Free agency likely to be chaotic for Bulls, NBA

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Free agency likely to be chaotic for Bulls, NBA

Veteran swingman Caron Butler's presence at the Berto Center on Monday might lead observers to believe the Bulls are zeroing in on one their prime target in free agency, but according to league sources, the organization is casting a wide net in their pursuit of an upgrade in perimeter scoring. While the return of incumbent starting shooting guard Keith Bogans hasn't been ruled out -- Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and Bogans' backcourt mate, league MVP Derrick Rose each advocated for the veteran last week -- Butler, a native of nearby Racine, Wis., who trains in Chicago at Tim Grover's West Side A.T.T.A.C.K. Athletics facility in the offseason, is among several candidates under consideration.

The 6-foot-7 former All-Star's health is a chief concern, as it remains to be seen if he will regain his previous form. Additionally, the potential acquisition of Butler would likely mean small forward Luol Deng would be forced to at least occasionally defend shooting guards, something he's done in the past, but may not be ideal in every matchup.

Furthermore, whether Butler -- or, for that matter, small forwards Grant Hill and Josh Howard (who is set to visit Chicago in the near future, according to the Washington Post), and shooting guards Jason Richardson, Nick Young and former Bull Jamal Crawford -- would be willing to take a mid-level exception starting at 5 million per season, is another matter up for debate. Aside from Young, the aforementioned players are all veterans who have not won championships and are perhaps willing to sacrifice financially, as they have received major paydays in the past, but could see Chicago as the best opportunity to win a title.

Another name that has been linked to the Bulls in the prelude to what's sure to be a chaotic free-agency process -- beginning Friday, the same day NBA training camps open -- is Mike Dunleavy, a league source told CSNChicago.com. Dunleavy, who most recently played for the Pacers, the Bulls' Central Division rival and first-round playoff opponent last season, differs from some of the other names in that he's a proficient long-range threat, but not as much of a slashing type.

Vince Carter, currently of the Suns, is expected to be waived by Phoenix, freeing up 14 million for the team by ridding them of the former All-Star's contract and giving the Bulls yet another option. It also wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for the Bulls to explore sign-and-trade scenarios -- engaging Atlanta about Crawford and the Nuggets, in regard to shooting guard Arron Afflalo, one of the hottest names on the market as of late, have reportedly been discussed -- or outright trade options, with the likes of Taj Gibson and Ronnie Brewer as bait.

As one veteran free agent told CSNChicago.com via text message, "Teams who wait will pay a premium for guys they could have got early in the process for much cheaper." Such is the price of the NBA's prolonged labor dispute, as well as the waiting game seemingly half the league is playing while anticipating how the bigger dominoes -- such as whether superstars Chris Paul and Dwight Howard are dealt before the season, let alone the destinations of top free agents in the middling class of 2011, like David West, Tyson Chandler and Nene -- will fall.

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Doug McDermott scores career-best 31 to lead Bulls past Grizzlies

Doug McDermott scores career-best 31 to lead Bulls past Grizzlies

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Doug McDermott scored a career-high 31 points, Jimmy Butler had a pair of key baskets in the closing minute and the Chicago Bulls beat the Memphis Grizzlies 108-104 on Sunday night.

The Bulls broke a 104-all tie with 25 seconds left on a 15-footer from Butler and a pair of free throws by McDermott. Butler also had a go-ahead 18-footer with 53 seconds left and finished with 16 points to help Chicago win its second straight.

Taj Gibson finished with 18 points and eight rebounds for the Bulls.

Mike Conley led Memphis with 28 points and eight assists, and Marc Gasol had 24 points and 11 rebounds.

Chicago was without second-leading scorer Dwyane Wade, who did not play on the second night of a back-to-back after the Bulls beat New Orleans at home Saturday.

The game featured 16 lead changes and 11 ties, with neither team holding a double-digit lead.

Most of McDermott's damage came in the first half after the Bulls struggled shooting in the latter part of the first quarter. McDermott came off the bench to reverse the trend.

McDermott scored 20 points in the first eight minutes of the second quarter, moving Chicago's lead to eight. He had 22 points for the half and the Bulls led 52-46 at the break.

TIP-INS

Bulls: Nikola Mirotic missed his fourth straight game dealing with an illness. ... F Paul Zipser, a rookie from Germany, started his second game and second straight after coming off the bench in his first 10 appearances this season. ... McDermott converted a four-point play in the second quarter. ... McDermott's 22 first-half points were more than his total for the four previous games (21). ... Chicago scored 14 points in the first quarter, a season low for the opening frame. ... The Bulls are now 4-5 on the second night of back-to-backs.

Grizzlies: Gasol made a pair of 3-pointers in the first half, marking 17 games this season he has made multiple shots from outside the arc. ... Memphis made 11 3-pointers in the game and has converted at least 10 3s in 20 games this season, including 11 of the last 14 games.

MLK HOLIDAY

This is the 15th season Memphis has hosted a game on Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. The Grizzlies are 6-9 in the holiday game.

In recognition of the holiday, Memphis wore special MLK50 Pride uniforms. The black jerseys have sea foam blue numbers, letters and piping with the full T-shirt look instead of the normal sleeveless. The piping replicated the railing in front the rooms at the Lorraine Motel, where King was assassinated in 1968, and the blue color was similar to the doors on the rooms.

MISSING WADE

Wade's absence meant missing a reunion with Memphis coach David Fizdale. Both left the Miami Heat organization after last season - Wade signing with the Bulls and Fizdale getting his first head coaching job in Memphis. Fizdale said he is sort of a "basketball romantic" and would like to have seen Wade retire in Miami. But he predicted after the player's career "his statue will be out front and (Wade) will be remembered as the great player that he should be."

UP NEXT

Bulls: Return home to face the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night.

Grizzlies: Memphis travels to Washington to face the Wizards on Wednesday night.