Jimmy Butler

Western Rumors: Paul, Ball, Nurkic, Noel

Chris Paul is ramping up his workouts and could return to action on Thursday, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports. The longtime All-Star point guard has been out since suffering a bruised left knee in the Rockets’ opener. “We’ll see how he feels Tuesday and Wednesday,” coach Mike D’Antoni told Feigen. “That [playing Thursday] is what we’re shooting for.”

In other developments around the Western Conference:

  • Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball is shooting 31.4% but team president Magic Johnson said during a radio interview the coaching staff won’t alter his shooting stroke. Johnson made the comment during an interview on ESPN’s Mike and Mike show, which was relayed by USAToday’s Andrew Joseph. “Let him shoot the way he’s been shooting and hopefully they’ll go in. And so, we’re not gonna mess with it,” Johnson said. “We’re gonna let him shoot and play his game. If after the season, and he’s not shooting well, then we’ll sit down with him and say, ‘Hey, let’s maybe look at different way or let’s try to improve the way you are shooting.'”
  • Jusuf Nurkic isn’t brooding over his lack of crunch-time minutes in recent games, Mike Richman of The Oregonian reports. Coach Terry Stotts has gone with the backup Ed Davis in the fourth quarter the last two games but the starting Trail Blazers center says he’s not upset. “No drama, man,”  Nurkic told Richman. “It’s all about the [next] game.”
  • Nerlens Noel‘s lack of playing time doesn’t mean there’s a rift between him and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, according to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News. Noel has played just eight minutes over the last three games but he can work his way back in the rotation by playing hard-nosed basketball, Sefko continues. Noel will get a chance to rejoin the rotation in the near future, Sefko predicts.
  • Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler scored 25 points against the Suns on Saturday, and he vows to remain a bigger part of the offense, Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. Butler had scored 16 points or less in seven of his 10 previous games with his new team.  “I do think I have to start scoring the ball a lot more,” Butler told Zgoda. “I think I’ve come too far to be as passive as I am right now. I’m always going to pass the ball to the open man, but if I feel like I can get my shots off and think I can make it, I’m going to take each and every one of those.”

Bulls Notes: Mirotic, Portis, Butler, LaVine

The lingering tension between Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis continues to loom over the Bulls, with the team finding it harder than ever to support both players. As K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune details, Mirotic remains upset about the situation, particularly since he’s still recovering from the injuries he sustained when he was punched by Portis, who has returned to the court following his eight-game suspension. Mirotic’s camp has made it clear to the Bulls that he doesn’t feel like he and Portis can coexist going forward, Johnson notes.

Portis seems more willing to bury the hatchet, suggesting on Tuesday that he wants to “let bygones be bygones.” Although Portis is aware of the reported ultimatum from Mirotic’s camp, he recognizes that the team’s decision on whether to trade one player or the other is out of his control, as Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times details.

“I want to rekindle our relationship, try as best as possible, but I don’t control that right now,” Portis said. “I’m here to play basketball.”

In a separate report, Cowley suggests that the Bulls’ locker room seems to favor Portis over Mirotic, citing two players on the team who say that the ultimatum from Mirotic’s side is carrying “zero weight.” Reports out of Chicago since the incident last month have indicated that members of the Bulls believe Mirotic is partially to blame for the altercation with Portis, and it sounds as if at least a couple of his teammates believe Mirotic needs to move past it. “This is Niko’s problem now,” one Bull told Cowley.

As we wait to see how the Bulls handle the situation, let’s round up a few more notes out of Chicago…

  • Jimmy Butler admitted to Sam Alipour of ESPN The Magazine that he felt like the Bulls would eventually move on from either him or Fred Hoiberg, and wasn’t surprised by their decision. “I said from the beginning it was either gonna be me or the Fred Hoiberg route,” Butler said. “And rightfully so, they took Fred. Good for them.”
  • While he’s happy with how things turned out, Butler is also looking forward to his first game against the Bulls, as he tells Alipour: “I got that game marked on my calendar. February 9, baby — I’m back. Oh, man, they better hope I go 0-for-30, ’cause every basket I score, I’m looking over at the bench and I got something to say.”
  • Barring any setbacks, Bulls guard Zach LaVine is on track to begin taking contact in about two weeks, Cowley writes for The Sun-Times. LaVine, who continues to recover from last year’s ACL injury, hopes to return to action within the next month or two.

Bulls Notes: Front Office, Wade, Mirotic, Portis

In an in-depth and well-researched piece for ESPN, Nick Friedell examines how the Bulls went from a title contender to one of the NBA’s worst teams within the last several years. Friedell’s report, which begins by revisiting Derrick Rose‘s first major injury back in 2012, provides plenty of interesting tidbits along the way, touching on the tension between Tom Thibodeau and the front office, Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah, Dwyane Wade and his young teammates, and Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic.

As Friedell details, there has no been no shortage of issues in Chicago in recent years, with even the most successful seasons during that stretch including a few sour notes. For instance, sources tell Friedell that executives John Paxson and Gar Forman felt like they didn’t get enough credit for the roster they built during the Thibodeau years.

Friedell’s whole piece is worth a read, but here are a couple more details from it, along with more Bulls notes:

  • When the Bulls landed Wade last summer, Forman conveyed the impression that the front office had been planning its pursuit of Wade for weeks. In reality though, according to Friedell, the Bulls were “shocked” that they had an opportunity to pry Wade away from the Heat, and altered their rebuilding plans when it became clear they could sign him.
  • Via Freidell, here’s what Paxson had to say about the perception that the Bulls could have done better than the Timberwolves’ package in a Butler trade: “Teams would call us all the time and probe about Jimmy and that type of thing. But no one ever made us any type of legitimate offer. In fact, most teams, when they would make an offer, it was somewhat insulting. So we always listened, which teams do, but it really came down to, could we start to rebuild with some quality young players? And hope that knowing what our future holds, it’s going to be painful at times. But if we get into these next few drafts at a fairly significant level, the hope is that pairing what draft picks we have going forward and the players that we got in this deal, we can get back sooner rather than later.”
  • In a separate article for ESPN, Friedell notes that the fight between Portis and Mirotic denied the Bulls the opportunity to push an optimistic and hopeful narrative about the team’s rebuild to open the season.
  • Although Portis privately and publicly apologized for punching Mirotic, there are growing concerns that the relationship between the two players may be much more difficult to repair, as Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times writes. Mirotic hasn’t returned any of Portis’ calls or texts, says Cowley.

NBA GMs Weigh In On 2017/18 Season

NBA.com has completed its annual survey of NBA general managers, with John Schuhmann of NBA.com asking each of the league’s 30 GMs an array of questions about the league’s top teams, players, and coaches. To no one’s surprise, the Warriors are viewed by the NBA’s general managers as the overwhelming favorite to win the 2017/18 championship, with 28 of 30 GMs (93%) picking Golden State to repeat.

While there are many responses in the GM survey worth checking out, we’ll focus on rounding up some of the more interesting ones related to rosters and player movement. Let’s dive in…

  • Although half of the league’s GMs picked LeBron James as the 2017/18 MVP winner, LeBron only finished third in voting for the player GMs would want to start a franchise with today. Karl-Anthony Towns (29%) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (21%) were the top vote-getters for that question.
  • NBA general managers loved the Thunder‘s acquisition of Paul George. George received 59% of the vote for which offseason addition would make the biggest impact, easily beating out Jimmy Butler (17%), Chris Paul (10%), and Kyrie Irving (7%). Additionally, Oklahoma City was chosen as the team that made the best offseason moves, with 43% of the vote. The Celtics (25%), Timberwolves (14%), and Rockets (11%) were runners-up.
  • The Nuggets‘ signing of Paul Millsap (24%) and the Pistons‘ trade for Avery Bradley (17%) were regarded by NBA GMs as the most underrated acquisitions of the summer.
  • The Timberwolves (69%) were the runaway choice for most improved team, beating out the Sixers (17%) and a handful of other clubs. Of course, it’s worth noting that Minnesota was also the GMs’ pick for that question a year ago.
  • While Dennis Smith Jr. of the Mavericks (37%) was voted the biggest steal of the 2017 draft, most GMs expect Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball (62%) to win the Rookie of the Year award.

Northwest Notes: Butler, Hernangomez, Lillard

A comprehensive feature on Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler has shed some light on how the 30th overall draft pick has changed over the course of his ascent to stardom. Michael Pina of Vice Sports spent a day with the swingman, who describes himself as a difficult person to be around.

This season Butler has been reunited with former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, the man at the helm in Chicago when Butler evolved from a fringe roster player to a key rotation piece into a star. For the last two years, however, Butler played under a different coach.

I’m confrontational. I feed off of confrontation. It makes me go,” Butler said. “Not everybody’s like that. [Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg] is not that coach, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There are different coaching styles and people are gonna say—which is what they did say—’It’s gonna be Jimmy’s team or it’s gonna be Fred’s team.’ Two total opposite ends of the spectrum.

Be sure to check out the long-read for fresh perspective on the Timberwolves guard’s backstory and mentality heading forward.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division tonight:

Lowe’s Latest: Celtics, Irving, Hayward, Butler

In our recap earlier today of where things stand on the Kyrie Irving front, we passed along several items of interest from ESPN’s Zach Lowe, who identified a number of potential trade partners for the Cavaliers if their deal with the Celtics falls through. Lowe also cited sources who said that there’s at least a slight chance Isaiah Thomas could miss the entire 2017/18 season if his recovery doesn’t progress as smoothly as hoped.

Lowe’s in-depth piece on the Irving situation included a few more noteworthy details, which we’ll pass along here:

  • Timing played a major part in the Celtics‘ decision to go hard after Irving, rather than Paul George or Jimmy Butler. As Lowe notes, the team wanted to add two star players this summer, but wanted to make sure it could land Gordon Hayward in free agency before giving up key assets for that second star. Because the Bulls and Pacers agreed in June to trade their stars, they were no longer options for Boston, post-Hayward.
  • Irving’s age was also a key consideration for the Celtics, says Lowe. With Boston poised to build around young pieces like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the fact that Irving is two years younger than either George or Butler was important, and allows the C’s to extend their window of contention.
  • The Celtics also had some concerns about how Butler and Hayward might mesh – on and off the court – if they were to acquire both players, sources tell Lowe.
  • Even if the Celtics have to include a little more in the Irving deal to get it done, they still may be the most well-stocked team in the league in terms of trade assets, according to Lowe, who notes that could become important if the Pelicans eventually make Anthony Davis available. There’s no indication at this point that New Orleans will do so, but the Celtics’ eyes “are very much trained on” Davis, says Lowe.
  • According to Lowe, if Irving officially becomes a Celtic, he could play a part in helping to recruit an additional superstar, since the league’s stars respect Irving’s “ballsy showman’s game.” Celtics president Danny Ainge likes Irving more than many of his peers around the NBA for some of the same reasons, Lowe adds.

Central Notes: James, Pistons, Butler

A smattering of league executives that spoke with Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher echo the sentiment that LeBron James will leave the Cavaliers next summer, one Eastern Conference general manager even going so far as to call it a “foregone conclusion.”

Of course just two weeks ago we wrote about how there were conflicting reports about the King’s pending free agency decision. In Bucher’s latest, however, he writes that the Kyrie Irving trade hasn’t changed James’ Cavaliers outlook in the slightest.

Between lingering injury concerns surrounding Isaiah Thomas (hip) and James’ connection to Los Angeles, Bucher makes the case that the 32-year-old Cavalier icon could west to join the Lakers. “It’s all more about life after basketball than anything else,” a source tells him.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Would Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Stanley Johnson and a first-round pick have been enough for the Pistons to land Kyrie Irving? Ansar Khan of MLive doesn’t think so. The scribe says the Celtics‘ offer would have topped Detroit’s no matter what.
  • The Pacers spared no expense outfitting their new practice facility with 130,000 square feet of enticing new features, an Associated Press report says. Indiana hopes that facility can be a selling point for players and coaches.
  • Former Bulls guard Jimmy Butler doesn’t regret his mid-season comments criticizing teammates, saying that the organization doesn’t make it easy for players to express themselves. “I just think they make it tough to be yourself, to be who you are and express yourself the way you want to express yourself,” he told Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Cavaliers Were Close To Acquiring Paul George

The Cavaliers nearly landed Paul George in a three-team deal in late June, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, Dave McMenamin and Brian Windhorst.

The trade would have sent Kevin Love to Denver and Gary Harris and other assets to Indiana, but Pacers president Kevin Pritchard reportedly backed out before everything was finalized.

Prior to the draft, Cleveland made trade offers to the Pacers for George and to the Bulls for Jimmy Butler. Once the Wolves acquired Butler on draft night, the Cavs stepped up their efforts for George, with the Nuggets agreeing to send Harris and the No. 13 pick to Cleveland, which would include those assets in a deal with Indiana. However, the Pacers put the trade on hold as they talked to the Trail Blazers about a deal to acquire all three of Portland’s first-rounders in exchange for George. Both proposals eventually fell through.

The Cavs continued to work on the trade following the draft, and an agreement was reached on June 30th. All three teams tentatively okayed to the deal on a conference call, and Cleveland began targeting free agents to fit with George. However, Pritchard changed his mind and the news broke soon after that George was headed to Oklahoma City.

The failed trade was part of a tumultuous offseason for the Cavaliers, as the ESPN authors examine in a lengthy piece. Cleveland also parted ways with GM David Griffin and was unable to land Chauncey Billups, who interviewed twice as a potential replacement. The team missed out on marquee free agents and had to settle for Jose Calderon and Jeff Green. Then star guard Kyrie Irving held a meeting with owner Dan Gilbert on July 7th where he issued a request to be traded.

Irving was reportedly angry that his name had been included in offers for Butler and George, and has been unhappy for some time with how much James dominates the ball. He also believes the team defers too much to James, noting that LeBron’s friend, Randy Mims, was given a position as executive administrator and flies on the team plane, while none of Irving’s friends has a similar arrangement.

The front office and the players have been aware of Irving’s intentions for two weeks, and there is confidence in the organization that the team can get enough assets for Irving to remain a contender. The Cavs have been inundated with calls from interested teams since the story broke on Friday.

Latest On Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving‘s request to be traded is the latest story to rock the league during an eventful offseason. The news broke Friday, but Irving’s meeting with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert took place about two weeks ago, according to Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com.

The Cavs tried to keep it quiet so they could work on a deal without the distractions that are starting to happen now. Apparently some players learned about the news and started talking, which is how the trade request became public.

Pluto also speculates that Irving’s demand validates rumors last month that former Bulls star Jimmy Butler was warned by Cavaliers players not to push for a trade to Cleveland. They have a close friendship, so Irving may have told Butler that he was planning to leave the team. Butler was subsequently traded to the Timberwolves, one of the teams Irving included on his list of preferred destinations, along with the Spurs, Knicks and Heat.

There’s more today on the Irving trade front:

  • The Wolves have a strong interest in acquiring Irving, even though they just signed former Pacers point guard Jeff Teague, Pluto adds in the same story. Pluto believes the Cavs should ask for Andrew Wiggins, whom the Cavs made the overall No. 1 draft pick in 2014, as part of the deal. Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns are untouchable, but Wiggins will be a free agent next summer if he doesn’t sign an extension before the October deadline.
  • The Knicks have offered Carmelo Anthony and a parcel of draft picks, adds Pluto, who says Cleveland should insist on Kristaps Porzingis. Other teams that have expressed interest include Sacramento, with rookie De’Aaron Fox as part of the offer, and Phoenix, with a package centered around Eric Bledsoe.
  • Pluto also notes that a trade would take away Irving’s opportunity to sign a super-max extension like the one John Wall just agreed to with the Wizards. The move could cost Irving between $50MM and $70MM.
  • Butler and Towns have done some recruiting work with Irving and have made it clear to Wolves management they would like to acquire him, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, who first broke the story of Irving’s trade request. Windhorst believes Teague would likely be included in any Minnesota-Cleveland deal and notes that as a newly signed free agent he can’t be traded until December 15th.
  • The Spurs would be Irving’s first choice if he could pick a team, writes Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog.
  • The Cavaliers had a deal on the table involving Irving before the draft, according to Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. The trade was put together by former GM David Griffin, but the Cavaliers didn’t pull the trigger because they didn’t know that Irving wanted to leave.

Trade Notes: Carmelo, Blazers, Celtics, Drummond

The Knicks put Carmelo Anthony trade talks on hold last week, but that decision is likely temporary, according to Chris Mannix of The Vertical, who suggests that the team wanted to get new general manager Scott Perry involved in the process. The Knicks reportedly hope that Anthony will be willing to expand his list of preferred destinations beyond Houston and Cleveland, but there has been no indication yet that the star forward is open to going to a team like the Trail Blazers, despite alleged interest from Portland.

According to Mannix, the Trail Blazers have been involved in Anthony talks, but have primarily been acting as a third-team facilitator in discussions so far. Per Mannix’s report, an inability to find a fourth team willing to take on Meyers Leonard‘s contract stalled “at least one version” of the proposed deal.

Anthony’s preferred destination is believed to be Houston, and given his no-trade clause, the fact that Carmelo is willing to accept such a deal is a good start for the Rockets. However, GM Daryl Morey will still have to get the Knicks and potentially one or two other teams on board in order to land Anthony, which is why the situation remains in a holding pattern for now.

Here are a few more trade rumors and notes from around the NBA:

  • Within the Vertical piece linked above, Chris Mannix notes that it’s “widely believed” the Celtics will make a run at Anthony Davis if the Pelicans‘ season goes south. New Orleans has been vehemently opposed to considering Davis deals, and while it’s possible that will change if the team struggles this season, DeMarcus Cousins would almost certainly land on the trading block first.
  • According to Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post, many teams around the NBA sensed this offseason that Pistons coach and president Stan Van Gundy was dissatisfied with center Andre Drummond. Detroit took calls on Drummond, but team owner Tom Gores is a big fan of the 23-year-old, and the Pistons didn’t receive any offers strong enough to merit a serious conversation about the big man’s future, per Bontemps.
  • Appearing on The Bill Simmons Podcast, Jimmy Butler confirmed that he left a June exit meeting with Bulls brass believing that he’d remain in Chicago. “I thought I was going to be there so I’m not going to say word for word what they said, but when I left there I did think I was going to be there,” Butler said, per Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. “But like I said, it’s a business and it is what it is.”
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