Jimmy Butler never has been afraid to do the dirty work, whether that’s on the court with defense or off it in the form of direct leadership.
But the former Bull also isn’t averse to taking the high road when it’s his genuine path of travel.
So it was Saturday morning at Wintrust Arena at NBA All-Star media day. With the Bulls floundering in their third season of a full rebuild since trading Butler, the now five-time All-Star could’ve piled on to a franchise that has become a punching bag to some.
Instead, Butler, who is leading a Heat renaissance at 35-19, not only spoke highly of the Bulls and its beleaguered management team, but also didn’t fully rule out playing again for the franchise he never wanted to leave.
“I got faith in management here. They have to know what they’re doing. I think their decision (to rebuild) was right for them. I’ll continue to wish them the best,” Butler said. “I think they got some really great young talent. They’ll figure it out. They got nothing but time.”
That’s to be determined. Multiple media outlets, including NBC Sports Chicago, have reported that changes are expected this offseason after the Bulls so publicly stated expectations to challenge for the playoffs and become relevant again and instead find themselves mired with a 19-36 mark.
But that’s no longer Butler’s concern.
“It just goes to show the Heat are great at bringing in guys that can get stuff done,” Butler said, when asked how it feels to have Miami, which also has Bam Adebayo as an All-Star, so well represented. “Guys that are overlooked, that work incredibly hard and try and perfect their craft. I think they put each one of our guys, including myself, in a position to be successful and to being acknowledged and recognized for having incredible talent.”
Butler rose from being the 30th pick in the 2011 NBA draft and barely playing as a rookie to becoming a two-way tour de force with the Bulls, for whom he earned three of his All-Star berths. He’s averaging 20.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 6.1 assists this season.
“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 here in Chicago,” Butler said. “It’s incredible. Chicago fans, they love their teams through the good and the bad obviously. I still have homes here. I’m always here during the summertime. I got a lot of love for this city, and I’m so fortunate that this city still has a lot of love for me.”
The Heat have welcomed Butler’s work ethic and direct leadership approach. Butler has been equally complimentary of the Heat and praised Pat Riley, the team president.
“I think that culture was already there. It just fit me. I just brought myself,” Butler said. “The culture was going to stay the same with or without me.
“Everything I heard about Pat is legit, for real. He’s straight to the point, direct, involved in everything and I love it. It shows that he cares and he wants to win, and he wants to win now. You know, none of this is guaranteed. He realizes it, everybody in Miami, the organization realizes it. And we’re trying to make it happen.”
Meanwhile, the Bulls are enduring another injury-plagued season, trying to find their footing.
Butler is under contract through 2022-23 with the Heat, owning a player option on the final season. Perhaps he was merely paying lip service to the possibility of returning here one day. But it’s true he never wanted to leave.
“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. Who knows?” he said. “We’ll find out when that time gets here.”Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.