Report: Bulls believe Jimmy Butler has changed as person, question his leadership

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Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose have reportedly had problems with each other (though both have denied that).

Then came a report Butler is bothering more than Rose.

What is happening in Chicago?

Nick Friedell of ESPN on the Posting Up podcast with Tim Bontemps:

I don’t think that the tension between Jimmy and Derrick was ever as bad as it was made out to be. But the tension now, moving forward off the Derrick talk for a second, between Jimmy and other players in that locker room is bad.

Because you can’t just say, “I signed this new deal. I’m the leader.” That respect has to be earned over time. Nobody is questioning Jimmy’s work ethic. He’s worked his tail off. But they are questioning whether Jimmy can be the leader that this group needs with so much turmoil going on around them.

You talk to anybody within that Bulls organization, and they’ll tell you that Jimmy has changed. His personality has changed.

And it’s not to say he’s wrong in that.

But this was a kid that loved saying he was from Tomball, Texas and that he was just a role player on a really good team. And now he wants all the trappings that come with being a star in the league.

And that’s all well and good.

But again, this ties back into the leadership problem this team has. You can say all that, but you can’t just say, “Alright, I’m the leader.” You have to earn that respect over time. Maybe Jimmy will.

He’s really rubbed some people the wrong way with how he’s going about things. So, it’s something to watch for, and it’s something that I know is on the minds of the front office in that, “Can we trust this guy to go out and to be who we need him to be every night, and can he lead us the way that a championship-caliber team needs to be led?” And early on, the returns have been no.

Key words: “Early on.”

Butler admitted publicly criticizing Fred Hoiberg’s coaching style was not the best way to handle his concerns. Butler also brought controversy to himself and the team when he declared before the season, “I am a point guard” – Rose’s position.

But Butler is new to leading. He was a role player until last season – and that seemed like a great accomplishment for a late first-round pick who spent a couple years at a community college.

Now, Butler is an All-Star on a max contract. Things have changed – though maybe not enough.

Rose – who has led Chicago – is still there. Joakim Noah – who has led Chicago –is still there.

That makes it much more difficult for Butler to successfully assert himself. Not only are other players accustomed to looking to players still in the locker room, it can’t be easy for Rose and Noah to defer.

Butler hasn’t handled everything well, and that this issue could be deeper than we suspected if the personality that led him here has significantly changed. But as much as, if not more than, any individual, the Bulls’ leadership problems could just be due to circumstance.

Butler’s talent demands Chicago gives him an opportunity to grow through this stage. It’s just not easy to find 26-year-old wings who excel on both ends of the floor.

The other elements could sort themselves out soon. Noah’s contract expires this summer, and Rose might not be long for the Bulls, either.

I wouldn’t rush to declare Butler a problem in Chicago. His off-court issues would have to be far worse than we realize to counteract his on-court production.

But I would keep an eye on him and how he handles suddenly being the team’s best player – and how his teammates handle it, too.

LeBron James says he doesn’t see Cavaliers-Warriors as rivalry

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers passes while under pressure from Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on December 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Tyronn Lue said Cavaliers-Warriors could eventually match Celtics-Lakers as a rivalry.

First, if you ask LeBron James, Cleveland-Golden State would have to become a rivalry at all.

LeBron, via Joe Vardon Cleveland.com:

“We don’t look at it as a rival,” James said. “They’re a great team. They’ve been the best team the last couple years, last three years.”

“It’s just the next game, it’s Golden State,” James said. “They’re a helluva team, like I said the best team in the league and they’ve been that way the last three years, four years, however long it’s been, I’m not quite sure. But, listen, you guys know, we don’t put all our eggs in one basket for one game.”

Of course, Cavaliers-Warriors is a rivalry. These teams have met in the last two NBA Finals, played each other with relentless intensity, talked plenty of trash and remained elite.

LeBron just doesn’t want the Cavs to become comfortable. They’ve beat Golden State in four straight games – the last three of the 2016 Finals and on Christmas – and could extend the streak to five today. Beating a rival that frequently is a cause for celebration, and celebration leads to contentment. LeBron would rather keep Cleveland focused and hungry. Hence, saying the Warriors aren’t a rival.

Andre Drummond hits 3-pointer from inside Pistons’ own 3-point arc (video)

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Andre Drummond is really good at these deep heaves.

His 3-point percentage (44%) is even better than his free-throw percentage (38%) the last two years, though that says too much about his work from the line.

Drummond wasn’t the only Pistons player converting to end quarters. Ish Smith and Tobias Harris also stepped up in the Pistons’ 102-97 win over the Lakers:

NBA: Suns got away with offensive foul before key points in win over Spurs

Phoenix Suns Devin Booker acknowledges a foul as San Antonio Spurs Tony Parker lies crumpled on the floor, in the second half of their regular-season NBA basketball game in Mexico City, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
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Devin Booker scored 39 points in the Suns’ 108-105 win over the Spurs on Saturday in Mexico City.

But Booker’s last four – which put Phoenix up for good – came directly after incorrect calls, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.

First, Booker drew a (legitimate) foul on Pau Gasol with 1:08 left and made both free throws. The problem: One second before that, Suns center Tyson Chandler should have been called for offensively fouling Tony Parker, according to the league:

Chandler (PHX) sets the screen on Parker (SAS) and makes leg to leg contact that affects his ability to defend the play.

That would’ve ended Phoenix’s possession rather than allowing Booker to get to the line.

The other missed call in the two-minute report is trickier, because it directly benefitted the Spurs but indirectly benefitted the Suns.

Manu Ginobili got away with travelling with 59.1 seconds left, according to  the league:

Ginobili (SAS) moves his pivot foot.

But he coughed up the ball moments later anyway, and – thrilled to gain possession with a live-ball turnover rather than a dead-ball turnover – Booker turned the miscue into a fastbreak dunk.

Rather than debate how to evaluate San Antonio getting away with a travel and it ultimately helping Phoenix more, let’s stick to just the uncalled Chandler offensive foul. That netted the Suns two points. Their lead when the Spurs began intentionally fouling? One.

Russell Westbrook puts up 20th triple-double of season, lifts Thunder past Kings (VIDEO)

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Through 41 games — half the season — Russell Westbrook is averaging 30.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.5 assists a game. Those numbers are insane, particularly considering his 42 percent usage rate. He has to put up numbers and do so fairly efficiently or the Thunder stand no chance of winning — and he has the Thunder on pace for 48 wins this season.

The Thunder picked up another of those wins Sunday night knocking off the Sacramento Kings behind Westbrook’s 20th triple-double in 41 games — 36 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. The video highlights are above.

It’s going to be fun watching him and James Harden go back-and-forth in the MVP race for the next few months.