There was no real change with the Rajon Rondo situation. Though even if there had been a new development, Jimmy Butler would have rendered it a footnote for at least one night.
Butler scored a season-high 52 points with 12 rebounds to lead the Bulls to a 118-111 win Monday over the Charlotte Hornets. Butler scored 32 in the second half, 17 in the fourth, and had the second game of at least 50 points in his career. Thanks in part to going 21 of 22 from the free-throw line, he became the first Bulls player since Michael Jordan on April 27, 1997 to score 50 points at the United Center.
In short, Butler lived up to the MVP chants he heard late in the game.
“I think it’s an understatement to say Jimmy was phenomenal tonight,” coach Fred Hoiberg said.
Butler said all he cared about was getting the win, a victory that snapped the Bulls’ brief two-game losing streak. He claimed he didn’t even know how many points he had until Michael Carter-Williams told him to get his 50th point when Hornets coach Steve Clifford was called for a technical foul with 15.1 seconds left in the game.
“Other than that I just had a groove,” Butler said. “Coach kept drawing up the same play, Mike kept setting a great screen. I just came off and made a good shot.”
As for Rondo… he also heard a chant, albeit a very different one than Butler.
At one point during the third there was a brief WE WANT RONDO chant coming from some of the fans, which was the closest he got to hearing his name called to get off the bench.
Carter-Williams started at point guard and Rondo didn’t play for the second consecutive game. Jerian Grant got the backup point guard time, playing 27 minutes and scoring nine points. That kept Rondo stapled to the bench after he didn’t play at all in Saturday’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, and sat out the second half of the Bulls’ game Friday against Indiana.
Carter-Williams scored 10 in 31 minutes in his second game after taking Rondo’s spot in the lineup. With Dwyane Wade out because of a swollen left knee, there was room in the backcourt rotation for Rondo. Instead, 17:33 went to Denzel Valentine, who had played only 4:39 in the Bulls’ previous five games.
Valentine took advantage, scoring a career-high nine points on three 3-pointers before rolling his left ankle on a layup attempt with 1:53 left in the third and didn’t return. But even without Valentine, Rondo didn’t get in.
On Monday morning, Rondo practiced and during the portion open to the media was seen shooting around, spending much of that time near Hoiberg, Grant, Isaiah Canaan and assistant coach Randy Brown.
“I’m really thankful for the way he has handled the situation,” Hoiberg said.
Regardless, it doesn’t look like Rondo will get much of a chance on the floor. Hoiberg said he would be “potentially” comfortable with using Rondo off the bench, though there hasn’t even been a conversation about that.
“I’m sure if it comes to that, he’d handle it well also,” Hoiberg said of Rondo.
On Monday, Butler handled pretty much everything quite well.
“We’ve seen it before from Jimmy,” Doug McDermott said. “Tonight the ball was moving and I think it opened up things for him and he was taking easier shots rather than tough shots like kind of what he’s had lately.”
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