The smear campaign aimed at Jimmy Butler is alive and well.
Since the end of the season, a handful of stories have focused on Butler’s so-called “diva’’ ways, along with his inability to get along with teammates such as Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose, as well as general manager Gar Forman.
There actually is some fact to go along with the fiction, as Butler has no trust and very little respect for Forman, and has been vocal about it in the locker room. He also was getting tired of little verbal jabs thrown at him by Noah before the big man’s injury, but not enough to tarnish the relationship long-term.
Either way, a source close to the situation has indicated that Butler is less than pleased on several fronts, starting with the belief that the picture being painted of him is actually being pushed by the organization.
No wonder the All-Star guard has loyalty concerns with the team, feeling that it’s a franchise that “only shows loyalty to the top of the pyramid,’’ the source said.
For coaches and players? Forget it. Loyalty is an empty promise.
Meanwhile, the Bulls front office is actually in a win-win situation with all of this. Besides being able to deny that they have been steering the narrative on Butler, it gives them an excuse for trading the talented two-way guard if the right deal comes along.
Heck, worst-case scenario in the team’s eyes is if Butler does play out the remaining four years, $75-million plus left on his contract with the Bulls, this offseason will humble what is deemed a Hollywood ego.
Miscalculations yet again, by an organization that is well-versed in the art of over-playing its hand.
Butler has become the Pied Piper for the young players on the roster, so any attempts to put Butler in a corner comes with collateral damage. The last thing first-year coach Fred Hoiberg needs right now is a revolt on his hands.
That’s why this is a huge offseason for Forman and VP of basketball operations John Paxson.
A warning to both of them: Tread lightly.
WHAT’S COMING BACK
Rose – The often-injured guard will be playing for a long-term deal, so expect him to finally start listening to his wallet a bit more rather than his body. Meetings and graduations are off the calendar for the time being.
Butler – The centerpiece to build around or the biggest trade chip in the organization? Don’t expect the front office to have the onions to try and pull off the latter.
E’Twaun Moore – The free agent-to-be has watched his stock rise with the Bulls, and the hope is to bring him back as that key combo guard. The problem is other teams have noticed that improvement as well.
Justin Holiday – At just over a million dollars for next season, Holiday was a pleasant surprise this season, and a player that has gained rotation minutes.
Aaron Brooks – The lease on the Brooks dog house finally seems to be up. His welcome has been worn out.
WHAT’S OUT THERE
Jeremy Lin would be perfect for what Hoiberg wants to do with his offense, or maybe they take a flyer on the fading stock of a Ty Lawson. The more realistic solution for the Bulls, however, would be to look at a point guard in the draft, as well as continue to let Butler play some point, while Rose sees more time off the ball.
The likes of point guards Jamal Murray and Kris Dunn will probably be gone when the Bulls select come June, but if they really want speed and pace then Kentucky’s Tyler Ulis has the resume.