Jimmy Butler couldn't ignore what he called “the elephant in the room” when he walked into the Advocate Center for Bulls shootaround after his comments about wanting Fred Hoiberg to coach the team harder. And neither could the Bulls’ coach.
“I had a great talk with Jimmy yesterday,” Hoiberg said. “We met for over an hour in my office and talked a lot of things out and I think came out in a better place. Sometimes, in a situation like what happened, you can become a better team and a better leader.”
Hoiberg admitted ever-so-slightly there are improvements he can make to his style, even though the team hasn’t fully bought in to his strongest suit, the fast-moving offensive scheme.
“Are there some things I can do better? Sure. Are there some things that all of us can do better? Absolutely,” Hoiberg said. “Are there some things I need to demand probably a little bit more? Sure. But it’s something where I thought we made a lot of progress as a team. It’s getting back to those things we demanded leading into that win streak.”
For his part, Butler didn’t regret his comments about Hoiberg but said they came from a place of emotion after two losses in a 24-hour span: a four-overtime loss to Detroit coupled with a dead-legged showing in New York against the Knicks, which prompted his display of frustration afterward.
“I put a lot of it on myself now because I got to lead better,” Butler said. “Can’t allow stuff to happen. Yeah, we lost one I wanted to have at home against Detroit, and then the way that we lost in New York, so you got raw emotion right there.”
After Butler and Hoiberg mutually agreed on the team plane to meet Sunday afternoon, Butler also had to talk with some of his teammates before the morning shootaround.
He said it “opened some eyes” for his teammates considering he did it in such a bold and public manner.
“Because people know when they’re doing things they’re not supposed to be doing,” Butler said. “So hopefully that’s changed. We addressed it in the media, Fred had, so I think it will all turn around for the better.”
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He admits it’s a learning curve for himself, as he earned a max contract this summer with his strong play but never found himself in a position as a team leader. So while a first-year coach is taking steps about learning his team, Butler is taking steps about developing his own style as a leader.
“Tell you the truth, I had more things to say to people individually,” Butler said. “Fred did majority of talking when we were in the film room earlier. But I think when I walked in this building, everybody knew what was going on. I explained my opinion and what I'm gonna do to change things here. Everybody accepted what I had to say.”
It’s been said Butler hasn’t been as accepting of Hoiberg’s offensive style and that he’s broken off plays, so when Butler was asked who should Hoiberg start coaching harder, he pointed the finger squarely at his chest.
“Me. Truthfully, I mean that. Myself,” he said. “I think if you can set an example out of me, the way that I’m playing right now at a high level, that will make it easier for guys to take criticism on this floor, on this team. And then if they see me react like a child and pout and whine, then it gives them reason to do so. But I’m not going to do that, so it won’t give them a reason to do that.”
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Butler denied it had anything to do with some of the lethargic play that occurred last season with previous coach Tom Thibodeau, and it only came out due to the two-game losing streak that dropped the Bulls to 15-10.
“Nope. It goes back to what I always said, if we would've won that game in New York, it wouldn't have never happened,” Butler said. “But because we lost and I was pissed and frustrated, that's what you got.”
“If we run off 20 games in a row, it was a good thing. Winning takes care of everything. If we win, that's good, it needed to happen. If we lose, uh-oh, you know what I mean? At the same time I think it's good. Everybody knows what they have to do what they're supposed to do. Everybody's a leader and gotta bring their best every day.”