Jimmy Butler said he didn’t care about the All-Star Game just a few days ago. Well, he can go ahead and cancel that February trip to Barbados.
Butler was named an All-Star on Thursday for the third season in a row, but it’s the first time he’ll be a starter.
That didn’t alter his stance, however.
“Nope, it hasn’t changed at all,’’ Butler said during a teleconference from Atlanta after the East starters were announced. “Obviously, it’s a huge accomplishment, and it’s an honor to be named a starter, but it’s All-Star Weekend. There’s going to be a lot of good players there. I guess it’s just another name thrown in with some decent basketball players.’’
Butler, 27, has been more than “just another name’’ for the Bulls this season.
In 41 games, Butler is averaging a career-high 24.8 points, which was fourth-best in the East. He also is averaging a career-high 6.8 rebounds, a career-high-tying 4.8 assists and 1.76 steals while playing 36.8 minutes per game and guarding the best player on the opposing team on most nights.
Not bad for a guy selected with the last pick of the first round in the 2011 draft.
“Everybody has their own story,’’ Butler said. “Everyone has a different path to get where they’re trying to get to, and I’m no different than anybody else. I think I just worked a little hard, put in the time and became a decent player. I will tell you right now that when I was starting my NBA career in 2011, I wasn’t very good. Now to be named a starter shows the work I’ve put in.’’
This was the first season the voting process for the starters involved the media and the players as well as the fans. It always has been a fan-vote process, but this season the fan vote only carried 50 percent of the weight; the media and players each grabbed the other 25 percent.
Butler joins forwards LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo in the frontcourt for the game on Feb. 19. Kyrie Irving and DeMar DeRozan make up the backcourt.
MVP candidate Russell Westbrook and Butler are the only players averaging at least 24 points, six rebounds, four assists and 1.5 steals.
Butler said he handed in a ballot but would only admit to voting for Dwyane Wade. The rest would remain a secret.
He attended the All-Star Game last season but didn’t play because of an injury.
“It’s fun, man,’’ Butler said. “You get to know the other really good players in the league, and you get to learn a little bit about them. Then the experiences that you get to be a part of are great, whether it’s the [Michael] Jordan party or you’re taking your guys everywhere.
“I think that’s the most fun part for me, that my trainers, my brothers, everyone behind the scenes that’s helped me with everything gets to experience it, too.’’
All-Star reserves will be announced next Thursday. They’re chosen by the coaches.
Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.