LIVE: Bulls look to extend East lead vs. Raptors

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LIVE: Bulls look to extend East lead vs. Raptors

Saturday, April 2, 2011
Posted: 10:49 a.m.
Associated Press
While many believe Derrick Rose is assured the MVP award, the Chicago Bulls likely need more victories to obtain the Eastern Conference's top seed in the postseason.

A visit from the struggling Toronto Raptors may help boost their chances.

Chicago looks to extend its lead atop the conference Saturday night when it hosts last-place Toronto.

With a victory, the Bulls (55-20) can pick up one-half game on Miami and Boston, which are both idle. They lead the second-place Heat by 2 12 games and the Celtics by three after beating Detroit 101-96 on Friday.

"Destiny is in our hands," Rose said. "We're just trying to finish the season strong."

Rose, who once again received chants of "M-V-P" throughout the game, scored a team-high 27 points and added seven assists. Rose is averaging 27.8 points and 9.8 assists over his last four games and has helped the Bulls win 14 of 16.

Chicago had won 14 in a row at home before a 97-85 loss to Philadelphia on Monday.

Carlos Boozer, who scored 22 points Friday, had a season-high 34 points and 12 rebounds Dec. 15 in a 110-93 win at Toronto.

"Carlos was outstanding," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "When he's getting into the post, Derrick is getting shots off the dribble and we have the pick and roll, we've got a lot of ways to get easy offense."

Boozer missed the most recent meeting with an ankle injury as Toronto overcame Rose's 32 points for a surprising 118-113 victory Feb. 23 - one of only four losses for the Bulls since Feb. 9.

However, the Raptors have won only four times since that victory.

Toronto (20-54) has lost 12 of 16 since beating Chicago and is limping toward the finish of its disappointing season. The Raptors lost point guard Jose Calderon to a strained hamstring Wednesday during their fifth straight loss, 104-98 to visiting Milwaukee.

Calderon won't travel to Chicago and is doubtful for Sunday's game against Orlando, giving backup Jerryd Bayless an opportunity to earn more playing time as the starter.

Bayless is averaging 14.4 points and 7.4 assists in seven starts for the Raptors this season compared to 6.6 and 3.0 in 56 games coming off the bench, which includes 11 games with New Orleans. Bayless came over in a trade Nov. 20.

"You know you're going to play and you're going to play a lot freer," Bayless said after practice Friday. "It's just different. I've been happy here whether it's starting or coming off the bench but I think anybody's going to play a little bit better when they're starting."

Andrea Bargnani returned to the lineup and scored 22 points after missing last Saturday's loss to the Los Angeles Clippers with a right ankle injury. Bargnani, averaging a career-high 21.8 points this season, scored 24 in the most recent win against the Bulls.

DeMar DeRozan, who scored 20 points Wednesday against the Bucks, also added 24 in the victory over Chicago.

The Bulls can tie San Antonio atop the league with their 33rd home victory, but Toronto has had some recent success at the United Center. The Raptors have won five of the last seven meetings in Chicago.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

New teammates, new changes put Jimmy Butler at ease

New teammates, new changes put Jimmy Butler at ease

The earrings were gleaming from Jimmy Butler’s ears, as he was his usual-disarming self with a playful smile and wink during his question-and-answer session with the Chicago media.

At a point, he took a deep breath as he looked around the Advocate Center with some of his new teammates walking around, some of whom had to carry nameplates because they weren’t recognizable faces in this new setting.

And because new faces are in town, it means two things: some faces left town and for Butler’s sake, the new ones will only know him as “Jimmy Butler, All-Star”, not the guy who was a late first-round pick, not the player who couldn’t get off the bench.

Butler didn’t bring up his comfort level, but when asked, he didn’t deny things appear to be a bit easier this time around.

“Does it make me feel more comfortable? I mean, to an extent, yeah, because then you can never say how you may have think that I’ve changed,” Butler said.

Butler’s ascension rubbed some the wrong way last season, and it’s been spoken about ad nauseam, whether it was true or not. But the moment of honesty wasn’t so much a shot at Derrick Rose or Joakim Noah, who departed for the Knicks in various forms; however it was an admission to his level of security, one that perhaps can lead to a more peaceful existence with all the core pieces.

The one way he’s always lead and will always speak to, is by example and work ethic. It’s one that turned him into an All-Star and Olympian.

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“I think everybody that’s on this roster now just knows how hard that I’ve worked to get to this spot that I’m at,” Butler said. “They’ve seen it. They’ve witnessed it. All they’ve been around for me is this point of my career. I don’t know if it sounds bad. But I think that all these guys look at, ‘If Jimmy works like that and if I work like that, I’ll be in the same position that he’s in.’ I’ll be more than happy to let you have that position because I think hard work can get you anywhere that you want to get to.”

So with that, Butler volunteered himself to Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, to be the sacrificial lamb of wrath if need be. Easy to say if he doesn’t actually believe Hoiberg is capable of going from nice guy to madman at a moment’s notice but Butler laid it out for the record.

“I told Fred, ‘As much as you can, use me as an example. I want you to really get on my tail about every little thing.’,” Butler said. “Because if Doug or Tony or whoever it may be is watching coach talk to me like that, it’s going to be like, ‘If he can talk to Jimmy like that, I know he’s going to come at me a certain way.’ That’s what I try to remind him every day. I think he’s ready for that. I’m a player. I’m coachable like everybody else. I want that. I need that.”

The additions of Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo add championship receipts to a locker room that needs it, considering the Bulls want to play their young pieces. Wade and Rondo, the Bulls privately believe, will help Butler deal with everything that comes with a new role of leadership — and by proxy, Butler’s relationship and expectations of Hoiberg.

“He was put in a position last year he wasn't familiar with and I think we'll see growth from it,” Bulls general manager Gar Forman said. “The great thing about Jimmy is you know he comes in each and every day and gives 100 percent. He gets better every year and I think we'll continue to see that growth in his game and him as a person. I think that experience with USA basketball was real positive for him.”

Whether the trio lives up to the “Three Alphas” nickname remains to be seen, but after having a locker room with too many low-pitched voices, perhaps the change in pace — any change in pace — will be a welcome one for Butler.

“The Alpha thing, I think we’ll be just fine. Everybody is going to have something to say,” he said. “As long as everybody is listening and is willing to take some criticism if you’re doing something wrong, just like if you’re doing something right I’m going to tell you, there’s good and bad in everything you do. At the end of the day, as long as we win games, it won’t matter.”

Bulls' Jimmy Butler wants tough coaching from Fred Hoiberg this season

Bulls' Jimmy Butler wants tough coaching from Fred Hoiberg this season

 

Much was made of the Jimmy Butler-Fred Hoiberg dynamic last year.

As the duo head into Year 2 together with a very different Bulls roster, Jimmy Butler was very clear about one thing he wants out of his coach this season.

“I told Fred, ‘As much as you can, use me as an example,’” Butler said during the team’s media day on Monday. “I want you to really get on my tail about every little thing because if Doug (McDermott) or Tony (Snell) or whoever it may be, if watching coach talk to me like that he’s going to be like ‘If he can talk to Jimmy like that I know he’s going to come at me a certain way.’ So that’s what I try to remind him everyday. I think he’s ready for that. I’m a player. I’m coachable like everybody else, but I want that. I need that.”

Butler’s show of confidence in his coach didn’t stop at his belief that Hoiberg could follow through on Butler’s desire to be coached hard. The All-Star believes Hoiberg has improved as a coach heading into his second year on the job.

“It was his first year last year and I think he studied himself and us and the way we were up and down in so many areas of the game last year,” Butler said. “He’s trying to correct it. That’s just like anybody going into the offseason. He didn’t just not work. He studied and got better at what he needed to get better at. I think he’s ready moving forward.”