No one can accuse Bulls coach Tom Thiboeau of fawning praise over one of his player’s performances — he expects excellence. The hardscrabble helmsman with the voice like gravel isn’t one to coddle anyone, but after Jimmy Butler tied his career high with 32 points in a losing effort to the Nuggets last night, Thibs couldn’t but praise his maturing 3&D wing.
Butler tied a career high after going 7-of-13 from the field and a ridiculous 18-for-20 from the charity stripe. He attacked whenever he could and almost single-handedly — a healthier Pau Gasol added 22 points and 11 rebounds — kept the Bulls afloat after point guard Derrick Rose left after only 10 minutes of action.
“He’s been incredible,” Thibodeau said — by way of ESPN Chicago’s Nick Friedell — after the Bulls were defeated by the Nuggets in Denver, 114-109. “He’s a star, and he does it on both ends of the floor. He’s just an amazing player. We’ve had him play the point, we’ve had him play the 2, the 3, and tonight he played the 4. And he hasn’t had any opportunity to practice the 4. So he just got out there, he’s smart, he’s tough, he does whatever the team needs, and he found a way to help lead us into coming back and having a shot at the end.”
Butler, for his part, downplayed the talk of being star by his normally reserved coach:
“I’m not a star,” Butler said. “I’m a good role player on a really, really good team. A really, really deep team. I like role players. ‘Star’ has never been next to Jimmy Butler’s name, it never will be. I’ll always be just an under-the-radar dog.”
While it’s amusing he lapsed into a Ricky Henderson third-person narrative, Butler’s cockiness is reserved for his team, not his own accolades.
“I truly just want to win,” Butler continued after the game. “Both of the games I scored 32 we lost. I’ll take scoring 2 points and win, than 32 and lose, any day, every day. Obviously, we got to go back to the drawing boards and figure it out.”
The Bulls are now 9-6, good enough for third place in the LEastern Conference, but with Rose ailing and Pau always one rolled ankle away from a sabbatical, it’ll be on Butler to carry more of the offensive load.
Through 13 games, Butler is doing just that. He’s shooting a career high 50 percent from the field while attempting more than five shots more per game than he ever has before. He’s sporting a 22.3 player efficiency rating (his previous career high for a season was 15.2 in 2012-13) and like Thibodeau mentioned, he’s also routinely taking on the challenge of the opposing team’s best player. The Bulls will need Butler to continue his offensive prowess if they’re going to have any chance of competing for a title while Rose battles his ongoing health issues.
Is Jimmy Butler an all-star through the first 13 games?
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