MVP candidate chatter has to start including Jimmy Butler

SHARE MVP candidate chatter has to start including Jimmy Butler

Superlatives are drying up when it comes to describing the week Jimmy Butler had.

They’ve been used over and over again since Monday, when the two-time All-Star dropped 52 on the Charlotte Hornets.

So how about just closing down the entry box and simply go with what Butler has become as the halfway point of the season nears? How about NBA MVP candidate?

“I think so,’’ Fred Hoiberg said, when that label was thrown at the coach following the Toronto win Saturday. “Just from what he’s done for this team. Again, this stretch he’s got going right now, just continues to add to his game.

“He’s really playing with the ball in his hands a lot now. We didn’t do a lot of [that early on in the season]. We’d run him off screens, get him a live-catch, pick-and-roll situation. He’s just pretty much our point guard for a lot of our games right now, and he’s obviously been phenomenal.’’

That he has.

In the three wins over the Hornets, Cavaliers and now the Raptors – all potential top four playoff teams in the Eastern Conference – Butler has averaged 38 points, 9.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists, while shooting 42-of-46 (.913) from the foul line.

But it’s more than just that.

There’s players all over the Association putting up big numbers this season.

Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, James Harden, LeBron James, the Golden State crew … all in the top 10 in scoring along with Butler.

Where it should be separated, however? Who are all those players guarding?

Take the win over Toronto for example.

Through the first three quarters, Butler was on DeMar DeRozan, trying to slow him down. In the fourth, Hoiberg switched him to point guard Kyle Lowry, who came into the game as one of the top fourth-quarter scorers in the league so far this season.

That’s when the Bulls got back into the game, outscoring the Raptors 33-21 to send it to overtime.

“Are a lot of guys putting up huge numbers?’’ Hoiberg said. “They do it on one end and then somebody else guards the other team’s best player. Jimmy is doing both for us. So to expend that amount of energy on the defensive end and to continue to do what he does on offense says a lot about him.’’

More than Butler will say himself, that’s for sure.

Asked if he feels like a MVP candidate, Butler said the standings at the end of the season will answer that. At 19-18 right now, he’ll take the incomplete.

“I don’t know about all that,’’ Butler said of MVP talk. “I’m taking it one step, one day at a time. All of that’s way down the road from here, and we have to continue to win if any of that is ever going to be a question.’’

What Butler did acknowledge was that he definitely feels like he’s getting better as the season goes on.

When told that Dwyane Wade made that observation about him, Butler didn’t duck it.

“I think so, but [Wade’s] in [the gym] with me when I’m working,’’ Butler said. “He sees it, so it’s no surprise to him. I work and I love what I do so much. I don’t want to let this organization down, my teammates, the city. I live for this. This is what I wake up for every single morning.’’

The Latest
A detention hearing is scheduled Friday for Leonard Delaney, who is charged with assaulting a federal judicial employee May 3.
The man, 20, was walking in the 9800 block of South Avenue L when someone opened fire.
Pete Riedesel caught the walleye of his life last week to earn Fish of the Week honors and now aims for his dream muskie.
Arnel Smith, 64, was charged with first degree murder and concealing a homicide. The woman’s body was discovered in the 5700 block of West Chicago Avenue,
The group were standing on the sidewalk in the 9100 block of South Harper Avenue when someone in a black car that was passing by fired shots around 1:40 a.m.