The back of the basketball card told a very real and somewhat dismal story.
Good thing for the Bulls that Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler aren’t into following scripts.
When the front office decided to rid itself of Mike Dunleavy and Pau Gasol — both three-point threats last season — and bring in Rajon Rondo and Wade, it looked like “Hoiball” would die a slow death in Year 2.
Fred Hoiberg’s offense at Iowa State was predicated on space and pace, drive-and-kick, basically using the three-point line as a weapon. Rondo, Wade and Butler have made careers out of avoiding three-pointers more often than not.
Butler entered the season shooting 33 percent for his career from beyond the arc. Rondo was at 29 percent and Wade 28 percent.
Then this season happened.
And while it’s just 16 games old, Butler and Wade are showing why great players are able to reinvent themselves.
Butler entered this week shooting 43 percent (23-for-54) from three, while Wade was right behind him at 39 percent (20-for-52). What has been even more impressive about Wade’s accuracy is he only took 44 three-pointers in the entire 2015-16 regular season with the Heat.
Yet, there he was in training camp last month, working with Hoiberg on his three-point shot after practices, both off the dribble and catch-and-shoot.
Off the dribble is still his weapon of choice.
“Still working on [catch-and-shoot], but obviously pull-up is what I’ve been doing my whole life, so just moved it back a little bit more,” Wade said. “But I’ll keep working on it. Coach has given me all the confidence, my teammates give me all the confidence to shoot my shots hit or miss, so keep shooting them.”
Butler’s emergence as an outside threat should come as no surprise.
The two-time All-Star seems to add something to his game every offseason, and knowing that Hoiberg would need players to step up as outside threats, Butler did just that over the summer. Not only did he work on his shot on his own, he spent hours taking extra shots with his Team USA teammates leading up to and through the Olympics.
“I worked so hard over the summer, so I know what I’m capable of,” Butler said. “I know every night is not going to be a great shooting night. But when it is a great shooting night, and you’re guarding, passing, rebounding, it all looks good.
“You have to find multiple ways to change the game even when you don’t score 40. I think that’s a part of growing as a player.”
His coach appreciates that.
“He’s shooting the three at a pretty high clip right now, a very high clip,” Hoiberg said. “I think he can continue to get better. When you have that type of athleticism, the type of instincts that he has, he’s going to continue to get better and better. That’s a good thing for us.”
The Bulls finished third in the NBA last season in three-point percentage (.371) but just 21st in scoring (101.6 points per game). This season, they are 18th in three-point percentage (.342) but 12th in scoring (105.3 points per game).
Translation: They have the three-pointer at their disposal, but they aren’t relying on it to win.
“We can score all kinds of ways,” Butler said. “Putting the ball in the basket is all that matters.”
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