Bulls and Jimmy Butler Face an Uncertain Future After Failure to Reach Extension

CHICAGO — Jimmy Butler is going to get paid next summer.

The Chicago Bulls failed to reach an extension with the fourth-year shooting guard by Friday’s deadline, setting Butler up to be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2015. It’s a risky decision, a gamble that Butler isn’t going to play himself into a hefty contract this season. And in this market, that’s a bet the Bulls will probably lose.

Butler has maintained all along that he wants to be a Bull, and there’s no doubt that the organization values him highly. Certainly, defense-obsessed head coach Tom Thibodeau would hate to lose his best perimeter defender.

“Jimmy knows how we feel about him,” Thibodeau said before the Bulls’ Friday home opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers. “This is all part of the process. He’s earned the right [to test the market], he’s put himself in a great position. In the end, it’ll all work out.”

The Bulls’ efforts to lock up Butler at a discount were unlikely to be successful in any case, but after the Utah Jazz agreed to a four-year, $42 million extension with Alec Burks earlier on Friday, per Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, any chance that Butler would sign for less than eight figures annually was dead. The market for wings with two-way ability is set, with Klay Thompson signing for four years and about $70 million (via ESPN.com’s Marc Stein), Kawhi Leonard holding out for a max deal and Gordon Hayward getting a four-year, $64 million deal this summer. As a restricted free agent in 2015, Butler will undoubtedly get offers in that range.

2014 Rookie-Scale Extensions for Guards

Player Team Contract
Alec Burks Utah Jazz 4 years, $42 million
Kyrie Irving Cleveland Cavaliers 5 years, $90 million
Ricky Rubio Minnesota Timberwolves 4 years, $55 million
Klay Thompson Golden State Warriors 4 years, $70 million
Kemba Walker Charlotte Hornets 4 years, $48 million

Chicago can match any offer sheet Butler signs with another team, but there are risks to letting him test the market. The Bulls lost Omer Asik to restricted free agency in 2012 when the Houston Rockets exploited a CBA loophole to sign him to a contract that would have been brutal to match.

The Dallas Mavericks got creative this summer as well, stealing Chandler Parsons from the Rockets with a three-year offer sheet for max-level money with an opt-out clause after two years. If a team really wants Butler, there are ways to make it hard on the Bulls to match, no matter how much they value him.

The league’s new television deal poses another risk for the Bulls. The new agreement doesn’t kick in until 2016, but both the NBA and the players’ union have talked about possible strategies to smooth over the salary cap increase to prevent it from jumping dramatically from 2015 to 2016.

It’s still unclear whether this will become a reality, but the possibility of a higher salary cap next summer will increase the maximum amount a team can offer Butler. If the Bulls had signed Butler now, he’d be locked in at a number that may look high now but will be much more of a bargain in 2016 when the league starts seeing that extra TV money.

Not that the Bulls would be unable to absorb a max extension for Butler. They’re slated to have around $63.4 million on the books next summer, which will put them $3.1 million under next year’s cap, according to Larry Coon’s latest projections. A contract for Butler that starts in the $16-17 million range annually wouldn’t kill the Bulls, but it would make it substantially more difficult to add more talent using the midlevel and biannual exceptions without going over the projected $77 million luxury-tax line, something Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf would like to avoid.

But the Bulls need Butler. They were able to trade away defensive ace Luol Deng last season because they had Butler waiting in the wings to take on that role. If they let Butler walk next summer, they lose their best wing defender with no clear successor. The closest thing they have to an in-house replacement is second-year forward Tony Snell, who hasn’t shown he is ready to be a day-to-day contributor.

The reluctance to offer Butler a max or near-max deal isn’t without reason. Despite his defensive gifts, he has yet to show that he’s a consistent offensive player. After a terrific 2012-13 campaign in which he shot 38.1 percent from three-point range, his shooting took a step back last year. But he was terrific this preseason before the thumb injury that has sidelined him for the first two games of the season, averaging 15.8 points per game on 58.8 percent shooting from the field. At 25 years old, it’s still safe to bet that he isn’t a finished product as a scorer.

It’s a gamble Butler made when he decided to test restricted free agency. He’s confident he’ll play himself into a max deal.

“I love my odds,” he said before the game. “I think this team is really good, championship caliber. I’m going to produce. I’ll just bet on myself.”

2011-12 42 8.5 40.5% 18.2% 76.8% 2.6 1.3 0.3 0.3
2012-13 82 26.0 46.7% 38.1% 80.3% 8.6 4.0 1.4 1.0
2013-14 67 38.7 39.7% 28.3% 76.9% 13.1 4.9 2.6 1.9

All NBA contracts involve a certain amount of risk, weighing what a player’s performance so far makes him worth against what you think he’ll give you in the future. When the Bulls signed Derrick Rose to a five-year, $94 million extension in 2011, they didn’t know he’d miss most of two consecutive seasons with knee injuries. They gave him the contract based on his talent coming off an MVP campaign. Even though two years of the deal have turned out to be sunk costs, there was no question it was the right move at the time, and they’d do it again under the same circumstances.

Meanwhile, extensions they gave to Joakim Noah in 2010 ($60 million over five years) and Taj Gibson in 2012 ($33 million over four years) look like outright steals compared to what they’d get on the open market today. When the Bulls have bet on their young talent to grow beyond their current value, they’ve been right. When they let Asik hit the market, they got burned. Losing Butler the same way would be a huge setback for the organization, one that could have been easily avoided.

The Bulls will probably keep Butler. They can match any offer, and he’s too valuable to lose. But by not extending him now, they made a gamble that could very well come back to hurt them next summer.

Sean Highkin covers the Chicago Bulls for Bleacher Report. 

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Cleveland Cavaliers & Anderson Varejao Agree To Three-Year Contract Extension

Anderson Varejao breaths Cleveland Cavaliers basketball and has been a legitimate centerpiece for the franchise. Earlier this week conversations were released from the Cavaliers organization regarding Varejao’s contract extension which will kick in next season 2015-16. With LeBron James back into the fold, it’s only right for one of LBJ’s favorite running-mates to embark on a championship journey for the city of Cleveland. Tom Withers of the Associated Press reports:
Cleveland signed its starting center to a contract extension on Friday. Terms of the deal were not immediately confirmed, but the sides had been discussing a three-year, $30 million contract.
That’s a pretty price tag for a quality big man with Varejao’s unique capabilities to impact ball games on the offensive and defensive end of the floor. Cavs GM David Griffin says:
”Anderson represents how this franchise wants to approach the game of basketball, both on the court and off. ”He has been a key part of our foundatio…

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Cavaliers vs. Bulls: Score and Twitter Reaction from 2014 Regular Season

Cleveland Cavaliers fans can exhale.

After the Cavs‘ loss to the New York Knicks on LeBron James’ homecoming, Cleveland picked up an impressive 114-108 overtime victory on the road over the Chicago Bulls on Friday night.

Historically, the Bulls have been a thorn in James’ side in OT, winning four of five meetings that needed the extra frame, per ESPN Stats and Info:

However, the Cavaliers jumped out to an early lead in the overtime period and managed to keep the Bulls at bay. Chicago got to within two points on three different occasions but never leveled the score. 

For the Cavs, it’s a big win early in the season, which calms down the hysteria following their home opener.

After Thursday’s loss, Cavaliers head coach David Blatt alluded to James possibly pressing during his first game back in Cleveland.

“Well, first of all, that was an emotional night for him without question,” Blatt said, per Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. “He wanted badly to win the game and help the team play well. His effort was there. His efficiency was not what it normally is. That was obvious. We have to do a better job of getting him things in motion.”

LeBron looked much more comfortable Friday, leading Cleveland with 36 points on 14-of-30 shooting and eight rebounds. Kyrie Irving didn’t have a great game shooting, but he made all 10 of his free throws en route to a 23-point night. Kevin Love also struggled from the floor, shooting 5-of-17. He finished with a double-double, 16 points and 16 rebounds.

Tristan Thompson was the unsung hero, posting a double-double as well, with 16 points and 13 rebounds off the bench.

Derrick Rose showed signs of the old Derrick Rose, scoring 20 points in 25 minutes on the floor. He missed the final minutes of regulation and the whole of overtime, however, with a left ankle sprain, per the Bulls:

Kirk Hinrich stepped up in a big way, hitting critical shots down the stretch and scoring 20 points of his own. He nearly single-handedly lifted the Bulls to the win in the fourth quarter.

In the end, Cleveland’s multifaceted attack was too much for the Bulls. Chicago was also outrebounded 52-42 and had 10 more turnovers, a massive boon to a still-evolving Cavaliers team.

Against the Knicks, the Cavs looked great to start the game and steadily fell off with each quarter. They continued digging themselves into a hole, and near the end of the game, were too far gone to make a comeback.

To get past the Bulls in Chicago, Cleveland couldn’t afford to have that kind of lull in the second and third quarters. It needed to get out to a fast start and keep the pressure on its opponent.

That’s exactly what the Cavaliers did, winning the first three quarters.

One of the biggest reasons the Cavs held a 58-52 halftime lead was the performance of Thompson. The power forward did the dirty work underneath the glass, scoring eight points and grabbing seven boards, six of which came on the offensive end.

ESPN.com’s Myron Medcalf thinks Thompson will make himself look good all season by cleaning up the messes on the inside for Cleveland:

James also played well in the first half, shooting 9-of-17 from the floor and scoring 19 points. That’s two more points than he scored for the whole game against the Knicks. Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal felt LeBron was looking for his shot much more on Friday:

The bigger concern for Cleveland is defense, and the first half did little to silence any doubters who question the Cavs‘ title chances. The Bulls shot 21-of-41 as a team through the first two quarters, with Rose looking really good. He had 18 points, three rebounds and two assists.

There was a bit of a scare for Rose in the second quarter, when he came down on Irving’s foot. The city of Chicago was thinking the worst for the short time Rose limped while shaking off the pain:

The ankle must have flared up later in the game to keep him out down the stretch.

The Bulls couldn’t trim the deficit in the third quarter, in large part because their offense went cold. Chicago shot 6-of-21 as a team, often settling for mid-range jumpers and three-pointers rather than attacking the paint.

The Cavs weren’t much better, but Love found his shooting stroke, scoring six points in the quarter. He helped increase Cleveland’s lead to 78-69 heading into the fourth quarter.

The Bulls stormed back in the fourth and tied the game at 82 with 7:54 to play after a three from Aaron Brooks. The guard then gave Chicago an 84-82 lead, its first lead since the first quarter.

Brooks and Tony Snell came off the bench to give the Bulls great minutes in the fourth, and without their 13 combined points in the final frame, Chicago wouldn’t have gotten back into the game. As Michael Lee of The Washington Post jokingly tweeted, with all of the star power on the floor, of course Snell and Brooks were the guys to step up for the Bulls:

The two teams continued to exchange the lead throughout the fourth quarter until the Bulls got another massive bucket from another role player. Cleveland was clinging to a 91-90 lead until Hinrich hit a three-pointer to give the Bulls a 93-91 advantage with 1:42 to play.

Immediately after an Irving turnover, Hinrich hit another three to increase the lead to five points, 96-91. Three-point shooting in the second half was one of the biggest differences between the two teams on Friday, per ESPN Stats and Info:

Hinrich victimized the Cavs defense again to cancel out a dunk by Love to keep it at a five-point game, 98-93, with 47 seconds left.

NBA.com’s Lang Whitaker was critical of Blatt for leaving Matthew Dellavedova on the floor to guard Hinrich:

Somehow, someway, the Cavs clawed their way back, with James hitting two free throws and Irving completing a three-point play to tie the game at 98 with 27 seconds left. Hinrich and Love both had chances to win the game, but their shots were off the mark, sending the game into OT.

The break between regulation and the extra period looked to be the perfect tonic for the Cavaliers. Blatt was able to regroup his players and calm them down.

You should never put too much stock in October games, and Cleveland still has a long way to go to win the Eastern Conference. But Friday at least gives the team some positive momentum and represents a small step forward.

The Cavaliers get some much-needed days off before their next game. They travel to Portland on Tuesday to play the Trail Blazers in what will be another good early litmus test for how well all of the team’s new pieces are jelling.

Chicago plays the second half of a back-to-back on Saturday night when it faces off against the Minnesota Timberwolves in Minneapolis.

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Ricky Rubio Signs 4-Year Extension With Minnesota Timberwolves

Close sources tells ESPN.com that Ricky Rubio has extended his contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves. According to the point guard’s agent, Rubio has secured a four-year extension worth nearly $56 million that will kick in starting with the 2015-16 season. ‎”We have reached [an] agreement, and we are finalizing the paperwork now,” Jarrin Akana, one of Rubio’s agents with Relativity Sports, told the Associated Press. The Minnesota Timberwolves and Ricky Rubio made the deal just in time before the extension deadline. Other deal made before the deadline include Klay Thompson who signed a 4-year extension with the Golden State Warriors and Alec Burks who signed a 4-year extension with the Utah Jazz. The post Ricky Rubio Signs 4-Year Extension With Minnesota Timberwolves appeared first on Basketball Bicker.

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Warriors, Thompson agree to maximum extension (Yahoo Sports)

Oakland, CA- OCTOBER 24: Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors handles the ball against the Denver Nuggets at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California on October 24, 2014 . (Photo by Noah Graham /NBAE via Getty Images)

The Golden State Warriors saw no reason to wait on securing Klay Thompson’s future with the franchise. The Warriors signed Thompson to a four-year maximum contract extension worth about $70 million on Friday, a person with knowledge of the deal said. The contract will keep Thompson with the team through the 2018-19 season. The Warriors confirmed a multiyear deal with Thompson.

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James leads Cavaliers past Bulls, 114-108 in OT (Yahoo Sports)

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 31: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers takes a shot against the Chicago Bulls during a game at the United Center on October 31, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

LeBron James scored 36 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls 114-108 in overtime on Friday night. James was at his best after struggling the previous night, scoring eight points in the extra period, and the Cavaliers picked up the win the after opening with a loss at home to New York. Derrick Rose scored 20 points for Chicago, but his first meaningful home game in about a year was spoiled by a sprained left ankle and a dominant performance by the Cavaliers’ megastar. The Cavaliers were still clinging to a 106-104 lead after Kirk Hinrich hit two free throws with 46.8 seconds left.

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Derrick Rose Injury: Updates on Bulls Star’s Ankle and Return

Usually when you read “Derrick Rose” and “injury” in the same sentence, your heart skips a beat. This time around, it looks like the Chicago Bulls point guard dodged a bullet after suffering only an ankle sprain against the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday night.

The team announced he was questionable to return to action, though he did not re-enter the contest:

Rose stepped on Kyrie Irving‘s foot in the first half, though he remained in the game until the 4th quarter:

The Bulls went on to lose the game 114-108 in overtime.

Few players over the last few years have been bitten by the injury bug more than the 2011 MVP.

First, there was the torn ACL in the 2012 NBA playoffs that wiped out his entire 2012-13 season. Then last year, he played in 10 games before tearing the meniscus in his right knee. Over the last three years, Rose has lost a combined 181 regular-season games because of various injuries.

The 26-year-old made his triumphant return to the court in the ill-fated USA Basketball scrimmage that saw Paul George go down with a gruesome injury. Rose was one of the bright spots of the exhibition before things took a turn for the catastrophic.

However, Rose struggled mightily at the FIBA World Cup, averaging 4.8 points on 25.4 percent shooting in 17 minutes on the court. According to FIBA, he was one of the least efficient players (3.8) on Team USA.

Grantland’s Andrew Sharp wrote before the season that 2014-15 would truly reveal whether or not Rose would ever return to something close to his MVP peak:

Rose has gone from a force of nature to the NBA’s reminder that sometimes nature can be cruel. For every superstar who defies the odds and looks superhuman for an entire decade, there are players like Rose who remind you that even the brightest stars can burn out, and knee cartilage matters.

One way or another, this season will make things official. The limbo ends in 2014. That’s all we can say for sure. Either Rose returns to something like the player he was, or the NBA will stop waiting, Vegas will stop buying into the Bulls, and everyone will officially adjust to the reality we saw at the FIBA World Cup: The youngest MVP in league history is a 26-year-old reminder of mortality.

Despite everything that’s happened to him, Rose remained upbeat about his chances for this season, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

I have no fears, I have faith. I know that I’m going to be fine. I know that I busted my ass the entire two summers—you can say two seasons—to get back to where I am right now. Just try to keep it moving, stay positive every day, do everything consistent like I’ve been doing. I think everything will go my way.

By now, everybody has seen the difference between the Bulls with Rose and the Bulls without Rose. Signing Pau Gasol is a step in the right direction, but the failure to land a star like Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh or LeBron James means the team’s title hopes still rest firmly on Rose’s shoulders.

In this case, it looks as if he should make a speedy recovery, calming the nerves of Bulls fans and ensuring that an NBA championship is well within reach for Chicago.

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Thompson, Warriors agree to big extension

Thompson gets a max-level deal for four years and around $70 million from Golden State.



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Jimmy Butler Set To Become Restricted Free Agent

Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler has rejected the Chicago Bulls offer and plans to become a free agent by next year. Agent Happy Waters told Yahoo Sports that Jimmy Butler’s contract extension ended without a deadline deal. Friday morning the 25-year-old rejected the Chicago Bulls offer and plans to enter into restricted free agency in July 2015. “It came down to me deciding that I want to bet on myself,” Butler told Yahoo Sports in a text message on Friday. “It was about me believing that I put the work in this summer to become a better player with the hope that my improvement will give the Bulls a better chance to win a championship.” Jimmy Butler is currently out due to a sprain to his left thumb, an injury he suffered during practice on October 19th! The post Jimmy Butler Set To Become Restricted Free Agent appeared first on Basketball Bicker.

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LeBron James Ignores Dion Waiters as He Calls for Last Shot of Half vs. Bulls

Though he’s not the Cleveland Cavaliers’ only option, LeBron James is going to control the final possession of a quarter on most nights. 

Before halftime of Wednesday night’s game against the Chicago Bulls, Dion Waiters begged for the ball to take the last shot of the half. Waiters kept asking for it, but LeBron ended up keeping the ball.


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