Could Butler be a cure for the Bulls' woes?

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Could Butler be a cure for the Bulls' woes?

HOUSTON In the 13 minutes per game hes played thus far this season, Jimmy Butler has averaged a modest 4.7 points per game, nothing that would suggest that the second-year swingman is capable of dramatically changing the Bulls fortunes, for better or worse.

However, the stated objectives that he brings to the court in that scant playing time defense, energy and when hes open, taking and making shots says otherwise.

It would be a stretch to say that Butler is the caliber of reserve that can rescue the Bulls if they dig themselves a hole on a given night, but his athleticism his high-flying finishes, whether in transition or a follow-up dunk in traffic, have been arguably the most exciting Bulls plays of this Derrick Rose-less season and commitment to defense are, at minimum, a welcome change of pace.

Still, while the country-music aficionado has managed to carve out a small niche for himself, it appears that for the time being, hell have to be content with the action he receives.

Well see how it unfolds. A lot of it is going to be based on matchups, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said about his rotation, before moving on to Butler specifically. Depending on what the game needs. If its energy, then well maybe look that Butlers way, but theres a lot of things that our bench guys have to do better, too.

Indeed, it isnt as if late-first round picks who are nailed to the bench on veteran teams in their rookie seasons-- without the benefit of training camp -- are perfect, nor are they expected to be. But Thibodeau, for every Omer Asik (who the Bulls face for the first time as an opponent Wednesday), a young player who has gradually earned his trust and playing time, theres a Marco Belinelli, a veteran who struggles out of the gates, but the coach isnt willing to give up on just yet.

Its understandable to a point, as the Bulls desperately need outside shooting and Belinelli, even when hes not making an impact, at least provides a threat to stretch the defense. After the free-agent acquisitions miserable preseason, hes actually made 9-of-23 attempts from behind the three-point arc for a 39.1-percent mark second on the team to fellow backup guard Nate Robinsons 40-percent shooting from deep, on 12 makes out of 30 shots and Thibodeau knows that by sticking with him, if not now, then later in the season, keeping Belinellis confidence up will pay major dividends.

But while hes made some progress defensively, more often than not in Belinellis nearly 17 minutes a night, the shooting guard still struggles with his matchups and unlike second-unit predecessor Kyle Korver, he doesnt make up for it with savvy team defense, hustle plays or other intangibles, let alone elite marksmanship. On those evenings, similar to when Thibodeau gives starting power forward Carlos Boozer an earlier hook in favor of the more defensive-minded Taj Gibson, but on a smaller scale, its worth giving Butler a shot.

Stuck behind ironman starter Luol Deng, the reigning and current league leader in minutes per game at 40.1 a night teammate Joakim Noah is fourth, at 38.8 an outing Butler must wait until Deng plays his typical 18 consecutive minutes at the outset of each game before entering the lineup. Sometimes, such as in last weeks overtime win in Phoenix, where he notched six points and two steals to turn the tide before halftime to begin the Circus Trip, he makes an immediate, obvious impact.

On other occasions, whether he simply doesnt have it going right away or the situation calls for him to more subtly blend in, such as in the Bulls most recent loss Sunday in Portland, where he was just part of a unit that played improved defense and attempted an ultimately-failed comeback against the Trail Blazers, Butlers worth isnt as clear to the naked eye.

The Lone Star State native, who will play his first professional game in Houston, the NBA city closest to his hometown of Tomball, Tex., Wednesday, was penciled in to be a replacement for Ronnie Brewer currently a Knicks starter, Brewer either put significant work into his outside-shooting ability or now has the freedom and confidence to showcase it more in New York and while he has many similarities to one of his mentors, Butlers lack of experience puts him at a disadvantage.

Given his hard-luck background Butlers story has been well-chronicled and the recent history of success stories from his alma mater, Marquette, perhaps his relative youth should be disregarded because of a track record that reflects upon him favorably. Without discounting the likes of Knicks sharpshooter Steve Novak, journeyman point guard Travis Diener and of course, Chicago native Dwyane Wade, all of whom played collegiately during current Indiana University coach Tom Creans tenure, the likes of undrafted rookie-turned-NBA starter Wesley Matthews of the Trail Blazers, Butlers mentor upon arrival on campus, and rookie Jae Crowder, a second-round pick getting rotation minutes in Dallas, illustrate that with enough talent, the requisite toughness needed to play for Buzz Williams program in Milwaukee can translate to, at the least, being a hard-nosed NBA regular.

Well, he followed me around everywhere I went, so somethings supposed to rub off, Matthews joked about Butler to CSNChicago.com, adding a playful, competitive and semi-profane jab at his fellow Golden Eagle, before turning serious. He works hard, hes talented and he wants to get better. Thats his best thing going for him.

I think the skys the limit for him. With opportunity, he can show that he can play, continued the Portland swingman, who burned the Bulls for 21 points Sunday and threw in a late-game block on Butler, for good measure. He can defend. I think he showed that already. Hes got a nice mid-range game. Just with confidence and opportunity, hell be all right.

Hopefully Thibodeau sees it that way because as opposed to 19-year-old rookie Marquis Teague, this was not slated to be a developmental season for Butler, who toiled away at the Berto Center all offseason and excelled at the NBAs summer league in Las Vegas. For a team that could use energy when upon hitting its ever more-frequent lulls, a dose of athleticism and strong individual defense against some of the games elite wing scorers, let alone stealing a minute or two of rest for Deng when things are going well, Butler would seem to be the cure to ensure the Bulls, a .500 squad at the moment, dont enter an early-season malaise.

Chris Sale scratched from start due to 'clubhouse incident'

Chris Sale scratched from start due to 'clubhouse incident'

Chris Sale has not been traded, but he was scratched from his scheduled start Saturday due to a "clubhouse incident."

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said in a statement about 25 minutes before the scheduled start of Saturday's game against the Detroit Tigers that Sale was sent home from the park after a "non-physical" incident that is being investigated by the team. 

Here's Hahn's statement in full:

“Chris Sale has been scratched from tonight’s scheduled start and sent home from the ballpark by the White Sox due to a clubhouse incident before the game.  The incident, which was non-physical in nature, currently is under further investigation by the club.

“The White Sox will have no additional comment until the investigation is completed.”

Matt Albers will start for the White Sox Saturday. 

The news of Sale’s scratching set Twitter ablaze with questions about if this year’s American League All-Star starting pitcher was on the move. On Friday, rumors circulated that the Texas Rangers were pushing to acquire Sale, but the White Sox reportedly were asking for a hefty return. 

On Saturday, the Dallas Morning News’ Evan Grant reported the Rangers had moved on from talks with the White Sox and were focusing on acquiring a starting pitcher from the Tampa Bay Rays.

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MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported Saturday the cost to acquire Sale would be “five top prospects.”

Earlier this week, general manager Rick Hahn said the White Sox were open to anything (except acquiring a second-half rental) but added that it might be “extreme” to undergo a full rebuild with Sale and fellow All-Star left-hander Jose Quintana under team control through 2019 and 2020, respectively. 

“We certainly have desirable players that people would want to help them win a championship,” Hahn said Thursday.” But at the same time, we’re aware of the fact that we have a lot of high-quality talent under control for years beyond 2016.”

White Sox expect Brett Lawrie back soon, Alex Avila needs 2-4 more weeks

White Sox expect Brett Lawrie back soon, Alex Avila needs 2-4 more weeks

White Sox second baseman Brett Lawrie was out of the lineup for the second consecutive day with a tight left hamstring, and while he won’t require a stint on the 15-day disabled list, his injury has left manager Robin Ventura a little shorthanded. 

The White Sox are carrying 13 pitchers, so with Tyler Saladino filling in for Lawrie at second base, they’ve been left with only three players on the bench for this weekend’s series against the Detroit Tigers. Ventura said he expects Lawrie to be ready to return to the lineup in the next couple of days. 

Had outfielder Adam Eaton, who left Friday’s 7-5 loss after fouling a ball off his foot, needed to miss Saturday’s game, Ventura said the White Sox might’ve had to make a move to bring up another position player. Eaton is back leading off and playing right field on Saturday. 

“It's a little tight having enough players on the bench,” Ventura said.

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The White Sox position player depth has already been tested by injuries to outfielder Austin Jackson (knee) and catcher Alex Avila (hamstring), with both players unlikely to come off the disabled list for at least another month. 

Avila, who re-aggravated his strained right hamstring Wednesday during a rehab game with Triple-A Charlotte, said he probably tried to return too quickly the White Sox. The 29-year-old Avila leads White Sox regulars with a .362 on-base percentage and said he’ll need at least two to four weeks to heal up. 

“I probably tried to rush back a little too quick and wasn’t ready,” Avila said. “It's frustrating. I’d like to be back, but you have to let nature take its course."

Bears OL Nate Chandler has retired

Bears OL Nate Chandler has retired

Less than two months after Nate Chandler signed with the Bears, the team announced on Saturday that the offensive lineman has retired.

Chandler, 27, signed with the Bears on June 2. He is the second offensive linemen the Bears have signed this offseason that has retired. Manny Ramirez retired in June after signing in March.

Chandler was expected to push Charles Leno for playing time at left tackle. 

Amini Silatolu was signed by the Bears earlier this week to add more depth to the offensive line, but was thought to be more of a replacement for Ramirez at guard.

Chandler played collegiately at UCLA. He went undrafted, but signed with the Carolina Panthers and played in 37 games, with 19 starts, from 2012-2014. Due to a knee injury he was placed on injured reserve in 2015 and did not play.