The media loves creating narratives and controversy. It’s what they do. For the Bulls, the recent narratives have been that there’s tension between Rose and Butler or that Rose is threatened by Jimmy Butler‘s rise. While I don’t know if any of that is true, there is one thing I’m certain of: The Bulls aren’t Derrick Rose‘s team anymore. They belong to Jimmy Butler.
It’s not really Derrick Rose’s fault. He’s been injured and off the court for the majority of the past three seasons. He’s dealing with another injury now, but hopefully won’t miss any regular season games (yet?). And it’s not like Butler snatched the role of “leader” away from Derrick Rose. If anything, he took the reigns from Joakim Noah, who had become the heart and soul of the grit and grind era and willed this team to a Playoff series win over the Brooklyn Nets in 2013 and a was a top five MVP candidate the next season. In reality, this may have stopped being D-Rose’s team years ago. This isn’t 2010 or 2011. The Bulls aren’t solely reliant on Derrick Rose for success, but on the flip side, if they want to have the ultimate success – winning a championship – they still need D-Rose on the court.
The Indiana Pacers went through almost the exact same scenario a few years ago. Danny Granger goes down with multiple injuries and Paul George rose to prominence and became one of the best two-way players in this league and a legitimate superstar. The Pacers clearly became George’s team and the Pacers became centered around him. Obviously, the decline for Granger is far more steep than it has been for Derrick Rose – Granger has had trouble breaking the rotation on any team he’s been on, but does have a contract with the Pistons this season – while Rose showed some flashes of his All-Star self. The fact still remains that both teams transitioned from one superstar to the next and instead of Derrick Rose setting the tone for this team, it’s Jimmy Butler.
The quotes over this first week of training camp are amazing and if you’re reading them, it’s clear who the leader is. Doug McDermott worked out with Jimmy Butler some in San Diego this offseason and here’s what he had to say (via KC Johnson):
McDermott joined Butler’s offseason workouts for 2 weeks in San Diego. Said Butler would wake him up at 5 am even tho alarm set for 515.
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) October 1, 2015
Here’s more from Doug McDermott from an article by Vincent Goodwill on CSN Chicago:
“It didn’t feel like he was on our team for a second,” McDermott said. “Talking crap to all of us. That’s just kind of the way he is. He has a completely different mindset. He really wants to win. It’s been really obvious the first few days of practice.”
Does that mindset remind you of any former Chicago Bull? I’m not going to say his name because I don’t want people thinking I’m going all Stacey King and calling him “Jimmy Jordan“, but that’s the mindset he had: I’m the best player out here and I’m going to show it to you. Jimmy Butler doesn’t need to sit at the podium and talk about how great he is. He goes out on the court and shows it. He drags his teammates out of bed before that alarm starts going and has fire under him. He got a huge contract extension this offseason and he’s still putting in as much work as he did last year to make himself an All-Star. Here’s quotes from Bulls Head Coach Fred Hoiberg in the same article on CSN Chicago:
“I knew Jimmy was good (before). But he’s been awesome,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s so strong right now. He’s in great shape and another guy where the amount of work he put in in the summer is paying off.
“He’s probably in the best shape of anybody out here. He’s all over the floor, offensively, defensively. There aren’t a lot of two-way players in this league but he’s definitely one of them.”
Leaders don’t just use words. Their actions speak for themselves and on this Chicago Bulls team, one man is letting his actions do all the talking and that’s Jimmy Butler. The Bulls are his team and teams’ qualities generally reflect those of their leader. Will that be the case with the Chicago Bulls? If so, expect the Bulls to keep putting in work to get better and better instead of just being complacent. A hungry team. A team desperate for a championship, just like Jimmy Butler is. That’s all he’s talked about this summer:
“I just have to be who I am, not change and help win games,” Butler said. “If you win a championship, it doesn’t matter how many points you score or rebounds you grab.” – article from KC Johnson, Chicago Tribune (July 9, 2015)
“I want to win a Championship,” Butler says. “That’s the ultimate goal. The better the team does, the better everyone looks. Individual things come from team success and it’s all about my teammates having the confidence in me. You’re remembered in this League for winning Championships. That’s what I’m working toward.” – article from Christopher Cason, Slam Magazine (September 8, 2015)
“I think so,” Butler told Fox Sports. “As I’ve said before though, I think we can’t keep talking about what we’re capable of doing. I think we have to definitely do it. We do have the exact same roster, except for the addition of Bobby Portis, who’s our rookie. I think I like our chances. I don’t think anybody in this league plays the game to lose, so I think we can win it,” Butler said. “I’m going to tell you the truth. But until we win it, it’s all talk. I like our chances, I can tell you that.” – article from Dave Daniels, Pippen Ain’t Easy
That last quote is the most telling. Until the Bulls win the championship, it’s all talk and that’s not satisfying for Jimmy Butler. He wants more – he wants a ring – and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get it. That’s the mindset that he’s bringing to this team and the attitude these Chicago Bulls will have. We’ll find out in June if it’s enough.