After saying the Chicago Bulls were making a turnaround from last season’s Jimmy Butler’s “I am the leader” gloating, the two games against the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers show us fans that there might be trouble brewing in the future.
Jimmy Butler may be on pace to either wear himself out again after three straight games of ball-hogging, stat-padding, “I am the best effing player on the planet” locker room boasts, and because I see it now as a future stormcloud, it may be best to call it out as a potential bump in the road that can cause the Bulls’ sleek truck to overturn on the road to the playoffs.
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Butler has been gunning for MVP numbers for the past six or so games now, scoring 30 plus points a night. But what has been noticeable between him, Taj Gibson and Rajon Rondo is that the basketball sits in their hands for far too long.
All fans may have seen Doug McDermott and Isaiah Canaan, and especially Nikola Mirotic, play 10 long minutes or more with no return pass when they have open looks at the corner or from the top of the arc.
Jimmy is again regressing into his “pass-the-ball-at-the-last second” when he is swarmed and can’t make a shot. This makes it tougher for the Bulls shooters to get their shot off.
Plus, when Mirotic is in position for a post-up or say Robin Lopez and any other Bulls gets into position, Rondo and Butler don’t feed them the ball. I can see the frustration on the face of Mirotic expecting an in-rhythm pass.
Even with the wins — eked out by fire support from the rest of the team, including Dwyane Wade– Butler is becoming a headcase again if you really use the eye test. How many at-the-rim layups did he miss because he hogged the basketball to reach his 40 point pre-game goal?
I also wonder if Gibson’s concern for Mirotic is just lip service when he doesn’t provide a return pass when the ball is dumped at the post and Mirotic is open for a 3-point shot.
I hate to say this, but what we’ve seen over the past 5 games or so, even with the Bulls winning, is Butler and a few guys freezing out guys like McDermott, Mirotic and the young kids just to pad their stats?
The Bulls steamrollered into their first three wins by passing the ball and running out at each possession. Butler was not padding his stats then. Why are they walking up the ball these past four or so games with Butler playing hero ball again? To pad MVP stats?! Are the Bulls going to repeat last year’s mistakes again?
The team only beat the Lakers by running a transition offense after defensive stops in the third quarter and grinding out a win. Giving Butler too many isolations and touches may backfire over the course of the long season.
At least Dwyane Wade passes the ball to the shooters or the low post cutter.
Butler might tire out by February with the pace he is running — remember last year how he scored big against mediocre teams — and he’ll be gassed out like last year when the Bulls lost games against the better teams when they needed wins.
Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg might unknowingly be setting up a repeat of last year’s babysitting of Butler at the expense of the entire team and easy wins.
When the second unit came on against the Lakers in the second quarter, nobody was in sync because Hoiberg has been limiting rotations to nine players over the course of the last five games or so. Nobody remembered that Cristiano Felicio is a killer in the pick-and-dive, off-ball offense, and that he can kick out to guys like Bobby Portis for mid-range or long range jumpers just like in the summer.
When the second and third unit players don’t play in games, they get rusty and get into a funk. When Butler, Gibson and Pau Gasol got injured last year, it took Felicio, Portis, McDermott and Justin Holiday around five games to sync together as a unit to perform well.
Does the team need injuries before Hoiberg remembers that his guys can play like NBA players only if you give them playing time and touches. Hoiball has always been a 12-man rotation where share-the-ball, fast-tempo offensive principles apply and put away games by the second quarter.
Nikola Mirotic can still score relatively well, but he could have scored 30 against the Lakers if Butler and Rondo found him open at the perimeter or dumped the ball into him at the post when he had his man sealed.
The inbound pass turnover by Rondo in the closing minutes to a covered Butler says it all. Mirotic was wide open. There might be an unintended freeze-out of Mirotic, and you can see it when he is playing the entire first quarter against the Lakers, and Butler was just padding his stats.
You’d think only Michael Jordan got a freeze-out by Isaiah Thomas and company in the 1985 All-Stars as an inside-joke among NBA vets versus the hot-dogging, future Hall-of-Famer MVP. It’s happening with McDermott and Mirotic when you can see them open and Jimmy keeps the ball to himself, driving to the hoop for a miss or shooting a brick instead of passing the ball off. Looks like I eat crow for saying Jimmy made a turnaround in his game in my last article.
I’ve had enough of the I-am-the-best-effing-player-on-the-planet, stat-padding, egotistical MVP-wannabe attitude.
The Chicago Bulls were an Eastern Conference Finals-caliber team as a completely healthy, 12-player deep rotation as we saw in the first three games.
Please don’t change what already works.
Guys on the team like Nikola Mirotic and Cristiano Felicio aren’t just props. It may not look like it because the team is winning.
But, does it have to take a losing streak and injuries to figure out that the better team was the Chicago Bulls playing in the first three games?