Jimmy Butler’s return to the United Center headlines Bulls’ schedule

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There are rarely happy endings when it comes to NBA All-Stars and the Bulls’ front office. Michael Jordan, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng . . . pick a former Bulls great, and there’s a good chance that bad blood lingers.

Jimmy Butler is the latest example, and the Bulls and their fans will see this winter just how motivated he is to show up his former team.

As revealed in the NBA schedule released Monday, Butler — who was reunited with former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau with the Timberwolves in a draft-night trade — returns to the United Center on Feb. 9 for his one and only appearance of the season.

‘‘Watch Jimmy go for 50 [that game],’’ a person in Butler’s camp said last month.

After Butler was traded June 22, sources told the Sun-Times he felt general manager Gar Forman had lied to him in their last meeting heading into draft night. Butler said he had spoken with Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson about attempting to sign then-free agent Kyle Lowry or trade for Kyrie Irving, all while getting feedback from the two that he was their planned centerpiece.

‘‘I’m not going to say word-for-word what they said, but when I left there, I did think I was going to be there,’’ Butler said recently on ‘‘The Bill Simmons Podcast.’’

He’ll be there for one night — in a Timberwolves jersey and looking to run the rebuilding Bulls off the floor. His return is among five key games on the schedule. These are the others:

• Oct. 19: Bulls at Raptors: The young Bulls will get a quick taste of NBA reality in their first game of the season against one of the top Eastern Conference teams. Coach Fred Hoiberg has had much success against the Raptors, but under much different circumstances. The Bulls’ opener also kicks off a brutal 10-day stretch.

 Oct. 24: Bulls at Cavaliers. LeBron James is still in a Cavs uniform, and he has a new backcourt partner in former Bulls standout Derrick Rose. But will Rose be on the floor or in the training room for the first Bulls-Cavs matchup of the season?

• Feb. 5: Bulls at Kings. Might this be Dwyane Wade’s last game in a Bulls uniform as the trade deadline looms?

• Feb. 24: Bulls at Timberwolves. Two weeks after Butler’s return to the United Center, the teams play again in his new house.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com


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