Despite loss, Butler impressive in first NBA start for injured Deng

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Despite loss, Butler impressive in first NBA start for injured Deng

Luol Deng missed his first game of the regular season Saturday due to a strained right hamstring suffered in the third quarter of Fridays overtime win in Boston, leading to second-year swingman Jimmy Butler making his first NBA regular-season start Deng's status is day-to-day, according to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau in Saturdays 85-82 overtime loss to Memphis at the United Center.
Butler played a Deng-like 47 minutes, 43 seconds in the contest and scored a career-high 18 points, while making Grizzlies leading scorer Rudy Gay work extremely hard for his 16 points, which he got on 6-for-19 shooting on the evening.
More: Grizzlies halt Bulls' overtime streak
Thibodeau, obviously not in a good mood after the setback in his teams third overtime game in as many contests, was complimentary of Butlers performance.
I thought he started slowly and got going, the coach said. Overall, I thought he played very well.
While the team-focused Butler was disappointed in the defeat, he took some solace in knowing that he played in a fashion worthy of his mentor, a first-time NBA All-Star last season and the leagues reigning and current minutes-per-game leader.
Before the game, he was like, Go out there and play, dont worry about anything. This is Lu talking to me. He was just like, Play the game. Play hard. Do what youve been doing to get you to this point. He was just coaching me up and came in at halftime, told me what I can work on, what I can do better and what to keep doing, so its great to have guys like that in your corner, he said. Yeah, I am tired. But I feel like Id be more tired if we had won the game, because now I feel like everybody can do something to get better. Even when you win, you can do something to get better, but if you lose, it hurts that much more.
Teammate Joakim Noah is a big inspiration for me. I look over there, I see him clapping and cheering. He wants to win the game. He has the utmost confidence in me, so it definitely helps to have him over there.
Related: Don't blow Noah benching out of proportion
Regarding his defense on Gay, a talented offensive player with excellent athleticism and a size advantage on Butler, the Marquette product made a crucial adjustment after the Grizzlies small forward started to get it going in the second quarter.
Just play hard, try to contest everything. I feel like he started to whip my expletive at one point and just had to man up. We had to stop him. If we want a chance to win this game, weve got to get some stops. I said that to myself, Jo said that to me, Booz said that to me. It was a different matchup for me, Butler explained. Just tried to crowd him, more than what I was trying to crowd. Make everything difficult for him. Hes a great player. Really, really talented. Big-time players make big-time shots. Thats what he was out there doing.
After Deng exited Fridays contest, Butler stepped up in the games extra session and he did the same thing Saturday, deviating from his usual role as simply a defensive specialist and hustle guy, but sometimes reluctant offensive player. Instead, he continued to show a knack for offensive rebounding and displayed a new-found willingness to make plays.
I feel like thats what Lu does for this team, so when hes out, Ive got to try to fill his shoes. Really big shoes to fill, dont get me wrong. But all I can do is try the best that I can, he said. Just knowing when they turn their head, cut, get inside position, knowing when your teammates are going to shoot the ball. All of that factors into offensive rebounding, but I feel like a lot of its hustle.
I feel like thats my job, to hustle and play hard. Tired, fresh legs, Ill do whatever it takes to help this team win.
By sheer coincidence, Butlers family was in Chicago from Texas to see his first NBA start and saw that hes already well-received in the Windy City, as he got a nice ovation when introduced in the Bulls starting lineup.
It was great. It brought me back to my college days to tell you the truth. I love this city, he said. It was crazy because my family was here, so they got to witness it.
It was nerve-wracking at first. I got frustrated, I was rushing things, Butler continued. Everybody was just like, Calm down. Its like coming off the bench. Just play hard.
I feel good. I see how Lu feels, obviously.

New teammates, new changes put Jimmy Butler at ease

New teammates, new changes put Jimmy Butler at ease

The earrings were gleaming from Jimmy Butler’s ears, as he was his usual-disarming self with a playful smile and wink during his question-and-answer session with the Chicago media.

At a point, he took a deep breath as he looked around the Advocate Center with some of his new teammates walking around, some of whom had to carry nameplates because they weren’t recognizable faces in this new setting.

And because new faces are in town, it means two things: some faces left town and for Butler’s sake, the new ones will only know him as “Jimmy Butler, All-Star”, not the guy who was a late first-round pick, not the player who couldn’t get off the bench.

Butler didn’t bring up his comfort level, but when asked, he didn’t deny things appear to be a bit easier this time around.

“Does it make me feel more comfortable? I mean, to an extent, yeah, because then you can never say how you may have think that I’ve changed,” Butler said.

Butler’s ascension rubbed some the wrong way last season, and it’s been spoken about ad nauseam, whether it was true or not. But the moment of honesty wasn’t so much a shot at Derrick Rose or Joakim Noah, who departed for the Knicks in various forms; however it was an admission to his level of security, one that perhaps can lead to a more peaceful existence with all the core pieces.

The one way he’s always lead and will always speak to, is by example and work ethic. It’s one that turned him into an All-Star and Olympian.

[MORE BULLS: Wade in Bulls jersey: same material, different reality]

“I think everybody that’s on this roster now just knows how hard that I’ve worked to get to this spot that I’m at,” Butler said. “They’ve seen it. They’ve witnessed it. All they’ve been around for me is this point of my career. I don’t know if it sounds bad. But I think that all these guys look at, ‘If Jimmy works like that and if I work like that, I’ll be in the same position that he’s in.’ I’ll be more than happy to let you have that position because I think hard work can get you anywhere that you want to get to.”

So with that, Butler volunteered himself to Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, to be the sacrificial lamb of wrath if need be. Easy to say if he doesn’t actually believe Hoiberg is capable of going from nice guy to madman at a moment’s notice but Butler laid it out for the record.

“I told Fred, ‘As much as you can, use me as an example. I want you to really get on my tail about every little thing.’,” Butler said. “Because if Doug or Tony or whoever it may be is watching coach talk to me like that, it’s going to be like, ‘If he can talk to Jimmy like that, I know he’s going to come at me a certain way.’ That’s what I try to remind him every day. I think he’s ready for that. I’m a player. I’m coachable like everybody else. I want that. I need that.”

The additions of Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo add championship receipts to a locker room that needs it, considering the Bulls want to play their young pieces. Wade and Rondo, the Bulls privately believe, will help Butler deal with everything that comes with a new role of leadership — and by proxy, Butler’s relationship and expectations of Hoiberg.

“He was put in a position last year he wasn't familiar with and I think we'll see growth from it,” Bulls general manager Gar Forman said. “The great thing about Jimmy is you know he comes in each and every day and gives 100 percent. He gets better every year and I think we'll continue to see that growth in his game and him as a person. I think that experience with USA basketball was real positive for him.”

Whether the trio lives up to the “Three Alphas” nickname remains to be seen, but after having a locker room with too many low-pitched voices, perhaps the change in pace — any change in pace — will be a welcome one for Butler.

“The Alpha thing, I think we’ll be just fine. Everybody is going to have something to say,” he said. “As long as everybody is listening and is willing to take some criticism if you’re doing something wrong, just like if you’re doing something right I’m going to tell you, there’s good and bad in everything you do. At the end of the day, as long as we win games, it won’t matter.”

Bulls' Jimmy Butler wants tough coaching from Fred Hoiberg this season

Bulls' Jimmy Butler wants tough coaching from Fred Hoiberg this season

 

Much was made of the Jimmy Butler-Fred Hoiberg dynamic last year.

As the duo head into Year 2 together with a very different Bulls roster, Jimmy Butler was very clear about one thing he wants out of his coach this season.

“I told Fred, ‘As much as you can, use me as an example,’” Butler said during the team’s media day on Monday. “I want you to really get on my tail about every little thing because if Doug (McDermott) or Tony (Snell) or whoever it may be, if watching coach talk to me like that he’s going to be like ‘If he can talk to Jimmy like that I know he’s going to come at me a certain way.’ So that’s what I try to remind him everyday. I think he’s ready for that. I’m a player. I’m coachable like everybody else, but I want that. I need that.”

Butler’s show of confidence in his coach didn’t stop at his belief that Hoiberg could follow through on Butler’s desire to be coached hard. The All-Star believes Hoiberg has improved as a coach heading into his second year on the job.

“It was his first year last year and I think he studied himself and us and the way we were up and down in so many areas of the game last year,” Butler said. “He’s trying to correct it. That’s just like anybody going into the offseason. He didn’t just not work. He studied and got better at what he needed to get better at. I think he’s ready moving forward.”