Butler closing in on contract extension deadline


Oct 31

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The Bulls Friday were hearing about pay quite a bit.

There was the potential payback to LeBron James, now with the Cavs, after trying to defeat the Miami Heat the last four seasons.

And there was the issue of pay to Jimmy Butler, who was negotiating for a contract extension as the minutes ticked away to the Oct. 31 deadline. If Butler doesn’t sign an extension, he would become a restricted free agent next summer. The Bulls could then match any offer, but it would not be a situation similar to Omer Asik’s. That was only because of Asik’s status as a second round pick on a two-year contract. With Butler’s standard rookie contract, there is no such option for another team.

Two years ago in a similar circumstance, Taj Gibson indicated before the game he would not sign an extension. Then he came to an agreement after the end of the game before the deadline.

Butler speaking to reporters before the game held out hope there could still be a breakthrough even as his agent told media Friday afternoon that there would be no more talks.

“We got until what, 11:59?” Butler said when asked if talks were over. “So we’ve got until 11:59. People say it’s ended; I don’t know. I’m a human being and a basketball player. So I can handle what I can handle.”

Butler worked out before the game but then was declared out again with his thumb sprain.

“It’s not very difficult (to focus),” Butler insisted. “My main thing is getting healthy; contract or whatever. I want to play basketball. If I’m playing basketball everything will take care of itself.

“(I’m) very close (to playing),” Butler said. “I’ve got to go in there and get reevaluated, but I am very, very close.”

Asked if he still wanted to play for the Bulls, Butler answered incredulously: “Is that a serious question? I think you all know, all of you, the whole city, this is home for me. I love it here. This is where I want to be; I love my teammates, the fan base, the organization, everybody. Everybody knows that. This is the city I want to be in.

“We still want a deal,” Butler insisted. “I still want to be here. I still want to have nothing to worry about. So we have until 11:59 to figure it out. I’m not a personal guy. I don’t take everything to heart. I understand it’s a business. I just have to be a great basketball player. I think this team is really good, championship caliber. I am a part of this team; I am going to produce. I’m going to guard. I will take care of myself. I think there’s not too much I can do right now. I’m done talking about it.”

Asked about the circumstances, Bulls general manager Gar Forman said: “The talks were very productive. The one thing people have to remember, this is an extension; it’s not free agency. And then you go into next summer where it’s restricted free agency. We still control the process.
“Asik was different because it was early (Larry) Bird (rule). There is no poison pill here,” Forman reiterated. “The talks were very productive. I think Jimmy understands how much we value him and appreciate him. Jimmy relayed to us how badly he wants to be here long term. Both parties have agreed at this time to table the discussions and we’ll review them in July. But it doesn’t change where we are today and how both parties feel about each other. We put what we felt was an extremely fair and respectable offer on the table under the rules as an extension.”

Neither side would disclose the offer or the request by Butler’s camp. Media reports indicated the Bulls offered more than $10 million annually and the sides were about $2 million apart.

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