Bulls notes: Boozer's rough night, Deng's status

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Bulls notes: Boozer's rough night, Deng's status

WASHINGTON Carlos Boozer has been terrific throughout January and although his monster month didnt garner him an All-Star nod, despite being named the Eastern Conference player of the week last week, a double-double performance form the power forward is expected.

In Saturday nights 86-73 loss to the Wizards at the Verizon Center, Boozer, like most of his teammates, struggled, scoring only six points and grabbing two rebounds in over 23 minutes of action.

More significantly, he lost his cool in the third quarter. After being whistled for a flagrant foul after an official review for an apparent elbow to the face of Emeka Okafor while battling for post position on one end, on the subsequent position, he again got tangled up with the Washington center and was hit with a technical foul, along with a personal, his fourth, effectively ending his evening early.

Boozer was unavailable for comment after the contest, but teammate Joakim Noah opined, Its just basketball. Its a back-to-back, both teams are tired. Carlos went for a post-up. He had his hands up. It hit Emeka in the face. They called a flagrant foul. On a post-up. It is what it is, man.

Just frustration. Its part of the process, continued the All-Star center, who had a stellar night in a losing effort, nearly notching a triple-double with nine points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists. Things werent going our way, but I feel like we didnt give up, so I think thats more important than anything.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau added: Who knows? A guy posts up, its a flagrant foul, I guess. I dont know. There was a lot of banging. Their guys are physical, Carlos is a big guy inside. I dont know. I have to see the replay of it. It didnt look like anything other than two guys getting tangled up. I thought the same thing was happening down on our end, but thats the way it goes. The officiating wasnt the problem. We were the problem.

Deng misses fifth consecutive game, hopes to return soon

All-Star small forward Luol Deng was a game-time decision and even warmed up for the Bulls loss to the Wizards, but ultimately didnt suit up.

Still plagued by a strained right hamstring initially suffered in last weeks overtime win in Toronto in which he left the game in the opening period, quickly returned and eventually hit the game-winning shot and re-aggravated in last weekends overtime victory in Boston, Deng missed his fifth straight contest Saturday.

Its a lot better than when I first hurt it. I thought I was going to be able to go today. I went out there to run, had a little trouble, he told CSNChicago.com. I dont know when Ill play. I really thought I was going to be able to go today.

"I went out, ran a little, had a little discomfort and I thought it was just wiser its just one of those injuries I dont want to tweak and be out for longer. Ive already been out long enough. Tomorrow, Ill do more running and hopefully be able to go by Monday.

Bulls newcomer Cook sees meaningful minutes

Early in the fourth quarter, sharpshooter Daequan Cook checked into the contest and was part of the lineup that helped the Bulls trim a 20-point deficit to 10 in the final stanza.

While they couldnt complete the comeback, Cook received his first playing time of substance in a Bulls uniform. He was 0-for-4 from the field, including 0-for-3 from three-point range, but the shooting guard did snatch three rebounds and it was notable that Thibodeau trusted him enough to put him on the floor at a critical juncture of the game, during which the Bulls employed extended defensive pressure.

I felt pretty good. Guys were looking for me and they were giving me open shots. They just didnt go down. They still have faith and trust in me, he told CSNChicago.com. They still gave me opportunities to knock down shots, they still called plays for me, so thats more than enough of a confidence boost, to know that even though you dont make shots, Coach still has the confidence in me to continue to call plays for me, so I felt good out there.

Thibodeau downplayed Cooks minutes.

Well, we were looking for anything, he said. I told all those guys, we were making it difficult for everybody because if youre not running through and youre not wide, and your spacings breaking down after the first option, its easy to guard that, so he didnt get the looks that he should have gotten. Thats why its so important for everybody to do their job because were all counting on each other, so thats something that we have to correct.

Hinrich accepts responsibility for foul-trouble trend

Veteran Kirk Hinrich, whose brief Wizards career occurred when the Bulls traded him to Washington in 2010 along with current Wizards big man Kevin Seraphin discussed his season-long habit of picking up early-game fouls, something more typical of big men than guards.

Hinrich, an aggressive defender, refused to blame NBA officiating, telling CSNChicago.com, Ive got to be smarter. I definitely feel like Im getting a lot of cheap ones.

Hamilton has fond memories of Washington

Rip Hamilton is best known for his days in Detroit, where he was an All-Star and won a title. However, he began his NBA career in Washington and enjoyed the city enough to lay down roots nearby, as he resides in Annapolis, Maryland, during the offseason.

Oh, it was great. It was the team that drafted me. I still live here now, he told CSNChicago.com It was great for me because I was a virgin to the NBA and they were the ones that kind of brought me in. Great city, awesome city, awesome fans. Just a great place."

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."

Whoa.

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.