Bulls star Jimmy Butler didn’t want to think about the likelihood of becoming an All-Star for the third time in his career.
Not Tuesday. Not yet. There was still work to do in his eyes.
He was trying to figure out how the Bulls (21-22) could beat the playoff-bound Memphis Grizzlies (25-18) on the road Sunday, then lose to the Dallas Mavericks (14-27) for the second time this season at home Tuesday.
‘‘[We were] coming off one of our better performances of the year in Memphis, but you’ve got to play 48 minutes in this league,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said after the Bulls’ 99-98 loss at the United Center.
Maybe that’s why All-Star talk was almost off-limits for Butler. It wasn’t like he was thumbing his nose at the process; it was more that he thinks there are bigger things for him to pursue at this point in his career.
‘‘I don’t care,’’ Butler said when he was asked about being voted an All-Star.
Asked what playing in the All-Star Game next month in New Orleans would mean to him, he was even more emphatic.
‘‘Absolutely nothing,’’ he said.
When Butler was reminded this would be his third All-Star Game, he continued to respond defiantly.
‘‘And?’’ Butler said. ‘‘That doesn’t mean anything to me right now. If I’m there, I’m there. If I’m not, I’ll be in Barbados, enjoying the weather.’’
Butler’s quest is bigger than a trip to New Orleans in mid-February. It’s not only about leading the Bulls back to the playoffs after they missed out last season; it’s about making a deep run.
Since missing 2½ games with the flu last week, Butler hasn’t shown any signs of a guy who wasn’t able to keep down any food and lost close to 10 pounds. He returned to score 28 points in a victory Saturday against the New Orleans Hornets, then scored nine points in the fourth quarter in the victory against the Grizzlies the next night.
The Bulls were looking to extend their winning streak to three games against the Mavericks, and Butler did his part with 24 points, 12
assists and nine rebounds. So much for being bedridden last week.
‘‘You’ve gotta maintain your body through the grind,’’ Butler said. ‘‘That’s what this job calls for. This is the dream that we wanted. Now that you have it, it’s what you have to put up with.’’
But Butler also has to put up with the fact that very little comes easy for the Bulls.
The Bulls trailed by two with a minute left when Butler found a cutting Doug McDermott for a lay-in that tied the score. After the Mavericks missed a shot, Butler made a jumper with 22 seconds left to give the Bulls the lead.
It was short-lived, though, as Wesley Matthews sank an open three-pointer to give the Mavericks a one-point lead with 11.7 seconds to play.
It appeared it would be Butler’s game to win or lose on the Bulls’
final possession, but he lost control of the ball, which landed in the hands of birthday boy Dwyane Wade. But there would be no gift for Wade, now 35, as his shot clanked off the rim at the buzzer.
‘‘We wanted to get it to Jimmy on the top of the floor,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘Just let him make a play.’’
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