Hard work pays off for Bulls' Butler

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Hard work pays off for Bulls' Butler

It wasnt the contract extension that would have made the most noise Tuesday that award would have gone to Taj Gibson, still without a deal but the Bulls continued to shore up their future by picking up a third-year option on small forward Jimmy Butler.

As a rookie, Butler averaged 2.6 points and 1.3 rebounds in 42 games last year. Butler will make a little more than 1.17 million in 2013, and has a team option for 2014.

Following Tuesdays practice, Butler spoke off to the side with Bulls general manager Gar Forman about the option.

Im blessed to be here, for one, but I just got through talking to Gar and thanking him for the opportunity to be here and be around these great players, great basketball people, and an amazing organization, Butler said.

Like all rookies, Butlers first season was put into motion before he had a time to acclimate to the pro game. Last seasons lockout wiped out training camp and the preseason, so Butlers first real taste of the NBA was regular season game action.

Because of that, he was unable to carve out a real niche playing behind Luol Deng, Ronnie Brewer and Korver. But with latter two departing via free agency, Butler knew a bigger role was in store in 2012. So he dedicated himself during the offseason to improve his game to match his increased responsibility off the bench.

I found myself in here each and every day, whether it was in the weight room or on the court, Butler said of the offseason. It was always something that (Tom Thibodeau) wanted me to do better. And whenever he felt like I was OK at that, he raised the bar even more. So if it was ball-handling, shooting, attacking the rim or pick and roll, it was always another notch from him that I could be better at.

Butler averaged 20.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in four Las Vegas Summer League games, and 5.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 steals in seven preseason games, including one start.

That improvement and commitment to learn from his veteran teammates, Butler said, were reasons the Bulls decision to pick up his option through next season became an easy one.

They see how hard I work, how much I want to stay here, and day-in and day-out Im here early and leave late, he said. But I learn a lot, too. So I thank my teammates every day for giving me an opportunity, because they show me how hard you have to work to stay here.

Fire lose Open Cup epic in Cincinnati after penalties

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AP

Fire lose Open Cup epic in Cincinnati after penalties

CINCINNATI —

A crowd of 32,287 in Cincinnati waited and waited and waited some more, but finally got what they wanted.

The host FC Cincinnati downed the Chicago Fire in penalty kicks after 120 minutes of goalless soccer.

It was all about the goalkeepers before penalty kicks with the Fire’s Matt Lampson and Cincinnati’s Mitch Hildebrandt combining for 17 saves. Hildebrandt improved on his crazy good night by denying Nemanja Nikolic, Arturo Alvarez and Juninho. Bastian Schweinsteiger was the only Fire player to convert a penalty in four rounds. Cincinnati missed its first penalty, but finished the next three.

In regulation, the Fire huffed and puffed in the first half, but didn’t really create much danger in front of Cincinnati’s goal. At halftime, the Fire had 78 percent of the possession, but couldn’t manage a shot on target.

Cincinnati’s game plan to defend deep and counter was stifling the Fire’s attack. The Fire only managed shots from outside the box that all missed the target. Matt Polster had an open shot in the box following a corner kick, but it was deflected wide by a sliding defender.

The home crowd of 32,287, which is the second biggest crowd in U.S. Open Cup history, didn’t have much to cheer in the first half, but Matt Lampson made the only save of the half when he came off his line to deny Danni Konig who got free down the left side.

Both the atmosphere and the game livened up in the second half. Both teams had multiple quality chances and both keepers, Lampson and Cincinnati’s Mitch Hildebrandt came up with big saves.

Lampson saved the game to deny a breakaway for Jimmy McLaughlin in added time just before regulation ended.

In extra time, Cincinnati thought it had the go-ahead goal from Andrew Wiedeman in the 110th minute, but it was called back for a close offside call. Hildebrandt and Lampson both came up with huge saves in the final minute of extra time to send the match to penalties.

Bears Talk Podcast: Breaking down camp competition at wide receiver

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Bears Talk Podcast: Breaking down camp competition at wide receiver

On this week’s Bears Talk Podcast, we hear from Markus Wheaton as Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz discuss the training camp competition at slot receiver.

Boden and Stankevitz also weigh in on PFF ranking the Bears’ starting lineup 18th in the NFL, answer listener questions and add another layer of Aaron Rodgers envy.

Listen to the latest Bears Talk Podcast right here: