INDIANAPOLIS – It sounds like Jimmy Butler’s day is coming, at least on the contract end of things with the Bulls.
“I think all of us who have been around him know who Jimmy is,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said before the Monday morning shootaround. “We all value who Jimmy is. Those are business decisions that he and his agent have to make. Our organization feels very strongly about him and we want him here for a long time. That will all take care of itself in the end.’’
Butler turned down a take-it-or-leave-it offer from the Bulls at the start of the regular season, making it so he will be a restricted free agent this upcoming offseason.
As far as when Butler’s day is coming to be considered a superstar? It’s already here.
“It’s for real,’’ teammate Derrick Rose said of Butler’s arrival into NBA stardom. “I think he’s a star now. A lot of people can say what they want to say, but he’s got the right attitude for it coming in. He was always different, he was always Jimmy. We’re loving it right now because he’s just making the game easy for everyone else.’’
Scoring a team-high 22 points a game, while shutting down the opposing team’s best scorer on most nights tends to make life easier. And honestly, Rose could use it. The 2011 MVP admitted that carrying the weight of the offense like he did back in that 2010-11 season was a lot on his shoulders.
Butler, plus adding Pau Gasol and a deep bench, as well as the growth of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, have Rose playing pressure-free.
“It’s a good feeling,’’ Rose said of the weaponry that now surrounds him. “The first time I’ve ever had that feeling while I’ve been in the league, and it takes a lot of pressure off on I think everyone. Someone can easily go off for 15 or 20 points in a couple of quarters and pull us away, put the other team away pretty quick. It’s fun, we don’t take it for granted, and we just know that we can always improve every day.’’
They will get that chance tonight against the Pacers, with the Bulls riding a six-game winning streak, winning nine of their last 10.
And according to Thibodeau, they might even have Kirk Hinrich (hamstring) back, leaving Doug McDermott (right knee) as the only body in street clothes.
“I think we can,’’ Rose said, when asked if the team still had room for improvement. “I don’t want to jinx ourselves, but I think we could really make a run for this, this year. But it just takes focus, discipline, and we’ve got to sacrifice a little bit.’’