Jimmy Butler is still not apologizing.
The best all-around player to wear a Bulls uniform since a certain No. 23 was delivering championships in the 1990s might be putting up MVP-type numbers in Minnesota these days, but he has no problem shooting from the lip when it comes to discussing his six seasons with the Bulls and that nasty summer breakup.
“I didn’t do what they needed me to do [in Chicago], rightfully so, you try something new,’’ Butler told the Sun-Times this week. “That’s what was meant by it. If people don’t like the way it came out, well, sue me because I’m not apologizing. That’s the way I feel. It wasn’t anything bad toward Fred [Hoiberg].’’
Butler made headlines in November, talking to ESPN about the draft-night trade that sent him to the Timberwolves and brought the Bulls Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and a swapping of draft picks that led to rookie Lauri Markkanen.
It initially sounded as if Butler felt it was a him-or-Hoiberg situation for the organization.
“I said from the beginning — it was either gonna be me or the Fred Hoiberg route,’’ Butler said in that fall interview.
Fast-forward to this week, as LaVine is set to finally make his Bulls debut on Saturday, while Butler has Minnesota playing some of its best basketball in years, sitting at 27-16 and in fourth place in the Western Conference.
“I wasn’t saying it was an ultimatum or anything like that,’’ Butler said. “Fred had been there, what, two years? I had been there six?
“It’s more about, ‘Jimmy, you gave six years there and didn’t win a championship,’ so it’s on to the next chapter for that organization, and Fred stays a part of their life. I’m not a part of it.’’
Maybe that was one aspect of it, but what the Bulls have avoided saying was finances also played a big role.
Butler could have negotiated a max contract extension of $240 million-plus for the 2019-20 season after he was named to the All-NBA team last season.
“Maybe that had something to do with it,’’ Butler said with a laugh. “Perhaps.’’
That’s why there’s still a sense of distrust toward the organization, especially because Butler initially wanted to stay in Chicago, evidenced by the fact that he was hoping his front office could try to get a third team involved so that it could land then-Cavalier Kyrie Irving.
General manager Gar Forman and Co. had a different plan, opting to move Butler and go with the rebuild.
“It’s worked out for both sides,’’ Butler said.
As far as how Butler feels about Hoiberg, he thinks he’s finally in the right situation.
Year 1 for Hoiberg was a complete mess, with Butler and Pau Gasol feuding with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. Then last season, Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo wanted to play the game their way.
“[Fred] needed a team like this one,’’ Butler said. “Guys that are young in the league. Guys that you get to teach them your way. It’s not a bad thing. It’s actually a good thing. It’s working for them. Teach them that way, and I guarantee they aren’t as stubborn and hard-headed as I was, which sometimes is good, sometimes is bad. But like I always say I’m not going to change who I am.
“I’m good. I’ll see them all Feb. 9.’’
That’s when Butler returns to Chicago to face the Bulls for the first time.
Go ahead and circle that date. Butler has.