'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.

Bulls supportive of Robin Lopez after one-game suspension following Serge Ibaka scrap

Bulls supportive of Robin Lopez after one-game suspension following Serge Ibaka scrap

Although the punches didn't connect, the NBA was not going to take the Robin Lopez-Serge Ibaka confrontation lightly, suspending each one game Wednesday afternoon.

Lopez served his time in the Bulls' surprising 117-95 win over the Detroit Pistons at the United Center. Per league rules, Lopez was not allowed on team property but he did speak to head coach Fred Hoiberg when the team returned from Toronto after the Bulls' heartbreaking overtime loss Tuesday.

Lopez will return to the Bulls lineup Friday against the Philadelphia 76ers, a relief to the Bulls considering the league could've taken a harsher stance with Lopez — a two- or three-game suspension was being mulled at the league office, sources tell CSNChicago.com

Lopez was pushed into Ibaka after Jimmy Butler hit a three in the second half, and the two combatants squared off underneath the rim, with officials, teammates and coaches trying to separate them.

Ibaka appeared to have his arm reaching at Lopez's neck, prompting Lopez to swing at Ibaka. He missed, and Ibaka grazed Lopez's face with a wild swing of his own.

Both were ejected after being separated and shortly thereafter, the Raptors begun their run from being down 15 points to end the Bulls' recent mastery over them.

Despite the effect, Lopez had the full support of his teammates and coaching staff.

"I think you ask anybody in that locker room, Robin Lopez is one of the most if not the most popular guy on this team," Hoiberg said. "He's a guy that goes out and approaches his job the same way every day. He goes to work. He never complains. He does what's asked of him. Also if you asked them, they'd tell you he's as passionate of a guy as we have on this team as well. He's got a fire to him that you just don't ever want to take away."

That fire clearly got underneath Lopez and Ibaka, causing Lopez to lunge at Ibaka. Telling from the immediate reaction from the Bulls players and from Hoiberg and associate coach Jim Boylen, it seems as if it wasn't the first time Lopez's engine ran a little hot.

"This game gets very competitive obviously, it gets heated at times," Hoiberg said. "That happened last night. It's unfortunate what went down, but we've all got Robin's back. I think everybody in this organization, from the players all the way to up top, has Robin's back. We'll deal with it and move on. We'll be happy to have him in the lineup Friday."

Lopez averages 10.3 points and 6.5 rebounds in 27.9 minutes per game, slightly higher than his career averages through his nine NBA seasons.

Considering the play seemed relatively tame, it was slightly puzzling to see both players go at each other so ferociously but there appeared to be more to the story than first blush.

"There's always more going on than it appears," Hoiberg said. "You go back and watch on film, there's little jabs that happen in the course of the game and sometimes it reaches the boiling point. Robin is a guy that plays this game with a lot of passion, and you don't ever want to see something like that happen, but it did. And again, you move on."

Normally, Lopez attacks mascots during timeouts or pregame warm-ups, so nobody felt Lopez was looking for an altercation, and considering it only cost him a game — one the Bulls won anyways — Hoiberg didn't seem too stressed about it beforehand.

"Yeah, you know, Robin's going to have our guys' backs as much as anybody in the locker room," Hoiberg said. "Again, you look in that locker room, all those guys are going to have each other's back, Robin as much as anybody. Unfortunately, it happened. It looked like it was a little hip check, they turned around and got squared off, and we all know what happened. Again, we'll all be excited to have Robin back in the lineup on Friday."

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