Jimmy Butler Wednesday didn’t quite say the Miami Heat has no chance Thursday against the Bulls. But to paraphrase the Bluto speech from the Animal House movie that was been used—unsuccessfully, mostly–for motivation this season, “He’s not taking this anymore! Wade, he’s a dead man! Whiteside, dead. Deng…”
Of course, the only actual dead man walking anyone has seen around the Bulls lately was Butler Tuesday in the 108-92 loss in Memphis with his game long impersonation of someone overdosed on valium.
Butler, to his credit, wasn’t making any excuses Wednesday after scoring five points, his second fewest in two years, without a field goal or drive to the basket until the last five minutes when the Bulls were trailing by 15, playing 19:38 through the second, third and fourth quarters without attempting a shot.
The problem was looking back at him in the mirror and he knew it.
“I told (coach Fred Hoiberg) that was on me because it was,” Butler said in a long and reflective session with reporters after Bulls practice. “I have to go out there and do my job. I told him there’s nothing you can do whenever I’m being passive like that. It had nothing to do with Fred; it had nothing to do with my teammates. That was all me. Like I said, it was very disappointing. We talked and he said this was behind us and we have to get these next ones; he’s right. I can’t go back and be aggressive now. I’m a human being like everyone else is; stuff happens. You have to learn to let it go.
“I’m fine,” said Butler when asked about his knee and back health issues. “I’m capable of playing at an extremely high level, which I will get back to tomorrow. There’s no limitations on this.”
It probably, of course, will be too late. Both the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers won Wednesday. If Detroit wins one more game or one more Bulls loss the Bulls are eliminated against them. It’s two with the Pacers because the Bulls have the tiebreaker.
The Bulls have gotten themselves into this mess. So it’s on the veterans, the current and former All-Stars, the roster that looked so promising but lacked the promise and health it needed, to at least finish strong and at this point hope.
“Got to come out fighting tomorrow,” said Hoiberg. “It wasn’t there last night and we have to find a way to get it back tomorrow. Continue to give ourselves a chance, to go down swinging, go down fighting. That’s the big message to our guys and I hope we come out and play tomorrow.”
Butler said he understood he shares a lot of the responsibility. After all, he asked for it, and to quote Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
I think Voltaire also said that, but in the Animal House theme that fits more appropriately with this Bulls season, perhaps better to stick to the cartoon characters.
“It’s like I always say, it doesn’t matter what’s going on in anybody’s head on any given night because our job is to perform, to win games and play basketball,” agreed Butler. “So no matter what it is, you have to leave all that nonsense, b.s., whatever you want to call it, off the floor. It’s hard, yeah, but it is what it is. I think I’ve learned a lot this year. It hasn’t been going the way everyone expected it to, myself, my teammates and it is a learning curve. You learn, you move on from it, obviously, but that’s a tough one because of the fight, the race we are in because of this playoff race.”
Oh, by the way, Derrick Rose returned Tuesday from missing two games with an injured elbow, two games in which Butler averaged 26.5 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
Had Jimmy noticed that?
“Obviously, can’t co-exist,” Butler interrupted just as a reporter began the question about whether Rose and Butler, well, could coexist.
Jimmy had heard that one before. Often, as had Rose and Hoiberg. And, well, can they?
Of course, there is no reason they shouldn’t as top players rarely, if ever, are paired with those of ideally complementary abilities. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are doing OK. Sure, adjustments always have to be made, and are.
But are Butler and Rose trying to trip one another as they walk onto the court?
“The thing is (if) we would have won, nobody would have said that; if we would have come back and won the game it’s how good they could play together. But we didn’t, so that’s what it comes down to,” Butler acknowledged.
Those darn reporters. Keeping score again.
“It’s always been like that,” said Butler. “We’re not winning right now like everyone expected us to. So there’s a problem with me and him. Just like it was at the end of last year; there’s no problem. I didn’t play well. I didn’t play like I’m capable of playing. It has nothing to do with him, it has nothing to do with them. It has nothing to do with my coaches. It has everything to do with me. So it’s not if we can coexist. It’s Jimmy Butler has to play better, Jimmy Butler has to do whatever it takes to help this team win.
“He can’t do anything about that. That has nothing to do with Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose. It has everything to do with Jimmy Butler. Not being selfish; it’s just the truth.”
Which shows how serious Butler truly was as he went full third person as everyone began to look around to find that Jimmy Butler he was talking about.
But that’s been an issue with this Bulls team all season.
Who and where are those guys?
They certainly don’t seem to be the same guys we saw, heard about and expected. It seems apparent by now at 39-39 they are not sure, either.
“We talk about it,” said Butler of team sessions. “Maybe not as much as we should because I think everyone here believes when you talk about something for so long it gets repetitive. As you all (media) probably think (about) our answers whenever you ask why we start out slow, why we don’t rebound, why we don’t guard. You all write the same thing because you get the same answers. It’s the same thing when we talk amongst each other. Then we go out and the same thing happens and when we talk about it, it’s always the same thing; eventually what’s talk going to do?”
Now that makes sense even if the syntax needed some discussing.
“If you start out the way you are supposed to start out and you nip all of that in the bud right then and there, it doesn’t happen,” said Butler. “But when you have lapses like that early on and you play and have lapses and lapses and lapses, I think you get content with those lapses because you can try to find a way to get out of it when if you never put yourself in those situations to begin with so you don’t have to get yourself out of not playing defense or starting off slow. If you don’t do it you’d never be in that position to begin with.”
I sort of knew what that meant, but it was such a good run on, verbal fast break that I couldn’t let it go.
Hoiberg said he didn’t believe Rose and Butler had any personal issues or problems playing with one another, and added they’ve even been talking about working out together this summer.
Butler confirmed that and said he believes it will occur.
“We know each others’ games pretty well from being around each other on the court,” Butler said. “I think in the offseason it will really let me know where he really wants the ball, what he’s really good at; the same him with me. I think when you are seeing each other work out and train you gain a lot of respect for the individual because you see them putting in the time. I’m not saying I don’t respect him. But if he sees how much I’m in the gym every single day and I see how much he’s in the gym every single day, you know you ride with that individual. And I think that’s a very important thing.We talked about it. I think it’s going to happen; I think it will be great for both of us.”
But there’s some business to take care of first. They have to be the guys to do it.
“I agree 1,010 percent (stars have to decide the outcome),” said Butler. “I think whenever it’s time to win, those are the guys who are going to take your team where it needs to be, where it needs to go.”
And you know the Heat can’t be ready for more than 1,000 percent.