Jimmy Butler doesn’t care how former teammates want to label him
OMAHA, Neb. – Jimmy Butler wants to be done talking about last year.
That doesn’t mean that last year is quite finished talking about him.
Former players spent the 2015-16 Bulls campaign and this offseason painting the picture of Butler as a diva, so much so that one said there were a handful of shoot-arounds last year where Butler didn’t even bother tying his shoes.
Not true, according to Butler and other current teammates, but the two-time All-Star said he knows where it’s coming from, and frankly doesn’t care.
“Am I a diva? I don’t call it that,’’ Butler said before Thursday’s 97-81 loss to Atlanta in their final preseason game. “My will to win rubs people the wrong way sometimes. I can blame it on that, but won’t apologize for it. Never will.
“As far as that talk goes, I don’t care. I’m going to keep working and if people don’t like it, people want to say what they want to say, that’s fine. I know, and I think these guys know, where my heart is and how I want to do right by everybody.’’
Who he has done right by are the young guys on the roster. Butler has always made it a point to get young players in the gym for extra work. Young players like Doug McDermott and Bobby Portis swear by Butler.
Not exactly the treatment Butler received from the likes of Derrick Rose and Co. when he came into the league.
And what the front office appreciates about Butler is his willingness to help recruit free agents. In Butler’s eyes that’s the trend in the NBA, especially if a player has title aspirations. Again, not really practiced by the old core that Butler first came up with five years ago.
Not that Butler has been innocent in all of this.
According to multiple sources, a big reason that Joakim Noah and Rose grew tired of Butler’s act was they felt he anointed himself the leader and did so by jumping the line. Butler doesn’t deny that. The problem was Butler felt he had the right to jump that line because he was one of the few starters that was willing to put all the work in.
The source said that Butler felt too many of the key veteran players were content with coasting.
“I say this in the most humble way possible and I mean that, is the [young players] here see Jimmy Butler the two-time All-Star, the Olympian, a 20-point per game scorer, the player I have been since a lot of these young guys came into the league,’’ Butler said. “They didn’t see the guy that was trying to get off the bench like other people have, and I don’t need to say names. So as my role changed, the way I go about the game changed. If I’m not playing well I’m hurting my team because I’m supposed to be a reason we win.
“Now, the way I handle my business is, ‘Look man, I want to win. I don’t give a [expletive] if you like me or not. I’m here to win.’ ‘’
By all accounts, Butler’s attitude throughout this training camp has been stellar. Not only with his interaction with new teammates like Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo, but a much better relationship with second-year coach Fred Hoiberg.
Will that translate into more wins? Butler has no clue. But he likes everyone finally being on the same page.
“It doesn’t hurt my feelings at all,’’ Butler said. “I don’t have too many feelings when it comes to this basketball thing. I think everyone wants to be successful, wants to be the best, and I want to play with guys that work for that.’’