Could Bulls' Butler make an All-Star weekend appearance?

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Could Bulls' Butler make an All-Star weekend appearance?

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.

It sure sounds like Jimmy Butler regrets being labeled as the face of the Bulls franchise

It sure sounds like Jimmy Butler regrets being labeled as the face of the Bulls franchise

Jimmy Butler didn't come close to following in his trainer's footsteps, but Mr. G. Buckets Unplugged still proved enlightening.

Following a wild Thursday, Butler hopped on the phone Friday afternoon from Paris to chat with Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times about the deal that sent the former face of the Bulls to rejoin Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota.

Butler wanted to be labeled as the face of the franchise, but his comments seem to reflect the old adage "be careful what you wish for."

"It doesn't mean a damn thing. I guess being called the face of an organization isn't as good as I thought. We all see where being the so-called face of the Chicago Bulls got me. So let me be just a player for the Timberwolves, man. That's all I want to do. I just want to be winning games, do what I can for my respective organization and let them realize what I'm trying to do.

"Whatever they want to call me... face... I don't even want to get into that anymore. Whose team is it? All that means nothing. You know what I've learned? Face of the team, eventually, you're going to see the back of his head as he's leaving town, so no thanks."

Whoa.

Butler also spoke about trying to block out all the trade rumors while on vacation in France:

"I mean, I had so many people telling me what could possibly happen, but I just got to the point where I stopped paying attention to it. 

"It's crazy because it reminds you of what a business this is. You can't get mad at anybody. I'm not mad - I'm not. I just don't like the way some things were handled, but it's OK."

Butler doesn't have to be the sole face of the franchise in Minnesota on a team that has two of the top homegrown young stars in the game in Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

Bulls have emerged from a ball of confusion to parts unknown

Bulls have emerged from a ball of confusion to parts unknown

The big red button was pressed and Jimmy Butler was ejected from the Chicago Bulls’ present and future as they finally made the decision to rebuild after two years of resisting.

Trading Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the ability to draft Lauri Markkanen represents the Bulls committing to the draft lottery and fully going in on the Fred Hoiberg experience for the foreseeable future, as the prospect of trying to improve through shrewd moves in the East while also facing the likelihood of Butler commanding a $200 million contract wasn’t palatable to their pocketbook or their sensibilities.

On one hand, making a decision — any decision — can be applauded on some levels after years of their relationship with Butler being complicated at best. But the idea of rebuilding and the application of it are often two separate ideals, because the evaluation of a rebuild can often be as murky as the land the Bulls just left.

“What we’ve done tonight is set a direction,” Bulls Executive Vice President John Paxson said. “We’ve gone to the past where we make the playoffs, but not at the level we wanted to. You know in this league, success is not determined that way. We’ve decided to make the change and rebuild this roster.”

“We’re gonna remain patient and disciplined. The development of our young players is important. The coaching staff has done a phenomenal job. We’re gonna continue down that path. We’re not gonna throw huge money at people.”

The Bulls aren’t exclusive to this territory, the land in which they’ve inhibited for the last couple seasons, which makes the Butler trade about more than one thing.

Not equal parts but part basketball, part fiscal, part narrative and finally, masking some mistakes that have been made over the years but are not as easily rectified. Trading Butler seemed to be the easiest vessel used as an elixir to wash away missteps. Trading a star in Butler is also the easiest way to get heat off a coach or front office in today’s NBA, because few franchises like to make wholesale changes midstream or early in it.

Trading Butler — along with shipping their second-round pick in a box marked for the Bay Area — was also financial, considering many felt if he made it through the tumultuous evening that he would finish his career as a Bull, raking in a hefty sum of cash on the back end.

It’s because of these factors that the evaluation of this trade and subsequently, a painful rebuild, cannot be in a vacuum. (Note: No rebuild is painless, it’s the size of the migraine a team can endure that determines the type of aspirin necessary).

Just taking a look at the players the Bulls got back in the Butler trade illustrates the gray area they’ve now immersed themselves into. The Bulls fell in love with Dunn before he came to the NBA, and aren’t as bothered by him being a 23-year old second-year player who struggled mightily in his rookie year.

Zach LaVine is an explosive athlete who can put up 20 every night — when he’s on the floor. Recovering from an ACL injury is no given, as evidenced by a young phenom who once graced the United Center hardwood before his body betrayed him.

And Lauri Markkanen is a rookie with promise, but nobody can make any promises on what type of career he’ll have, or if he’ll fulfill that promise with this franchise in the requisite time.

“There’s always risk in anything,” Paxson said. “But here’s a guy that’s 22 years old and averages 20 a game (LaVine). He can score the basketball, he can run. He can shoot the basketball. He shot over 40 percent from three. That’s an area we’re deficient in. Markkanen shot over 40 from three in college. Again, it’s an area where we’re deficient. It’s trying to find the type of player that fits the way that we want to play going forward.”

[RELATED: Jimmy Butler bids emotional farewell to Chicago]

General Manager Gar Forman stated after the announcement of the trade that the Bulls would have to hit on their next few draft picks to stop this rebuild from being elongated, but even then there’s no guarantee.

The Sacramento Kings drafted a rookie of the year, then two future max contract players in the same year, followed by another player who’ll command close to max money very soon. But nobody remembers Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside and Isaiah Thomas leading the Kings from the wilderness and into glory, unless recent memory has been scrubbed away from everyone.

Inconsistencies in organizational structure combined with multiple coaching changes and an inability to develop the right young players kept the Kings on the dais of the draft lottery every April.

The Timberwolves, heck, nobody could say they missed when selecting LaVine, Karl-Anthony Towns and getting Andrew Wiggins in a trade for Kevin Love. It’s because it takes more than the right draft picks, or in the Sacramento Kings’ case, the right infrastructure and environment, to foster an atmosphere of winning.

The Bulls were ready, despite their claims that this was a decision that came across their table right before the draft, because common sense has to be applied. No team makes knee-jerk, franchise-altering decisions that will have reverberations for years to come on the whim of a trade offer from Tom Thibodeau. This was likely decided when the Bulls went out with a whimper in the first-round after shocking the NBA world in the first two games against the Boston Celtics, when their fortunes changed on the trifle of Rajon Rondo’s broken wrist.

It was decided that Hoiberg, the man who endured chants calling for his firing in the second half of the decisive Game 6 loss, needed to have the right type of roster to be accurately judged as a successful hire or failure, and Butler couldn’t be part of those plans.

And just as Hoiberg has been dealt an uneven hand, Butler wasn’t given the type of roster that would accurately judge how he could flourish as a leader, max player and face of the franchise — and probably had less time to show one way or the other relative to his coach.

The longer Butler stayed, the more empowered he would become as his individual accomplishments would rack up because of the dedication he applied to game, the drive he had to place himself in the upper echelon of NBA players.

The better Butler got, the more pressure Hoiberg would be under to mix and match his roster and to foster a relationship with Butler he might’ve been ill-suited to fix. The better Butler got, the more pressure the front office would be under to maximize a prime it didn’t see coming, a prime they can’t truly figure when there’s an expiration date on given Butler’s unlikely rise to stardom.

So getting rid of Butler was the solution and the Bulls have now chosen their path, definitively and with confidence. Emerging from a ball of confusion to parts unknown, from one land of uncertainty to another.