By Seth Lakso
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jimmy Butler took Friday’s 112-95 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers hard. It didn’t help that he finished 3-for-15 from the floor and saw his shooting percentage drop to 36.3 percent on the season.
"I'm playing terrible," he told reporters on Friday. "I'm not making no shots. I'm not helping on offense. I got to fix it. I don't know what it is, but I got to figure it out on my own."
On Saturday, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau took to the defense of his third-year swingman.
“He’ll bounce back,” Thibodeau said prior to Saturday’s game with the Charlotte Bobcats. “Jimmy’s a good player. This is all part of it. I don’t care how good you are; you’re going to go through things like this.
“As I said yesterday, Jimmy has had an unusual season in terms of it’s been hard for him to build any rhythm because of all the injuries,” continued Thibodeau. “But he’ll keep grinding away.”
Over his past six games, Butler is just 25-for-83 from the floor. However, he’s still made his impact felt, as he’s often assigned the opposing team’s toughest offensive player.
“(Butler) doesn’t need to shoot the ball well for him to play well for us,” said Thibodeau. “His ability to guard multiple positions is huge. He’s going to take on a challenge every night. He’s going to guard twos, three, fours and, in some cases, point guards. There are not many guys in this league that can do that.”
In Butler’s three seasons at Marquette, he never shot below 49 percent from the floor. Last season, he shot 46.7 percent from the field for the Bulls.
“This is probably the first time he’s gone through something like this,” said Thibodeau. “You know, if you shoot great in this league, you’re missing half your shots. It’s not any easy league to shoot in. I think a couple of easy baskets will help.”
Staying with the routine helps to lessen distractions
Tom Thibodeau’s joke about him dating Kate Upton on Friday resulted in more than a few laughs, but it underscored how he’s taught his team to avoid the distractions that derail so many teams.
Thibodeau’s players have become accustomed to hearing rumors about their coach’s job security, but it’s a consistent routine that they began developing early on this season, that’s help quite the noise.
“They’ve gotten used to you guys,” said Thibodeau. “When you lay out your plan at the beginning of the season, you talk about all the things that pop up during the season, and there’s always injuries, trades, things going your way, not going your way, the schedule, early games, late games, back-to-back games, there’s all that stuff. That’s why it’s so important to establish a routine of how you’re going to prepare and what needs to go into each and every day. You don’t want to get away from that.”
Before Friday’s loss, Clippers coach Doc Rivers — who had Thibodeau as an assistant during him time in Boston — came out strongly in support of the Bulls coach.
Thibodeau’s reaction was to thank Rivers and then to get right back to work.
“In this league, it’s very easy to get distracted,” he said. “You could find one every day, and I think the important thing is to build the right habits so you can be ready to play each and every night. I think the good teams do that, and that’s the challenge.”
According to coach Thibodeau, both Kirk Hinrich (hamstring) and Derrick Rose (right knee) stayed in Chicago to rehab their injuries rather than make the flight to Charlotte for Saturday’s one-game road trip.
Both players are expected to join the team for their six-game West Coast swing which beings Jan. 29.
“It just makes sense because of the circumstances,” said Thibodeau. “You know, a one-day trip when we were getting in so late. This way both guys can do all their rehab work."