Jimmy Butler talks about possible return to Bulls and his former team’s rebuild
The Bulls traded Butler in the 2017 offseason, looking to accelerate a rebuild and return to a championship level. Three years later, they’re stuck in the mud, and Butler continues to cement his superstar status for his latest team in Miami.
There are many sides to Jimmy Butler.
The Bulls’ organization has seen them all.
On Saturday, it was “Humble Jimmy, from Tomball, Texas.’’
“Yeah, of course,’’ Butler said when asked if he would ever want to come back and play for the Bulls. “Like, come on. This is Chicago. This is home for me for a long time, still is home for me now. It’s a definite possibility — maybe toward the end of my career. Who knows? We’ll find out when that time gets here.’’
That return scenario is very unlikely, but who knows?
After three years, here is what is known: Butler is a reminder of a Bulls rebuild gone wrong.
Since being taken with the last pick of the first round in the 2011 NBA Draft, all Butler did was what an organization dreams about for a player selected in that spot. Butler worked hard, became an elite defender, turned himself into a scorer and finally emerged as a late-game assassin during crunch time.
He let the organization know he wanted to re-sign at the max, recruit his butt off and build a championship-caliber team.
Instead, the Bulls traded him while he was in Europe in the 2017 offseason, acquiring Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and the draft rights to Lauri Markkanen.
Butler got the Bulls in the playoffs in his last season with the team, led the Timberwolves to their first playoff appearance in 13 seasons, was the face of the 76ers’ playoff run last season and has guided an up-and-coming Heat team to the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race before All-Star Weekend.
He has moved on from his Bulls days, but he still has that home in Chicago and makes his strong feelings about the city public.
“I got a lot of love for this city, and I’m so fortunate that this city still has a lot of love for me,’’ Butler said.
So does Miami.
Butler and the Heat are a perfect match. The team has a championship pedigree based on hard work, and when you’re tired, more hard work. That’s the culture that emanates from Pat Riley, the man in charge of basketball operations, to coach Erik Spoelstra. They draft well, develop well and recruit well. Thus, the Heat are loaded with no-excuse, get-it-done players.
Basically, they’re the anti-Bulls.
“[The team’s strong presence at All-Star Weekend] just goes to show the Heat are great at bringing in guys that can get stuff done,’’ Butler said, “guys that are overlooked, that work incredibly hard and try to perfect their craft.’’
So what has Butler brought to the equation?
“I think that culture was already there,’’ he said. ‘‘It just fit me. They brought me there. The culture was going to stay the same with or without me.’’
Butler said Riley was a big reason why.
“He’s straight to the point, direct, involved in everything and I love it,’’ Butler said. “It shows that he cares and he wants to win, and he wants to win now. You know, none of this is guaranteed. And we’re trying to make it happen.”
And what are the Bulls trying to make happen?
“I don’t know,’’ Butler said. “But you know what, I got faith in management [in Chicago]. They have to know what they’re doing. I think their decision was right for them. I’ll continue to wish them the best. I think they got some really great young talent. They’ll figure it out. They got nothing but time.’’