Jimmy Butler speaks about All-Star selection


Jan 29

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The new Jimmy Butler was introduced Thursday to start against the Lakers.

You know, All-Star Jimmy Butler.

“It’s an honor,” Butler told reporters before the game in his first comments about being named a first time All-Star. “I think everybody would love to make the All-Star team in their career. I feel like I’ve come a long way since I started here, since I started playing basketball. But I guess you can say that’s one thing you would want as a kid, growing up, to be in this league and to be an All-Star.’’

Butler joins teammate Pau Gasol on the Eastern Conference All-Star team for the Feb. 15 game in New York City. Teammates Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose are former All-Stars.

Butler joined Golden State’s Klay Thompson and Atlanta’s Jeff Teague as first time All Stars in the announcement of the reserves. Other reserves added were Tim Duncan, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Chris Paul and LaMarcus Aldridge in the West. In the Eastern Conference, the additions were Butler, Teague, Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Paul Millsap and Al Horford. The most prominent players omitted were Damian Lillard and DeMarcus Cousins. The commissioner will name a West replacement for starter Kobe Bryant and possibly for reserve Wade in the East as both are injured. The West starters are Stephen Curry and Bryant, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol and Blake Griffin. The East starters are John Wall, Kyle Lowry, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Pau Gasol. The Lakers Thursday also did a t-shirt giveaway to honor returning Pau Gasol with Kobe Bryant in attendance even right after shoulder surgery,

As for Butler, he was pleased but typically understated.

“It just goes to show that I’m confident in my game,” said Butler. “You can say it’s All-Star worthy right now, but I still feel like I have a long way to go to get where I want to get, to get where we want to get as a team. The work this summer, it’s starting to pay off, but I don’t want it to just end right here. There’s still a lot better I can become.’’

Butler said he first heard Thursday morning and was with his mother and brothers for lunch afterward.

“We all sat down at lunch and I guess I just kind of told them there,” Butler said. “They were much more excited than I was because I had known for a couple of hours. They probably gave me a thousand hugs and said congratulations. My trainer Chris [Johnson], he put it in my head over the summer. He was like that’s the first step. You want to be an All-Star. So I started thinking about it way earlier than the beginning of the season or a month ago. I’m telling you all, Chris Johnson did so much for my confidence and for me on the floor, it’s incredible. It’s still a learning curve for me and I still have to get used to some things, but that would be one of them. Finding a way to be effective when a team does double-team or trap or do something like that. At the same time, you should take it as a compliment. I guess you’re doing something right on that end of the floor.’’

So All-Star game defense?

“They might not, but I do (play defense),” said Butler. “If you see me diving all over the floor and people are like, ‘What is he doing?’ I can’t help but be the player that I am.’’

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said he was thrilled for Butler.

“It’s great news,” said Thibodeau. “We’re thrilled for him. He has worked extremely hard to put himself in that position. I know his teammates are excited for him. The most important thing is what he’s done for our team to help carry the load, being down players early on. It was exactly what we needed. The fact that he’s a two-way player and doesn’t take any plays off, he’s had a great first half of the season. I think the important thing is just the way he approached it. I think taking the weight off was critical for him. I think he had a great training camp. He hit the ground running. Each year he’s been with us, he’s gotten a lot better. It’s his drive, his intelligence. Obviously, you can’t do that without being very talented. When you combine all those things, it’s huge.

“In many ways, he’s similar to Derrick in terms that they’re power guards,” said Thibodeau. “And so they can score different ways. You want them to play to their strengths. Jimmy is very good running the floor, moving without the ball, driving the ball, getting to the line. You can post him. You can run pick and roll with him. And he’s gained a lot of confidence with his shooting. He’s a very efficient scorer. One thing that gets overlooked some is his playmaking ability. He’s starting to see more double-teams now. As time goes on and he figures that out, he’ll find ways to do different things. He wants to win. That’s the most important thing. He can hurt you different ways. He can get people in foul trouble. He can beat you with the pass. But the biggest thing is he helps you win.”

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