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, and 27 more points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Buffalo. Even in his worst game of the stretch, a 15-point effort against Kansas State in the Tournament, he made up for 2 of 10 shooting by getting to the free throw line 12, converting 11 of them.

It made his decision to make the jump to the NBA an easy one - that, and another loaded Calipari recruiting class incoming. He stands taller than just about any other point guard in the class and might have as good a jump shot as any. He's adept at getting to the rim, averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game (that number jumped to 5.6 after he became a starter, and 7.5 in those final 10 games of the season. He isn't the quickest guard in the class, but he uses his feet well, is able to find open shooters due to his height and improved on making mistakes on drive-and-kicks as the season went on.

"I think I translate really well to the next level with there being so much more space on the floor and the open court stretched out," he said. "It only benefits me and my ability to get in the lane and make plays."

There's something to be said for him being the next in line of the Calipari point guards. The ever-growing list includes players like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Murray and DeAaron Fox. It's the NBA's version of Penn State linebackers or Alabama defensive linemen. The success rate is nearly 100 percent when it comes to Calipari's freshmen point guards; even Brandon Knight averaged 18.1 points over a three-year span in the NBA.

"That’s why guys go to Kentucky," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "It prepares them for the next level. Coach (Calipari) does a really good job, especially with point guards, getting them ready for that next level in a short amount of time."

Gilgeous-Alexander didn't test or play in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, but he still came out of Chicago a winner. He measured 6-foot-6 in shoes with a ridiculous 6-foot-11 1/2 wingspan, a full three inches longer than any other point guard at the Combine. He also added, rather uniquely, that he watches of film Kawhi Leonard playing defense. Most players don't mention watching film on different-position players; most players aren't 6-foot-6 point guards.

"(It's) obviously a more versatile league and playing small ball. And with me being able to guard multiple positions, a lot of teams are switching things like the pick and roll off ball screens, so me being able to switch and guard multiple positions can help an organization."

Gilgeous-Alexander's arrow is pointing way up. He appears to be teetering near Lottery pick status, though that could go one way or the other in private team workouts, especially if he's pitted against fellow top point guards like Trae Young and Collin Sexton. But if his rise at Kentucky is any indication, he'll only continue to improve his game, his stock and eventually his draft position.