Bulls

Risk it to get the biscuit: Jimmy Butler knows Bulls need him now

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Risk it to get the biscuit: Jimmy Butler knows Bulls need him now

TORONTO, CA — Drenched in sweat after morning shootaround, Jimmy Butler was in good spirits on the practice floor of the Air Canada Centre, hours before the Bulls play the Toronto Raptors.

Butler will play, after his visit to Dr. James Andrews last week brought good news for his left knee, but his playing time will be monitored heavily upon his return to the lineup.

[Tonight on CSN, Live Extra: Shorthanded Bulls battle with Raptors]

He admitted the knee reacting after a one-game return brought about some concerns, which pre-empted the visit to Dr. Andrews in Pensacola, Fla.

“Yeah, of course. I was worried but not too worried because it didn’t hurt as bad as it did Feb. 5,” said Butler, referring to his initial injury in Denver. “Yeah I was nervous but I gotta get over it now. We got a couple games we gotta win, what 18 (games remaining)? We need all 18 of these.”

A 34-minute showing, such as the one against Houston 10 days ago, isn’t likely this time around, but Butler joked, “Gotta risk it to get the biscuit! Gotta risk it to get the biscuit,” when asked about the possibility of re-injury.

“No, no specific number,” said Butler when asked about a minute restriction. “They said they’ll be watching. I’ll be watching, too.”

Neither Butler nor Fred Hoiberg would say if there’s an exact number but there likely is one, a much lower one than the aforementioned 34. When asked how he felt, Butler said: “Good enough to play.”

“My job is to help us win,” Butler said. “I don’t know what situation you may call that. Go out there and do what it takes to win.”

The Bulls are 5-10 without Butler and 27-22 with him in the lineup, as Monday presents yet another game where the Bulls could drop below the .500 mark, and they’re already a full game behind the Detroit Pistons for the eighth seed.

With Mike Dunleavy (flu) and Derrick Rose (groin) appearing to be game-time decisions, along with Pau Gasol (knee) being back in Chicago for this two-game trip, the temptation is to lean on Butler more than usual.

But keeping Butler upright for the next 18 games is more important than winning one — a strategy that put the Bulls behind the eight-ball to begin with.

“We’re on the same page,” Hoiberg said. “We’re just about making sure we’re checking on him at all times and go out there and stick to the plan. There’s a plan in place, we’ll stick to the plan.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Butler’s last visit to this building in a Bulls uniform brought on the best performance to that date in his career, dropping 42 in the second half on the Raptors in a comeback victory.

He didn’t want to revisit any of that talk, but said getting the Bulls to the playoffs is his objective for the last few weeks of the season.

"I gotta do whatever it takes to get my team win,” Butler said. “I let the coaches know that. I let Gar (Forman) and Pax (John Paxson) know that. If I’m stepping on the floor I’m giving my all as long as the team needs me.”

More importantly, a lot lies on Hoiberg to protect Butler from himself with so many guys out, even if Rose and Dunleavy decide to suit up.

“He’s gonna want to do that. But we gotta stick with what we’re doing,” Hoiberg said. “Obviously the plan has been modified from the first time he came back. It’s going out there and making sure Jimmy’s with us the rest of the way as opposed to getting too hungry this first game. He’s gonna want to play 48 minutes with what we have out of the lineup as well.”

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

It's been a whirlwind of a summer for point guard Tyler Ulis, but he finally feels like he's found a home. Literally.

The 5-foot-9 point guard was cut by the Suns in late June, latched on with a training camp invite by the Warriors and was subsequently waived on Friday. It was then that Ulis, working out in California, received a call from his agent. He had been claimed on waivers by the Chicago Bulls. His hometown Bulls.

"I grew up watching (the Bulls)," he said after his first practice on Tuesday. "Growing up in this city, you always want to be a Bull and you’re always willing and hoping that you’ll be here one day...I'm home now. It's a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to it."

Ulis is back in Chicago for the first time since he was breaking records for Marian Catholic High School. Ulis became a five-star recruit for the Spartans and in 2014 signed on as the next point guard in the long line of successful floor generals under John Calipari and Kentucky.

Ulis backed up the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, as a freshman but saw his role increase as a sophomore. He blossomed, earning Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the SEC. Only Anthony Davis had ever earned both honors in a single season.

He declared for the 2016 NBA Draft with hopes of becoming a first-round pick. But unlike the Calipari point guards before him, Ulis slipped all the way down to the second round before the Phoenix Suns scooped him up with the 34th pick.

"Honestly I really did think (the Bulls) were going to draft me," Ulis said on Tuesday when recalling the 2016 NBA Draft. The Bulls took Denzel Valentine with the 14th pick. "But I'm here now so that's all that matters."

In 132 games, Ulis averaged 7.6 points and 4.1 assists in 21.1 minutes. He started 58 of those games, and while his shooting left plenty to be desired he handled the offense well and brought that same pesky defense he showed off at Kentucky. It wasn't enough, even for the guard-deprived Suns. They released Ulis before free agency this summer - which ruffled the feathers of franchise guard Devin Booker - in a rather unexpected move.

"My Mom always taught me (to) never expect anything," Ulis said of his release from the Suns. "When you're on a losing team like that anything can happen. I feel like I showed I could play at this level but they went a different way."

The Suns' loss - they may resort to starting 38-year-old Jamal Crawford at point guard this year - could be the Bulls' gain. Expectations should be harnessed for Ulis, especially with him joining the roster this late in the preseason, but the Bulls, like Phoenix, have question marks at the point.

Kris Dunn is entrenched as the starter, but Cameron Payne struggled mightily in the preseason and Ryan Arcidiacono doesn't project as a contributor. That leaves an opening for Ulis to potentially fill on the second unit, and apparently he's making a statement early in practice.

"Tyler had a real good practice," Fred Hoiberg said. "I think I think he changes the pace when he’s out there on the floor. He picks up full-court, he gets up underneath you. He can make a shot. He’s got good vision and can make a play with the ball in his hand. So I was very impressed with his first workout."

Ulis is working on a 45-day two-way contract, so it's unknown how much he'll contribute. He could be shuttled back and forth between Chicago and the Windy City Bulls, but there's certainly an opportunity for him to stick. He'll be playing catch-up and learning on the go, but doing so in his hometown wth friends and family around him for support will work to his advantage.

"Being a smaller guard growing up in a big man’s sport, you get looked over. So I’m the underdog," he said. "And I feel like this team is an underdog, so we should all be excited to get the season started and prove people wrong."