LOS ANGELES – Not a bad day for Jimmy Butler at all on Thursday.
Not only did the new face of the Bulls franchise get a bro hug from good friend Mark Wahlberg during the first quarter of the eventual 114-91 win over the Lakers, but then went out and backed up his All-Star nod from earlier in the afternoon by scoring 26 points, handing out 10 assists and nabbing four steals.
No wonder Butler was in a retrospective mood.
“I think about that every day, talk about it every day with my brothers and my trainers,’’ Butler said, when asked about the journey from last player picked in the first round to now being a two-time All-Star. “Just how good I can be at this game if I continue to work, not settle. It’s been a dream of mine since I was little just to play in the NBA, let alone be an All-Star. It’s another notch I’ve accomplished, but I got to keep going.’’
Not a problem for Butler, who prides himself on a work ethic that very few in the organization can mimic throughout the year.
“He’s been one of the most consistent performers all year,’’ Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said of Butler’s climb. “He plays a ton of minutes. He plays both ways.’’
And as good as Butler’s day was, well, it was much different for Pau Gasol. The veteran not only campaigned to make the team as a reserve, but wasn’t real thrilled with the process when he wasn’t selected by the coaches. Especially because Gasol came so close in the fan voting to make the team as a starter.
“It was too bad that I fell short of the starting lineup,’’ Gasol said. “The way that it is now, it’s all point guards, shooting guards and small forwards in the starting lineups. It’s kind of unfair for the bigger guys who work hard and play well to not have the same type of shot. It is a game where people want to see those flashy guys.’’
Hoiberg admittedly felt that Gasol fell under the category of All-Star snub, but the first-year coach had bigger concerns to deal with.
With Joakim Noah (shoulder surgery) and now Nikola Mirotic (appendicitis) not even making the trip out west, the once deep Bulls frontline was suddenly paper thin. That meant Hoiberg mixing and matching with a three-guard lineup in which E’Twaun Moore earned the start.
Hoiberg did have Derrick Rose back in the lineup, so that helped, but not exactly the best way to have to deal with the start of a seven-game road trip.
“It’s going to be hard, but at the same time coming into this profession and being in this league things like this are going to happen,’’ Rose said of the short-handed lineup. “I’ve been on teams before where guys got injured, including myself, and the guys that are behind them or the rest of the team has to pick up for that absence.’’
Rose pulled himself from the Monday night game with Miami, but wanted to make sure he was ready to go against the Lakers, especially with the Kobe Bryant retirement tour winding down.
“Kobe, he’s someone that I look up to ever since I came into the league,’’ Rose said. “I think he’s leaving the game in some good hands. You got Steph [Curry] playing well, you got a whole bunch of guys right behind him, giving their all to the game. Just for Kobe himself, he’s going to be a legend no matter what. He’s our Michael Jordan.’’