TORONTO, ONT— Jimmy Butler was like a man begging for his woman to come back before she walked out the door—except the subject in question was official Ken Mauer, who initially didn’t see fit to hear Butler’s pleas as Butler said his strip of DeMar DeRozan’s drive went off DeRozan’s leg, not Butler’s hands with less than a second remaining.
As Mauer began to relent, Butler headed to the other officials to lay his case out. The game was on the line and the Bulls needed this call to be reviewed.
“Somebody was gonna review it,” said Butler with a hint of a chuckle. “I was gonna hold the ball until someone reviewed it. I don’t know. They reviewed it at the end of the day because I know it was off him.”
Appeal reviewed, call overturned.
Bulls win—and some slight but expected grimaces from Butler as he talked with media.
“Yeah, yes. I think my knee is gonna be banged up a bit,” Butler said. “Gotta learn to live with it. Get my wind back, Gotta get in the gym, get my rhythm back. It’s all a process.”
In Butler’s first game back from a somewhat-scary absence, punctuated by a trip to Dr. James Andrews in Florida to check out his strained left knee, Butler didn’t put up super numbers, and Fred Hoiberg said he would adhere to a plan with Butler—although nobody knew what exactly the plan was.
“Tired man, tired. I’m out of shape,” Butler said. “That’s fine, though. I got a couple days to get it back. As long as we keep winning, tired or not, I’m happy.”
He’ll certainly improve on his performance, shooting 5-for-18 and missing both of his free throws in 33 minutes of play. Those minutes came in six-to-seven minute intervals where Butler didn’t appear to be overextended physically, even though the total number wasn’t far off from the 34 he played against Houston last Saturday night.
“A win is a win, no matter how (expletive) I played,” Butler said. “I think we did our job. At the end of the day, we won on the road. Big win. I’m proud of how we got this one.”
They got the 109-107 win over the Toronto Raptors by strong contributions from Nikola Mirotic, E’Twaun Moore and Doug McDermott, as the Bulls were without Mike Dunleavy, Pau Gasol and Derrick Rose.
Mirotic and Moore scored 17 each, while McDermott came off the bench to lead the Bulls with 29.
“That credits our guys. Everybody stepping into a new role,” Butler said. “Doug’s playing extremely well, E’Twaun, Niko. Those guys are the reason we won.”
[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]
Hoiberg, the man who has to balance Butler’s well-being for the long-term with the All-Star’s desire to play every minute, body be damned, said Butler’s presence buoyed the team defensively and intangibly.
“Absolutely. Jimmy gives this team a big lift when he’s in the lineup,” Hoiberg said. “That was a huge play by Jimmy. Coming down, he made one of the two free throws. Made a heck of a play on the ball. He stayed on his hip and made a great defensive play.”
The play helped lift the Bulls to their most inspiring win of the season against a likely opponent but in an unlikely fashion—and the Bulls hope and pray Butler will be around for the long haul.
So does he, body be damned.
“That’s cool, for right now,” Butler said of his knee. “We’ll see when my body cools down. But I’m alright.”