Chicago Bulls' guard Jimmy Butler isn’t your typical NBA All-Star.
He wasn’t a McDonald’s All-American, he didn’t play college ball for a powerhouse, blue blood program, he’s not the son of an NBA player, nor did he have a breakout game during March Madness.
Take a look at his pre-draft scouting report on NBA.com:
Butler is projected as a shooting guard/small forward, and if he sticks on an NBA roster, it'll be because of his ability, and willingness, to defend. He guarded all five positions at various times during his college career, and though that won’t happen in the NBA, he has the potential to be a lockdown guy on all three perimeter spots. He jousted against the likes of super-quick points Kemba Walker and Tu Holloway in college and did an effective job.
Other than college basketball enthusiasts, most casual NBA fans had never heard of Butler when the Bulls took him with the 30th pick in the 2011 NBA draft. But due to multiple injuries to key players, most notably former league MVP Derrick Rose, Butler has taken many by surprise over the last few years.
Typical of Chicago media, who usually never lets a good narrative go to waste, a “competition” was created between Butler and Rose, the team’s longstanding franchise player.
After the Bulls struggled against the Cavaliers in last season’s playoffs, the talk in city was about Butler and Rose not meshing well. That narrative carried into the preseason when Butler signed a max deal. When Rose showed up to training camp with a high top fade, the talk on social media said that the former MVP stole Butler’s hairstyle.
From all accounts, they aren’t on each other’s Christmas card lists.
Maybe Butler’s ascension was a drastic change for a team that once looked to Rose and Joakim Noah for leadership.
"I don't want to paint this gloomy picture,” Noah recently told ESPN.com. “We have issues. But it's early. There is a lot of skill here. Even with all our issues, we are second [now sixth] in the East. We are still trying to figure out who we are."
The media and fan narrative surrounding Butler’s comments about head coach Fred Hoiberg’s style says that he has changed somewhat. He has been much more outspoken than ever.
“I believe in the guys in this locker room, yeah,” Butler told the Chicago Sun-Times. “But I also believe in … we probably have to be coached a lot harder at times. I’m sorry. I know Fred’s a laid-back guy, and I respect him for that. But when guys aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do, you’ve got to get on guys. Myself included. You’ve gotta do what you’re supposed to do when you’re out there playing basketball.”
After a recent loss, he told NBC, “We weren’t doing what we’re supposed to be doing, what we wrote on that board before the game. Nobody spoke up. I did, but probably not enough times. I think he has to hold everybody accountable, from the No. 1 player, all the way down. Everyone has to do their job.”
After all, Butler wanted to get paid like a franchise player. He knows the responsibility that comes along with that. Maybe he thinks this is the opportune time to step up into a leadership position. He sees that Noah and Rose, along with Taj Gibson aren’t the players they used to be.
To outside observers, Butler’s critique of Hoiberg may come off as wishy washy. After all, Butler was allegedly of one the players who went to team management to get then-coach Tom Thibodeau fired.
It didn’t look good for the Bulls to lose the next game after Butler’s comments came to light. Especially since to team they lost to, the Brooklyn Nets, hadn’t won a road game in over a month.
Both teams coming in had similar problems. Nets coach Lionel Hollins made similar comments about his team. He came at them over their effort. Brooklyn, a team with far less talent that the Bulls, came into the United Center and got the win.
Most notably, the Nets players appeared to respect their coach despite the tough season they were having.
Butler’s criticism is ultimately a good thing for the team. At this point, everyone he called out has to step it up. Most notably Hoiberg, who realizes that he’s not the icon at this level that he was on Iowa State’s bench in years past. The NBA is a different breed.
The criticism of Butler’s leadership style reeks of “Who does this guy think he is??”
Honestly, we shouldn’t be surprised at this point. Butler knows he’s the man. Sometimes, the guy in the de facto leadership role is going to use motivational tactics when things aren’t going like they should.
There’s nothing to see here, folks.