CHICAGO — The Bulls haven’t had an All-Star since trading away Jimmy Butler in 2017, but Butler has since notched two more All-Star appearances to hit five for his career, including making the team as a reserve for this year’s game in Chicago.
While it has now been three years since that trade, Butler acknowledged it’s special to be back in Chicago as an All-Star because of his history in the city and the ability to give back to the community. Jimmy spent the first seasons of his career in Chicago and blossomed into a star after going No. 30 in the 2011 NBA Draft.
“I’ve been to an All-Star Game before, but I think it’s always a little bit special where my whole NBA career started in Chicago,” Butler said at Saturday’s media session at Wintrust Arena. “
“Lot of love for this city ... This city has done a lot for me. To me, kids are so important, and I love this city, so every time I come back I try to do as much as I can with them. Just knowing when you have a professional athlete that’s there, that you can see their face and doing so many different things with them, it means the world to those kids.
“It’s incredible. Chicago fans they love their teams through the good and through the bad. But this is where my NBA career started. I still have homes here, I’m always here during the summertime. I’ve got a lot of love for this city, and I’m so fortunate that this city still has a lot of love for me.”
Butler is certainly doing well for himself in Miami, where the Heat are 35-19 and holding the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. He’s averaging 20.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.8 steals on the season, and advanced metrics suggest he’s still a top-10-15 player in the NBA. The Heat have already had themselves an eventful All-Star Weekend, with fellow All-Star Bam Adebayo winning the Skills Challenge and Derrick Jones Jr. taking home the Slam Dunk Contest trophy after an all-time event that featured another controversial ending with Aaron Gordon.
Meanwhile, the Bulls have stumbled to a 68-151 record since the Butler trade, and things haven’t exactly gone well for them this weekend. The Bulls decided to rebuild after one season of the infamous “Three Alphas” experiment, and there have been reports suggesting they didn’t want to potentially have to pay Butler a supermax deal worth $223 million over five years. Butler was asked about the state of the rebuild in Chicago, and he gave a very diplomatic answer.
“I got faith in management here,” Butler claimed. “They have to know what they’re doing. I think their decision was right for them. I’ll continue to wish them the best. I think they got some really great young talent. They’ll figure it out. They got nothing but time.”
Butler has done his share of moving since the Bulls kicked off their rebuild with the trade to the Minnesota Timberwolves that brought back Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn. After helping end the Timberwolves’ lengthy playoff drought, reported drama with young pups Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins resulted in a Butler trade request and a deal to the Philadelphia 76ers. Butler helped lead the Sixers to the brink of the Eastern Conference Finals, but he wound up going to the Heat in a sign-and-trade this past summer. There was reportedly more drama in Philly, and it’s also unclear just what the Sixers were willing to offer Butler in free agency.
Whatever the case, drama has followed Butler just about everywhere. He had his issues in Chicago as well, from the alleged “beef” with Derrick Rose to challenging Fred Hoiberg to “coach harder” to having problems with some of the younger players in his final years in Chicago.
Still, based on how things have gone for his former teams (the Bulls and Wolves stink, and the Sixers have been weird and drama-filled), one could argue that Butler was right about a lot, even if he didn’t always handle things the right way. The Heat star was asked if his former teams didn’t appreciate him enough, and he did his best to deflect.
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” Butler said with a wry smile on his face. “To tell you the truth, I don’t even worry about it. I’m so locked in to doing what I’m supposed to be doing for Miami. I’m having fun doing it. I’m happy, which is what it’s about. We’re winning. I think we still have a long way to go, but I think more than anything we’re capable of doing something special that nobody thought we were going to do anyway.”
Even if things didn’t end on the best of terms in Chicago, Butler reiterated numerous times how much he loves the city, and he even left the door open for a return to the Bulls later in his career.
“Yeah, of course,” Butler said. “Like, come on. This is Chicago. This is home for me for a long time, still is home for me now. It’s a definite possibility, maybe toward the end of my career. But, who knows? We’ll find out when that time gets here.”
While Butler is loving life in Miami and a return to Chicago feels unlikely in the near future, as he said, you never know what may happen. For now, you can watch Jimmy Buckets playing for Team Giannis in Sunday night’s All-Star Game at the United Center.