Bulls wary of struggling Lakers

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Bulls wary of struggling Lakers

DEERFIELD, ILL. It wasnt supposed to be like this for the Lakers.

After assembling a star-studded roster, featuring holdovers Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol and offseason acquisitions Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, amidst coaching changes and injuries, theyve stumbled to a 17-24 record.

Its crazy, with all the talent they have. I think a lot of people thought that they would figure it out by now, just the type of players that they have. I think theyll figure it out. I think they better hope that it doesnt happen too late. But theyve got a lot of guys that know how to play. But Im surprised that theyre struggling the way that they are, said Bulls veteran guard Rip Hamilton, who grew up playing with and against Bryant in their Pennsylvania high school days. Its burning Bryant, especially with all the weapons they have. Its not just like they have a regular team.

But that doesnt mean the Bulls arent wary of the Lakers, whom they host Monday evening as part of the NBA slate of games for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Theyre a great team. I know their record might not show it, but theyve got a lot of talent, Carlos Boozer said. Obviously Kobe, one of the best of all time. Steve Nash, one of the best of all time. Dwight, probably the best center in the game. Pau Gasol, one of the best power forwards. Theyve got a lot of talent on that team, a lot of length.

Taj Gibson chimed in: We see them as a dominant team, especially on offense, but its up to us to go in there and take care of business, and know that weve got to run our plays, run our style of defense and just take care of home court.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau thinks nothing at all is wrong with the Lakers, who are in danger of slipping out of playoff contention.

Theyve had a lot of change. Theyve had injury. Any time you have Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, thats a loaded team. Mike DAntonis a great coach. This team is very, very dangerous.

"Whether its the Lakers, the Clippers, San Antonio, Memphis whoever youve got to approach it the same way, he explained. Gasol has been nicked up, but he looks like hes moving a lot better now. Kobes Kobe. Nash is overcoming his injury. Metta World Peace is playing like he always does, except hes shooting the ball better than he has in the past.

Thibodeau attributed some of their struggles to Howard, who was ejected in the first half of the Lakers Sunday-afternoon loss in Toronto, still trying to find his groove after offseason back surgery.

Youre talking about a guy thats coming off back surgery, so you know that as the season goes along, hes going to get stronger and stronger. Howard has been a very dynamic player in this league for a long time. He impacts the game with his shot-blocking, rebounding. Hes underrated in terms of how he scores and hes extremely intelligent defensively. Hes only going to get stronger as the season goes along, said the coach, before delving into the common strategy of Lakers opponents to intentionally foul Howard, a woeful free-throw shooter, late in games. Well, its a strategy. Sometimes its good, sometimes it isnt. Hes such a force at the rim that you dont want to just give him those shots. His ability to dunk and finish at the rim you cant give him those shots.

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks win, Jimmy Butler starts All-Star Game

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks win, Jimmy Butler starts All-Star Game

Here are some of Sunday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Jimmy Butler: 'Hopefully I’m not going to get traded'

Patrick Kane leads Blackhawks to win in Buffalo homecoming

What Joe Maddon wants to see next from Javier Baez

Jose Abreu ready for 2017 after season full of 'different challenges'

Wojnarowski: Bulls-Celtics Jimmy Butler trade talks 'will loom over the entire week'

After surreal offseason, Ben Zobrist comes to Cubs camp in style as World Series MVP

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson out at least 10 days with foot injury

Fire score five goals for fourth preseason win

Simeon beats rival Morgan Park for city championship

Former Northwestern football player Torri Stuckey now focuses on helping others

Jimmy Butler: 'Hopefully I’m not going to get traded'

Jimmy Butler: 'Hopefully I’m not going to get traded'

NEW ORLEANS — Every All-Star isn’t created equal, even by the slimmest of margins as the best 24 NBA players take their turn on the midseason stage.

So Jimmy Butler being announced among the first five as an All-Star starter had to represent some form of validation, now that he’s not a novice at the whole experience and he’s able to go through the motions of the hectic weekend without breaking much of a sweat.

But despite being a three-time All-Star and routinely mentioned as one of the game’s top 15 players or even top 10, he can’t shake the trade rumors that have seemed to follow him since this time last season.

As he finished up his All-Star experience at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, clarity was nowhere to be found—although heading to some tropical island for a couple days to actually unwind with clear water and warm air seemed to be the best therapy if he’s stressed by the uncertainty of the next few days.

“What’s Thursday? Oh, trade deadline,” Butler said. “I don’t know. I don’t know. Am I anxious? Come on, man. I don’t worry about it. It don’t bother or scare me none.”

“Hopefully I’m not going to get traded but I don’t know. I don’t control that. Control what I can control, like going on vacation.”

Surely it has to be frustrating for a guy who’s elevated his game yet again, averaging 24.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.8 steals for the Bulls in 51 games. But he refuses to let it damper his All-Star spirits, playing with some of the best players in the world and a few guys he calls friends, like DeAndre Jordan and Kevin Durant.

“Not for me,” said Butler of the potential stress. “Not saying I’m untradeable but I don’t think about that. If I’m not in a Bulls uniform, I’ll give you a hug and say goodbye to you.”

Moments after Butler made his statement in the media room, the floodgates opened for the trade market as fellow Olympian DeMarcus Cousins was traded from the Sacramento Kings to the New Orleans Pelicans for what seemed to be mere fodder, pennies on the dollar for the most talented center in the NBA.

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While Cousins is far more of a handful than Butler could be, the trade almost signals a consistent truth that always bears repeating—that short of a select few, anybody can be traded.

Even a franchise altering talent like Cousins, who was traded to the city he was physically in for All-Star weekend, and included in the package of players was a guy who hit him in the groin last week (Buddy Hield), resulting in a Cousins outburst and ejection.

Butler has made his name with the Bulls, although not necessarily on the All-Star stage, a player who values defense and doesn’t have as much flash as some of the game’s shinier players.

With a six-point outing in 20 minutes, Butler was an on-court afterthought despite being a starter for the first time.

“Six? Should’ve gone for eight,” he sarcastically deadpanned.

In a relatively jovial mood through the weekend, Butler joked about the talk surrounding him and tried to brush it off as mere chatter as opposed to the franchise not seeing enough in him to make a firm commitment for the long-term, as the Boston Celtics are always hovering.

League sources expect the Celtics to engage the Bulls in conversations for the next few days, but nobody has a great feel for what either side is truly looking for.

But as Butler insisted, he’s only controlling what he can control, which is making himself a fixture for All-Star games to come as opposed to some of the first-timers who don’t know if they’ll get back here again.

“I think I got two underneath my belt,” Butler said. “I know what they’re feeling the first time, It’s so surreal like maybe I do belong here. That’s how I was thinking. Now it’s how do I get here every year? I think that’s the fun part, that’s the challenge. A lot of those guys have done it 10-plus years, hopefully I’m one.”

The only question seems to be, which uniform will it be in because the crazy season has begun.