Two things are for certain in this pseudo Derrick Rose-Jimmy Butler issue, if there is in fact, an issue between the backcourt members (for which there's no definitive evidence).
One, this talk will continue, no matter how unfounded the rumors are or how much it's rooted in conjecture and innuendo, until Rose comes back on the floor and elevates his play to the point that makes the talk moot.
Rose is at the point where only his play will shut up his critics and anything he says will be fodder for those who swear by the school of thought that he doesn’t get it and will never return to anything resembling his younger self.
Secondly, and this is something both parties should know already, which is the Bulls can’t get to where they want to be in the postseason unless Rose and Butler are at optimum efficiency.
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Neither is good enough on his own to overthrow LeBron James. Neither is at the top level of superstardom, where one’s presence alone lifts all tides.
Only James, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis and on a really good day, Chris Paul, do that singularly. Everyone else at this point needs a player of similar talent (not skill) to aid in making every single teammate better.
No matter how many times both deny there’s any existence of a feud or real issues, it’s gonna be there. Unfortunately, the age of new media dictate there’s a good guy and a bad guy, and right now everything Butler says about asserting himself as a leader will be viewed as a referendum on a perceived lack of leadership from Rose’s end.
Or worse, that Butler’s words are somehow aimed at Rose because of this perceived rift between the two.
Stemming from the events of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals when the Bulls, for lack of a prettier word, quit in the second half against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the rumors began to fly.
Rose and Butler had a strange energy around them in the second half, but so did everyone else wearing white that night. It was evident, from the officials to the coaching staff to the diehards who witnessed it, that the Bulls en masse didn’t have it that night.
Whether it was the drama from the outside surrounding their coach engulfed the team or the fact playing against James and his merry men were so relentless, the Bulls made a collective decision not to go back to Cleveland for a decisive Game 7, it was clear the Bulls didn’t have the requisite intensity for such a moment.
If it happens again, or at any point during the season, Rose and Butler should be held accountable. Highest-paid backcourt requires those two stand on the front line together, no matter how they feel about each other — and again, there’s zero evidence the two have an issue with each other.
There’s also little evidence the two know how to maximize production with the other on the floor because the sample size isn’t there. Both men spent time on the sidelines last season and only in the playoffs were they able to play in concert — not the optimum time to figure out each other’s tendencies.
It’s like getting to know your spouse after you get married, it’s a recipe for a quick divorce.
And although this Rose-Butler pairing is a basketball marriage, this season will be as much about getting to know one another in a basketball sense than it is figuring out if they can work together.
Butler is a max player who’s emerging. Rose is a former MVP looking to reclaim standing in the league but very much has an uncertain present and future.
Both have to get to know each other under those circumstances and none else.
Butler wants to be a leader because there’s room for it.
Rose has never proclaimed himself to be a vocal leader and none of his teammates have referred to him as such. They’ve said “we follow Derrick”, which is said much in the vein of Rose’s reputation as a MVP player and his play more than him actually being a galvanizing force in the locker room.
So when Butler says he wants to be a vocal leader, it’s likely more a thought concerning the void left by the barking from the sidelines with Tom Thibodeau leaving town. It was Thibodeau’s team more than it was a player-run club in recent years, partly due to his strong personality but also because there’s been plenty of roster turnover during that time no one personality would have the tenure to be a vocal leader if he even had the personality for it.
The players who’ve been here, it doesn’t fit what they do best. Taj Gibson is a grinder. He plays hard, plays consistently but isn’t trying to fill that role.
Joakim Noah leads in some form, more emotionally than vocally.
But look up and down the roster to see who Butler could possibly usurp as a vocal leader.
There doesn’t appear to be anyone preventing him from asserting himself vocally.
With Butler’s new status comes inherent responsibility — the equal responsibility on making his on-court relationship with Rose work.