Watson's return a silver lining in Bulls' loss

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Watson's return a silver lining in Bulls' loss

MEMPHIS As disappointing as the Bulls blowout defeat at the hands of the Grizzlies was a contest Derrick Rose missed because of his sprained left big toe one aspect of the game that was encouraging was the return of backup point guard C.J. Watson from a sprained left elbow.

Watson, who came off the bench behind normal third-stringer John Lucas III, scored 17 points in his return to the lineup. He made his first shot attempt, a pull-up jumper, but more importantly, he displayed no signs of hesitance, despite admitting that he played in pain.

It was all right. Its still in a lot of pain, but Im just trying to fight through it and play, he said afterwards. I can move it pretty good and I can shoot all right. The pain is going to go away, hopefully, throughout the season, so Im just trying to get out there and just play, and help my team.

Watson, who had nine attempts from the foul line, converting seven he also laid out on the court to dive for loose balls, showing hes unafraid of aggravating the injury, in another display of his lack of fear of contact had been diligently working to return to the Bulls lineup, traveling with the team on the road since the injury occurred, ironically against the Grizzlies, on the New Years Day, 40-point home-opener rout.

Ive been working out every day, but game shape is a lot different, said Watson, who originally hurt his elbow diving for a loose ball. But I just tried to go out there and play, and see how it felt.

I fell on it a couple times today. It still hurts, but Im out there, just trying to play, he added. It is what it is. Im just going to go out there and hopefully, I dont hurt it any worse and just play hard.

His coaches and teammates appreciated his effort, even in the wake of the tough loss.

Big positive, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. Hes been working extremely hard to come back and you cant say enough about what hes done to get back this quickly, so that was a positive sign for us.

Added Luol Deng: C.J. played well. Its good to have him back and its good for him to have that type of game, but as a team, weve got to a better job. But individually, I thought C.J. did a good job when he came in.

Denzel Valentine: Bulls' versatility will 'make us so dangerous'

Denzel Valentine: Bulls' versatility will 'make us so dangerous'

The Bulls are undergoing a "retooling" in their backcourt after dealing Derrick Rose to the Knicks, drafting Denzel Valentine and attempting to re-sign E'Twaun Moore in free agency.

That, combined with Jimmy Butler, the addition of Jerian Grant and an already versatile frontcourt will give Fred Hoiberg plenty of options that Valentine believes will make the Bulls "dangerous" in 2016-17.

"I think that's going to make us so dangerous this year, is we are versatile with our guards," He said on Wednesday night's White Sox broadcast. "And in those three positions I feel like we're going to be able to guard and do a lot of things offensively and throw a lot at you when we're coming down on offense. And the defensive end, too.

"I think we're going to have a really good team this year with all that we have, and I'm glad to be part of the building year, or whatever you want to call it."

On paper the Bulls will have more versatility than a year ago. Valentine is capable of playing either wing position and can handle the ball, though he doesn't project as a point guard. Butler can play and defend four positions, and Grant is capable of playing either guard spot. Bringing back E'Twaun Moore would benefit that versatility greatly, as he's capable of playing on or off the ball.

In the frontcourt, the Bulls will need to replace Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah, neither of whom provided much versatility. Robin Lopez is entrenched at center, which will give the Bulls' stretch forwards Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis more room to roam the perimeter.

Wherever Valentine plays, and however Hoiberg uses him in Year 1, the Michigan State rookie said he's ready to do what's asked of him from a franchise known for winning.

"My job is to just come in, do what I can do best and just work on my game and try to lead as best as I can," he said on SportsTalk Live (in the video above). "I'm not coming in to step on anybody's toes but I'm going to do what I can to lead and be a good teammate and try to win some games."

Bulls' Denzel Valentine throws out first pitch at White Sox game

Bulls' Denzel Valentine throws out first pitch at White Sox game

Count Denzel Valentine as 1-for-1 in a Bulls uniform.

The first-round pick threw out the first pitch prior to tonight's White Sox-Twins game and fired a strike to another young Chicago star, pitcher Carlos Rodon.

Check out Valentine's first pitch in the video above.

Jimmy Butler, on his future with the Bulls: 'I don't think anything's for certain'

Jimmy Butler, on his future with the Bulls: 'I don't think anything's for certain'

The Summer of Jimmy Butler Answering Rumors added another chapter on Wednesday, with the Bulls' All-Star answering questions on ESPN's The Jump with Rachel Nichols.

Butler was asked a bevy of questions about his opinion on trade rumors involving himself, the trade that sent Derrick Rose to the Knicks and whether he believes he'll remain with the Bulls.

It's been a busy offseason for Butler's Bulls, which missed the playoffs last year for the first time in eight seasons. In addition to the Rose trade and drafting Michigan State's Denzel Valentine, the Bulls reportedly dangled Butler's name in trade discussions on draft night.

And though general manager Gar Forman vehemently denied the Bulls were shopping the 26-year-old Butler, the constant rumors appear to have taken a toll on Butler's belief about his future in Chicago.

"I don't think anything's for certain, I really don't," Butler responded when asked if he believed he'd be with the Bulls next season. "I love the city of Chicago, Chicago basketball, I think everybody knows that. They drafted me, I've been here my entire career, but nothing's for certain."

Butler also admitted that the Bulls' inconsistent play that resulted in a 42-40 record - their worst since 2010 - magnified the reported rift between him and Rose.

"I can't say I was surprised by (the Rose trade). I knew it had to be one of us, to tell you the truth. Obviously I enjoyed playing with him. I came into the league when he was the MVP, I got so much respect for the guy. I have no bad things to say about him and I wish him the best moving forward," Butler said.

"Because we didn't win I think everything comes up. I think if we win there's nothing to say, we're fine, we get along together, we'd probably still be teammates to tell you the truth."

Despite the rumors, and the front office's refusal to commit to Butler, the Marquette product says his relationship with Forman and the rest is "good."

"I can't say we talk about everything because we don't but I think most of the imporant things, I get a phone call or a text message and we'll talk," Butler said. "They'll take my opinion on some things, but I'm a player."