10/8 Update: Jimmy today after shootaround:
I don’t understand why everybody wants to find a problem with me and Derrick. Let us be the fierce, (expletive) competitors we are. I love having Derrick as a teammate. Just let us play together. I think we can be one of the best, if not best, backcourts in NBA. I’ve said it multiple times: I don’t care whose team it is. My job is just to help win. When we win, everybody looks great.
Over the offseason, Jimmy Butler proclaimed that he was going to bring some point guard skills to this coming season. He had ample opportunity to show it in the Bulls preseason opener, with both Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich out leaving E'Twaun Moore as the starter.
Moore may have brought the ball up the court on some possessions, but it was certainly Butler who initiated the offense against the Bucks preseason defense (obligatory 'it's only preseason' mention). It wasn't as if Butler displayed the purest handle, but against fellow wings he was definitely able to create space and even better displayed very good court vision.
Here are some sweet vines!
(it's true, I made a Doug Vine that didn't involve his headless-chicken defense)
Butler finished with 6 assists and only a single turnover in 25 minutes of fairly-heavy ballhandling.
He also seemingly talked the entire time on the court, either to teammates or himself. If I didn't watch Bulls telecasts on mute, I would've likely heard Stacey King say Jimmy was playing with a lot of confidence. A very interesting interview with Butler was published this week on his desire to be the Bulls leader, and after the game he only went harder in on that notion, as described by Cody Westerlund of CBSChicago.
"We got guys that can score, we got guys that can facilitate, guys that can shoot, guys that can drive, rebound," Butler said. "We need a guy that's going to step in and be that vocal guy in this locker room, on the practice court, in the game. I think that's what I'm going to have to be. Growing in this league, I'm here four years now, I got to take another leap forward, and I think that's going to be on the leadership side, not just on the court.
"We just got a couple guys who are quiet by nature, and nothing's wrong with that. Guys lead with their emotions, if it's Jo (Noah); with their play, if it's Derrick (Rose) or Pau (Gasol) - Pau's a leader, he's been around many teams and won some championships. But we need a guy that's going hard every night and that's going to back up what he's talking about. I definitely think it's going to be me."
It's one thing for Butler to want to lead the Bulls. It's another for his teammates to accept it. So does he think they're ready?
"I hope so," Butler said. "We'll find out."
Butler insisted it wasn't his big contract that created this newfound approach but rather all the work he's put in and the void he saw.
"I don't really look at the money aspect, the contract aspect in anything I do," Butler said. "It doesn't pressure me to do anything. It's (leadership) is something I have to do if I'm going to try to take this team to the next step, the next level. Obviously, our goal is a championship, but I got to bring something new every year, and I just think that leadership this year is key.
"We're going so hard in practice. Teammates, they follow what I do. If I'm in practice and put my hands on my knees and I'm pissed off, they look at me like, ‘Oh Jimmy's doing it, I can do it.' It's contagious."
My emphasis, because: wow.