Jimmy Butler made sure to say all the right things Friday.
After all, he was fined in January for comments he made about his teammates that the front office deemed to be detrimental to the Bulls.
So when vice president of basketball operations John Paxson went out of his way to mention that Butler was just one piece for the Bulls, not the piece, Butler was a good soldier.
Here’s what Paxson said: “I’ve always felt this way about team building and a team in general: There are very few guys who you build around. This is a team game. You build with players. We are building with Jimmy right now. I’m a very firm believer that, maybe outside of a handful of guys who ever played this game, you build with players, not around one.”
And here was Butler’s response when asked if he took the comments personally: “No, I don’t. No organization is the same. Everybody has different personnel. I don’t care if anybody wants to build around me. Just win. At the end of the day, when you win, everything is fine whether you’re built around or not built around. Everybody’s happy. All of that is just background noise. I just want to win at all costs.”
Sounds good, but sources said Butler doesn’t agree with Paxson’s opinion. Many NBA teams also would disagree.
Paxson made his comments Thursday after the Bulls traded Doug McDermott, Taj Gibson and a second-round draft pick in 2018 to the Thunder for Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow.
Paxson’s vision was a much tougher sell for three-time NBA champion Dwyane Wade.
“I think, individually, I believe you build with players in mind, to know what style you want to play,” Wade said. “Or you build around a coach you bring in. You’ve got to build around something, an idea, whether it’s a player or a style, and that shows what kind of players you want to bring in. But I’m not in their position. I don’t have the experience that Pax and Gar [Forman] have. I would never say that they were wrong at all.”
The other topic that Butler couldn’t avoid was his status with a team that has discussed trading him twice since June and has made zero promises in the long term.
Several in the organization believe Butler still could be moved this summer, and Paxson did little to downplay that.
“Right now, today, Jimmy is on our roster,” Paxson said. “And Jimmy is under contract for two more years. . . . This league is fluid. And things can change quickly.”
Loyalty should work both ways, but Butler didn’t get into that.
“I think I have one job to do, and it’s not to worry about whether someone is loyal or not,” Butler said. “It’s to go out there and hoop. I think they’re going to put us in the best position possible to win games here. What they’re doing is what they believe is right for this team. Our job is to go out there and make it work. Win games to the best of our ability. Loyalty, no loyalty, go out there and compete.”
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