'Kobe Stopper' Butler battles Bryant in Bulls' win

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'Kobe Stopper' Butler battles Bryant in Bulls' win

Dont pay any attention to them, Jimmy Butler said after Monday nights 95-83 Bulls home win over the Lakers.

The second-year swingman wanted the media to ignore his teammates chants of Kobe Stopper, after Butler, starting in place of Luol Deng, who missed his second consecutive contest with a strained right hamstring, held Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant to 16 points on 7-for-22 shooting.

He had an awful night. He missed shots that he normally makes. Thats who Kobe is, a real tough matchup. Its hard, my teammates were there for me, but I just tried to make everything hard for him, Butler explained. It was all about getting into his space, but it wasnt just me defending him. If I got beat, Joakim or Booz or somebody was always there, so we defended him as a team, I should say.

Maybe it frustrated him a little bit, but he missed a lot of shots. The pull-ups, the open threes, he makes those. When you see Kobe on the highlights, he knocks those down. He just didnt make too many shots tonight.

Butler also chipped in with 10 points of his own, as well as eight rebounds and four assists in over 43 minutes of action.

Jimmys a great defender, Kirk Hinrich said. I thought he did a good job. Upon being posed a question focusing on Butlers efforts, Joakim Noah exclaimed: Jimmy Boy!

Jimmy Boy was huge. Defensively, I think its great for him. Hes making a name for himself. Hes proven that not only is he a great defensive player, but hes showing his athleticism, he hit a huge shot at the end therebig jump shot. It just makes us that much tougher to know that we have guys like that in the lineup.

Even the likes of demanding Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was pleased with Butlers performance.

Jimmy was terrific. A guy like Kobe, you cant guard him individually and so, you have to rely on your entire team, he said. With Kobe, he missed some shots that he normally makes, but you have to guard him with your whole team, in every aspect. He goes from a one-on-one to a back-down to a pick-and-rollvery few guys can do that and hes great in all threeand then, hes great moving without the ball and he can play-make, hes got great will, hes clutch, so you can never let your guard down against him.

Before the game, Thibodeau discussed how Butler is living up to and perhaps exceeding expectations, as he progresses throughout his second NBA season, particularly now that his mentor, Deng, is out of the lineup for the time being.

I think Jimmy has done a really good job. I thought he made the commitment this summer. I thought he put a lot of time in this summer. I thought he played well in the summer league, continued to come in, played behind Luol. The thing I really like about him is doesnt take him a long time to warm up, so usually we ride Luol into the second quarter and some guys need five minutes to warm up, the coach explained.

Jimmy, you put him in the game, hes ready to go, from the moment he gets in. Hes not afraid of the moment and often times, you can finish a game with him. He handles that part well. When hes been given extended minutes, hes handled that well and he showed the other night that hes very capable as a starter. But thats what I expect from everybody. When one guy goes down, the next guy steps up and gets the job done.

But perhaps the biggest measure of well Butler played was the kudos he received from Bryant. The future Hall of Famer has seen many players who tried to defend him come and go, and while he wasnt especially expansive, the basketball purist paid the youngster a deserved compliment afterwards.

I have nothing but praise for the way he competed, Bryant said. I was proud of how he played and defensively, he stuck to his principles.

NBA offseason gone wild as league executives go into overdrive to compete with Golden State

NBA offseason gone wild as league executives go into overdrive to compete with Golden State

NBA free agency doesn't officially begin until 11 p.m. Chicago time on Friday, but league executives have already gone into overdrive in their race to create the next super-team to compete with the Golden State Warriors.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey hinted he had a big move up his sleeve last week, suggesting the Warriors "aren't unbeatable." Well, Morey unveiled that big move on Wednesday, rounding up a bunch of non-guaranteed contracts from all over the league to help him acquire Clippers' All-Star point guard Chris Paul before free agency even begins.

Paul met with Clippers officials on Tuesday, and basically told Doc Rivers he was going to sign with Houston as a free agent, so if the Clippers wanted to get anything for him, they better work out a trade right away. The return L.A. got in the 7-for-1 deal was hardly overwhelming, headlined by Chicago native Patrick Beverley and super-sub Lou Williams, and it showed once again how league executives are powerless if a star player decides he wants a chance of scenery.

Paul and James Harden wanted to play together, and Morey and his staff came up with a creative way to get it done. And, by all reports, Morey isn't done yet. The Rockets are hoping to swing a deal for either Paul George or Carmelo Anthony as a third star in the frontcourt, giving them a shooter's chance against the champion Warriors.

George is one of the biggest chess pieces being moved around boards in executive offices all around the league. Ever since George informed Pacers management he isn't interested in re-signing with the team, GM Kevin Pritchard has been searching for the best possible deal.

The Cavaliers would love to add George as the new third star on their super-team with LeBron and Kyrie Irving and send Kevin Love to the Pacers or to a third team that would provide Indiana with young players and/or draft picks.

Boston is hoping to trade some of Danny Ainge's treasure-trove of draft picks to bring George in, but only after they make a free agent run at Utah All-Star swingman Gordon Hayward, who played his college ball for Celtics coach Brad Stevens at Butler. Remember, making a trade for George carries a lot of risk, since he's eligible to become a free agent next summer and could wind up being a one-year rental.

George has told anyone who will listen he plans to sign on with the Lakers in the summer of 2018, but will new Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson get antsy with all the trade interest in George and try to bring him in now? Is it worth it for Magic to give up young players like Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson if he can just wait a year and sign George without giving up any assets?

We're already hearing reports of George trying to recruit Warriors sharp-shooter Klay Thompson to join him on the Lakers when Klay becomes a free agent in 2019. And, speculation continues about LeBron heading west to join the Lakers if the Cavs come up short of a championship again next season.

So many questions as we approach the start of free agency. Where will Derrick Rose end up after a fourth knee surgery? Will the Clippers be interested in bringing Rose in to play with Blake Griffin and keep Lob City going? And what about veterans like Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, Serge Ibaka, Danilo Gallinari, Andre Iguodala, Kyle Korver, J.J. Redick, Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson, George Hill, Jrue Holiday and Jeff Teague? What kind of market will they find with fewer teams having the kind of cap space we saw last summer?

And, where will Carmelo Anthony wind up now that Phil Jackson is out as Knicks President? Jackson might be the greatest coach in NBA history after winning 11 championships with the Bulls and Lakers, but it was clear the Zen Master was overmatched as a front office executive. Phil didn't want to travel to scout top college prospects, didn't stay on top of day to day roster moves around the league, and insisted on saddling his coaches with running an offense that didn't translate in today's game.

Maybe now Jeff Hornacek will be able to run his up-tempo offense that had some success in Phoenix instead of Phil's beloved triangle. But don't count on Anthony being a part of next season's Knicks team. Reports out of New York suggest the organization is still intent on dealing Melo, problem is that nasty no-trade clause that Phil gave Anthony on top of a $127 million contract back in 2014.

In the coming weeks, you can count on hearing all kinds of Anthony-related rumors. Maybe a trade to Houston, Boston or even Philadelphia. And, if Melo is able to convince the Knicks to buy out the remainder of his contract, look for him to join forces with LeBron in Cleveland for a shot at that elusive championship ring.

The Knicks may have rid themselves of Phil’s front office mismanagement, but their roster is still a mess with no easy solutions in sight.

The great thing for NBA fans is the buzz created by all the speculation. NBA offseasons are the most impactful of any sport since the acquisition of a star player can cause a major shift in any team's fortunes. Unfortunately here in Chicago, don't expect any free agent buzz this year, unless you're excited about the possibility of a Dwyane Wade buyout.

Bulls Executive VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson made it clear the Bulls are going in a new direction and will be patient and disciplined in their rebuild. That means no spending on veterans this summer as the front office keeps its power dry for some time in the future when the Bulls are closer to being a playoff contender again.

Player development will be the focus of the next couple seasons as Fred Hoiberg and his staff try to find out exactly what they have in young players like Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine, Bobby Portis, Cameron Payne, Paul Zipser, Jerian Grant, Cris Felicio and Niko Mirotic.

Ideally, the Bulls will lose enough games next season to put themselves into position to land a top-3 pick in next year's top-heavy draft. Paxson talked about building a contending team through the draft, and that will require a lot of patience from everyone involved. Adding a Michael Porter, Jr. or Luka Doncic to a young backcourt of Dunn and Zach LaVine and a promising "stretch 4" in Markkanen could be the foundation of the next Bulls playoff team.

So, while the league's top teams engage in a massive arms race to try to close the gap on the Warriors over the next few weeks, all will be quiet in the city of Chicago. The buzzword for Bulls fans for the foreseeable future is PATIENCE.

Bulls Talk Podcast: An NBA gone wild and Zach LaVine sit down interview

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: An NBA gone wild and Zach LaVine sit down interview

On the latest BullsTalk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill and Vincent Goodwill delve into the blockbuster news of Chris Paul being traded to the Rockets. Will any other teams try to go all-in?

With Phil Jackson parting ways with the Knicks, Goodwill shares the behind-the-scenes story of how James Dolan hired Jackson to run his franchise. 

Then, Schanowski sits down with the newest Bull Zach LaVine to discuss recovering from his ACL tear, his love of Space Jam and moving to Chicago.

Plus, the guys break down their first impressions of LaVine and his potential in a Bulls uniform, and how the new CBA is actually leading to teams getting rid of their stars rather than keeping them.

Finally, what will the Bulls do with Dwyane Wade, and where will Derrick Rose end up?

Check out the latest Bulls Talk Podcast right here: