It wasnt the contract extension that would have made the most noise Tuesday that award would have gone to Taj Gibson, still without a deal but the Bulls continued to shore up their future by picking up a third-year option on small forward Jimmy Butler.
As a rookie, Butler averaged 2.6 points and 1.3 rebounds in 42 games last year. Butler will make a little more than 1.17 million in 2013, and has a team option for 2014.
Following Tuesdays practice, Butler spoke off to the side with Bulls general manager Gar Forman about the option.
Im blessed to be here, for one, but I just got through talking to Gar and thanking him for the opportunity to be here and be around these great players, great basketball people, and an amazing organization, Butler said.
Like all rookies, Butlers first season was put into motion before he had a time to acclimate to the pro game. Last seasons lockout wiped out training camp and the preseason, so Butlers first real taste of the NBA was regular season game action.
Because of that, he was unable to carve out a real niche playing behind Luol Deng, Ronnie Brewer and Korver. But with latter two departing via free agency, Butler knew a bigger role was in store in 2012. So he dedicated himself during the offseason to improve his game to match his increased responsibility off the bench.
I found myself in here each and every day, whether it was in the weight room or on the court, Butler said of the offseason. It was always something that (Tom Thibodeau) wanted me to do better. And whenever he felt like I was OK at that, he raised the bar even more. So if it was ball-handling, shooting, attacking the rim or pick and roll, it was always another notch from him that I could be better at.
Butler averaged 20.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in four Las Vegas Summer League games, and 5.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 steals in seven preseason games, including one start.
That improvement and commitment to learn from his veteran teammates, Butler said, were reasons the Bulls decision to pick up his option through next season became an easy one.
They see how hard I work, how much I want to stay here, and day-in and day-out Im here early and leave late, he said. But I learn a lot, too. So I thank my teammates every day for giving me an opportunity, because they show me how hard you have to work to stay here.