Chicago Bulls Rumors

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Jimmy Butler To Be Named Most Improved Player

May 6 at 7:00pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

NBA: Playoffs-Chicago Bulls at Milwaukee BucksBulls swingman Jimmy Butler will be named as the NBA’s Most Improved Player, Marc Stein of reports (Twitter link). The 25-year-old certainly picked the correct season to become a breakout star since Butler can become a restricted free agent this summer if the Bulls tender him a qualifying offer worth $4,433,683. Chicago reportedly intends to match any offer sheet that Butler signs, and the franchise is expected to offer him a maximum salary contract this offseason.

Chicago already has nearly $60.2MM in commitments for seven players next season, not including a player option of almost $2.855MM for Kirk Hinrich. With the luxury tax line currently projected to come in around $81MM, it may be difficult to re-sign Butler without becoming a taxpayer. But with the Bulls’ roster aging quickly, locking down the budding young star should certainly be a priority for the team.

Butler appeared in 65 contests for Chicago this season and averaged 20.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.3 assists in 38.7 minutes per contest, all of which were career highs. His shooting line was .462/.378/.834. The 6’7″ swingman out of Marquette well outperformed his 2013/14 campaign numbers of 13.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 2.6 APG.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southwest Notes: Smith, Ginobili, Gasol

May 6 at 2:34pm CDT By Chuck Myron

Josh Smith has found contentment in Houston after enduring much criticism elsewhere, and the Rockets share that feeling of satisfaction with the partnership, as Grantland’s Jonathan Abrams examines. There’s mutual interest between Smith, who hits free agency again this summer, and GM Daryl Morey in a new deal, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported last month, and Morey made it clear to Abrams that he values the 29-year-old.

“I’m not sure what we’d do without him,” Morey added. “He’s been critical to getting us where we are right now.”

Houston will have Smith’s Non-Bird rights to give him a 20% raise on the $2.077MM salary he signed for via the Biannual Exception in December. Here’s more from around the Southwest Division:

  • Manu Ginobili suggested that he’s never pondered retirement quite so seriously before and said that Tim Duncan‘s decision about whether to play again next season will affect his own, as the swingman wrote for La Nacion’s and as Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News translates. In any case, Ginobili, whose contract with the Spurs expires this summer, said he’ll take the rest of the month to decide whether to return.
  • Concerns about whether Ginobili, Duncan and Gregg Popovich would remain over the course of a three-year deal were in Pau Gasol‘s head when he decided against signing with the Spurs, as Ramona Shelburne of writes in a lengthy piece on the Bulls, whom Gasol chose instead.
  • Dirk Nowitzki confirmed that there was no vote that took place when the Mavs decided to divvy up playoff shares without giving one to Rajon Rondo, as he said on KTCK-AM this week (transcription via the Dallas Morning News). “No, we actually didn’t vote. It was just the guys who were there that day got a playoff share,” Nowitzki said. “What we usually do is give a lot of weight to the guys that work for you all season long; the locker room guys, the equipment guys, the trainers, the massage guys [or] whoever you feel helped you get through the season. We usually divide it up and then give them a lot of money. I think that got blown out of proportion. It’s not like it was that much money. I don’t think Rondo would have cared either way.”

Central Notes: Thompson, Griffin, Gibson

May 5 at 8:10pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

Tristan Thompson is showing the Cavs his value with his aggressive rebounding and play around the rim during the playoffs, Jessica Camerato of Basketball Insiders writes. While there is a call around the league for big men who can stretch the floor with their shooting, Thompson is focused on continuing to improve in the paint area, Camerato notes. “You try to come back every year with something better and add something to your game,” Thompson said. “For me, I’m going to continue getting better and working on my game. Who I am now is not who I’m going to be a year from now or moving forward. I still want to get better and add things to my game. But for this year, for this team, which is my priority and my main focus, is how I can be an asset and help.” The 24-year-old can become a restricted free agent this summer provided the Cavs tender him a qualifying offer worth $6,777,589.

Here’s more out of the Central Division:

  • While LeBron James‘ return certainly revitalized the Cavs franchise, GM David Griffin was the one who laid the groundwork for the team to contend this season, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic writes. The rookie GM finished second to Golden State GM Bob Myers in the voting for Executive of the Year for the 2014/15 campaign.
  • Timofey Mozgov has fit in seamlessly with the Cavs since being acquired from Denver earlier this season, Sean Deveney of The Sporting News writes in his profile of the Russian big man. “It does seem like he has been here longer than just since January,” guard Kyrie Irving said. “He is a guy who makes things fun off the court, but you know on the court he is going to have your back. He is tough. That is big for us.
  • While the additions of Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic have diminished his playing time and stats this season, Taj Gibson could be the key to the Bulls advancing in the playoffs, Steve Aschburner of writes. “Taj is always important,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “That’s the one thing you can’t overlook, what he brings to our team, his defense, his rebounding. He’s probably our best low-post defender. He’s our best guy at moving his feet. Offensively it’s hard to put a small on him — he can overpower you inside with his post game. Second shots. He’s got a good 17′ shot, it’s not like you can disregard him. You’ve got to pay attention to him. He’s critical for our team.

Latest On Tom Thibodeau, Bulls, Magic

May 5 at 3:43pm CDT By Chuck Myron

3:43pm: Bulls GM Gar Forman once more dismissed the idea of a rift between the coach and management, telling Vincent Goodwill of that, “We’re in total agreement with Tom that it’s all just noise.” Thibodeau had made a similar comment in Wojnarowski’s report.

11:31am: A parting of ways between the Bulls and coach Tom Thibodeau is “inevitable,” as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports writes, though “maybe — just maybe” it will prove tougher to oust the coach from his job than to knock the Bulls out of the playoffs, Wojnarowski adds at the end of his column. Regardless, Bulls management is eager to be rid of Thibodeau, and its choice to replace him is Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, according to Wojnarowski. That largely falls in line with two reports from late last month, when Grantland’s Zach Lowe heard that people close to Thibodeau were convinced the Bulls would fire him at season’s end and Tim Bontemps of the New York Post wrote that many view Hoiberg as his likely replacement.

The Magic are waiting to see how the dynamic between Thibodeau and the Bulls plays out, Wojnarowski reports, just as many have been speculating, as Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel recently noted. It’s believed that the Bulls will seek some sort of compensation for letting Thibodeau out of his contract, which runs through 2016/17, to coach elsewhere, as Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders writes in his NBA AM piece. Kyler suggests that the Bulls wouldn’t demand as much as other teams have sought for coaches lately, given Chicago’s apparent eagerness to move on from Thibodeau, though the Basketball Insiders scribe also suggests the need to pony up compensation might dissuade Orlando from pursuing the coach. The Clippers relinquished  this year’s first-round pick for the right to hire Doc Rivers, and the Bucks gave up two second-round picks for Jason Kidd. Thibodeau is close with former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, whom Orlando fired in 2012, Lowe points out, speculating that the dynamic could pose another hurdle to Thibodeau ending up with the Magic.

Former Thunder coach Scott Brooks is second behind Thibodeau on the Magic’s list of preferred candidates, sources tell Kyler, and the team is considering Warriors assistant Alvin Gentry, too, Kyler adds. Kyler hears the Magic, like the Nuggets, the other team with a coaching vacancy, have had “small informal talks” but that neither team is expected to begin formal interviews soon.

Thibodeau’s future with Chicago is in serious doubt in spite of support from Bulls star Derrick Rose, as Wojnarowski details. That backing has helped prolong Thibodeau’s stay in Chicago to this point, but it wouldn’t forestall the end for the coach this summer, Wojnarowski writes. Rose is also under contract through 2016/17.

Central Notes: Thompson, Marion, Miller, Bulls

May 4 at 10:00am CDT By Chuck Myron

The Cavs and Bulls square off starting tonight in what seemed like it would be an Eastern Conference Finals matchup when the season began. It’s instead a conference semifinal, but the stakes are nonetheless enormous for those involved. Here’s more on that and other Central Division business as we wait for tipoff tonight:

  • The effectiveness with which Tristan Thompson plays in place of Kevin Love for the Cavs over the rest of their playoff run will probably determine the kind of money he sees on his next deal, argues Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio. The soon-to-be restricted free agent is skilled, and now’s the time for him to show it, Amico writes.
  • Cavs coach David Blatt‘s plan to replace the injured Love and suspended J.R. Smith seems to involve Shawn Marion and Mike Miller, a pair of offseason signees who have experience stepping into roles midstream for title-winners, as Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal examines.
  • Doubt about whether Tom Thibodeau will be back, the soon-to-be unrestricted free agency of key role players Mike Dunleavy, Kirk Hinrich and Aaron Brooks and a Cavs team well-positioned for the future make winning the title this year an imperative for the Bulls, opines Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. Indeed, the Bulls organization understands the scarcity of the opportunity in front of it, as Nick Friedell of explores.
  • The Pistons will likely draft a forward if the lottery stays true to form, writes Keith Langlois of, given the team’s needs and the available talent. Detroit is intent on evaluating prospects and free agents by character and compatibility as well as talent this year, GM Jeff Bower insists, as Langlois explores.

And-Ones: Bulls, Green, Turner

May 3 at 10:31pm CDT By Will Joseph

The Bulls need to take a now-or-never approach to their series against the Cavs for several reasons, David Haugh of The Chicago Tribune writes. Swingman Jimmy Butler will become a restricted free agent this summer if Chicago tenders him a qualifying offer of $4,433,683. Derrick Rose‘s health is always a question mark. Pau Gasol, as Haugh notes, turns 35 in July. Joakim Noah, Haugh adds, faces an uncertain summer with one year left on his contract and lingering knee issues make giving him a long-term deal a questionable investment. What’s more, there’s a strong possibility that Tom Thibodeau, as Haugh points out, will be coaching elsewhere next season. It’s been rumored that Thibodeau will be fired after this season.

There’s more from the basketball world:

  • Willie Green, who is set for unrestricted free agency in July, is interested in re-signing with the MagicKen Hornack of Fox Sports Florida writes. Green, who has played 12 seasons in the league, averaged 5.9 points per game and played well in a limited role despite riding the bench until mid-January. “I’m definitely open to being back here in Orlando,” Green said. “I like the foundation that the team has. “I like our young fellas, and I think I can help them on and off the floor. So if that possibility is open, then I’m definitely open to exploring it.”
  • Myles Turner agrees with the pundits who compare him to LaMarcus Aldridge and Anthony Davis but adds that he’s focused on blocking out speculation about where he will get picked, as the big man says in an interview with Raul Barrigon of HoopsHype. Turner is the No. 10 prospect in the Insider-only rankings that Chad Ford of compiles, while Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress has him at No. 11.Hoops Rumors’ Eddie Scarito recently profiled Turner, the former Texas center.

Southeast Notes: Magic, Vucevic, Hornets

May 2 at 8:41pm CDT By Arthur Hill

The slow pace of the Magic’s coaching search may be tied to the Bulls’ Tom Thibodeau, according to Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Orlando hasn’t interviewed anyone for the opening since the season ended, and Robbins notes that many speculate the Magic are waiting to see if Chicago fires Thibodeau after its playoff run ends. The Nuggets are the only other NBA team with a coaching vacancy, and many league insiders say the Magic’s job is considered more attractive in coaching circles. So there is little pressure to fill the job right away, but that could change soon if Dwane Casey is fired in Toronto.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The four-year extension Nikola Vucevic agreed to in October should be a bargain for the Magic once the new television deal takes effect, Robbins contends in a separate story. Vucevic’s contract can be worth up to $53MM, which could be cheap for a productive center with the expected jump in the salary cap. The deal could eventually make Vucevic, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder this season, an attractive trade piece, but Robbins said he’s definitely in Orlando’s immediate plans. “They signed me here for the future, and that’s a responsibility I wanted: to be one of these leaders on the team,” Vucevic said.
  • An early-season ankle sprain was a bad omen for the Magic’s Kyle O’Quinn, writes Ken Hornack of Fox Sports Florida. The third-year player missed nearly a month with the ankle and was limited to just 51 games for the season. He will become a restricted free agent in July after making slightly more than $900K this year. “I don’t think that’s the biggest thing I have to worry about right now,” he said about free agency. “My biggest thing is being a better player, becoming more of a student of a game, getting back to where I need to be.”
  • The Hornets would like to own and operate their own D-League franchise, reports Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Eight teams currently have that arrangement with their D-League affiliates, while eight others fund the franchise and handle the basketball — but not the business — side of the operation. Charlotte officials have targeted seven cities in the Carolinas: Asheville, Charleston, Columbia, Fayetteville, Greensboro, Greenville (S.C.) and Raleigh. “We think this is a great opportunity for our basketball people to have complete autonomy and control of how that part of the business is run,” said team president Fred Whitfield.

Central Notes: Middleton, Love, Butler

May 2 at 10:59am CDT By Eddie Scarito

Bucks‘ swingman Khris Middleton wishes to return to Milwaukee next season, Charles F. Gardner of The Journal Sentinel relays (Twitter links). “I hope to be back here,” Middleton said. “I feel we have a great young team, going in the right direction.” The 23-year-old can become a restricted free agent this offseason provided the Bucks tender him a qualifying offer worth $2,725,003. Middleton also noted that he wouldn’t want negotiations between he and Milwaukee to become drawn out, and referenced Eric Bledsoe and the Suns’ dealings from last summer, Gardner adds. “That’s a terrible situation,” said Middleton. “It worked out for him but it’s something I’d rather not be in.

Here’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The dislocated shoulder that knocked Kevin Love out of action for four to six months also ruined his chance at redeeming what the forward termed a “so-so” first season with the Cavs, Chris Haynes of The Northeast Ohio Media Group writes.
  • Bulls‘ swingman Jimmy Butler‘s uncanny ability to accept criticism from his coaches without reacting emotionally is a major reason that the 25-year-old has matured into a star player in the NBA, Eric Weiss and Kevin O’Connor of DraftExpress write in their profile of player. Butler will become a restricted free agent this summer if Chicago tenders him a qualifying offer of $4,433,683.
  • The Cavs have already begun recruiting Love to remain in Cleveland with their statements about how much the big man will be missed now that he is out for the remainder of the playoffs, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today writes. The scribe cites comments like ones made by guard Kyrie Irving, who said, “When one of your brothers goes down, there’s a piece of us that went with him.”

Northwest Notes: Blazers, Thibodeau, Donovan

April 30 at 12:30pm CDT By Chuck Myron

The questions that face the Blazers after a disappointing stretch run that threatens to shake the foundation of the roster are as profound as any the team has faced in the last 15 years, The Oregonian’s Jason Quick argues. The emergence of C.J. McCollum and Meyers Leonard, the disappointing play of Nicolas Batum and Robin Lopez, and the rumors surrounding LaMarcus Aldridge‘s willingness to keep playing in Portland provide challenge and opportunity for GM Neil Olshey, Quick contends. Still, few options other than returning to the Blazers would give Aldridge the chance to play a lead role on a true contender, SB Nation’s Tom Ziller opines. Here’s more from around the Northwest Division:

  • Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post doesn’t envision Tom Thibodeau emerging as the top candidate for the Nuggets job given the conflict of his defense-first philosophy and Denver’s desire for a fast-paced game, as Dempsey writes in a mailbag column.
  • The decision to leave Florida for the Thunder that Billy Donovan reportedly made should have been an easy one, as Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel argues. He’ll have an “exponentially better chance” at a title in Oklahoma City than he would with the Gators the next two years, and if he fails and the Thunder fire him, he’d have his pick of top college jobs, Thamel believes.
  • The numbers suggest that Donovan was no better down the stretch in close games at Florida than the oft-criticized Scott Brooks was for the Thunder, The Oklahoman’s Jenni Carlson writes.

Central Notes: Love, Butler, Pistons, Hill

April 26 at 4:06pm CDT By Arthur Hill

Kevin Love suffered a dislocated left shoulder in Sunday’s game against Boston and will be evaluated further, the Cavaliers announced. The incident happened in a first quarter skirmish between Love and the Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk. Love immediately headed for the locker room and did not return. The Cavaliers said Love will receive “examination, imaging and evaluation at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health over the next 24 hours.” His status for the rest of the playoffs will depend on the results of those tests. Love was wearing a sling after the game, but said his shoulder was feeling better and he hopes to be ready for Game 1 of the next series, tweets Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. Love wasn’t forgiving toward Olynyk, tweets Dave McMenamin, saying, “I thought it was a bush-league play … I have no doubt in my mind that he did it on purpose.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Jimmy Butler has emerged as the ideal complement to Derrick Rose in the Bulls‘ backcourt, according to Nick Friedell of Heading into free agency this summer, Butler has left behind his “role player” days and has become a full-fledged star, Friedell writes. “We have a very strong backcourt right now,” said center Joakim Noah. “Both him and Derrick, it’s very good. I’m very happy to have them as teammates.”
  • After upgrading at point guard with the trade for Reggie Jackson, the Pistons now face the challenge of improving at other positions, writes Keith Langlois of He praised coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy for being willing to part with depth and three-point shooting to acquire Jackson, who is very much in the team’s future plans despite being a free agent this summer. He also noted that the Pistons seem likely to bring back Anthony Tolliver, who has a $3MM contract, with only $400K guaranteed.
  • The PacersSolomon Hill took advantage of the opportunity given to him when Paul George broke his leg, writes Andrew Perna of Real GM. The second-year player was given increased court time and responded by being the only Pacer to appear in all 82 games. He is under Indiana’s control through the 2017/18 season.