Jimmy Butler's stubbornness is now becoming legendary, as he's facing the most perilous time in his career since becoming “Jimmy Butler, All-Star.”
Butler telling the Cleveland Cavaliers “thanks, but no thanks” to a potential trade offer isn't so much of a surprise given Butler's history, the rags-to-riches story that's been told a million times over.
Butler passed on the message to the Cavaliers on Tuesday that he'd rather stay in Chicago, sources tell CSNChicago.com.
It is a surprise given Butler's relationship with the Bulls, a franchise that's seemingly refused to anoint him as the player who will help raise them from mediocrity and to some level of contention.
Turning down a chance to play for a team 12 months removed from a championship and a chance to play with this generation's greatest player is not only a throwback to eras of the past, but it's a testament to Butler's dogged belief in himself.
And although Butler doesn't have veto power in the traditional sense, telling the Cavaliers “no” is sending a tacit message to the other suitors for his services in the Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns and possibly the Denver Nuggets, who have inquired about him in the past.
His message seems to be clear: If I can turn down the Cavaliers, I'll turn down anybody.
It may not be enough to prevent the Bulls from trading him, as a team could see Butler's stance as arbitrary considering he has two years left on his contract as opposed to the one year Paul George has left in Indiana.
But Butler and his representatives have made it clear to the Bulls his preference is to stay and build in Chicago, even if they don't believe in him the same way he believes in himself.
It's not too long ago where the Bulls didn't see fit to pay Butler the $48 million he was asking for after the 2013-14 season, offering $44 million over four years and threatening to play Tony Snell over him, so the charges that Butler isn't good enough to lead a franchise fall on deaf ears when it reaches him.
Whenever Butler crosses a particular threshold and is asked about it, his answer can usually be translated as “I've always known I was going to be this good. You guys are just late.”
So with the Bulls entertaining trade offers before Thursday's draft, Butler's final recourse was to tell the Cavaliers he'd rather load up with his own crew than join LeBron James and his crew to take on the Golden State Warriors.
In this day and age where Kevin Durant is criticized for leaving Oklahoma City to join a so-called “superteam,” Butler wants the Bulls to do something, anything, in the way of competence of team building so his squad can meet James in the playoffs rather than joining him and blending into James' background.
Butler is stubborn enough to believe he can will the Bulls into contention, strong enough in self-belief that he can will himself to stay for a franchise that's indifferent on him and his ability to be a frontline player for a contender.
His stubbornness has gotten him this far and he's not gonna abandon it now, even as the signs are all around suggesting otherwise.
From the Bulls' standpoint, keeping Butler likely means they won't descend to a place in the Eastern Conference where they can obtain one of the top low draft picks, young players with upside at an affordable price. Trading him allows them to start over in a loaded draft and if they make the right deal, receive a treasure trove of potential high first-round picks in exchange.
So in essence it's a team appearing to be more aggressive in wanting to move its star and the star player being more aggressive in wanting to stay, a battle of wills of sorts.
And if the Bulls decide to trade Butler despite his obvious desire to stay and subject himself to yearly rumors and innuendo, it makes the Bulls look bad in a sense considering they have long bemoaned their inability to lure star players in their prime while trading an unlikely star in the middle of his prime to hit the reset button.
Of the 15 All-NBA members, only Butler plays for a franchise that isn't contending or actively making moves with the thought of contending in mind. The New Orleans Pelicans haven't surrounded the best team around Anthony Davis, but they did acquire DeMarcus Cousins with that thought in mind. The Utah Jazz and Milwaukee Bucks are not yet anything more than scary, but they have identified their franchise players and are working within some of the limitations presented by their respective markets.
Butler is supposed to meet with teammate Dwyane Wade in Paris this week, where Wade will likely impart some veteran wisdom on his teammate about taking control of his career in the same way Wade has.
In discussions with management, Butler and Wade expressed the belief that the Bulls aren't big moves away but the right moves from taking another step in development.
Whether the Bulls are confident enough to identify those pieces and acquire them in the meantime remains to be seen, but Butler has played the best hand he has as the clock continues to tick on the Bulls leading to draft night.
And in Butler's career, he can't foresee himself losing a battle of wills, even if he doesn't have the best hand.