Jimmy Butler is the best Bulls player since Scottie and Michael

SHARE Jimmy Butler is the best Bulls player since Scottie and Michael
SHARE Jimmy Butler is the best Bulls player since Scottie and Michael

He can’t even recite it with a straight face anymore.

“I’m just that humble kid from Tomball, Texas,’’ Butler said yet again late Wednesday night, as an ice pack was being wrapped up on his right shoulder.

The smile was ear to ear because he now knows he couldn’t be any further away from Tomball, Texas, these days.

Whether it’s hanging with actor Mark Wahlberg, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown or getting court-side hugs from former gal pal Shay Mitchell, Butler is no longer just Chicago’s blue-collar, late-round draft pick out of Marquette.

No, the secret has been out for a while. Butler has reached NBA stardom. He’s gone Hollywood. And he’s undoubtedly the best two-way player to wear a Bulls uniform since Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan were doing that dynasty thing in the 1990s.

And if Derrick Rose apologists want to speak up and point towards what a certain former No. 1 did for the Bulls, well, check the numbers. In Rose’s 2010-11 MVP season, the only statistical category he was better than what Butler’s been pulling off this year was assists.

Butler is scoring more than Rose did that year, rebounding more, shooting at a higher field-goal percentage, both overall and from three-point range, and more importantly, still guarding the team’s best offensive player on most nights.

Rose treated defense like a part-time hobby.

The kicker? Butler has actually played point guard in a small sample size late last season, and was a triple-double threat each time he did, showing he’s a better decision-maker with the ball than Rose ever was.

“It’s a good question,’’ Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said, when asked if Butler could transform into a full-time point guard like James Harden has become. “He can certainly be a facilitator. With the amount of energy he expends on the defensive end, is he a guy that’s going to dribble the ball down the floor every possession? It might take a little too much out of him. But as far as being a facilitator and getting the ball coming off a screen at the top of the floor with the live dribble, we feel a lot of times that’s where he’s at his best.’’

Where Butler’s been the last two games has also been at his best.

First there was Charlotte on Monday, when Butler became one of eight NBA players to throw down a 50-plus point game this season, totaling 52.

Then there was the Wednesday win over Cleveland, in which Butler overcame a slow start, taking over in the fourth quarter by scoring 14 points and securing the win. And oh by the way, matching up against LeBron James for 38 minutes on the evening.

Just don’t ask him if he’s become an elite scorer.

“Nope. I just consider myself a basketball player,’’ Butler said. “[Charlotte was] just another game.’’

The scary thing? At age 27 there’s still not a ceiling on what he’s capable of reaching. He just keeps getting better every season.

At one point on Wednesday, Butler was asked if he felt like LeBron James respected him, especially with how many times the two have matched up over the years.

His answer was pure Butler.

“Yeah, for sure,’’ Butler said. “I think a lot of people do. But respect or no respect, I’m out here to do one job – that’s to win a basketball game.

“I just want to win. That’s all I [bleepin’] care about.’’

If only his front office and some of his teammates – present and former – carried that same attitude.

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