Bulls frontcourt trio leads the way for 'clicking' team

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Bulls frontcourt trio leads the way for 'clicking' team

Carlos Boozer responded to being snubbed for the Eastern Conference All-Star team in the best way possible Friday night, with a double-double of 15 points and 13 rebounds in the Bulls 103-87 win over the Warriors at the United Center.

Boozer got the Bulls going early and had a dominant first-half outing to help the hosts run out to a huge early advantage. After the game, the power forward claimed that while he was disappointed in not being selected, hes fine with taking a mini-vacation next month.

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At the end of the day, weve got two guys representing us and Im super proud of Joakim and Luol. Obviously I wanted to be in there, too, Boozer said. But Im going to go home to Miami. Im going to come back with a great tan, make all you guys the media jealous.

Joakim Noah, who was selected as a reserve for the East, didnt let his newfound All-Star status go to his head. Instead, the center delivered a vintage performance, scoring 14 points, snatching 16 rebounds, dishing out four assists and blocking three shots, while forcing his former Florida teammate, David Lee, named a Western Conference All-Star reserve Thursday evening, into a 6-for-15 shooting night.

HIGHLIGHTS: All-around effort carries Bulls past Warriors

I was just playing my game. Its not about that. I just wanted to play with high energy and play my game. I still feel like I could have done things better tonight, but its a great honor to be part of the All-Star game, Noah explained. But its not the reason why I play the game of basketball.

Jimmy Butler, the third member of the Bulls starting frontcourt, kept up his solid play in place of the injured Luol Deng the recently named back-to-back All-Star missed his fourth consecutive game with a strained right hamstring with a 16-point, 12-rebound outing, earning the praise of Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau.

Hes a pro. Hes a good player. Hes hard playing and I think he can do a lot better, too. But I love his toughness. He competes on every play, hes not afraid. Guys like that can continue to get better, so I want him to stay hungry, keep improving, the coach observed. But he has shown, even last year, in the opportunities that he got, he played well and hes doing the same thing now.

Thibodeau was positive about the efforts of the entire frontline trio, who each notched a double-double the first time the Bulls have achieved the feat this season also lauding the way Boozer and Noah played.

Its huge. Jo was terrific. Offense, defense, rebounding, energy, he said. Carlos, I thought his rebounding and just his presence inside, his cutting, his screening led to fouls, which got us to the free-throw line some, too. But it got us established inside and opened some things up for us.

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Perhaps more significantly, the team is clearly finding its groove, even without the services of Deng and the still-sidelined Derrick Rose, making the Bulls a scary postseason proposition as the season continues.

Obviously theres a lot of room for improvement, but I think our intentions have always been good and its just sort of clicking for us right now, Kirk Hinrich explained. Theres kind of a good calmness, but also readiness and sense of urgency at the same time. Weve kind of had that edge."

Joakim Noah added: I think its high energy, rebounding, good defense. We hit shots. A lot of guys stepped up tonight and thats a positive: Jimmy Boy Butler, Kirky Worky Hinrich, Los Boozer. It feels good to win.

We really feel like our basketball is yet to come, when our horses come back, he continued. I feel like we were really active tonight and we were definitely the hungrier team. When youre the hungrier team, it usually ends up with the win.

Boozer concurred: D-Rose is still out, Luol is still out. Were doing it without big pieces of our team being in the game, so thats very impressive.

Every team goes through ups and downs, they go through peaks and valleys and right now, were on the rise.

New teammates, new changes put Jimmy Butler at ease

New teammates, new changes put Jimmy Butler at ease

The earrings were gleaming from Jimmy Butler’s ears, as he was his usual-disarming self with a playful smile and wink during his question-and-answer session with the Chicago media.

At a point, he took a deep breath as he looked around the Advocate Center with some of his new teammates walking around, some of whom had to carry nameplates because they weren’t recognizable faces in this new setting.

And because new faces are in town, it means two things: some faces left town and for Butler’s sake, the new ones will only know him as “Jimmy Butler, All-Star”, not the guy who was a late first-round pick, not the player who couldn’t get off the bench.

Butler didn’t bring up his comfort level, but when asked, he didn’t deny things appear to be a bit easier this time around.

“Does it make me feel more comfortable? I mean, to an extent, yeah, because then you can never say how you may have think that I’ve changed,” Butler said.

Butler’s ascension rubbed some the wrong way last season, and it’s been spoken about ad nauseam, whether it was true or not. But the moment of honesty wasn’t so much a shot at Derrick Rose or Joakim Noah, who departed for the Knicks in various forms; however it was an admission to his level of security, one that perhaps can lead to a more peaceful existence with all the core pieces.

The one way he’s always lead and will always speak to, is by example and work ethic. It’s one that turned him into an All-Star and Olympian.

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“I think everybody that’s on this roster now just knows how hard that I’ve worked to get to this spot that I’m at,” Butler said. “They’ve seen it. They’ve witnessed it. All they’ve been around for me is this point of my career. I don’t know if it sounds bad. But I think that all these guys look at, ‘If Jimmy works like that and if I work like that, I’ll be in the same position that he’s in.’ I’ll be more than happy to let you have that position because I think hard work can get you anywhere that you want to get to.”

So with that, Butler volunteered himself to Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, to be the sacrificial lamb of wrath if need be. Easy to say if he doesn’t actually believe Hoiberg is capable of going from nice guy to madman at a moment’s notice but Butler laid it out for the record.

“I told Fred, ‘As much as you can, use me as an example. I want you to really get on my tail about every little thing.’,” Butler said. “Because if Doug or Tony or whoever it may be is watching coach talk to me like that, it’s going to be like, ‘If he can talk to Jimmy like that, I know he’s going to come at me a certain way.’ That’s what I try to remind him every day. I think he’s ready for that. I’m a player. I’m coachable like everybody else. I want that. I need that.”

The additions of Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo add championship receipts to a locker room that needs it, considering the Bulls want to play their young pieces. Wade and Rondo, the Bulls privately believe, will help Butler deal with everything that comes with a new role of leadership — and by proxy, Butler’s relationship and expectations of Hoiberg.

“He was put in a position last year he wasn't familiar with and I think we'll see growth from it,” Bulls general manager Gar Forman said. “The great thing about Jimmy is you know he comes in each and every day and gives 100 percent. He gets better every year and I think we'll continue to see that growth in his game and him as a person. I think that experience with USA basketball was real positive for him.”

Whether the trio lives up to the “Three Alphas” nickname remains to be seen, but after having a locker room with too many low-pitched voices, perhaps the change in pace — any change in pace — will be a welcome one for Butler.

“The Alpha thing, I think we’ll be just fine. Everybody is going to have something to say,” he said. “As long as everybody is listening and is willing to take some criticism if you’re doing something wrong, just like if you’re doing something right I’m going to tell you, there’s good and bad in everything you do. At the end of the day, as long as we win games, it won’t matter.”

Bulls' Jimmy Butler wants tough coaching from Fred Hoiberg this season

Bulls' Jimmy Butler wants tough coaching from Fred Hoiberg this season

 

Much was made of the Jimmy Butler-Fred Hoiberg dynamic last year.

As the duo head into Year 2 together with a very different Bulls roster, Jimmy Butler was very clear about one thing he wants out of his coach this season.

“I told Fred, ‘As much as you can, use me as an example,’” Butler said during the team’s media day on Monday. “I want you to really get on my tail about every little thing because if Doug (McDermott) or Tony (Snell) or whoever it may be, if watching coach talk to me like that he’s going to be like ‘If he can talk to Jimmy like that I know he’s going to come at me a certain way.’ So that’s what I try to remind him everyday. I think he’s ready for that. I’m a player. I’m coachable like everybody else, but I want that. I need that.”

Butler’s show of confidence in his coach didn’t stop at his belief that Hoiberg could follow through on Butler’s desire to be coached hard. The All-Star believes Hoiberg has improved as a coach heading into his second year on the job.

“It was his first year last year and I think he studied himself and us and the way we were up and down in so many areas of the game last year,” Butler said. “He’s trying to correct it. That’s just like anybody going into the offseason. He didn’t just not work. He studied and got better at what he needed to get better at. I think he’s ready moving forward.”