Bulls cruise to blowout win over Warriors


Bulls cruise to blowout win over Warriors

Forget their recent history of struggling at home or their difficulties maintaining early leads, from the start to finish Friday night, the Bulls (26-16) played with a purpose.

Multiple players, including the point-guard tandem of Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson and the big-man duo of Carlos Boozer and recently named first-time All-Star Joakim Noah, as well as fill-in starter Jimmy Butler, all contributed to a 103-87 shellacking of Golden State (26-16) at the United Center.

The hosts jumped out to a quick start, scoring the games first eight points, buoyed by the play of Boozer (15 points, 13 rebounds), who was perceived as a slight All-Star snub Thursday evening and armed with some motivation, logged a first-half double-double.

Propelled by point guard Stephen Curry (21 points), viewed as the consensus biggest omission from the All-Star roster, the visitors fought back to make a double-digit deficit more manageable for the time being.

Aside from Boozers solid play on offense and on the glass, as well as the energetic play of both Butler (16 points, 12 rebounds) starting in Luol Dengs place for the fourth consecutive game with the All-Star sidelined due to a strained right hamstring and Noah (14 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, three blocked shots), the Bulls also got a lift from floor general Hinrich (25 points on 8-for-11 shooting, five assists, 6-for-7 three-point shooting), who knocked down his first three shots from the field and two first-quarter triples to give the home team a formidable early lead.

With veteran Rip Hamiltons playmaking also influencing matters and the hosts defense and rebounding dominating their guests besides a 21-7 edge on the glass, Golden State was held to 22.7 percent shooting from the floor, with Curry and All-Star power forward David Lee (23 points) combining for 3-for-13 shooting the Bulls had a 31-13 advantage through the opening period.

Backup point guard Robinson (22 points on 10-for-16 shooting, four assists), who played for the Warriors last season, was the Bulls catalyst at the outset of the second quarter, as his instant-offense ability the diminutive scorer notched double figures in the period tormented his former teammates.

The hosts were efficient offensively and stifling on the defensive end, all the while owning the backboards, en route to securing a comfortably wide winning margin of over 20 points and at times, doubling up their guests.

While a determined Curry eventually got some shots to fall, Lee was able to get to the free-throw line and sleeper early-season Sixth Man of the Year candidate Jarrett Jack came off the bench to provide some scoring and playmaking, Golden State struggled mightily to stay in the contest, as the Bulls, a team thats had its issues at home all season, evidenced by their 13-11 mark at the United Center, threatened to run the visitors out of the building in the first half.

However, the Bulls are also a squad thats experienced problems maintaining big leads and despite Hinrichs continued hot hand the veteran scored 19 first-half points to lead the way the Warriors gradually chipped into the deficit and by virtue of a 37-point quarter, at the intermission, the hosts led by the more reasonable margin, at least for the visitors, of 63-50.

After the break, Golden States momentum carried over, as the visitors cut it to a 10-point deficit, behind the play of Lee and Curry, as well as second-year shooting guard Klay Thompson, though they were helped by the Bulls inefficiency.

But the hosts got out of their malaise, led by the athletic Butlers all-around play, rebounding and finishing at the rim, not to mention Noah, who joined Boozer as having a double-double, but added his uncanny playmaking to the equation.

Butler eventually notched the same accomplishment, helping the Bulls lead balloon and resuming their early-game dominance of the contest against a Golden State team that looked spent from the effort to get back into the game.

Heading into the final stanza, the Bulls had an 84-66 edge, capped by Robinsons dribbling display and deep jumper late in the third quarter.

Robinsons effectiveness as an off-the-dribble scorer came to the forefront at the beginning of the fourth period Hinrich played point guard, allowing Robinson, more of a natural scorer than a playmaker, to be off the ball as the Bulls again flirted with a 20-point lead.

The Warriors looked disjointed on both ends of the floor and the end of the contest evolved into extended garbage time, as well as Robinsons personal showcase.

As time wound down, Golden States deep reserves saw action, while the only drama in the arena was when, not if, the Bulls would reach triple digits, which they did on a Hinrich shot from long distance with 3:17 left, giving him a season-high point total.

Eventually, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau realized the contest was in the bag and inserted the likes of seldom-used veteran forward Vladimir Radmanovic, rookie point guard Marquis Teague, backup center Nazr Mohammed and the teams newest acquisition, sharpshooter Daequan Cook, who knocked down a late three, the home teams final basket of the blowout victory.

It sure sounds like Jimmy Butler regrets being labeled as the face of the Bulls franchise

It sure sounds like Jimmy Butler regrets being labeled as the face of the Bulls franchise

Jimmy Butler didn't come close to following in his trainer's footsteps, but Mr. G. Buckets Unplugged still proved enlightening.

Following a wild Thursday, Butler hopped on the phone Friday afternoon from Paris to chat with Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times about the deal that sent the former face of the Bulls to rejoin Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota.

Butler wanted to be labeled as the face of the franchise, but his comments seem to reflect the old adage "be careful what you wish for."

"It doesn't mean a damn thing. I guess being called the face of an organization isn't as good as I thought. We all see where being the so-called face of the Chicago Bulls got me. So let me be just a player for the Timberwolves, man. That's all I want to do. I just want to be winning games, do what I can for my respective organization and let them realize what I'm trying to do.

"Whatever they want to call me... face... I don't even want to get into that anymore. Whose team is it? All that means nothing. You know what I've learned? Face of the team, eventually, you're going to see the back of his head as he's leaving town, so no thanks."


Butler also spoke about trying to block out all the trade rumors while on vacation in France:

"I mean, I had so many people telling me what could possibly happen, but I just got to the point where I stopped paying attention to it. 

"It's crazy because it reminds you of what a business this is. You can't get mad at anybody. I'm not mad - I'm not. I just don't like the way some things were handled, but it's OK."

Butler doesn't have to be the sole face of the franchise in Minnesota on a team that has two of the top homegrown young stars in the game in Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

Bulls have emerged from a ball of confusion to parts unknown

Bulls have emerged from a ball of confusion to parts unknown

The big red button was pressed and Jimmy Butler was ejected from the Chicago Bulls’ present and future as they finally made the decision to rebuild after two years of resisting.

Trading Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the ability to draft Lauri Markkanen represents the Bulls committing to the draft lottery and fully going in on the Fred Hoiberg experience for the foreseeable future, as the prospect of trying to improve through shrewd moves in the East while also facing the likelihood of Butler commanding a $200 million contract wasn’t palatable to their pocketbook or their sensibilities.

On one hand, making a decision — any decision — can be applauded on some levels after years of their relationship with Butler being complicated at best. But the idea of rebuilding and the application of it are often two separate ideals, because the evaluation of a rebuild can often be as murky as the land the Bulls just left.

“What we’ve done tonight is set a direction,” Bulls Executive Vice President John Paxson said. “We’ve gone to the past where we make the playoffs, but not at the level we wanted to. You know in this league, success is not determined that way. We’ve decided to make the change and rebuild this roster.”

“We’re gonna remain patient and disciplined. The development of our young players is important. The coaching staff has done a phenomenal job. We’re gonna continue down that path. We’re not gonna throw huge money at people.”

The Bulls aren’t exclusive to this territory, the land in which they’ve inhibited for the last couple seasons, which makes the Butler trade about more than one thing.

Not equal parts but part basketball, part fiscal, part narrative and finally, masking some mistakes that have been made over the years but are not as easily rectified. Trading Butler seemed to be the easiest vessel used as an elixir to wash away missteps. Trading a star in Butler is also the easiest way to get heat off a coach or front office in today’s NBA, because few franchises like to make wholesale changes midstream or early in it.

Trading Butler — along with shipping their second-round pick in a box marked for the Bay Area — was also financial, considering many felt if he made it through the tumultuous evening that he would finish his career as a Bull, raking in a hefty sum of cash on the back end.

It’s because of these factors that the evaluation of this trade and subsequently, a painful rebuild, cannot be in a vacuum. (Note: No rebuild is painless, it’s the size of the migraine a team can endure that determines the type of aspirin necessary).

Just taking a look at the players the Bulls got back in the Butler trade illustrates the gray area they’ve now immersed themselves into. The Bulls fell in love with Dunn before he came to the NBA, and aren’t as bothered by him being a 23-year old second-year player who struggled mightily in his rookie year.

Zach LaVine is an explosive athlete who can put up 20 every night — when he’s on the floor. Recovering from an ACL injury is no given, as evidenced by a young phenom who once graced the United Center hardwood before his body betrayed him.

And Lauri Markkanen is a rookie with promise, but nobody can make any promises on what type of career he’ll have, or if he’ll fulfill that promise with this franchise in the requisite time.

“There’s always risk in anything,” Paxson said. “But here’s a guy that’s 22 years old and averages 20 a game (LaVine). He can score the basketball, he can run. He can shoot the basketball. He shot over 40 percent from three. That’s an area we’re deficient in. Markkanen shot over 40 from three in college. Again, it’s an area where we’re deficient. It’s trying to find the type of player that fits the way that we want to play going forward.”

[RELATED: Jimmy Butler bids emotional farewell to Chicago]

General Manager Gar Forman stated after the announcement of the trade that the Bulls would have to hit on their next few draft picks to stop this rebuild from being elongated, but even then there’s no guarantee.

The Sacramento Kings drafted a rookie of the year, then two future max contract players in the same year, followed by another player who’ll command close to max money very soon. But nobody remembers Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside and Isaiah Thomas leading the Kings from the wilderness and into glory, unless recent memory has been scrubbed away from everyone.

Inconsistencies in organizational structure combined with multiple coaching changes and an inability to develop the right young players kept the Kings on the dais of the draft lottery every April.

The Timberwolves, heck, nobody could say they missed when selecting LaVine, Karl-Anthony Towns and getting Andrew Wiggins in a trade for Kevin Love. It’s because it takes more than the right draft picks, or in the Sacramento Kings’ case, the right infrastructure and environment, to foster an atmosphere of winning.

The Bulls were ready, despite their claims that this was a decision that came across their table right before the draft, because common sense has to be applied. No team makes knee-jerk, franchise-altering decisions that will have reverberations for years to come on the whim of a trade offer from Tom Thibodeau. This was likely decided when the Bulls went out with a whimper in the first-round after shocking the NBA world in the first two games against the Boston Celtics, when their fortunes changed on the trifle of Rajon Rondo’s broken wrist.

It was decided that Hoiberg, the man who endured chants calling for his firing in the second half of the decisive Game 6 loss, needed to have the right type of roster to be accurately judged as a successful hire or failure, and Butler couldn’t be part of those plans.

And just as Hoiberg has been dealt an uneven hand, Butler wasn’t given the type of roster that would accurately judge how he could flourish as a leader, max player and face of the franchise — and probably had less time to show one way or the other relative to his coach.

The longer Butler stayed, the more empowered he would become as his individual accomplishments would rack up because of the dedication he applied to game, the drive he had to place himself in the upper echelon of NBA players.

The better Butler got, the more pressure Hoiberg would be under to mix and match his roster and to foster a relationship with Butler he might’ve been ill-suited to fix. The better Butler got, the more pressure the front office would be under to maximize a prime it didn’t see coming, a prime they can’t truly figure when there’s an expiration date on given Butler’s unlikely rise to stardom.

So getting rid of Butler was the solution and the Bulls have now chosen their path, definitively and with confidence. Emerging from a ball of confusion to parts unknown, from one land of uncertainty to another.