Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade are going to take the Bulls as far as they can go this season, which was once again on display in Friday’s 128-121 overtime victory over the Phoenix Suns.
Butler had two clutch jump shots down the stretch in regulation, and then it was Wade with 10 points in overtime, Wade and Butler combining for 17 of the franchise equaling high 20 points in the overtime period.
“That’s what great players do,” said Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg. “They step up when you need them the most. Jimmy obviously had a tough night shooting the ball through the first three quarters. It’s what he’s been doing all year, taking over games in the fourth; tonight was no different. Put the ball in his hands, and he stepped up and made plays. That (overtime) dunk Wade had was unbelievable; should give him another week off. The great thing about those two guys is they can manufacture their own offense. They are guys who are good in isolation and get to the rim and get themselves fouled and thought they did a great job of that in making our comeback.”
So perhaps they were impacted as much as any with Thursday’s trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to Oklahoma City for youngsters Cameron Payne and Joffrey Lauvergne and veteran Anthony Morrow. None played Friday.
But both Butler and Wade before Friday’s game said they are content to roll with things as they change.
“I was in the locker room with both of them afterwards,” said Butler. “I said the same thing I always do: ‘Have a great day.’ Me not knowing that the trade went through yet. Obviously, I talked to Taj and Doug both right afterwards. Forever my guys, hate to see guys go like that. But it’s a business at the end of the day. Everybody has to accept that. No, I don’t (take it personally about who to build around). I don’t care if anybody wants to build around me. Just win. At the end of the day, when you win, everything is fine whether you’re built around or not built around. Everybody’s happy. All of that is just background noise. I just want to win at all costs.
“I’m a basketball player,” said Butler. “I’m not up (with management). I don’t have an office up there. If I did have an office up there, I probably wouldn’t be standing up right here in front of you getting ready for a game. The way this organization is going for me is I’m going to go home, eat some food, take a nap and then we got the Phoenix Suns. You can always be moved. I enjoyed my (All-Star) break. So I’m in high spirits right now. Obviously, I miss my guys, those two. It hasn’t set in that they’re my enemy now. But I think it will whenever we have to go against each other. I have one job to do and it’s not to worry about whether someone is loyal or not. It’s to go out there and hoop. I think they’re going to put us in the best position possible to win games here. I think they’re doing that. What they’re doing is what they believe is right for this team. Our job is to go out there and make it work. Win games to the best or our ability. Loyalty, no loyalty, go out there and compete.”
Wade has been through these things longer than Butler with vast changes over his career in Miami, so he understood.
“That's the toughest part about this game,” said Wade. “You get to know guys. Then they're gone the next day. But as players, we all understand that it is a business. The same thing goes in free agency. Players understand why other players leave. It's a business. It's mostly just about the way people handle things. Taj was someone who I've played against for a long time, had a lot of battles against, who I had a lot of respect for as an opponent but as a teammate even more respect. He was a guy who didn't complain about nothing. It's very rare that you have a guy who's that selfless, just the ultimate teammate from that standpoint. And Dougie, I told Doug thanks for giving me my number when I came here. I appreciate that. He left before I could give him that gift. Dang. But I just want the best for them. You want to see Doug grow into the player that he wants to be, into the player they drafted him to be. It's unfortunate right now that it's not in this (Bulls) jersey, but this world works crazy.
"We're 28-29 (before Friday),” noted Wade. “It's not like we're 40-and-something. The guys are going to come in, they're going to have to plug in and do their job and do what they can for this team. It will be different than what Taj brought and what Doug brought. From that standpoint, yeah, we're going to miss those guys. Tt the top, they decided it was a good move. As players, our job is to come in and play with who's on the roster. We're all teammates. We got 25 games left. The unfortunate part about everything is that we have no rotation. We don't know that right now. But that's no excuse. No one is going to care, our opponents. So we have to come out here as professionals, play hard and figure this thing out fast and hopefully play better the last 25 than we played in the previous 25.
"We're in seventh place, so yeah, we're still a playoff team,” said Wade. “I'll believe it until we're not. We're losing Taj, the heart and soul of this team. We're losing a tough component of this unit. We got to see how we respond. Him and Robin (Lopez) down there together helped us with the rebounding and offensive rebounding. We got a lot to replace from that standpoint, but today we're still a playoff team. We have one of the better (players) in this league over here (in Butler). Whenever you have one of the top 10 players in the game, you got a chance to win every night. And then we got some other guys who can play as well, me included. We still got a chance.
“I've got 25 games left to get us to the playoffs,” said Wade. “That's what I've got to focus on now. The front office does what the front office does. It's their job to come up with what their plan and direction will be. As players, it's our job to play with what we are assigned to play with. So no, it's not my concern at this point. I'm not worried about it. I want to get back to being Dwyane, having fun with this team the second half of the season, and just seeing what we can do. It's no pressure. We've just got to go out there and play basketball and put us in a position where hopefully we are a playoff team.”
It was a good start Friday, and in large part due to Wade’s team high 23 points.