Hamilton to return vs. Pistons?

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Hamilton to return vs. Pistons?

The Bulls morning shootaround at the Berto Center better known as Groundhog Day, since the news is typically the same, day after day featured Tom Thibodeaus daily proclamation that his starting backcourt of Rip Hamilton and Derrick Rose were game-time decisions for the evenings game.

Said the reigning NBA Coach of the Year: Rip practiced he did the whole practice and Derrick did part of the practice.

However, while Thibodeaus morning declarations can usually be taken with a grain of salt by now, both fans and media alike understand that game-time decision can be translated into out Friday could be a little different.

Hamilton continues to make progress in his recovery from his right-shoulder injury and now that the veteran shooting guard has taken contact and is fully immersed in all team activities, it appears that its a high possibility that he returns to game action against his former team, the Pistons. Ironically, after missing time with groin and thigh injuries early in the season, Hamilton returned to the Bulls lineup for a January reunion at Detroit, after which he subsequently was again sidelined, a result Thibodeau wouldnt like to repeat.

Weve said this all along: A guy coming back shouldnt be based on who the opponent is. It should be based on health. Is he healthy enough to play? If youre healthy enough to practice and youre healthy enough to play, then you play, regardless of who the opponent is and I hope thats the case, he said. Hindsights always 20-20, but I dont know.

Its an unusual season and its a shortened camp, and youre behind it was right at the beginning of the season, so I think he felt that he was healthy enough to play and it didnt work out, but I think at that particular time, you were basing it on the information that we had at that time, Thibodeau continued. Normally, you have four weeks of training camp and you have eight preseason games, so at the end of that month, you have a pretty good read of where everyone is and quite honestly, on that trip, the first trip that we had, Rip played very well. So, there werent any signs, really until we got back, where he was having problems. Thats all gone, thats in the past, so you can only deal with what you have now and I think hes done a great job with his rehab now. His lower bodys completely healthy. Hes moving great, which is critical for anybody, for his shooting and defense. Hes worked hard with his shoulder, so we just have to be patient. When hes completely healthy, he goes.

Despite Thibodeaus philosophy of not returning because of a particular opponent, Rose believes his backcourt partner will indeed suit up Friday against the Pistons at the United Center.

Rips been good. Hes been moving around way more than I have. More than likely, I think hes going to play tonight, definitely against his old team, so I think hes going to be out there, he said. Hes been shooting the ball, getting a lot of treatment along with me and I know everybodys been waiting for him.

As for Rose himself, he could be shelved for a bit longer.

Hes doing a little bit more each day. Hes coming along, so well see where he is tonight, said Thibodeau. Medical clearance first and when hes pain-free, then he goes.

The reigning league MVPs patience has been tested by his most recent ailment, a strained right groin.

Theres not too much to say. Im trying to get better every day, just trying to get healthy. Its coming along, so hopefully Ill be out there soon, he explained. Its killing me. Just being out, missing the action, some good games have been played, but really taking my injury into concern. Im not trying to rush back, where if I do rush back too early, I could re-injure it, so just taking my time.

Im definitely impatient. For me to miss these type of games and miss this amount of games, its definitely been hurting.

Regarding his progress, Rose who participated in the shooting portion of Fridays shootaround has been increasingly more active.

Just pool work, trying to run, getting treatment twice a day and trying to take positive, he said. Ive been able to run, but its not the same. My speed is everything, so just making sure I dont re-pull it.

My speed is my whole entire game. I havent learned to play without my speed. Im not old yet. I havent learned that part of the game yet, added Rose. If Im feeling like I can do a little bit more, Ill stay in and do extra work. Ive got two treatments a day, where I come in early in the morning, like at 10, and then come back later in the day, like at 5, so just trying to get better.

Although Thibodeau likely wouldnt approve, Rose indulged the assembled media by looking ahead to Sundays marquee matchup against the Western Conference-leading Thunder at Oklahoma City.

Depending on how I feel. If I feel healthy enough to go out there, Im going to play. If not, Im not going to play, he said. For me to play, it would be great, but if not, I know that if we make it far and they make it far, well have a chance to play them.

Rose is close with fellow All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook of the Thunder, with whom he shares off-season workouts in California, though he claims they dont stay in contact during the season.

Not during the season, but after the season. Of course, we work out together, he said. But friendship is great, where our families are close, were definitely close and itll hurt me not to play that game.

Rose also opined on the leagues MVP race and named Oklahoma Citys Kevin Durant, the two-time reigning league scoring champion, as the likely heir apparent to his throne.

KD is playing great, man. Just hearing about what hes doing, about how hes playing. Numbers speak for themselves, how he was working out last summer and hes been playing great basketball, he said. I think KD, man. KD for sure.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Celtics trade for Jimmy Butler?

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Celtics trade for Jimmy Butler?

On the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Kevin Anderson, Vincent Goodwill and Kendall Gill welcome in SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell to discuss the Celtics' motivation to trade for Jimmy Butler. 

The guys also break down whether the league is undervaluing the Bulls All-Star. 

Later, they debate the contant Lebron James vs. Michael Jordan comparison and ask if it's fair after the King's poor showing in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. O'Donnell also analyzes the NBA Draft. He believes Terrance Ferguson is the right pick for GarPax. 

Finally, a behind the scenes look at Goodwill vs. Kendall on the court, and Kendall on the right way to parent a young athlete. 

Listen to the Bulls Talk Podcast below. 

NBA Buzz: Financial and competitive realities could lead to Jimmy Butler trade for Bulls

NBA Buzz: Financial and competitive realities could lead to Jimmy Butler trade for Bulls

Watching LeBron James tear through the Eastern Conference playoffs the way Michael Jordan used to do in his prime, it's become increasingly apparent other teams in the East will be chasing James and the Cavaliers for the next 3-5 years.

With that in mind, you have to wonder what kind of conversations are going on inside the walls of the Advocate Center as the Bulls' front office prepares for the June 22nd draft and the start of free agency on July 1st. 

Jimmy Butler earned third-team All-NBA honors on Thursday, putting him in position to earn the Designated Veteran Player Extension with another All-NBA selection in either 2018 or 2019. Under terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, that could mean a contract starting at $42 million in 2019-20 with a total five-year value of over $246 million.

Are the Bulls prepared to pay that kind of money to a player who has logged big minutes over his career and will turn 30 just before the 2019-20 season?

If not, the best time to deal Butler would be right now. Butler is coming off the best season of his NBA career, including a starting spot for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game. Plus, he still has two more guaranteed years on his contract at far below market value for one of the top 15 players in the league.

Tuesday's draft lottery pretty much eliminated Boston from a potential Butler trade. Celtics' GM Danny Ainge loves Washington point guard Markelle Fultz and is locked in to drafting him with the number one pick. Boston's future couldn't look brighter after finishing with the best regular season record in the East, advancing to the Conference Finals, and winning the lottery.

The Celtics will add Fultz and still have enough cap room to offer a max deal to free agent swingman Gordon Hayward, who played collegiately for Boston coach Brad Stevens at Butler. How does a starting line-up of Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Hayward, Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley sound, with a second unit of Fultz, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Kelly Olynyk? It might not be good enough to take down the Cavs or Warriors, but should position the Celtics for a long run as a serious contender.

So, if the Celtics are out, where would the Bulls look for a possible Butler deal? Phoenix probably holds the best combination of assets, starting with the No. 4 overall pick. If point guards Fultz, Lonzo Ball and De'Aaron Fox go 1-2-3, the Bulls could grab Kansas forward Josh Jackson, an Andrew Wiggins-clone who could wind up being the best player in this draft.

The Suns also have a pair of intriguing young power forwards in Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, both top 10 picks a year ago. Plus, Phoenix could include 23-year-old small forward T.J. Warren and Chicago native Tyler Ulis in the package going back to the Bulls.

Suns GM Ryan McDonough is reportedly under pressure to show significant improvement next season after winning just 47 games combined over the last two years. Adding another young player to the roster isn't the best way to improve the team immediately, so don't be surprised if the Suns make a pitch to acquire Butler in the days leading up to the draft.

Similar story in Philadelphia, where the Sixers own the third overall pick next month. Under former GM Sam Hinkie, the "trust the process" approach led to a roster purge and the acquisition of lottery picks. Right now, the Sixers are overloaded with young players like Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Justin Anderson and Nik Stauskas.

Would current GM Bryan Colangelo be willing to trade the pick, along with Okafor and Anderson in a package for Butler? The Bulls could choose between Jackson and Kentucky's lightning-quick point guard Fox with the draft pick they’d acquire, potentially adding three young starters to a new-look line-up. 

Given all the trade rumors surrounding Butler in the past, you can expect a number of teams will be calling the Bulls leading up to the draft, including Tom Thibodeau's Timberwolves, coming off a disappointing season with assets to offer like Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the seventh overall pick. 

Ultimately, it comes down to which direction the Bulls' front office wants to go. Try to build a contender around Butler, or use him as the trade asset to start a full re-build. We should get our answer in the days leading up to the draft.

Around the Association

Thursday's All-NBA announcement could lead to a pair of All-Star forwards changing teams this summer. We already mentioned Hayward's situation in Utah. Without the designated veteran player extension, he might be seriously tempted to join his old college coach in Boston. 

Hayward could sign a one year contract with a player option for a second season in Utah with hopes of earning the DVPE next summer, but if Hayward hits the open market, it's clear he'll be the number one target for the Celtics this off-season. 

Paul George also could be in play after failing to make one of the three All-NBA teams. The Pacers were hoping to sign their All-Star forward to a max five-year extension at over $200 million, but George isn't eligible now. George still could sign an extension with Indiana, but not at the dollars he would have received had he made All-NBA. 

Rumors of George's desire to join his home-state Lakers in free agency after the 2017-18 season continue to grow, especially with Magic Johnson likely to add dynamic point guard Lonzo Ball in next month's draft. The Pacers might be forced to trade George to get some assets now, rather than let him walk away for nothing in free agency next summer.

Back to the Bulls, who will bring in dozens of prospects to Chicago to work out at the Advocate Center before the draft. Unless they make a major trade to move up, the front office almost has to go "best player available" with their picks at Nos. 16 and 38. Look for them to focus on an athletic wing in the first round with Louisville's Donovan Mitchell, Indiana's OG Anunoby, Duke's Harry Giles and Australian pro Terrance Ferguson among the likely options. 

But if the team decides to part company with restricted free agent Niko Mirotic, that could open the door for the Bulls to select a power forward like Cal's Ivan Rabb, Wake Forest's John Collins, Utah's Kyle Kuzma or UCLA's T.J. Leaf. They could even draft an athletic young center like Jarrett Allen of Texas, Creighton's Justin Patton or UCLA's Ike Anigbogu.

In Round 2, the Bulls might look to add another young point guard to the mix like Oklahoma State's Jawun Evans, Iowa State's Monte Morris, Villanova's Josh Hart, Gonzaga's Nigel Williams Goss or Big 12 Player of the Year Frank Mason from Kansas.

Quotes of the Week

The Celtics might have edged Cleveland out for the top seed in the East during the regular season, but after watching Game 1 Wednesday night, it's clear Brad Stevens’ team will be lucky to get a win in the series.

This from Stevens about the NBA's version of Benjamin Button, LeBron James. "It's hard to believe, but he's better than when I got into the league. A lot better."

Still, Celtics' star Isaiah Thomas isn't about to concede the series just yet, saying, "We're not afraid of Cleveland. They're not the Monstars."  

Well, Thomas might be right about the rest of the Cavs. But if you remember the movie "Space Jam", I'm pretty sure James would be a good fit in that Monstars line-up. And the Celtics don't have Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny or Bill Murray!