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Bulls’ Michael Reinsdorf defends Jimmy Butler, wants criticism to stop

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Bulls president and COO Michael Reinsdorf showed Thursday that he’s not interested in winning the news conference or public perception, only in doing and saying what’s right — especially what’s right by Jimmy Butler.

Tired of criticism Butler has faced since he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves last week, Reinsdorf came to his defense in a text to the Sun-Times.

“I’m really sick of this leadership issue,” Reinsdorf wrote. “Jimmy is a great guy. He tried hard to take guys under his wing. Whatever issues he had or did not have with the players, I can assure you it wasn’t because Jimmy doesn’t care. He’s just very honest.

“I really don’t want the impression to be that the Bulls organization is disrespecting someone who has meant so much to my family, the organization and the city of Chicago.”

Former NBA All-Star Antoine Walker said this week that Butler was “a bad locker-room guy” prone to outbursts against coaches and teammates. Even ex-Bull Scottie Pippen, a senior Bulls adviser, questioned Butler’s leadership ability on the ESPN show “The Jump.”

Reinsdorf’s text came as the post-trade drama was turning into a “he said, he said,” with a source telling the Sun-Times that general manager Gar Forman misled Butler leading right up to the trade and Forman denying that to be the case. The text also supports the feeling, previously reported in the Sun-Times, that as he gains more say in the organization, Reinsdorf has the Bulls headed in a more positive direction.

Several in the organization have referred to Reinsdorf, the son of chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, as “beyond competitive,” but also “ready to take on this rebuild the right way.” The foundation was laid down with the trade of Butler and the 16th overall pick for guards Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, as well as the seventh overall pick, who ended up being Lauri Markkanen.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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