Jimmy Butler paid back those who bet on him


Jan 28

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Sometimes you have to take a chance on people, both in sports and in life.

That people did perhaps saved the life of a kid from Tomball, Texas and perhaps helped save the Bulls.

That’s because the little known, rugged defensive player from Marquette, Jimmy Butler, Thursday was selected to be an NBA All-Star for the second time. Less than five years after basically every NBA team passed him in the 2011 draft and half a life ago after Butler was kicked out of his home to make it somehow.

“It shows they (Bulls) took a chance on me,” Butler said before the Bulls played the Lakers Thursday to open their road trip. “A lot of people did throughout my life. I never was a really good basketball player. I’ve always just been a hard worker. I think they saw that and are seeing that now. I think it’s paying off. They are a big part of this, Gar and Pax, they took a big chance on me and I thank them for that as much as I can.”

Butler is paying a lot of people back as well. He’s become the Bulls leading scorer and regarded as one of the best two-way players in the NBA.

“I think he’s absolutely one of the top players in this league because he does it on both ends,” agreed Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg. “You can’t say that about many players in this league; night in and night out they’re going to go out and do it on both ends. Every night he is guarding the other team’s best perimeter player. He is handling a lot of the scoring load and ball handling and playmaking responsibilities as well. So he does everything for this team.”

Butler also is planning a bigger party than last year in his first All-Star appearance.

“I’ll probably have more people with me; I probably can afford it now,” Butler said with a laugh.

He signed a five-year $95 million extension with the Bulls last summer.

“It means a lot, to be honored like that and be an All-Star,” Butler said. “It just goes to show it’s the group of guys I play with here in this locker room, the coaches, the organization, the confidence they have in me. But more than anything my trainers and my brothers who don’t get the hype, who don’t get recognized as much as they should. I think they are a huge part of this.

“I think about that (his long journey to excellence),” said Butler. “I talk about that every day with my brothers and trainers, just how good I can be at this game if I continue to work and don’t settle. It’s been a dream of mine since I was little to play in the NBA, let alone be an All-Star. It’s another notch, I guess, I’ve accomplished. But I have to keep going.”

Jimmy Butler will never say he’s made it, but that he’s made it this far continues to amaze.

“I was just trying to stick in the league when I was picked (No. 30 in 2011), find a way to get on the floor and stay there,” admitted Butler. “My junior college coach texted me today, my junior college teammates texted me today, some people that played on the womens’ team from junior college are here tonight. That’s a big part of my life, too; all of that leading up to this point is why I am who I am, the player that I am.”

Which is a very valuable Bull.

“To be the 30th pick in the draft, coming in and didn’t play a lot, continued to work. It’s a testament to what he did in the offseason, adding elements to his game every year,” said Hoiberg. “What Jimmy has done a good job for us in his role is overall playmaking abilities. He’s not just out there as a scorer. He runs a lot of pick and roll, we; post him, iso him, put him in so many situations and
he responds and that’s a testament to his work ethic and what he does the off season.

“I wish Pau would have made it,” Hoiberg added about center Pau Gasol, left off the team.

“We felt he was deserving of it, absolutely with the numbers he’s put up,” said Hoiberg. (Pau) had some huge games for us to help us win games.”

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