Jimmy Butler’s camp denies ‘manufactured’ reports, while Bulls stay drama-free
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With media day set to kick off training camp Monday, the Bulls find themselves in an unusual position.
No complaints, no finger-pointing. Heck, even the crickets are keeping quiet.
For an organization that has spent the last eight years at the epicenter of NBA drama in the Midwest, well, if the biggest question is Jabari Parker’s waistline and his desire to play defense, that’s an organization in a sound state.
Just over 400 miles away, the opposite scenario is playing out.
Former Bull Jimmy Butler, the centerpiece in the trade that jump-started the organization’s rebuild and tranquility, has demanded a trade from the Timberwolves as ownership sticks with a youth movement that Butler has characterized as soft.
To add to the Butler drama, there have been multiple reports this week that money was the main reason he wanted to be dealt, but a source in his camp told the Sun-Times on Friday that those rumors were “manufactured’’ by “ownership mouthpieces’’ to make Butler look bad.
Salary complaints by athletes will tend to do that.
According to the source, the real sticking point is a philosophical one as the Timberwolves try to make an impact in the Western Conference.
Butler believes Minnesota can’t challenge the Warriors with softies such as Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
Now who would’ve guessed that Bulls general manager Gar Forman all of a sudden would resemble a big-boy basketball executive?
While the Timberwolves acquired the resultant melodrama to go with Butler as well as the broken foot of Justin Patton, the Bulls added Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the draft pick that turned into Lauri Markkanen.
Expect Forman to have the Vince McMahon power strut for quite some time.
So while there seems to be no turmoil at the start of Bulls camp, that doesn’t mean the preseason will lack storylines.
1 Does Wendell Carter Jr. win the starting job at 19?
The Bulls will have a switching mentality on defense, and that helps Carter’s case because of his athletic ability and footwork.
The seventh overall pick from Duke, Carter showed in Summer League that he’s willing to go one-on-one with point guards, but that’s Summer League.
The other side of the argument is that the Bulls likely will be trying to shop veteran center Robin Lopez, so showcasing him early in the season could help in that process.
Either way, expect that to be the one starting spot that could be up for grabs as camp begins.
2 Can LaVine and Parker get defensive?
Unless coach Fred Hoiberg’s offense has 140 points a night in it, the two wings need to put more into their defense.
LaVine’s defensive rating (114.8) last season ranked 511th in the league, and his defensive win-share was 514th in the league.
Parker’s defensive rating was 109.5, putting him 433rd in the league. His defensive win-share ranked him 353rd.
Those are numbers that have to improve if the Bulls want to establish a good culture on both sides of the ball.
3 Is Markkanen ready to be a star?
The Bulls’ staff has been raving about the work Markkanen put in during the summer to strengthen his body and bulk up.
Yes, he has the ability to stretch a defense with his outside shot, but if he can also bully smaller players in the paint and handle smaller opposing fives, he will develop into a matchup nightmare.