Jimmy Butler and his backcourt mates never got caught up in the preseason banter.
There was John Wall declaring that the best backcourt in the NBA resided in the nation’s capital, putting himself and Bradley Beal on that pedestal.
The debate then moved to Cleveland, when Dion Waiters said – presumably with a straight face – that he and Kyrie Irving should hold that title.
“I don’t think our backcourt really cares, whether it’s me or Derrick [Rose] or Kirk [Hinrich] that’s in there,’’ Butler said on Friday, when asked why their names were never thrown in the hat. “We just play. We don’t worry about getting into the media and saying who is better than who. I think we’re all really good players, and whenever we go up against each other, I think each other’s games will speak.’’
It will have a chance to speak loudly Saturday night at the United Center.
Sorry Wall and Waiters, but Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are wearing that crown as the best backcourt the Association has going right now. At least the duo is the most dangerous.
Curry was averaging 23.4 points per game, including a .416 shooting percentage from beyond the three-point line, while Thompson was 21 per night and flashed a .463 shooting percentage from long range.
“They can shoot the ball and they play off each other very, very well,’’ Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said of the two Golden State Warriors. “They have great chemistry together. And on top of that, they’re just great people.’’
Thibodeau would know. His summer vacation involved coaching both of them with Team USA in the gold medal run to the FIBA World Cup Championship.
“What changes a little bit is you get to know them as people obviously if you’re coaching them,’’ Thibodeau said. “You see that part of it. When you’re studying film, you don’t see that part. But usually you have a pretty good idea. Most guys, there are such thorough background checks on guys that you have a pretty good understanding of who they are.
“But I always think it’s good when you have an opportunity to coach them yourself too.’’
Not that Thibodeau learned anything he didn’t already know.
“I didn’t need to be [with Team USA] to know how hard they had to be guarded,’’ Thibodeau said with a laugh. “That part, I had a pretty good understanding of that.’’
Now Rose and Butler will get a full understanding of that.
Because of injuries, Rose hasn’t seen the development of Curry, outside of USA Basketball, in a few years, while Butler will get a look at the two guard that is considered the gold standard in the league right now in Thompson.
“I watched him play a lot last year,’’ Thibodeau said of Thompson. “I saw how he was guarding a lot of point guards. That tells you he’s guarding multiple positions. I think Steph’s defense is vastly improved as well. And their team defense is excellent.’’
If Thompson is considered 1A in the league as far as two-guards go right now, however, Butler is at least climbing the ladder and closing the gap in that top five.
Just don’t ask him about it.
“I guess at the end of the day he’s supposed to be better than I am anyways, like everybody else in this league, so I just continue to play the game hard, play the game the right way,’’ Butler said of Thompson. “I think it will take care of itself.’’