Kevin Durant isn’t the only player to awkwardly face off against his former team this week! Just hours before Jimmy Butler and the Bulls take on Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and the Knicks, Vincent Goodwill released a story where Jimmy Butler plainly addresses the issues Chicago had a season ago.
“I don’t think guys had different visions on what it took to win. I don’t think everybody was on the same page, truthfully, for what guys’ roles was going to be,” Butler finally confessed to CSNChicago.com. “That’s what it came down to, to tell the truth. I think that you look at the talent each individual had, everybody wanted to show how good they could be on any given night.”
To anyone who watched the 2015-16 Chicago Bulls, nothing that Jimmy directly says in this piece should be earth shattering. While the roster may not have turned over at all from the year before that, the interpersonal dynamics of the locker room had taken a major shift. In the minds of Noah, Rose, and Pau Gasol, it was hard to accept that their most dominant years had passed, and were reluctant to cede control to a guy taken last in the first round. The unavoidable tension this created was not handled well by Fred Hoiberg is his first season as an NBA head coach.
Butler is very careful to make clear he has no issue with any of his former teammates on a personal level. But, he did intimate a complaint to Goodwill about their work habits:
Bringing in Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo as players who know the pecking order of the locker room but also guys who are obsessed with basketball as Butler is have helped more than anything.
Butler isn’t the only one working late at night or watching film, which gives him a level of comfort and trust he didn’t have last season. He’s certainly trying his best not to take shots at Rose or Noah, with it being a sensitive situation on the surface along with the face he holds no actual personal animosity with either.
I’m thrilled that Butler, Wade, and Rondo have come together so quickly. A surprising 3-1 start will go a long way towards chemistry, but these players seem to genuinely like each other. Perhaps Rondo can relate to Butler’s struggle to emerge from the shadow of his teammates. It wasn’t long ago Rondo was trying to prove his worth on a team full of Hall of Famers. Dwyane Wade too is uniquely capable of relating to Butler and knowing how to blend together big personalities. The Heattles may have imploded much quicker had Wade not wisely handed the reigns over to LeBron James.
Butler may just be excited about the vibe of the current roster and didn’t realize the shade he was inadvertently throwing at his former teammates. But with Rose and Noah set to take the United Center floor in Knickerbocker blue, I bet that Jimmy wanted to send a strong message to those guys who couldn’t conceive of him as a leader.
New York is just 1-3 this season and, as George Eisner points out, have really struggled on the offensive end. If the Bulls are as good as they’ve appeared, the most exciting part of this contest may be the pre-tip handshakes. But regardless of the final score, tonight’s game will be very interesting.