Sam: Bulls React to Game 3 Win Over Cavaliers

Sam: Bulls React to Game 3 Win Over Cavaliers

Friday, April 23, 2010
1:40 AM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Referring to Joakim Noah as Chicagos heart and soul is now an overused clich, but with his 10 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and immeasurable non-statistical impact tonight, the charismatic center proved his value, backing up his so-called disparaging remarks about the city of Cleveland with not only a tremendous individual outing (as was also the case in the Bulls Game 2 loss), but a victory in front of an appreciative United Center audience. Sometimes I say things and sometimes it gets a little blown out of proportion, but I dont want people to think that Im some kind of circus freak, said Noah in his postgame press conference. Im going out there and playing my heart and my soul out, giving it everything Ive got out there on the court. Just because I say things like, Cleveland sucks, doesnt mean Im not going out there on the court and giving it everything Ive got. Thats why I didnt talk to you guys the media, following Bulls practice on Wednesday.

Noah also noted that he cant wait to go back to Cleveland for Game 5 of the series on Tuesday, but while he acknowledged Cavaliers star LeBron James talent, he was hesitant to praise the likely MVP too much. Hes very good. I dont want to give him too much credit, we do have to play them again, but he is very good.

Derrick Rose shied away from any comparisons between himself and the aforementioned James, although he relished their matchup when James was switched onto him late in the contest. It surprised me a little bit, but it was fun out there, Ill tell you, said Rose in his postgame press conference, before delving into his strategy against James. Just get him off balance. My speed usually gets people off balance. Hes big, but hes got the same quickness as Ive got, so its kind of hard, but I think I took a layup on him, but the rest were jump shots. I was just trying to keep pressure on him so he could get exhausted on the other end. Rose scored 31 points and dished out seven assistsa frighteningly normal performance for the precocious budding superstarbut he was most proud of his zero-turnover outing. "Bulls assistant coach Randy Brown usually tells me that after every game. Hes more excited than I am about turnovers. Thats a big part of the game, especially in my game. I tend to turn the ball over a little bit, but Ive been working on it, observed Rose. Ive been making smarter decisions and delivering the ball where its supposed to be. Rose, who missed Wednesdays practice and subsequently lost his uncle later in the day, was dismissivein his typically humble fashionof Chicago fans chanting, M-V-P, when he was at the foul line tonight. Dont listen to them, man. Do not listen to them. I almost passed out, joked Rose. Hopefully one day, but not this year. Im just worried about winning games right now. Rose had another humorous comment about notably slow-footed teammate Brad Miller, saying, Brad Millerwe tell him to shoot the ball every timethe slowest guy in the NBA and he wants to drive.

In light of James monster numbersthe Cavaliers franchise player finished with 39 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and three blocks on the eveningLuol Dengs stout defensive effort against him will likely again go under appreciated, but not only did the Bulls small forward make his Cleveland counterpart and former high school summer rival work hard for everything he got on the offensive end, Deng had two key playsa gorgeous behind-the-back move that left James grasping air and a key late-game charge in the waning moments of the contestdirectly against James.

"As far as the charge, I kind of felt like he was going to go to the basket. At that time, he was driving a lot. If he pulled up for the jump shot, he probably would have had it. I just wanted to get in front of him, said Deng, who had 20 points in tonights affair. The refs took a while. I was on the floor and I was like, I hope this is not another and-one.I was really happy to see the refs point the other way. Describing his offensive move, Deng said, Honestly, its not something I had in mind. It just happenedit was just a reaction. I tried to drive middle and he jumped in front of me, took away the middle and I put it behind the back and went to the basket.

LeBron James individual effort was obviously fantastic, but the Cleveland star expressed some concern about his squads overall performance tonight. We came into the game a little bit too lax, I dont know why. Not a sense of urgency to start the game and allowed them to get in a real comfort zone, said James. We didnt have a lot of energy to start the game and as much as we crawled back in the second half, it didnt matter. James commented on the crucial aforementioned charge taken by Deng, a call he disagreed with. What did I see? I saw me and Luol, and I see him backpedaling. Me, as a driver, Im watching the defenders feet and Im seeing if hes stationary or hes still moving. To me, I see hes still backpedaling. As soon as I see him backpedaling, thats when I decided to take off. They called a charge. I havent seen a replay, but I know exactly what I saw on the court with the defender right in front of me.

James also discussed his late-game switch onto Rose, foreshadowing perhaps that matchup again later in the series. He does a lot of ball handling, so we dont want to put me on him for a long period of time. But in a game like this, where we had an opportunity to win and he was playing particularly well, I wanted to match up with, said James, who noted, I put myself on him. Tremendous player, great game by him. Great game by their team, but well see as the series goes on if I do move on to him a lot or if I dont.

With the lack of production by Cavaliers starting center Shaquille ONeal (who tailed off significantly from his Game 1 showing), James was questioned about Clevelands success with a smaller lineup. I think thats something were going to look at in the next couple days, James said. Weve been really, really good this year when weve played small. We become more athletic, we become faster.

It doesnt take away from our big lineup because we can also go big, he continued. Its a really effective lineup for us. About ONeal specifically, James said, Im not concerned about himwe need him to pick up his play and he knows that also. No matter who you areif youre the best player in the worldif you take an eight-week layoff, it definitely takes a toll on you. Were looking for him to try to be as productive as he can with that layoff, be a force on the interior and helps us win these games, and help us win Game 4 because thats the most important game.

Dont forget to follow me on Twitter @CSNBullsInsider.

--Aggrey Sam

It sure sounds like Jimmy Butler regrets being labeled as the face of the Bulls franchise

It sure sounds like Jimmy Butler regrets being labeled as the face of the Bulls franchise

Jimmy Butler didn't come close to following in his trainer's footsteps, but Mr. G. Buckets Unplugged still proved enlightening.

Following a wild Thursday, Butler hopped on the phone Friday afternoon from Paris to chat with Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times about the deal that sent the former face of the Bulls to rejoin Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota.

Butler wanted to be labeled as the face of the franchise, but his comments seem to reflect the old adage "be careful what you wish for."

"It doesn't mean a damn thing. I guess being called the face of an organization isn't as good as I thought. We all see where being the so-called face of the Chicago Bulls got me. So let me be just a player for the Timberwolves, man. That's all I want to do. I just want to be winning games, do what I can for my respective organization and let them realize what I'm trying to do.

"Whatever they want to call me... face... I don't even want to get into that anymore. Whose team is it? All that means nothing. You know what I've learned? Face of the team, eventually, you're going to see the back of his head as he's leaving town, so no thanks."

Whoa.

Butler also spoke about trying to block out all the trade rumors while on vacation in France:

"I mean, I had so many people telling me what could possibly happen, but I just got to the point where I stopped paying attention to it. 

"It's crazy because it reminds you of what a business this is. You can't get mad at anybody. I'm not mad - I'm not. I just don't like the way some things were handled, but it's OK."

Butler doesn't have to be the sole face of the franchise in Minnesota on a team that has two of the top homegrown young stars in the game in Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

Bulls have emerged from a ball of confusion to parts unknown

Bulls have emerged from a ball of confusion to parts unknown

The big red button was pressed and Jimmy Butler was ejected from the Chicago Bulls’ present and future as they finally made the decision to rebuild after two years of resisting.

Trading Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the ability to draft Lauri Markkanen represents the Bulls committing to the draft lottery and fully going in on the Fred Hoiberg experience for the foreseeable future, as the prospect of trying to improve through shrewd moves in the East while also facing the likelihood of Butler commanding a $200 million contract wasn’t palatable to their pocketbook or their sensibilities.

On one hand, making a decision — any decision — can be applauded on some levels after years of their relationship with Butler being complicated at best. But the idea of rebuilding and the application of it are often two separate ideals, because the evaluation of a rebuild can often be as murky as the land the Bulls just left.

“What we’ve done tonight is set a direction,” Bulls Executive Vice President John Paxson said. “We’ve gone to the past where we make the playoffs, but not at the level we wanted to. You know in this league, success is not determined that way. We’ve decided to make the change and rebuild this roster.”

“We’re gonna remain patient and disciplined. The development of our young players is important. The coaching staff has done a phenomenal job. We’re gonna continue down that path. We’re not gonna throw huge money at people.”

The Bulls aren’t exclusive to this territory, the land in which they’ve inhibited for the last couple seasons, which makes the Butler trade about more than one thing.

Not equal parts but part basketball, part fiscal, part narrative and finally, masking some mistakes that have been made over the years but are not as easily rectified. Trading Butler seemed to be the easiest vessel used as an elixir to wash away missteps. Trading a star in Butler is also the easiest way to get heat off a coach or front office in today’s NBA, because few franchises like to make wholesale changes midstream or early in it.

Trading Butler — along with shipping their second-round pick in a box marked for the Bay Area — was also financial, considering many felt if he made it through the tumultuous evening that he would finish his career as a Bull, raking in a hefty sum of cash on the back end.

It’s because of these factors that the evaluation of this trade and subsequently, a painful rebuild, cannot be in a vacuum. (Note: No rebuild is painless, it’s the size of the migraine a team can endure that determines the type of aspirin necessary).

Just taking a look at the players the Bulls got back in the Butler trade illustrates the gray area they’ve now immersed themselves into. The Bulls fell in love with Dunn before he came to the NBA, and aren’t as bothered by him being a 23-year old second-year player who struggled mightily in his rookie year.

Zach LaVine is an explosive athlete who can put up 20 every night — when he’s on the floor. Recovering from an ACL injury is no given, as evidenced by a young phenom who once graced the United Center hardwood before his body betrayed him.

And Lauri Markkanen is a rookie with promise, but nobody can make any promises on what type of career he’ll have, or if he’ll fulfill that promise with this franchise in the requisite time.

“There’s always risk in anything,” Paxson said. “But here’s a guy that’s 22 years old and averages 20 a game (LaVine). He can score the basketball, he can run. He can shoot the basketball. He shot over 40 percent from three. That’s an area we’re deficient in. Markkanen shot over 40 from three in college. Again, it’s an area where we’re deficient. It’s trying to find the type of player that fits the way that we want to play going forward.”

[RELATED: Jimmy Butler bids emotional farewell to Chicago]

General Manager Gar Forman stated after the announcement of the trade that the Bulls would have to hit on their next few draft picks to stop this rebuild from being elongated, but even then there’s no guarantee.

The Sacramento Kings drafted a rookie of the year, then two future max contract players in the same year, followed by another player who’ll command close to max money very soon. But nobody remembers Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside and Isaiah Thomas leading the Kings from the wilderness and into glory, unless recent memory has been scrubbed away from everyone.

Inconsistencies in organizational structure combined with multiple coaching changes and an inability to develop the right young players kept the Kings on the dais of the draft lottery every April.

The Timberwolves, heck, nobody could say they missed when selecting LaVine, Karl-Anthony Towns and getting Andrew Wiggins in a trade for Kevin Love. It’s because it takes more than the right draft picks, or in the Sacramento Kings’ case, the right infrastructure and environment, to foster an atmosphere of winning.

The Bulls were ready, despite their claims that this was a decision that came across their table right before the draft, because common sense has to be applied. No team makes knee-jerk, franchise-altering decisions that will have reverberations for years to come on the whim of a trade offer from Tom Thibodeau. This was likely decided when the Bulls went out with a whimper in the first-round after shocking the NBA world in the first two games against the Boston Celtics, when their fortunes changed on the trifle of Rajon Rondo’s broken wrist.

It was decided that Hoiberg, the man who endured chants calling for his firing in the second half of the decisive Game 6 loss, needed to have the right type of roster to be accurately judged as a successful hire or failure, and Butler couldn’t be part of those plans.

And just as Hoiberg has been dealt an uneven hand, Butler wasn’t given the type of roster that would accurately judge how he could flourish as a leader, max player and face of the franchise — and probably had less time to show one way or the other relative to his coach.

The longer Butler stayed, the more empowered he would become as his individual accomplishments would rack up because of the dedication he applied to game, the drive he had to place himself in the upper echelon of NBA players.

The better Butler got, the more pressure Hoiberg would be under to mix and match his roster and to foster a relationship with Butler he might’ve been ill-suited to fix. The better Butler got, the more pressure the front office would be under to maximize a prime it didn’t see coming, a prime they can’t truly figure when there’s an expiration date on given Butler’s unlikely rise to stardom.

So getting rid of Butler was the solution and the Bulls have now chosen their path, definitively and with confidence. Emerging from a ball of confusion to parts unknown, from one land of uncertainty to another.