Jimmy Butler ready to Buck some trends


Apr 29

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“Jimmy, Jimmy, he’s our man;
If he can’t do it…
Jimmy Can?”

Stop right there, Bulls scoring leader Jimmy Butler was saying following Bulls practice Wednesday. It’s not exactly the classic team mantra, but Butler says he’s had enough. It’s on him. And if he does what he’s supposed to do, the Bucks stop right there Thursday in Milwaukee.

“You can sit here and say we have to do this, we’ve got to block out, we have to rebound, we’ve got to guard. But if I’m saying it and not doing it, ain’t nobody paying attention to it,” Butler said in a harsh personal critique basically aimed at himself. “So if I’m preaching it and showing I’m capable of doing it, everybody will follow suit.

“I’m not the type of player that should shoot five for 20,” Butler said, though everyone let it go even if it was five for 21 in the Game 4 loss. “I have to be a better leader. I think I’m shying back on some aspects of the game. I’m in a completely different role than I was the last few years. I think this team looks to me to score, facilitate and to lead. Emotionally and mentally. And I didn’t do that. And it will change.”

No one is faulting Butler for the Bulls having lost the last two games to fall to a 3-2 lead with Game 6 in Milwaukee Thursday. Derrick Rose was five of 20, Mike Dunleavy was scoreless, the reserves were outscored again, Joakim Noah missed back to back fourth quarter layups. Though Butler was unusually harsh on himself after the game even though he had 20 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and four steals.

With Rose’s unsteady return from knee surgery and then surgery again in February, Butler cemented a role as the team’s mortar, to hold things together with his defense and leading the team in scoring. He leads the team in scoring in this series at 26.6 per game, which is fifth most in an offensive minded playoffs outside the Bulls/Bucks series.

But it seemed obvious Butler was upset after the Game 4 loss when he had 23 first half points and then got just five second half shots. A lot of that had to do with the Bucks as coach Tom Thibodeau was calling plays for Butler. But the Bucks with the Bulls lethargic offense did a good job closing around Butler. Butler declined to speak with reporters afterward even though he was the team’s high scorer with 33.

Butler didn’t elaborate, but he seemed to be searching out shot in the Game 5 loss in the United Center and was one of seven in the fourth quarter, two of 12 in the second half. So after Game 5, he opened up to reporters that he had lost his way a bit, that he didn’t concentrate on defense first, be the leader he was supposed to be with this team this season given his All-Star status. No excuse, he said, that he is averaging a playoffs most 44.2 minutes per game.

“I’m in great enough shape where I can handle the heavy minutes,” said Butler. “I never complain. I’ve got to produce, heavy minutes or not. I’ve got to make shots, make plays happen.’’

Butler emphasized he also has to get back to being the guy who got him here, defense first to set up offense, doing what’s necessary and not worrying so much about the numbers during the game but the numbers at the bottom of the box score after the game.

“Be the person to get us going, on both ends, especially the defensive end,” said Butler. “I’m supposed to be the one setting the tone. I haven’t done that and that’s the reason we’ve gotten off to slow starts. I’m not worried about my stats; I could care less about that. I go home, my brothers and my trainer, they’re telling me if it’s going to change, it’s going to start with you. Not on offense but on defense. When you watch the film, you can see it. I’m worried about offense too much, I haven’t guarded the way I’m capable of. I’ll fix it.”

No one among the Bulls is asking Butler to take this on himself; in reality, no one wants anyone to try to do too much. In a sense, it’s the burden of going from star role player to star. No, it’s not the contract. It’s assured for restricted free agent Butler now regardless of what he does in these playoffs. He’s proven himself these last few years. It’s not about the money; he’s getting paid. It’s about the journey and the destination, both the team’s and Butler’s. He’s come a long way with his own formula of hard work, commitment and relentless effort and desire. Not with a few fancy jump shots. He was saying he needs to be Jimmy Butler. Not the guy who just comes to the door.

“The numbers say I’ve scored the ball pretty well this year,” Butler noted. “I think I get stuck on that at times to prove I can play on the offensive end instead of doing what got me to this point, which is defense. I really do have to get back to it. I’m not saying it because the cameras are on me right now. I’m saying it because that’s what it’ll take to win. Somebody has to lead us defensively. I think we score the ball well enough. If I give all my energy on defense and get some stops, the other four guys will score.

“That’s what you want as a leader,” Butler said. “You want to do right and hope your teammates can follow. I’m good with that. I’m going to lead in more ways than one.”

“21, 21, he’s got pluck;
He’s ready to help shoot down a Buck.”

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