Despite loss, Butler impressive in first NBA start for injured Deng


Despite loss, Butler impressive in first NBA start for injured Deng

Luol Deng missed his first game of the regular season Saturday due to a strained right hamstring suffered in the third quarter of Fridays overtime win in Boston, leading to second-year swingman Jimmy Butler making his first NBA regular-season start Deng's status is day-to-day, according to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau in Saturdays 85-82 overtime loss to Memphis at the United Center.
Butler played a Deng-like 47 minutes, 43 seconds in the contest and scored a career-high 18 points, while making Grizzlies leading scorer Rudy Gay work extremely hard for his 16 points, which he got on 6-for-19 shooting on the evening.
More: Grizzlies halt Bulls' overtime streak
Thibodeau, obviously not in a good mood after the setback in his teams third overtime game in as many contests, was complimentary of Butlers performance.
I thought he started slowly and got going, the coach said. Overall, I thought he played very well.
While the team-focused Butler was disappointed in the defeat, he took some solace in knowing that he played in a fashion worthy of his mentor, a first-time NBA All-Star last season and the leagues reigning and current minutes-per-game leader.
Before the game, he was like, Go out there and play, dont worry about anything. This is Lu talking to me. He was just like, Play the game. Play hard. Do what youve been doing to get you to this point. He was just coaching me up and came in at halftime, told me what I can work on, what I can do better and what to keep doing, so its great to have guys like that in your corner, he said. Yeah, I am tired. But I feel like Id be more tired if we had won the game, because now I feel like everybody can do something to get better. Even when you win, you can do something to get better, but if you lose, it hurts that much more.
Teammate Joakim Noah is a big inspiration for me. I look over there, I see him clapping and cheering. He wants to win the game. He has the utmost confidence in me, so it definitely helps to have him over there.
Related: Don't blow Noah benching out of proportion
Regarding his defense on Gay, a talented offensive player with excellent athleticism and a size advantage on Butler, the Marquette product made a crucial adjustment after the Grizzlies small forward started to get it going in the second quarter.
Just play hard, try to contest everything. I feel like he started to whip my expletive at one point and just had to man up. We had to stop him. If we want a chance to win this game, weve got to get some stops. I said that to myself, Jo said that to me, Booz said that to me. It was a different matchup for me, Butler explained. Just tried to crowd him, more than what I was trying to crowd. Make everything difficult for him. Hes a great player. Really, really talented. Big-time players make big-time shots. Thats what he was out there doing.
After Deng exited Fridays contest, Butler stepped up in the games extra session and he did the same thing Saturday, deviating from his usual role as simply a defensive specialist and hustle guy, but sometimes reluctant offensive player. Instead, he continued to show a knack for offensive rebounding and displayed a new-found willingness to make plays.
I feel like thats what Lu does for this team, so when hes out, Ive got to try to fill his shoes. Really big shoes to fill, dont get me wrong. But all I can do is try the best that I can, he said. Just knowing when they turn their head, cut, get inside position, knowing when your teammates are going to shoot the ball. All of that factors into offensive rebounding, but I feel like a lot of its hustle.
I feel like thats my job, to hustle and play hard. Tired, fresh legs, Ill do whatever it takes to help this team win.
By sheer coincidence, Butlers family was in Chicago from Texas to see his first NBA start and saw that hes already well-received in the Windy City, as he got a nice ovation when introduced in the Bulls starting lineup.
It was great. It brought me back to my college days to tell you the truth. I love this city, he said. It was crazy because my family was here, so they got to witness it.
It was nerve-wracking at first. I got frustrated, I was rushing things, Butler continued. Everybody was just like, Calm down. Its like coming off the bench. Just play hard.
I feel good. I see how Lu feels, obviously.

After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

Dwyane Wade sounded every bit like a frustrated 35-year old father when talking about the repeated ills and so-called growing pains of his Bulls, as they surrendered yet another game against a sub-.500 team.

Sometimes it's the New York Knicks whom the Bulls are offering temporary refuge. Or maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves as they are all-too-generous to roll out the welcome mat for returning figures to Chicago.

Tuesday it was the Dallas Mavericks, the second-worst team in the Western Conference, who stormed into the United Center and escaped with a 99-98 win, courtesy of Wesley Matthews' triple with 11.7 seconds left followed by him locking down Jimmy Butler on the ensuing possession.

Wade was forced to take a contested 21-footer that went awry, but the Bulls' ills went far beyond the last two possessions, when the Mavericks exploited their strategy yet again.

"Either you learn the lesson or figure out," Wade said. "Keep putting your hand on the hot stove every day.

"We just gotta figure out not to put our hands on that stove. And understand when we come in the kitchen, that stove is hot, don't touch it. As I continue to say, this is a very young team and they have to play in these games and have to go through these moments. The one thing you want, whether it's this year or next year, is to not make the same mistakes."

The Bulls are apparently insistent on touching the stove and keep burning themselves, the most recent time with the confusion or the bad strategy in defending the Mavericks' final offensive possession.

Deron Williams found himself with Nikola Mirotic defending him off a switch from Jimmy Butler. Not the quickest afoot, Mirotic gave Williams an easy path to the basket and Wade was the backside help, not wanting to leave Matthews on the wing for a triple.

But with the bench commanding Wade to help, Williams easily found Matthews for an open 3 as Wade had no help for his man. With the Bulls up two, one could see how Wade didn't want to leave Matthews.

"I'll have to go back and watch, but it looks like Deron got downcourt, Wade went over to help and we didn’t rotate accordingly," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We obviously need to do a better job of staying in front of the other end."

Mirotic was supposed to be brought back slowly in his return from strep throat, but he played the entire fourth quarter and 22 minutes overall, having lost eight pounds with his illness that had him miss four games.

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Their issues were game-long and have been seasonlong as the Mavericks were supposed to absorb a shellacking from a Bulls team that felt a 25-point beatdown in Texas last month.

Instead, they would've been happy with settling for an escape when Butler rose up over his college teammate Matthews for a 20-foot wing jumper with 22.8 seconds left.

Butler nearly added a triple-double and clutch moment to his growing resume with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds but was dogged by Matthews all night, the defender who wouldn't give him airspace, went chest-to-chest and even earned a technical foul when he felt Butler exaggerated some contact in the third quarter.

"He took away my space, wouldn't let me get to my spot," Butler said of Matthews. "Good for him. I should've did something different."

Wade missed 13 of his 21 shots, scoring 17 with five rebounds on his 35th birthday

With scoring at a premium, Robin Lopez had a season-high 21 points being guarded by Dirk Nowitzki — and they were necessary considering the Bulls were without Taj Gibson (ankle injury) and Doug McDermott couldn't repeat his 30-point showing from Sunday in Memphis.

Rick Carlisle has long been regarded as one of the top strategic coaches, and though he doesn't have the usual personnel from the Mavericks' salad days, he had enough tricks up his sleeve to throw the Bulls off.

Six Mavericks scored in double figures, led by Harrison Barnes' 20 points and Seth Curry's 18, as Barnes, Matthews and Curry combined for eight triples — spreading the Bulls out and picking them apart defensively.

The Mavericks started Nowitzki at center, going to an almost all-small lineup. And though Lopez scored 14 points in the first half, trying to feed him seemed to take the Bulls out of it in the second half.

The energy was tardy to the party, as they shot just 41 percent in the first half but woke up a little in the third quarter — continuing their all-too familiar trend of half-hearted efforts against lesser teams.

And it looks like the ever-optimistic Wade is dishing out some realism, probably something that comes with the perspective of turning 35.

"You can't keep getting stressed out or frustrated. We've been going through this all year. We'll get back in in the morning.

"Once you realize who you are, you're better off. I sleep better at night. Once we want to be a better team and start winning games, we will. I'm not mad, I'm not frustrated, I'm not stressed. Just taking the hits."

Bulls' Rajon Rondo oddly runs behind back of former coach Rick Carlisle

Bulls' Rajon Rondo oddly runs behind back of former coach Rick Carlisle

Is Rajon Rondo avoiding his former coach?

During Tuesday night's Bulls-Mavericks game, Rondo awkwardly ran behind Mavs coach Rick Carlisle as the third quarter was winding down.

Take a look at the play in the video above.

Rondo, who played with the Mavericks in the 2014-15 season, had a weird relationship with Carlisle. Most notably, he and Carlisle had a heated exchange during a game on Feb. 24, 2015 against the Toronto Raptors. It eventually led to Carlisle saying that Rondo was a bad fit for the Mavericks and that the team should have never traded for him.

On Tuesday, Rondo apparently shook Carlisle's hand before he checked in the game for the first time in the first quarter. 

All is well, it seems, but that was still weird.