Jimmy Butler joins CTL
Jimmy Butler has been as good as ever over the last six games, and tonight he'll return to where it all started when the Bulls take on the Bucks at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Coverage begins on Comcast SportsNet at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live, hosted by Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gill.
Five years ago Butler, then an unknown junior college prospect, arrived in Milwaukee as part of Marquette head coach Buzz Williams' first recruiting class. He wasn't even the Golden Eagles' top prospect from Tyler Community College (Texas). But three successful seasons of continued improvement, versatility and an improved frame bumped up his draft stock to first round status when the Bulls made him the No. 30 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Playing behind Luol Deng and Ronnie Brewer his rookie season, Butler showed glimpses of potential but never logged enough minutes to have a real effect on the esteemed Bench Mob. Fast forward to 2012, and one Brewer departure and Deng hamstring injury later and Butler is showing why the Bulls were so high on him as a college senior two seasons ago.
And after five games in the starting lineup, where Butler averaged 14.2 points and 8.6 rebounds, he proved Monday he's capable of performing off the bench as well. In the Bulls' win over Charlotte, Deng returned to the lineup and Butler to the bench, but the second-year wing still managed a career-high and team-high 19 points and six rebounds in 31 minutes.
In two matchups in Milwaukee a year ago, the then-rookie Butler played once, scoring two points in nine minutes off the bench. This year he tallied six points and seven rebounds in the Bulls' first trip to Milwaukee (a 93-86 win). That won't be the case this time around. Now part of the rotation full-time, Butler heads back to the court that made him relevant when he and Chicago take on the resurgent Bucks.
After firing head coach Scott Skiles on Jan. 8, the Bucks -- then 17-16 -- have gone 7-3 since and currently sit in the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference, and just 2.5 games behind the Bulls in the Central Division. With just one game left against the Bulls and another against the Pacers, the third-place Bucks could make up ground at a division title with wins over their counterparts.
Brandon Jennings, one of the top Eastern Conference All-Star snubs, will be looking to keep his hot streak going. Last night against the Pistons, Jennings scored 30 points in 30 minutes in a 117-90 win over the Pistons. At one point in the third quarter, Jennings completed a 16-0 run by himself as part of the blowout win. In three games against the Bulls this year, Jennings is averaging 21.3 points and 5.7 assists. He'll be No. 1 on the Bulls' scouting report, and Butler and Co. will do all they can to slow him down. See if the Bulls can rebound on the road tonight on Comcast SportsNet, and check out Bulls Pulse to stay on top of all the social media happenings.