If scoring 40 points in a half is leadership, yeah, well, more of that, please.
Jimmy Butler tore up the Raptors in the second half Sunday, set a franchise record and led the Bulls to a 115-113 victory.
Scoring that many points in 24 minutes of basketball is a combination of will, supreme self-belief and, let’s face it, selfishness. In other words, it’s Michael Jordan. I know: Easy there, tiger. I’m not suggesting Butler is Jordan, and Butler didn’t want to hear any such comparison after the game. I am suggesting, as we move into Week Whatever It Is of what makes a leader and who holds the Bulls’ leadership reins, that Butler’s efforts against Toronto looked a lot like Jordan’s version of leadership. With the ball in his hands, he told his teammates to follow him but, more to the point, to get out of his way.
But Jordan’s leadership style was based on intimidation. It inspired teammates to work harder, or else – the “or else’’ part being the business end of his wrath. That’s not Butler. As I’ve been saying for the past few weeks, there are all sorts of leaders. Butler isn’t a leader because he says he is. He’s a leader because his teammates appreciate his scoring ability and his shutdown defense. He’s a leader because his game says he is.
His team-record 40-point half comes back to Derrick Rose because everything with the Bulls comes back to Derrick Rose. Remember all the years when the talk was about finding a second scorer to take the pressure off Rose? The problem isn’t that the second scorer (Butler) has taken over the top spot. It’s that Rose can’t be counted on to play consistently well from game to game.
It’s hard to be a leader or a scorer when you’re up and down, even when healthy.
I have no idea if teammates listen to a word Butler says to them. But I know they’re watching him with jaws dropped, just like the rest of us.