Butler shining in Deng's absence

Butler shining in Deng's absence
January 24, 2013, 5:38 am
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The Bulls knew coming into this season that they were going to need to count on everyone.

With superstar Derrick Rose out for a majority of the season, the other players had to step up their production even more so.

Jimmy Butler started his third game in place of the injured Luol Deng and finished the Bulls 85-82 win over Detroit with 18 points and a career-high nine rebounds in 46 minutes of action.

His corner three-pointer with 1:51 remaining gave the Bulls an 82-80 lead and was all the more impressive considering he had gone 1-for-8 from the field in the first half, including missing three of his outside attempts.

Jimmy struggled early and he just kept working the game, coach Tom Thibodeau said. He probably settled early on -- Tayshun Prince is a tough cover -- but he never gets down. He just keeps battling and in the end, he figured it out. He got some good shots -- high percentage shots -- his defense improved as the game went on and he made some big-time plays for us.

Butler converted on five of his six field goal attempts in the second half and has shown true resiliency during his time in the starting lineup, overcoming some rough starts.

Hes just like that, said Joakim Noah. Hes a resilient guy and I love playing with Jimmy. He just has that toughness about him, that it just fits the Bulls perfect. Im so proud of him because its tough sometimes to play behind Luol. But hes someone whos always in the gym, working hard. Even though he might not be getting the time in the game he wants, hes somebody whos always been a team-first guy. For him to be shining like this and helping us in this way, it means a lot. Im really proud of him.

Im not surprised at all, he continued. We knew coming into this year that we were going to count on him to do a lot of things. Even last year he showed signs. He had some games where he played some really solid defense for us. He hit a huge three today, a huge shot against the Lakers hes really playing solid basketball for us.

Admittedly tired after the game, Butler deflected praise away from himself and attributed not getting down on himself early to having watched Deng do it so often.

He does so much for this team, Butler said. Im not trying to be a mini-Lu. He scores, guards, rebounds, passes, the energy. He does it all for this team.

I did start off kind of slow. I was frustrated, went over to the bench and my teammates were like keep shooting, theyre going to fall. When that shot in the fourth came, all I can hear in my head was shoot the open one. I knew Nate Robinson was going to throw it to me and Im so glad it went in.

When Deng returns, Butler has proven hes more than deserving of more minutes, but that decision is up to Thibodeau.

He plans to bring the same effort and energy he has during his short stint in the starting rotation and has impressed his teammates and coaches.

Obviously there are a lot of things that he has to improve upon, but hes not afraid of the big moments, Thibodeau said. He has a lot of courage and toughness. Those characteristics go a long way in this league and he competes on every play. We want him to keep improving and studying.

In this league, usually at the two and three, you have primary scorers your tough matchups. Hes taken the challenge and I like the way he is approaching things. Hes never satisfied, comes in the next day, and he wants to improve and thats important.