There’s an “Aw shucks’’ quality that Jimmy Butler like to portray.
Throughout this year, he’s downplayed the idea of being an All-Star, of being the Bulls’ new alpha male, of emerging as an elite two guard in the NBA.
“I’m not a star,’’ Butler said earlier in the season. “I’m a good role player on a really, really good team, a really, really deep team. I like role player. Star’s never been next to Jimmy Butler’s name. It never will be. I’ll always be an under-the-radar dawg.’’
If it was up to Butler, the prevailing idea of him would be taking the kid out of Tomball, Texas – population 10,753 – but not taking Tomball, Texas out of the kid.
Don’t buy it for a second, however.
“Jimmy’s the most confident guy [on this team], no doubt,’’ Taj Gibson said with a laugh last month. “Don’t let him fool you. He’s full of confidence.’’
A member of the Bulls staff took it even further.
“In Jimmy’s mind it’s Jimmy’s team, if not now, soon,’’ he said. “And that’s his strength.’’
Milwaukee is finding out that it’s at least Butler’s first-round playoff series.
Sure, doubling Pau Gasol has kept the big man’s scoring in check. Letting Derrick Rose go feast or famine with his outside shooting is something the Bucks have been willing to live with.
But an answer for Butler? Milwaukee’s search continues.
Through the first two games of the best-of-seven series, Butler is averaging 28 points with a .545 shooting percentage, 5.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and of course the 14-point fourth-quarter takeover in Monday night’s Game 2 come-from-behind win.
“Butler was a one-man show being able to shoot the three and also get to the basket,’’ Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “Butler got going here and we just couldn’t slow him down.’’
Milwaukee will obviously look to change that in Game 3, but Butler’s versatility to score from so many places on the floor might just be the one matchup the Bucks have no real answer for. Giannis Antetokounmpo hasn’t looked strong enough to slow down Butler and Khris Middleton hasn’t looked quick enough.
Butler has been a game-plan killer.
“I know Jimmy is a hard worker, someone that has put in a lot of hard work in his game, and it’s paying off at the most important time of the year, so he’s playing great basketball and it’s great to have him as a teammate,’’ Joakim Noah said.
That’s why Noah and Rose continue telling Butler to go ahead and take over late in games, and Butler isn’t hesitant about doing that.
“I do feel comfortable,’’ Butler said, when asked about being the closer late in games. “But I think [having Rose out there] makes it easier because everyone pays attention to him more than they pay attention to me. All I gotta do is step up and make shots or get to the cup or get to the free-throw line. All because of him and Pau and Jo. I think I have an easy job.
“Take the shots that the defense gives you. I feel like I just gotta keep shooting. They’ll eventually fall. I work on my game, I shoot enough after and before practice to know that they’re going to go in.’’
And they have been going in, as Butler can only “Aw shucks’’ for so long.