Butler’s mistrust of the front office runs deep

OKLAHOMA CITY — Jimmy Butler developed a bit of amnesia Wednesday when asked about a story told by ESPN radio personality Ryen Russillo.
According to Russillo, “[A member of the] front office went to Butler [in 2014] and said, ‘If you don’t sign this extension, we’re going to play Tony Snell over you. We are going to give you his minutes, and that’s going to drop your minutes and numbers down.’ ’’

Butler was asked about the story before the Bulls’ 128-100 win over the Thunder on Wednesday.

“I’ll tell it to you like this,’’ Butler said. “That [expletive] happened so long ago, I didn’t think it was a matter of anything.

“We won’t go into detail about what was said, what wasn’t said. It’s not anybody’s business. We got a deal done; I thought it was a fair deal. That’s that.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t remember what went on. My agent was handling the majority of it. And then, my main thing was to just worry about basketball. So I can’t tell you what was said or what wasn’t because it was so long ago and because it ain’t [your] business anyway.’’

A source close to the situation said Russillo’s story has a huge hole. He claimed the front office then ran it past former coach Tom Thibodeau, and he refused to do it, saving Butler and helping him eventually get the five-year, $95 million deal he signed after the 2014-15 season.

“They never would have approached [Thibodeau] with that,’’ the source said. “It didn’t happen. At that point, the front office had very little say in anything [Thibodeau] did.’’

Butler was asked about his relationship with general manager Gar Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson, and he deemed it professional.

“We talk like men if I have a problem; if they have a problem, we talk like we’re supposed to,’’ Butler said. “I think it’s very professional.’’

But his relationship with the front office, especially Forman, has been tested.

Forget the contract stuff. Last May, Butler was irate after stories leaked out that claimed he had turned into a diva, and he believes the leaks came from the front office.

Butler thought Forman was a guy who “only shows loyalty to the top of the pyramid,’’ a source said then.

He addressed the issue in October, saying, “Am I a diva? I don’t call it that. My will to win rubs people the wrong way sometimes. I can blame it on that but won’t apologize for it. Never will.’’

Butler and other Bulls have had issues with the “spying’’ that goes on in the locker room. He warned new players that if they didn’t want Forman to hear criticism, they shouldn’t talk in front of certain assistant coaches such as Randy Brown.

The belief is that the Bulls love to gather as much ammunition as they can on players, so they can win the news conference when the breakup comes, whether it’s a trade or free agency.

“They did it with [Luol Deng], and they did it with [Joakim Noah] and Derrick [Rose],’’ a source said. “That’s how they operate.’’

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Email: jcowley@suntimes.com