Jimmy Butler tap dances around ESPN report of contract issues with Bulls

Jimmy Butler tap dances around ESPN report of contract issues with Bulls

OKLAHOMA CITY — Jimmy Butler’s been embroiled in too much controversy over the past few days to start another media fire, so engaging in some tap dancing that would make the late Sammy Davis Jr. and Gregory Hines proud was on the menu Wednesday morning.

Butler was asked about a story told from ESPN Radio host Ryen Russillo about the season before Butler signed his max contract with the Bulls, claiming the Bulls front office threatened to play Tony Snell over Butler during the year to depress his market value as Butler was heading into restricted free agency.

Russillo was telling the story in response to the recent Bulls drama over the past week, saying there’s a level of distrust from Butler to the Bulls and it stems from the contentious negotiations.

“Somebody said that? Wow... Really? You heard that, too?” queried Butler before Dwyane Wade chimed in, saying “Yeah, I heard that (story from Russillo), too.”

Butler was asked about his relationship with the front office in general — something that’s been a topic of discussion as his name has been in trade talks or at least the rumor mill.

“It's good. They're my bosses,” Butler said. “We talk like men if I have a problem, if they have a problem; we talk like we're supposed to. I think it's very professional.”

If there is any contention as Russillo claims, it could’ve started following the 2013-14 season where Butler first started to make waves as a solid “3 and D” player, where he averaged 13.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and nearly two steals for the Bulls.

Butler wasn’t going to give the story any validity, but didn’t give a full denial, either.

Enter the tap shoes, as Butler had a coy smile when telling the story.

“I'll tell it to you like this. That s**t happened so long ago I didn't think it was a matter of anything,” Butler said. “We went into contract negotiations. I said I would hoop and play the year out. I did that, had a decent little year. We won't go into detail about what was said, what wasn't said, it's not anybody's business.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Butler and the Bulls were at an impasse of sorts, with Butler willing to take a four-year deal worth $48 million and the Bulls’ offer topping off at $44 million. So according to Russillo, the Bulls threatened Butler with the notion of playing Snell, who was coming into his second season after being the 20th pick in the 2013 draft.

Russillo said the front office went to then-coach Tom Thibodeau with it, but with the front office and Thibodeau already nearing separation, Thibodeau used playing Butler as a way to get back at general manager Gar Forman and John Paxson.

Whether the Thibodeau part is true or not is hard to say, but it isn’t difficult to see a front office going that route.

Butler took his game to another level in 2014-15, winning the Most Improved Player award, becoming the Bulls’ best player and making the All-Star team for the first time.

He signed a five-year deal worth $95 million in the summer of 2015, after Thibodeau was fired.

“We got a deal done, I thought it was a fair deal. That's that,” Butler said. “But for anybody to say this or say that...I don't know. To tell you the truth, I don't remember what went on. My agent was in there handling the majority of it. And then, my main thing was to just worry about basketball so I can't tell you what was said or what wasn't. One, because it was so long ago, and two, because it ain't y'all business anyways.”

While Snell struggled through the next two seasons and was traded to Milwaukee in the preseason for Michael Carter-Williams, Butler has made another jump, elevating himself to a Top 15 or Top 10 player, depending on who you ask.

He was asked if he shocked the front office with his play and development over the last four years.

“You couldn't say I would pan out this way. I couldn't say that either,” Butler said. “I just work hard. Crazy part is I think I can still surprise them even more because I continue to work. Continue to be myself, do what's asked of me. Do what I can to the best of my ability. Yeah, they were shocked, surprised, excited for me and the future. But nobody could see this coming.”

Jimmy Butler may have gotten uninvited to the Wade's BBQ again


Jimmy Butler may have gotten uninvited to the Wade's BBQ again

Jimmy Butler is in hot water with the Wades ... again.

Maybe not really, but the two former Bulls teammates exchanged pleasantries on Instagram after Butler commented on a photo Dwyane Wade's wife Gabrielle Union posted poolside, saying: "WELL DAMN!!"

Wade, a three-time all-defensive second team, came to his wife's defense when Butler posted a video the next day with the caption: "The good, the bad, and the ugly...", prompting Wade to respond: "Put well damn in caps on my wife photo again and you're gonna see what the good, the bad and the ugly is like."

*Mic drop*

It appears this won't affect Butler getting an invite to the next get together. Or so he hopes...

"Well that escalated quickly," Butler responded to Wade. "Point noted.. I'm still coming to the bbq tho 😂😂😂"

SI names Lauri Markkanen a top-five candidate for a breakout season

SI names Lauri Markkanen a top-five candidate for a breakout season

Lauri Markkanen has been making headlines this offseason, mostly for bulking up considerably, and making appearances around Chicago at Nike camps and Jabari Parker’s camp, but as the season nears, his on-the-court exploits are starting to come up as well. On Thursday, Sports Illustrated put Lauri Markkanen on their list of five breakout candidates for the 2018-19 season

SI writer Michael Shapiro had this to say about Markkanen:

Markkanen has all the tools to be a future All-Star, and it looks as though he has the mindset, too. He seemed to take his matchup with Porzingis personally in early January, demanding the ball down the stretch en route to a career-high 33 points in a road victory. The Bulls enter 2018-19 on the outside of the East playoff picture, but Chicago is now home to the NBA’s newest unicorn.

High praise indeed for Markkanen, and well-deserved praise considering that he finished with a usage rate lower with the Bulls than his college stint at Arizona, yet still was able to have an impact on the Bulls. Shapiro mentioned Markkanen’s burgeoning off-the-dribble game as the skill that most stood out, and speaks to the Finnish big man’s All-Star potential. 

While the 21-year-old’s threes lived up to the hype, it was his prowess of the bounce that made the biggest impression. Markkanen showed a deft handle and array of canny fakes in the post, adding a mean streak to boot. The Finnisher lived up to his nickname, unafraid of contact and eager to fight for position in the post. The stereotype of the soft European big man doesn’t apply here.

The numbers back this up. 

Among the Bulls top 10 players in drives per game last season, Markkanen finished second in field percentage (on drives) at 46.1 percent. If that numbers rises, or more likely, Markkanen drives to the basket more, his scoring total will increase. And when it came to finishing around the paint in general, he shot  67.6 percent on shots from zero-to-three feet, making him the third best in that range out of the Bulls top nine rotation players last season. Yet among the same group of players, Markkanen ranked sixth in shot attempts from zero-to-three feet. With the presence of Wendell Carter Jr., and another year of internal growth from Bobby Portis- bigs that can stretch the floor -Markkanen should be the recipient of more plays putting him in a position to score around the basket.

On a roster that will surely give big minutes to Parker, Kris Dunn, Carter, Chandler Hutchison and a working-his-way-back to form Zach LaVine, Markkanen may be surest 3-point shooter on the floor. This means defenses will key in on his outside shot. If players are routinely closing out hard on Markkanen- as they should -this will open up more driving opportunities for the nimble seven-footer. 

The third or fourth season is usually when young players take the leap from good to great, but Markkanen will be playing with the most talented group of teammates he has ever been surrounded with. How he handles playing with this group will go a long way towards establishing what kind of player he will be in the future, specifically if he is an All-Star caliber talent. On the 2018-19 Bulls, someone will have to hover around a 20 percent usage rate, making them a clear third-option, whoever that player is, his last name should not be Markkanen.