TORONTOJimmy Butlers averages of 5.3 points and 2.7 rebounds per game arent spectacular, but could the second-year swingmans consistency, effort and above all, the fact that hes a solid rotation player on a winning team lead to a trip to his home state of Texas during All-Star weekend?
It might sound far-fetched, but when you think about it, Butlers 2011 NBA Draft class isnt exactly full of current stars, making his chances at being named a participant in the annual Rookie-Sophomore Challenge a remote possibility.
I really dont think about any of that, Butler, who has tentative plans to visit former teammate Ronnie Brewer in his home state of Arkansas, said before the Bulls morning shootaround Wednesday at the Air Canada Centre.
Predictably, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau also isnt thinking about accolades for Butler.
I dont worry about that stuff. I just want him to do his job: Continue to improve, each day, come in ready, alert, dont be satisfied, stay hungry, keep putting the work in. All that stuff will take care of itself, he said. Hes got to continue to do it. The thing is, you dont get there in one day. I think that the commitment thats necessary is to do it day in, day out, and to do it over a long period of time and so, thats what he has to do.
But teammate Luol Deng believes Butler has a shot.
Man, I hope so. Jimmys getting better. Hes showing how much better he got from last year and I thought so far, hes had a great season, so I hope he gets the opportunity, he said. When I came in, I came into a team that didnt make the playoffs, a team that was struggling. Jimmys on a team that for the last two years, had the best NBA record, so its tough for a coach to change things when he has guys that have been winning like that. But Jimmys shown that hes gotten so much better and when we need stops, hes definitely in the lineup. It just shows that when youre in the NBA, youve got to find something you do that the coach has no choice but to put you in and hes starting to understand that, and hes becoming very consistent with it.
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Upon examination of the leagues second-year standouts, the likes of Clevelands Kyrie Irving, Golden States Klay Thompson, Houstons Chandler Parsons, San Antonios Kawhi Leonard, Detroits Brandon Knight, Charlottes Kemba Walker and Denvers Kenneth Faried seem like virtual locks to make the game, while Orlandos Nikola Vucevic and Sacramentos Isaiah Thomas also should be in Houston. Butler is likely in a group of players that include Philadelphias Lavoy Allen and Rockets backup big man Greg Smith for the final spots on the Sophomore team.
Its part of my growth, Butler said, referring to his defensive-stopper role. Its part of a lot of young players growth, knowing your role and sticking to it, not getting outside of it, so I feel like every day I come in here, I know what its going to be, I know how to play it and I know what to do.
Among the NBAs rookie class, No. 1 overall pick and Chicago native Anthony Davis, Portlands Damian Lillard, Washingtons Bradley Beal, Charlottes Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Detroits Andre Drummond, Clevelands Dion Waiters and Golden States Harrison Barnes can be penciled in, with Torontos Terrence Ross, Orlandos Andrew Nicholson, Bostons Jared Sullinger, Charlottes Jeff Taylor and Milwaukees John Henson on the fringe. Bulls rookie point guard Marquis Teague has had his moments, but doesnt play enough to receive real consideration.
Regardless of whether or not Butlers defensive ability has garnered notice around the league, hes shown that hes good for an occasional game-changing highlight, utilizing his athleticism for crowd-pleasing above-the-rim finishes. Butler claims hes never been in a dunk contest in his entire basketball careerincluding high school, junior college and at Marquettebut hed be open to participating in the NBAs dunk contest, if invited.
Definitely. Me and Lu would have to pull some tricks out of the bag, but I guess, yeah, if I was invited, Id have to take it, he said. I dont really have a favorite dunk, to tell you the truth. I dont even know what I can do until I get out there and actually try, so I guess it would take a lot of practice.
I dont know. I feel like thats not my thing, he continued. I think Im athletic enough to compete in one.
Deng was encouraging of his reluctant understudy, relaying tales of Butlers practice-floor exploits.
Ive been telling him to. I dont know who hes got to talk to, but Ive seen some of the stuff that he does in practice and I really think that he should be in it. I dont know who hes got to talk to, but he needs to make that move, Deng said. Man, he just does everything so simple and its just to warm up. All these dunks between his legs, two hands, reverse between his legs. Theyre just real simple to him and hes a two-feet jumper. When hes in the air, he has time to do all this stuff, so I think he would be fun to watch in the slam-dunk contest.
I think if he gets more opportunity, more playing time when hes out there, hell get more chances to show his dunks. But I think that will come.