Bulls discuss and look to move forward from here

Butler, Wade, Rondo, and Forman met with the media following Friday's shootaround.

By Sam Smith

This wasn’t nearly as much fun Friday as when early in that last championship season Scottie Pippen, though injured, went with the Bulls on the famous circus trip and declared because of the Bulls’ miserable treatment of him throughout his career he’d never play another game for the team and wanted to be traded immediately to the Suns or Lakers. Or when Jerry Krause on media day that season declared even if the Bulls went undefeated Phil Jackson was out. Or when Horace Grant on the eve of a playoff series with the Pistons condemned his teammates. Or when Michael Jordan skipped a team trip to the White House, said he had a family weekend scheduled and went on an illegal gambling weekend with a convicted drug dealer.

Ah, the good times.

Jimmy and Dwyane said the young guys don’t try hard enough and are not good enough; Rajon says the kids do so try hard and maybe you guys should shut the heck up. That’s it? That’s what all this was about?

It was another fun day in the NBA Friday. Well, perhaps not for the Bulls after an unusually long game day shootaround before having to play the Miami Heat Friday night.

But when it was over, after a long team meeting in which previously dulled voices apparently came alive, with fines issued and the principal players lined up to the media’s firing squad of questions, this seems pretty much what we know:

Jimmy and Dwyane, who pretty much come together these days, may not care for Rondo and vice versa, which we sort of knew since in 2011 Wade nearly broke Rondo’s arm in what Rondo said was Wade’s typical dirty play and Wade said Rondo was a punk. But that hardly prevents them from playing together and having success. Anyone seen what Kobe and Shaq did together?

Leadership is like making laws, which is like making sausages that sometimes you don’t want to see being done and which can sometimes be ugly and, at least after the taste, can make you sick. But it’s necessary.

If you are Dwyane Wade and you are hired to provide direction for a situation perhaps without enough, well, then you sometimes have to do it and everyone isn’t going to like you. It’s not about being liked when you are a competitor.

It’s about success.

Maybe it won’t happen here, but damn if he’s going to allow that without at least giving it a try.

And damn if Rondo is going to sit around and let his kids be pushed around. Rondo’s not big, but you want him on your side in battle.

Management, well?

That’s enough, kids. No cookies and milk if you don’t take your naps.

“We were extremely disappointed that several players chose to speak out after our last game,” Bulls general manager Gar Forman said in a statement to reporters. “Every team has issues and it’s our strong belief that when you have issues or critical comments that you keep those issues or critical comments in house, that it is not shared through you (media) guys, that it is not shared through social media. It is totally unacceptable, and we made it very clear to the players that were involved that it’s unacceptable.

“It’s a distraction that’s not needed,” Forman continued. “I think it’s a detriment to team growth. We have visited with the players that spoke out at length and we have dealt with that internally (players said they were fined, but no suspensions). We’ve talked about the issue with our entire team. Where we are today is we’ve got a game tonight. We are looking forward to moving forward and moving ahead and at this point we are not going to comment any further on it.”

Hey, a chance to get back to .500 against Wade’s former team. And so the NBA moves on.

You know, LeBron and Carmelo are mad, too.

For the Bulls, there was Butler and Wade after Wednesday’s meltdown loss to the Atlanta Hawks issuing a team wide condemnation—no names, please—about commitment to the game, work ethic, intelligence on the court and the fate of the team.

Rondo came back late Thursday on social media with a sort of veiled critique of the two, though mostly defending the unnamed young players who were targeted but don’t quite have the gravitas to face off with a future Hall of Famer and starting All-Star.

And, you know, both sides were right.

Butler and Wade after the frustrating loss to fall back under .500 were angry about what they believe can be a more successful team. Though I still think they were tired and cranky from the long ride back from Orlando after playing the night before, their comments were directed toward team success.

Perhaps better to say when they didn’t play so well and dominate the ball all game, but the point was reasonable.

And then good for Rondo for standing up for guys who cannot themselves, either being too young, too inexperienced or too unsuccessful.

Though it’s fairly obvious it wasn’t exactly the best way to do it, even if it’s often done that way in sports.

Rarely does it get out that way at Nike or Apple or GM when workers are upset with their contemporaries or superiors. Of course, this also is why we love this game. It’s not only what they do, but what they say.

And don’t believe this isn’t common. Just like, well, which friend or neighbor do you have who never complains about his coworkers and bosses? Overheard any lunchtime conversations lately in the Loop?

This week in the NBA—yes, just this week—it’s LeBron about his bosses, and he’s got a team that really matters. It’s Carmelo; it’s almost always DeMarcus Cousins. It will be some center soon among the three on the 76ers. It was Marcus Smart the other day with the Celtics.

The difference with those Bulls was they won; same with Kobe and Shaq. Actually, LeBron does this pretty much all the time as at about 20 games over .500 he got his coach fired last year this time.

When you win, it’s the leadership needed to produce success. When you are .500, well, it’s a cataclysm.

As usual, Wade handled himself beautifully, explaining that he can play with everyone and anyone, that the real world isn’t kumbaya, that it’s hard, but that anything worth attaining should be difficult. Rondo did, as well, offering his unique brand of candor and rectitude. Jimmy, for his part, was upbeat and insouciant. Hey, I’m a pro basketball player and famous. My problems start well after that.

And, hey, maybe this works out.

Maybe the young guys become more emboldened and confident, take those tough shots instead of hesitating and demand more of themselves. Maybe Butler and Wade then come to trust them more and share the ball with them more often. Maybe Fred Hoiberg laughs again.

Here are some excerpts from a day not unfamiliar to the championship Bulls of the 1990s:

“Embarrassment? Maybe a little bit. But I think it's gonna help. It's gonna go one of two ways. We're gonna get better, which we should be trying to do everyday, anyways, get better and win or we're gonna sit here and lose. If we win it's a good thing, if we lose it's a bad thing I'm sorry, but I like controversy, butting heads. I don't regret anything. Why? I only got one life to live, anyways, so live it to the fullest, be who you are. Like it or not, I'm me. I do things my way. They're not always perfect and they never will be because everybody has different opinions on different things But no, I don't regret anything."

Jimmy Butler on effect

Background music of Frank Sinatra’s My Way then began playing. OK, but it should have.

“Your opinion is your opinion. I'm gonna still come out and go to war with you. I don't have anything negative to say to him. You spoke your mind, I spoke my mind, move on. I didn't turn on the TV and see what people were saying about my comments or D-Wade's comments. We didn't talk about the comments amongst one another. We talked about how we can move on and get better. I didn't say anything about young guys. I like that clash. I like when you're put up there and you gotta show out and be the best in your role, whatever it may be. That's what I mean. Not in the media talking about somebody. I speak my mind around here, every day with everybody. I still shouldn't have did it. (But) guys butting heads and going at it and they got something to say back to somebody, I feed off that. I don't know about anybody else."

Butler on Rondo

“Gotta respect people. There's a difference between respect and like. You respect people that come out and do their job, that have the same common goal as you. It helps to like individuals, yes. But I'm pretty sure over the years there's teams that don't like each other. Even though it's 47 games in, we're still learning. We gotta be better in a lot of ways. That could be one. At the end of the day, everything can get covered up when you win. When you win, there's no problems. But when you're not, that's when everything comes to light. There are some things that don't need to be said. I'm gonna start pleading the fifth on y'all."

Butler on playing together

“Everyone gets an opportunity to express themselves. Just like I chose to express myself, that’s the way he (Rondo) chose to express himself. That’s the world we live in. I have no reaction to it. Just like my comments were said, we deal with them as a team and then after that, we move on to try to play a basketball game. I have no ill intentions or hard feelings for anyone. I want everyone to succeed in this locker room."

Dwyane Wade on the kerfluffle

“Grown men talking to grown men. I think we’ve all shared enough to the public. Now it’s about finding a way to work it out and win games. Winning cures all. And that’s what we want to do. Today, everyone had their opportunity to express themselves and their displeasure and their feelings. As teams sometimes, those moments are healthy for you. I don’t feel like this team with the way we’ve been playing up and down, I don’t feel it can get any worse. Hopefully, it can get better for us and we can understand it’s a potential we’re not reaching as a unit. He (Gar Forman) has a role and a position and he didn’t like the way things were said and done. He decided to put a halt to that and hold us accountable. I have nothing but respect for him. Every time I talk to Gar or (John) Pax, we’re grown men. We sit down and have a conversation. Whether I’m right or they’re right, we walk out, shake hands or move on. There are certain moments where you say, ‘Man, if I would’ve had five more seconds, would I have said that? Would I have done that?’ Well, in the moment that’s what I felt I needed to say, needed to do. Whatever the front office decides to do to myself, to Jimmy, to Rondo, you have to accept it, you have to respect it and you have to do what we all do in life, that’s move on."

Wade on the team meeting

“I’m a professional. I have a professional relationship with anybody who I need to and I have to. I have no problem. I’ve been a big supporter with Rondo out in the public eye with what he’s been dealing with and being taken out of the starting lineup and how he’s handled it. I have no issues, no problems with Rondo at all."

Wade on playing with Rondo

“To be a leader, you’re not going to always be the most popular person out there. Everyone leads different. I get in front of you guys a lot, all the time. I’ve been doing it my whole career. Like I always tell everybody, if I get in front of you guys 10 times, I may not get it right 10 out of 10. But for the most part, I try to say the things that I feel and I try to be truthful. I can always live with that. When you’re a leader, certain things you do and say aren’t always going to be the popular thing in the locker room. You have to understand this. That’s why some guys don’t want to be leaders. Some guys want to be in the middle of the pack so they can be liked. As a leader, sometimes you can’t be liked. I didn’t expect guys today to come in and leave candy on my locker. It’s the harsh truth and harsh reality. I’m probably not liked in this locker room today. I’m OK with that. I just want this team to reach its potential. I want these young players to reach their potential. Maybe you don’t see it today. Maybe we don’t get better tonight. But hopefully they’re taking steps and we’re taking steps as a team to reach that and further on for their careers. I say things I want to say at times. I can’t worry about what impact my voice has on political issues or the comments I decide to make on my team or the comment I decide to make if we get booed. I don’t worry about that stuff. Probably 50 percent of the world probably likes me and the other 50 percent probably don’t. Maybe I’m giving myself too much credit. Maybe 40 percent like me. I don’t know. I never have concerned myself with that."

Wade on popularity

“I’m 35. I’m not practicing every day. That’s very clear. Everyone has their own things. My vets did different things, too. They were very successful with what they did in Boston. I took it as a human being expressing himself and feeling he wanted to say something regarding the young guys on the team and he felt it was portrayed different. And that’s his leadership. That’s his way of leading. Just like my way of leading is my way of leading when I come out here and I smile and say all these positive things. And when I come in and say I’m pissed off, that’s my way of leading at that time. It’s not always what people want to hear or a popular thing. I told Gar and Paxson that I respect their decision to do the things they did because it’s their organization. It is right. A lot of things should be kept inside. But sometimes in the frustrating moments, you say things you feel in that moment. That’s what I did. That’s what Jimmy did. We take our punishment and move on and try to be better. Everyone takes the comments you say and puts their own spin to it. I’m not having fun being an average team from that standpoint. But I am enjoying the journey, enjoying this process. Like I said, this is another chapter to the book. I’ve said it from Day One: I’m excited to be here. I’m excited to play here."

Wade on the personal barbs

“I just want to see us win. That doesn’t mean I’m not a part of this, that I’m putting myself above this. I’m the first one to talk about the things I do wrong on the basketball floor. We all make mistakes. We all turn the ball over. We all miss shots. We all defensively have lapses. We all bitch at the refs. We all don’t get in transition. We all have those moments. It’s not about a shot that anybody takes. It’s just about our approach to the game as a team. Are we giving everything we have as a team? If we are, then we are who we are. Obviously, this is a trying time, what’s playing out in the media right now. We’ll see how our team either comes together or divides. I think right now our team has been like our record. It’s been trying at times and at other times it’s been great. I think our record is what our team has been and I continue to say. You just kind of want to know what it’s going to be. Is it going to be this or is it going to be better? Can it be better? You need to challenge guys to see and my job is to challenge people. When I came in the door that was my job. Unfortunately, this has brought more cameras to shootaround; this has been a longer day. But if it challenges us to win more ballgames, I’ll be the bad teammate from that standpoint. That’s the way it is."

Wade on the goal

“I said what I said. People can take it how they want to. I made a statement. I wasn’t angry, it wasn’t a rant. Just my thoughts. We had a little bit of a productive meeting this morning and we talked about it. Only thing we can show is our actions and how we go out and perform the rest of the year."

Rajon Rondo on the events

“Can I? Oh absolutely. Dwyane is who he is. His name speaks for itself. He’s done so many great things for this league and for the teams he’s played for. Dwyane leads his way. I lead my way. But like I said, the young guys got to say what they wanted to say today, and that’s the biggest thing. We spoke as a team. A lot of guys don’t have much to say or don’t have as big a voice. Everyone had the same platform this morning and we got to talk it out. It’s not that we didn’t like each other. It was just some things that came out publicly that shouldn’t have come out. We should have addressed it as men, face-to-face in the locker room, but I don’t think there’s any tension between us as a team. Every team I’ve played on has had players’ only meetings, players/staff meetings, so this part of the process. Ours just happened to be a bigger spotlight. It’s never personal; you don’t have to like everyone on the team to get along. It’s about one thing on the court when you come out, sacrifice for the guy next to you."

Rondo on playing harmoniously with Wade and Butler

“We didn’t always agree with [Defensive coach Tom] Thibodeau [in Boston] when he came out with a game plan. But we talked about it, and once we did agree on it we were all on the same page. I wasn’t trying to be the bad guy or talk down to anyone, but the young guys, I have a great relationship with a lot of them, pretty much all of them, and they got it out today. I wouldn’t be the player I am today if I didn’t have the support I had, the mentors I played with. Not even mentioning the big three. The guys like Keyon Dooling, P.J. Brown, Marquis Daniels Vets play a big part in this league. Show these young guys how to become men, how to conduct themselves as professionals, how to work, the consistency it takes to win. It’s all about being a selfless individual. One thing I loved about this team that was different from the past the last couple years of my career, was that when I got here the young guys were in the gym. I love to come back myself at night, but when I came back there were seven or eight guys here getting their work in. I disagree with the comment about the work ethic. Guys want to win, guys take their job very seriously. They’re young, so they needed to be guided the right way as far as there’s going to be ups and downs, there’s going to be games you play and you don’t play. I’ve been through that. Jimmy’s been through that. D-Wade probably hasn’t, but Jimmy and I have been through that, so they lean on us for direction, on where to go, how to feel. It’s an emotional game. We’re humans, we get emotional. So us as leaders have to show them the way, how to be professional and get the job done."

Rondo on the method

“I won’t lose sleep at night. I’m going to continue to be Rajon Rondo, and that’s all I can be. I’m going to come in here and work, do what I can for this team while I’m here. However they use me, and that’s what it’s going to be."

Rondo on his future with the Bulls

“I spoke to Kevin (Garnett). In these types of times, I always call my vets or guys that have mentored me as well. I talked to my high school coach. I just wanted to get the right message out. I just want to be a guy that stands up for my teammates. I received a lot of text messages from my current teammates and just wanted to share their thoughts, my thoughts as well. I am who I am, and I’ve never been shy to say what I’ve felt. I try to actually think about it. I talk to my closest friends, my people that I rely on as far as advice, and like I said, I just made a statement. I don’t think I was angry in the statement at all, and just said what I felt. I had a little advice from some people, some dear friends of mine. Make sure I can be articulate and say things the right way."

Rondo as a writer
Jimmy and Dwayne will not start Friday's game, but will play.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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