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Wade’s frustration stems from the fact that he feels the front office misled him about the direction of the team. As his June 27 deadline to opt-in to the final year of his contract approached, the veteran shooting guard wanted assurances from the front office that the Bulls would field a competitive team during the 2017-18 season. Wade didn’t want to opt-in and then watch the franchise enter a rebuilding period. Sources close to the situation say that Wade received those assurances. Jimmy Butler was also given the impression that he wouldn’t be traded, according to league sources.
Since the Butler trade, Wade hasn’t spoken to anyone in the Bulls’ front office. He’s had a few brief chats with head coach Fred Hoiberg, but they haven’t talked about anything team-related. The three-time champion is upset because he doesn’t want to waste one of the final years of his NBA career on a lottery team. That’s why recent reports have suggested that a buyout is imminent.
Until Tuesday, Fred Hoiberg hadn’t publicly responded to management’s claim from its season-ending news conference that Hoiberg needs to be a better leader, more fodder for those who mistake his geniality for softness.
“I’ll be honest: I wasn’t thrilled,” Hoiberg told the Tribune in his first comments about the incident. “And (executive vice president) John (Paxson) and I had a long talk about it the next day and I told him that. It was a great conversation. We’ve moved on from it and turned it into a positive with a great meeting. The important thing is we’re all on the same page.”
“We were playing as well as anybody in the Eastern Conference at the end of last season,” Hoiberg said in an interview after the news conference. “Obviously, (rebuilding) is a completely different challenge. But I haven’t lost any confidence in my ability to lead and do this job. I look at the way we ended last year and kept things together and played our best basketball at the most important time of the season.”
The Bulls were rather publicly uncomfortable with the idea of Butler as foundational player. Butler and Hoiberg never jelled, and at times, including around midseason, Butler’s bristling at Hoiberg’s instructions and calm personality made people on the team uncomfortable, a source said. That stuff will not happen with Thibodeau. Butler craves a hard-ass coach. Hoiberg was never going to play to that type.
KC Johnson: Jimmy Butler with good answer on his trainer’s Tweet disparaging Gar Forman pic.twitter.com/ExDd9oF3Uy
Vincent Goodwill: Fred Hoiberg sidestepped question about ESPN poll that ranked him as worst coach in the league, saying the Bulls have eight games left
More importantly, it again signaled the reality that the belief this team can make a run for the playoffs with the schedule being the easiest of the contenders over the next two weeks is a fallacy—if the first 70 games is any indication. “For us to come out with that lack of effort at this point in the season is maddening,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Look at the points in the paint, 70-30; that tells you everything you need to know about tonight’s game.”
“We didn’t guard anybody,” Butler said. “The lack of discipline, game plan, whatever you want to call it. The game plan is important but if you’re not going to do what the game plan says then go get a stop and nobody will be mad at you.”
KC Johnson: Rondo: “I don’t have the answer to our inconsistent play. That’s how the season has been. It’s no different.”
“We were just lazy,” Butler said of the first half, which ended with the Bulls trailing 59-40. “And I hate this word — and soft. I hate it. But that’s exactly what we were. They beat us to every 50-50 ball, whooped our tail in transition, and we turned the ball over. All of the things we talked about all year long, we replayed in that first half. And then we decided to play some better basketball.”
Nick Friedell: Butler: “We were just lazy. I hate this word — and soft. I hate it. But that’s exactly what we were. They beat us at every 50/50 ball.”
That wasn’t the case in January, when a 119-114 loss to the Atlanta Hawks—in which the Bulls blew a 10-point lead in the final three minutes—prompted Butler and Wade to unload on their teammates. Rondo soon took to Instagram to proclaim his “vets” in Boston never would have done that. It was an ugly scene; a league source told Bleacher Report all three players were fined.
KC Johnson: Niko: “Obviously, I wasnt happy with the situation.But there’s not too much I can do but stay ready. Once the chance came, try to prove it.”
“We’re going to see,” Rondo said when asked about his future. “I’m going to continue to try to stay healthy. I feel pretty good due to the [lack of] playing time. You can look at it one of two ways, I look at it as [being] pissed off by not playing a lot, which I am. Or you can look at it as I’m benefiting, I’m healthy. I can play with my son. I’m not waking up at 3 or 4 in the morning with a lot of aches and pains at night.”
“My perspective on things [has changed], I would love to be part of a winning tradition or winning culture,” Rondo said. “I thought I was going to get that here. The people up top are going in a different direction as far as experimenting. It [stinks] when you have the opportunity to make the playoffs and they want to go a different route.”
“Yes,” Wade said when asked if it’s hard to play 12 during a game. “But we’re players. It’s tough because guys don’t know how many minutes they’re gonna play. Mentally it’s tough. You got younger guys, it’s hard to bring them back. You stick with it. No matter who coach puts out there on the floor. He’s trying to figure it out as well.” “Guys in the locker room are fine. Some guys don’t know when they’re gonna play, some guys don’t know how much so it could be a little challenging. Especially young guys, when you’re trying to develop mental toughness, it could be tough. It’s the hand we’re dealt and we gotta find a way to play it.”
“I’m not really gonna go there. I’m not getting in trouble no more. Not gonna do it man, not gonna do it,” Wade said. “I sit in a locker, I got a jersey. I don’t wear a suit. It’s not my job. My job is to play. And try to give confidence and lead along the way. We took a smack tonight. I’ll be there against Boston trying to lead my guys in the next game.”
When Hoiberg plays every active roster player except for the banished Nikola Mirotic in the first halves of games, it seems clear the business of basketball is getting in the way of winning. “Hell yeah it’s hard. Absolutely. I want to win,” Rajon Rondo said to CSNChicago.com recently. “That’s what we’re here to do, is win. I had one goal when I came here: that’s to win. Business or not, that’s part of it.”
Now on the outside looking into the playoff picture, it wasn’t that way after the Bulls beat the Golden State Warriors on national TV. One could say the Bulls had an inside track at staying at the sixth spot ahead of Indiana and Detroit as opposed to the free fall since. “(We should) continue to try to move up in seeding versus experimenting,” Rondo said.
One wonders if players can be evaluated or grow when there’s no consistency. With this process, how are the young players learning much of anything? “Just no consistency at all… Our team overall. It’s difficult,” Rondo said. “We are losing some games in the fourth, some games we should win…I don’t know if we’re doing analytics, what we’re doing as far as who we play, who’s not. Everybody has to be ready when their name is called.”
KC Johnson: Wade: “My job is to play. I have to be better on the basketball floor. Like I said, just running pick-and-rolls all game, that ain’t it.”
KC Johnson: Bulls season-high losing streak hits 5 games after 100-80 loss to Celtics. Bulls in 10th place in East.
Nick Friedell: He still hopes Bulls win+make playoffs but admits “This season’s been hard. It’s been very difficult for me to find a way to enjoy the game”
KC Johnson: Bulls are 6-5 since team meeting. Denzel: “That needed to happen. Guys needed to voice their opinions, get their feelings out, man up.”
Nick Friedell: Valentine believes that now that the Bulls aired out their differences, and the trade deadline has passed, they are in a much better place as a group. “I think it’s a lot of unnecessary stuff that we got out of the way,” he said. “All the trade rumors and all that stuff. It may not have a big effect, but it kind of does on people. And all that’s done. We’re cool with who we have, and we’re just competing and playing.”
Nick Friedell: Cam Payne, when asked about Fred Hoiberg has told him about his role/minutes moving forward: “He hasn’t said much about it. I’m pretty sure it’s all going to come out here, coming through practice. That’s all I can really [control]. That’s all I know.”
Nick Friedell: Bobby Portis was asked today after practice if he understood why he wasn’t getting minutes earlier in the year: “Nah, I didn’t really know what I could do to get minutes,” he said. “The one thing that I know that I always do is just come in here every day, work as hard as I can, let the dominos fall how they fall. Every day I come in here, just bust my butt for some minutes, but sometimes it wouldn’t work. I always kept faith in God, knew that it would eventually come around. You know even when I went to the D-League I felt that it was helping me, having to go down there and get some confidence.”
Nick Friedell: Portis acknowledged that the process has been confusing for him: “A lot,” he said. “I didn’t understand why I had to go down [to the D-League], but at the same time I knew that it was all for a reason.”
Nick Friedell: Interesting how many times players have noted an apparent lack of communication with Hoiberg/coaching staff in regard to rotation/minutes. Both younger players and veterans have expressed feeling unclear/unsure on what they need to do to get more minutes in the rotation. Gar Forman sold Fred Hoiberg a great communicator when he was hired. It seems like he is still struggling to get his message across sometimes in 2nd year.
Rondo has had issues with head coach Fred Hoiberg’s communication, especially after he was benched for five games in late December, but so have a lot of players on the roster. All along, Rondo’s presence — and to a lesser extent, Wade’s — felt like a puzzle piece that didn’t fit on a team that was trying to develop young players while remaining competitive. Bulls executives Gar Forman and John Paxson sold Rondo and Wade as the type of veterans younger players could learn from. At most turns this year, that has been the case.
Sources have indicated that privately Butler differs from that opinion. But he was willing to dance the dance with his boss on Friday. “No, I don’t,’’ Butler said, when asked if he took those comments of simply being a piece to build with personally. “No organization is the same. Everybody operates differently. Everybody has different personnel. I don’t care if anybody wants to build around me. Just win. At the end of the day, when you win, everything is fine whether you’re built around or not built around. Everybody’s happy. All of that is just background noise. I just want to win at all costs.’’
As for the precarious position of a Bulls team that was expected to have a far brighter playoff outlook than the Heat, Wade said, “There’s still time. You hope you can still do it. But time does tick away on you, too. And I’ve been on teams where . . . the clock did tick out on us.”
Nick Friedell: Thibs asked about Rondo’s Instagram. Jokes he isn’t sure what Instagram is. Haha. Sure. Straight from Belichick social media playbook
Despite some outside perception to the contrary, the jobs of executive vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman are safe, sources familiar with ownership’s thinking told the Tribune. In fact, ownership’s trust in Paxson and Forman remains so intact that they would be retained even if the Bulls miss the postseason for a second straight season, one source said.
It’s well-documented that Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and son Michael, who runs the business side as president and chief operating officer, are loyal and long have favored front-office continuity. But there’s also inherent trust in the roster-building process that Paxson, Forman and their staff have in place.
After hitting on back-end first-rounders Taj Gibson in 2009 and Butler in 2011, Paxson and Forman have drawn outside criticism for recent picks or draft-day acquisitions Nikola Mirotic, Tony Snell, Doug McDermott and Bobby Portis. But the Reinsdorfs still hold management’s talent evaluation in high regard, one source said, and also have valued its ability to avoid hamstringing the franchise with bloated, long-term contracts for players with minimal impact.
Randy Brown couldn’t sit silently any longer. For the third time in two seasons, including a line in a Tribune story last season, the former Bull and current assistant coach watched his name get dragged through the mud, accused of being general manager Gar Forman’s eyes and ears inside the locker room. On Saturday, Brown reached his breaking point, passionately defending his character. “Look, this is a public position. I get it. But my reputation is being slandered at this point,” Brown told the Tribune. “I’m losing sleep the last couple of days. I’m trying to get over it. But it’s tough.”
Hamilton told a story on NBA Crossover (in the video above) about a Bulls film session in 2011-2012, the first of his two seasons with the team. “One of the coaches, assistant coaches, spits out, ‘Randy has nothing to do with this team, he doesn’t need to be around the players.’ Looked at every man that was in that film session and pretty much told them, ‘Hey, don’t listen to him. When he comes and talks to you, don’t listen to him.’ And for me, as a veteran guy just coming from Detroit, I was like, ‘What is going on around here?’ Because every conversation I had with Randy was always good, was always love. So it’s kind of like a situation where, like, man, I don’t know what’s going on between management and the coaches. And now, as you see, it’s coming out again.”
According to Russillo, “[A member of the] front office went to Butler [in 2014] and said, ‘If you don’t sign this extension, we’re going to play Tony Snell over you. We are going to give you his minutes, and that’s going to drop your minutes and numbers down.’ ’’ Butler was asked about the story before the Bulls’ 128-100 win over the Thunder on Wednesday. “I’ll tell it to you like this,’’ Butler said. “That [expletive] happened so long ago, I didn’t think it was a matter of anything. “We won’t go into detail about what was said, what wasn’t said. It’s not anybody’s business. We got a deal done; I thought it was a fair deal. That’s that.
A source close to the situation said Russillo’s story has a huge hole. He claimed the front office then ran it past former coach Tom Thibodeau, and he refused to do it, saving Butler and helping him eventually get the five-year, $95 million deal he signed after the 2014-15 season. “They never would have approached [Thibodeau] with that,’’ the source said. “It didn’t happen. At that point, the front office had very little say in anything [Thibodeau] did.’’
Forget the contract stuff. Last May, Butler was irate after stories leaked out that claimed he had turned into a diva, and he believes the leaks came from the front office. Butler thought Forman was a guy who “only shows loyalty to the top of the pyramid,’’ a source said then. He addressed the issue in October, saying, “Am I a diva? I don’t call it that. My will to win rubs people the wrong way sometimes. I can blame it on that but won’t apologize for it. Never will.’’
Butler and other Bulls have had issues with the “spying’’ that goes on in the locker room. He warned new players that if they didn’t want Forman to hear criticism, they shouldn’t talk in front of certain assistant coaches such as Randy Brown. The belief is that the Bulls love to gather as much ammunition as they can on players, so they can win the news conference when the breakup comes, whether it’s a trade or free agency.
Nick Friedell: Jimmy Butler, on how much he thinks his play has shocked the front office over time: “You couldn’t say I would pan out this way,” Butler said. “I couldn’t say that either. I just work hard. Crazy part is I think I can still surprise them even more because I continue to work. Continue to be myself, do what’s asked of me. do what I can to the best of my ability. Yeah, they were shocked, surprised, excited for me and the future. But nobody could see this coming.”
Vincent Goodwill: Butler on the Russillo story: “Somebody said that? Wow… Really? You heard that, too?” Wade chimes in: “Yeah, I heard that too.”
And lo, right on cue, Ryen Russillo explains why Jimmy Butler mistrusts the Bull’s front office. Russillo said on ESPN Radio Tuesday that once Butler demurred on a lowball early extension offer after his third season, a member of the front office threatened to supplant Butler in the rotation with … Tony Snell. This allegedly infuriated Butler to the point where he still doesn’t trust the front office. Tom Thibodeau apparently stepped in, Butler thrived and the Bulls locked him up with a max offer sheet in free agency that really didn’t allow him to leave.
Nikola Mirotic didn’t need Rajon Rondo’s Instagram post last week to know what he already knew. “Along with Pau (Gasol), he’s the best teammate I’ve ever had,” Mirotic said.
“This was a unique situation,’’ Rose said. “I think nobody in our era has been in something like that. Jimmy and D-Wade, [who has] been in the league for 14 years, is 35 years old, this was new for everyone.’’ Does he feel vindicated? “That’s not up to me to judge,’’ said Rose, who was dealt in June partly due to his attitude in the locker room and reported bad blood with Butler. “I tried my hardest to win games there. I think I was very professional with everything going on. I was just being to myself, analyzing it. With me being quiet, a lot of people took it the wrong way as far as thinking I had something to do with it.”
Gibson said the issue came up during Friday’s team meeting, which was called in the wake of critical comments made by Wade and Jimmy Butler following Wednesday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks. “That’s one of the things in the meeting: Young guys just want a little bit more from him,” Gibson said, noting that Wade practiced Saturday. “And he brung it today. He pushed the young guys. And that’s a sign that that meeting did a little something.
Hoiberg has tried to defend his schedule for Wade, who has missed five games this season — four because he was sitting out the second night of back-to-back games. “As far as practice today, Wade has been practicing,” Hoiberg said Saturday. “He’s been practicing the last couple weeks pretty much every day that we’ve had off. He’s been a good influence, I think, for the young guys.”
Vincent Goodwill: Magic Johnson says Dwyane Wade “doesn’t need to practice”. Compared Wade to Kareem with Lakers, wanting the best saved for games
Wade responded flatly Friday when asked about his practice habits in light of Rajon Rondo’s incendiary Instagram post that Rondo’s Celtics’ veterans like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce “didn’t take days off.” “I’m 35. I’m not practicing every day,” Wade said Friday. “That’s very clear.”
One of the key issues festering for the Chicago Bulls this season is that the team’s younger players would like to see more of Dwyane Wade on the practice floor, veteran forward Taj Gibson acknowledged Saturday. Gibson said the issue came up during Friday’s team meeting, which was called in the wake of critical comments made by Wade and Jimmy Butler following Wednesday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
“That’s one of the things in the meeting: Young guys just want a little bit more from him,” Gibson said, noting that Wade practiced Saturday. “And he brung it today. He pushed the young guys. And that’s a sign that that meeting did a little something.”
Hoiberg has tried to defend his schedule for Wade, who has missed five games this season — four because he was sitting out the second night of back-to-back games. “As far as practice today, Wade has been practicing,” Hoiberg said. “He’s been practicing the last couple weeks pretty much every day that we’ve had off. He’s been a good influence, I think, for the young guys.”
Vincent Goodwill: Gibson said Hoiberg admitted he has to hold guys more accountable. The players have admitted accountability has been an issue
KC Johnson: Wade practiced. He doesn’t always practice. Taj said the young players asked more of Wade in yesterday’s meeting.
As part of his Instagram post, Rondo said his “vets” with the Celtics didn’t take days off, a clear shot at Wade. “I could take that as a personal attack,” Wade said. “But what’s that going to do for me? Come in here and fight Rajon because he said his vets practiced every day? I’m 35. I’m not practicing every day. That’s very clear.”
Butler smiled through his brief postgame chat with reporters and said neither the turmoil nor the bench role affected his play. “Disengaged? Nah. It was a little different,” he said. “I was still into it. I knew what I was supposed to be doing. I still took the shots I always take. That’s fine. “I’ll be back. I promise. I’m not worried about it at all.
Add in history between those players when they played for the Heat and Celtics and a turbulent 2016-17 season in which Rondo, according to sources, thinks Wade and Butler influence the coaching staff and run the show and you get what happened late Thursday afternoon.
Sources said Nikola Mirotic and Carter-Williams have frustrated Wade and Butler more than most players and that both Wade and Butler addressed players privately before airing their frustrations to reporters. “I’m very expressive. I want good for these guys. I try to help these guys,” Wade said. “But there also comes a time (when) I can’t want it for you. It’s not every person on this team. But guys know who they are if they want to be real with themselves, if they’re doing enough.”
The Bulls are bickering. But Spoelstra’s perspective is that they’re still well ahead of the Heat in the Eastern Conference standings, positioned for a playoff berth. “I have no thoughts about that,” Spoelstra said. “Welcome to the NBA. That’s around every team. What I see is a team that’s in the eight spot right now. They have a very talented team. They have two players generating over 60 percent of their offense, one of them we know very well. That guy’s a killer.”
KC Johnson: Wade talked for 14:29. Rondo talked for 11:10. Butler talked for 10:35. Hoiberg talked for 7:54. Forman talked for 1:29, took no questions.
Vincent Goodwill: Were you fined? Rondo: “Absolutely!”
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September 24, 2017 | 11:15 pm EDT Update
Alex Kennedy: Carmelo Anthony and Paul George have already started recruiting Dwyane Wade to the Oklahoma City Thunder, according to sources.