NBA player carousel may finally be over

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NBA player carousel may finally be over

From the fan who despises him the most to the player himself, it's safe to say that anybody who was still paying attention is relieved that the Dwight Howard trade saga is over. But while many have focused on the current culture of the NBA, in which players can demand to go to their preferred destination, either via trade or as free agents, a cursory look at the landscape shows that there simply aren't many more moves to be made when it comes to the league's top talent.
Over the past few years, we've seen Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Deron Williams all force their way out of town to major markets, while the likes of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Amar'e Stoudemire departed in free agency. That doesn't even include Dwyane Wade helping Pat Riley put together the "Big Three" in Miami, max contract extensions for Thunder teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook or Joe Johnson signing a massive extension in Atlanta, then getting traded to Brooklyn to pair up with Williams.
The list goes on -- Dirk Nowitzki's extension in Dallas, Blake Griffin's max deal from the Clippers, Kevin Garnett postponing retirement to take another shot at a title in Boston, Ray Allen leaving the Celtics for the Heat, Steve Nash leaving the Suns for his former rival Lakers and, of course, Derrick Rose's five-year pact to stay in his hometown -- but you get the point: NBA superstars, for the most part, likely won't be changing uniforms for a while.
Barring impatient front-office types getting antsy -- imagine if the Lakers are somehow a bust or the Knicks still can't find a way to get Anthony and Stoudemire to co-exist harmoniously on the court -- don't anticipate the same whirlwind of player movement, not from top-tier stars, in the near future.
After the league's more free-spending franchises went all-in on marquee players, they have no choice but to see how things play out this season, lest tacitly admitting to fans that they made major mistakes, and that the rosters they assembled aren't truly equipped to get to the promised land. Whether it's the old guard of the Lakers, Celtics and Knicks or upstarts like the Heat, Mavericks and Nets -- the Spurs are exceptions to that rule, as an upper-echelon team that's competitive while exhibiting fiscal responsibility; it remains to be seen what route the Thunder, their management-style descendants, will ultimately choose -- a win-now mentality has mostly superseded building through the draft or developing young players around the NBA, meaning that the future is treated as some distant thing that may or may not be around for organizations to enjoy with their current stars.
Now that Howard's saga has been temporarily resolved, there aren't many impact players presently on the block, according to league scuttlebutt, and middling free-agent class next summer (the aforementioned Paul, Atlanta's Josh Smith and potentially Oklahoma City's restricted free-agent duo of James Harden and Serge Ibaka, underrated veteran Al Jefferson and recently-jettisoned dominant centers Howard and Andrew Bynum top the list) doesn't allow most teams to drastically improve instantaneously, placing even more significance on how things shake out this season.
Trades can always be made, but without the drama of a star demanding out of his current locale, the upcoming NBA campaign, barring major in-season injuries, could be somewhat of a throwback year, as what happens on the court, not off of it, is the main focus.

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.”