Even though hed probably like to see more minutes on certain nights, like any competitor, Bulls rookie swingman Jimmy Butler has been pretty upbeat about his debut NBA season, as he should be, playing on the team with the leagues best record.
But after Fridays practice, the Marquette product was in a state of mourning, as his alma mater fell to teammate Joakim Noahs beloved Florida Gators in the NCAA Tournaments Sweet 16 Thursday night.
It was tough. They played hard, didnt make any shots, didnt guard the way I thought they were going to guard and it didnt help that I had Jo in my ear, in my face, doing his pistols when he didnt make any shots, said Butler, who watched the game with Noah.
It was back-and-forth and then they pulled out the lead in the second half, and I got quieter and quieter. I threw in a remark here and there when they hit a big shot, but Florida came down and countered it. Theyre a really, really good team, but I really wanted to win. I was talking too much trash for like two straight weeks, as some of the media know, but they didnt pull it out. Thats all right. Theyre still my guys.
Countered a smug Noah: Im really proud of the Gators. Great team effort yesterday. I watched the game with Jimmy. Ive never seen a guy with such emotion. His ups and downs yesterday were unbelievable. I was concentrating, focused on the game and he was distraught afterwards, and I let him know about it.
Were family, but it was definitely tough for little Jimmy yesterday, he added. He played with a lot of those guys, so not being able to be in there, in the fire, that was tough for him. Being an old Gator boy, Im very proud of those young guys. I was there for a while this summer, so I know those guys very well.
Still, Butler took the loss in stride, knowing that Noah, a two-time college national champion, had earned bragging rights for the time being.
Ill take the trash-talking from Jo any day. I knew I was going to hear it this morning. I didnt know as soon as I walked into the door, everybody was going to give it to me this morning, said Butler. Jo had a great history there and they have really great players there now, so they deserved to win the game.
I was so into it, he continued. I was calling out Marquette senior guard and Big East scoring leader Darius Johnson-Odoms moves because we worked on a lot of moves together, so I know his game. I know Jaes Crowder, Marquette senior forward and Big East player of the year game, Vander Blue, Marquette sophomore guard. It was good to see those guys out there competing and in the Sweet 16. Thats big and Im so proud of them.
Butler believes the aforementioned Johnson-Odom and Crowder can follow in the footsteps of himself and Dwyane Wade, among others.
They can do it. Just grind. I tell them that draft workout process, its tough. Its like a mini-NBA schedule, when youre going from city to city, but I tell them to get their rest, what Marquette products Wes Matthews, Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard, Lazar Hayward, Minnesota Timberwolves swingman preached to me. Its a grind, but night in, night out, youre going to be playing against the best type of competition, he said. Theyll be here, Ill spend more time there at Marquette, located in Milwaukee on a day off.
Although Butler hasnt seen consistent playing time this season, hes played well when he does get minutes, but he feels the most significant part of his rookie year has been the knowledge hes received.
Ive learned so much about this game. With the lockout, I didnt get the chance to learn the plays and the NBA-type style of game, but its a learning curve for me. Its a learning process and I feel like Ive learned so much from Lu, from Ronnie, from all of these guys, mentally and physically, he explained. I feel like its a mental grind more than it is physical. Youve just got to be prepared for any situation that Im going to be thrown into.