'Kobe Stopper' Butler battles Bryant in Bulls' win

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'Kobe Stopper' Butler battles Bryant in Bulls' win

Dont pay any attention to them, Jimmy Butler said after Monday nights 95-83 Bulls home win over the Lakers.

The second-year swingman wanted the media to ignore his teammates chants of Kobe Stopper, after Butler, starting in place of Luol Deng, who missed his second consecutive contest with a strained right hamstring, held Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant to 16 points on 7-for-22 shooting.

He had an awful night. He missed shots that he normally makes. Thats who Kobe is, a real tough matchup. Its hard, my teammates were there for me, but I just tried to make everything hard for him, Butler explained. It was all about getting into his space, but it wasnt just me defending him. If I got beat, Joakim or Booz or somebody was always there, so we defended him as a team, I should say.

Maybe it frustrated him a little bit, but he missed a lot of shots. The pull-ups, the open threes, he makes those. When you see Kobe on the highlights, he knocks those down. He just didnt make too many shots tonight.

Butler also chipped in with 10 points of his own, as well as eight rebounds and four assists in over 43 minutes of action.

Jimmys a great defender, Kirk Hinrich said. I thought he did a good job. Upon being posed a question focusing on Butlers efforts, Joakim Noah exclaimed: Jimmy Boy!

Jimmy Boy was huge. Defensively, I think its great for him. Hes making a name for himself. Hes proven that not only is he a great defensive player, but hes showing his athleticism, he hit a huge shot at the end therebig jump shot. It just makes us that much tougher to know that we have guys like that in the lineup.

Even the likes of demanding Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was pleased with Butlers performance.

Jimmy was terrific. A guy like Kobe, you cant guard him individually and so, you have to rely on your entire team, he said. With Kobe, he missed some shots that he normally makes, but you have to guard him with your whole team, in every aspect. He goes from a one-on-one to a back-down to a pick-and-rollvery few guys can do that and hes great in all threeand then, hes great moving without the ball and he can play-make, hes got great will, hes clutch, so you can never let your guard down against him.

Before the game, Thibodeau discussed how Butler is living up to and perhaps exceeding expectations, as he progresses throughout his second NBA season, particularly now that his mentor, Deng, is out of the lineup for the time being.

I think Jimmy has done a really good job. I thought he made the commitment this summer. I thought he put a lot of time in this summer. I thought he played well in the summer league, continued to come in, played behind Luol. The thing I really like about him is doesnt take him a long time to warm up, so usually we ride Luol into the second quarter and some guys need five minutes to warm up, the coach explained.

Jimmy, you put him in the game, hes ready to go, from the moment he gets in. Hes not afraid of the moment and often times, you can finish a game with him. He handles that part well. When hes been given extended minutes, hes handled that well and he showed the other night that hes very capable as a starter. But thats what I expect from everybody. When one guy goes down, the next guy steps up and gets the job done.

But perhaps the biggest measure of well Butler played was the kudos he received from Bryant. The future Hall of Famer has seen many players who tried to defend him come and go, and while he wasnt especially expansive, the basketball purist paid the youngster a deserved compliment afterwards.

I have nothing but praise for the way he competed, Bryant said. I was proud of how he played and defensively, he stuck to his principles.

Why the 2016 free agency period could be a quiet one for Bulls

Why the 2016 free agency period could be a quiet one for Bulls

With the start of NBA free agency coming at 11:01 Central time on Thursday, prepare to be bombarded with news about meetings and potential signings.

But when the dust clears sometime in mid-July, don't be surprised if the only free agent transaction involving the Bulls is the re-signing of veteran guard E'Twaun Moore.

The reason for this is two-fold. First, the Bulls really like Moore. General manager Gar Forman praised the former Purdue star during the news conference to introduce top draft pick Denzel Valentine, and head coach Fred Hoiberg is also a big fan of Moore's versatility and toughness. Second, with just about every team in the league having significant cap room, the bidding war for second- and third-tier players could get out of the Bulls’ comfort zone and they might choose to keep their powder dry for a much deeper free agent class next year.

If the Bulls are able to re-sign Moore at a starting salary of somewhere between $8-10 million, don't be surprised if he begins the season as the starting point guard. Moore would definitely be the best defensive option at the position, and his size would allow the Bulls to switch on ball screens, with both guards (Moore and Jimmy Butler) able to defend taller players.

The Bulls do like the potential of former Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant, but at this point in his development a reserve role is probably best for the second year pro. Grant also has the ability to play off the ball at 6-foot-4, giving the Bulls another big guard with Butler and Valentine when Hoiberg wants to go to a small-ball line-up.

So, which external players might the Bulls be targeting in free agency? Remember, if they re-sign Moore at a starting salary of 8 million, that leaves them only about $16 million left to spend in what could turn out to be a crazy marketplace.

The Bulls could be looking to upgrade the small forward position, where Mike Dunleavy and Doug McDermott are the likely starting options. Kent Bazemore is an intriguing possibility, coming off his best season in Atlanta where he11.6 points and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 44 percent from the field. He’s also a tenacious defender with plenty of potential for growth at 27 years old.

But with every team looking to spend big dollars this summer, Bazemore's contract could approach the $20 million mark in Year 1, which might be too rich for the Bulls' taste.

Forman talked about a process of trying to make the roster younger and more athletic, which means the Bulls are unlikely to pursue free agents over the age of 30, unless they come on one year deals.

Several restricted free agent wings could be on the Bulls' radar, including Golden State's Harrison Barnes, who reportedly was seen visiting Chicago on Tuesday. Under normal circumstances, the Warriors would automatically match any offer for their talented young forward, but if Kevin Durant indicates he wants to team up with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, the front office would willingly sacrifice Barnes and fellow restricted free agent Festus Ezeli, and trade away a veteran contract like Andrew Bogut or Andre Iguodala to create the cap room to make it happen.

You've probably heard about Barnes' connection with the Bulls. He was a high school teammate of Doug McDermott on a state championship team in Ames, Iowa. That's the same high school where Hoiberg starred, eventually picking up the nickname of the "Mayor" after an outstanding college career at Iowa State.

So, even though the Bulls are in the "re-tooling" process, Barnes has to sign an offer sheet somewhere to start the restricted free agent time clock. Why not Chicago?

As a Tier 1 free agent, a max offer to Barnes would start at $22.2 million, meaning the Bulls would have to move another contract (most likely Taj Gibson or Mike Dunleavy), or use the "stretch" provision to release Jose Calderon from the final year on his deal, which would save them about $5 million on next year's cap.

Golden State will have three days to match the offer sheet Barnes signs, which they will most certainly do if Durant stays in Oklahoma City or signs with a different team. But with none of the other contending teams expected to make a play for Barnes, it might be worth the Bulls tying up their cap room for a few days for a chance to acquire a 24-year-old who would fit perfectly in the offense Hoiberg wants to run. And yes, Barnes played poorly in the Finals, but his inclusion on the 12-man Team USA Olympic squad says a lot about what talent evaluators around the league think of his ability.

If not Barnes, keep an eye on a pair of Portland restricted free agents. 23-year-old Mo Harkless and 24-year-old Allen Crabbe both fit the profile of players Forman discussed - young and athletic with 3-point range. Portland made a big move in the standings to reach the playoffs last season, and their front office is looking at some of the top centers on the market such as Hassan Whiteside and Al Horford. The Blazers might not be willing to match a significant offer for one of their young wing players.

Other names to watch for the Bulls include restricted free agents Terrence Jones, Dion Waiters, Dwight Powell and Jared Sullinger, along with unrestricted wings like Evan Turner, Eric Gordon, Lance Stephenson, Jeff Green, Wesley Johnson, Solomon Hill, Brandon Bass, O.J. Mayo, P.J. Hairston and Derrick Williams.

The Bulls front office could also decide to just re-sign Moore and save the rest of their cap room for 2017, when the list of free agents includes Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kyle Lowry and Blake Griffin. Forman made it clear the "re-tooling" effort is likely a two-year process, with the Bulls hoping to add a pair of first-round picks next summer and also have enough cap room to be a significant player in free agency.

So, enjoy the whirlwind of information and rumors that will be flooding social media over the next couple weeks. Just don't expect any franchise-transforming moves from the Bulls this summer.

Carmelo Anthony: 'I'm glad (Derrick Rose) is on my team'

Carmelo Anthony: 'I'm glad (Derrick Rose) is on my team'

by Jonathan Joffe

Derrick Rose has a new fan now that he's in New York: Carmelo Anthony.

Rose's new teammate and fellow multi-time all-star is a happy to be teaming up with the former Bull.

In addition to complimenting Rose's game, Anthony applauded the Knicks' front office for making moves that allow the team to be competitive in the upcoming season.

It was once thought that Melo and D-Rose could sport the same uniform aside from Olympic competitions. While it won't be in Chicago, the two will be making that thought a reality in New York.

Report: Pau Gasol tells Bulls he has declined option, becoming a free agent

Report: Pau Gasol tells Bulls he has declined option, becoming a free agent

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, but Pau Gasol is hitting the market.

Gasol told the Bulls that he has declined his option for the 2016-17 season and will become a free agent, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.

The 35-year-old signed a three-year, $22.3 million deal with the Bulls in the summer of 2014.

In two seasons with the Bulls, he averaged 17.6 points per game and 11.4 rebounds and made an All-Star appearance.