It’s been mostly bad news out of the Chicago Bulls’ training camp this week, what with Derrick Rose suffering a facial fracture the first day, not to mention his ill-advised comments about his free agency, which is two years away. But life goes on for the rest of the team, and one of the biggest bright spots so far has been their newly-minted star, Jimmy Butler, who has impressed both his teammates and his new head coach Fred Hoiberg with his dominant play during the first week of camp. Via Sam Smith of Bulls.com:
“He’s been really impressive,” forward Doug McDermott said Thursday when asked about Butler. “He’s hands down the best player on the floor every time . Yesterday, he actually was guarding me. So that was really frustrating because he was everywhere. He’s talking. Talking crap to all of us; it didn’t feel like he was on our team for a second. That’s just kind of the way he is. He has a completely different mindset this year. He really wants to win. It’s been really obvious the first few days of practice. He’s worth the money, that’s for sure.”
“I knew Jimmy was good,” marveled Hoiberg. “But he’s been awesome. He’s so strong right now. He’s in great shape, 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 Jimmy is definitely one of them. Jimmy was phenomenal. All the hard work he put in this offseason you can tell. He added new elements to his game. He was terrific.”
After falling to the Cavaliers in the second round of the playoffs last spring, the Bulls have plenty of incentive to challenge the Cavs for the Eastern Conference crown this season. For that to happen, they’ll need a healthy Derrick Rose, first and foremost, but they’ll also need Butler to continue his stellar play and evolve into the MVP-caliber player that he’s striving to become.
Part of the onus is on Hoiberg to institute a system similar to the one he ran at Iowa State, which should help unleash Butler and everyone else in the open court, but he’ll need to accomplish that without sacrificing Chicago’s defensive prowess, which has been the hallmark of Butler’s skill-set during his brief career. If training camp is any indication, Butler seems more than ready for the challenge.