The Chicago Bulls, when fully healthy, potentially have one of the best backcourts in the NBA with Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. While the two haven’t shared much time on the court, mostly due to Rose’s health problems, we got a small glimpse of what they could be in the 2015 playoffs. Yet, there have already been whispers that on-court chemistry might be an issue. Now Jimmy is adding to the appearance of discord, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:
“I think we play well on the court together,’’ Butler said, when asked to describe the relationship between the two on and off the court. “With the more time that we’re out there we’ll definitely get better at it. Off the floor, I mean he has a son, so he has a family that he has to take care of. I’m with my brothers a lot of the time, but I mean when we have a chance we’ll hang around each other, but I feel like we spend enough time together on the court. I think when you’re off the court then you go your separate ways a little bit.’’
Those prone to overreaction may take this to mean that Butler and Rose aren’t friends, or worse, have some sort of rivalry. But that’s not what Butler’s saying here. He and Rose simply aren’t best friends, and that’s perfectly fine. Teammates don’t have to be inseparable. Consider it a typical co-worker relationship. There are those you get along with in the office, maybe even a few you’ll grab a drink with every now and then. But you don’t necessarily want to hang out with them immediately after spending all day with them.
Off-court friendship surely helps on-court chemistry, but it’s not essential (and, again, it’s not like there’s any real sign of enmity between Rose and Butler). It’s more important that Butler and Rose can share a basketball. Cowley raises the point that, during the playoffs, there seemed to be confusion between Butler and Rose as to who was the “alpha dog.” Yet it’s hard to say for certain that comes from any sort of negative feelings between the two.
Butler ascended to stardom because of Rose’s absence, so it’s only natural that Butler would be a little uncertain, maybe even frustrated, with his role when Rose returned to full strength. As for Rose, he was used to being the focal point of the offense, so it’s understandable he’d struggle adjusting to playing alongside another elite offensive player in the Bulls backcourt. The cohesion may be lacking now, but it will grow once the two are able to spend more time on the court together.