So I enjoyed your ESPN segment, but wanted to follow up with a question. When you said the Bulls took the “Fred Hoiberg route,” what does that mean? Jimmy Butler: “That means like everybody knows me and Fred had some riff-raff. We didn’t agree on many things. And I think eventually, everybody was like, ‘Yo, they’re either going to build the team around Jimmy, or they’re going to go the route with Fred, the up-and-down, shoot a lot of threes or, you know… Look, I iso-ed a little bit (smiles). Yeah, I iso a little bit. And that’s not the way that Fred plays the game. And that’s what I was saying, that it was either, ‘We’re going to build the team around me for a little bit and allow me to distribute the basketball, iso in pick and roll. Or you go with Fred – go up and down, shoot a lot of threes, that type of stuff. That spread type – kind of Golden State-esque, you know what I mean? They went that route, and that’s all I’m saying, and that’s fine. That’s what I was saying. Nothing’s wrong with that.”
More Rumors in this Storyline
The Bulls were rather publicly uncomfortable with the idea of Butler as foundational player. Butler and Hoiberg never jelled, and at times, including around midseason, Butler’s bristling at Hoiberg’s instructions and calm personality made people on the team uncomfortable, a source said. That stuff will not happen with Thibodeau. Butler craves a hard-ass coach. Hoiberg was never going to play to that type.
“We didn’t guard anybody,” Butler said. “The lack of discipline, game plan, whatever you want to call it. The game plan is important but if you’re not going to do what the game plan says then go get a stop and nobody will be mad at you.”
Nick Friedell: Butler: “We were just lazy. I hate this word — and soft. I hate it. But that’s exactly what we were. They beat us at every 50/50 ball.”
Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg says he believes Butler has elevated himself into the MVP conversation with his recent play. “I think so,” Hoiberg said. “Just what he’s done for this team. This stretch that he’s got going right now, he continues to add to his game. He’s really playing with the ball in his hands a lot now … he’s just pretty much straight up our point guard for a lot of the games right now. And he’s obviously been phenomenal.”
“He’s our head coach,” Butler said. “Go out there, we play, we fight with him. At the end of the day, that’s all we have. I don’t read those articles so that’s over my head. I just know that he’s here, we want to continue to win games with and for him. We got another one tomorrow, man. He ain’t on no hot seat to me. If we just win games, everything’s good.”
But Butler and Hoiberg have improved their relationship on their own, according to the second-year Bulls coach. “Jimmy and I have had a lot of conversations,” he said. “There’s a lot of things (that happened) last year. The big thing was the comment after the New York game…We got it handed to us and the comment was made.”
It put Hoiberg in an awkward position of sorts and Butler received criticism for calling out his coach publicly. No matter where people sat in terms of the comments, it made for scrutinized co-existence that will only be more scrutinized until the wins start piling up. “We had a lot of conversations and I don’t see any issues with Jimmy Butler and I,” Hoiberg said. “The biggest thing as a staff is we have 15 guys that we gotta coach and hopefully put them in situations and utilize their skill sets and get the most out of them.”
Chicago Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg insists he can still work with Jimmy Butler. Hoiberg was adamant they can coexist even though the two-time All-Star guard called him out last season and did not embrace his offense. Hoiberg said “absolutely, I can” when asked if he can coach Butler. He spoke Monday during a news conference to introduce first-round draft pick Denzel Valentine.
Hoiberg says he met with Butler and other players a few weeks ago in Los Angeles and saw him again in Chicago last week. Hoiberg says they have been in “constant communication” and Butler is “in a great frame of mind right now.”
KC Johnson: Hoiberg confirmed that he traveled to Los Angeles to spend time with Jimmy Butler, said they had great talks.
That included Butler calling out coach Fred Hoiberg last December in New York to “coach harder.” Hoiberg embraced the controversy as a growing moment in his relationship with Butler and, according to sources, the two had a strong exit meeting in advance of an important offseason.
“Nobody can make me do anything,” Butler said. “I’m a grown man, first and foremost. But no, I wanted to play. That’s that. [Hoiberg] came to me, he knew how to talk to me. He said, ‘Hey, you may have to run point guard.’ Ah, it’s a wrap. Yeah, I’m playing now. He knew what to say to get me to really, really, really want to suit up, but I was going to play anyways.”
Hoiberg believes that Butler’s desire to play in a game with little on the line says something about the supposed maturity of his best player. “It says a lot,” Hoiberg said. “It shows that he wants to be the leader of this thing and go out there. I thought he played the right way. He had 11 assists, was getting other guys involved, competed all the way to the finish line, and that’s great.”
“Jimmy and I have a very good relationship,” Hoiberg said before the Bulls topped the Rockets 103-100 Thursday night at the Toyota Center. “Obviously I have a lot of trust in Jimmy, putting the ball in his hands late in games. I communicate with Jimmy as much as anyone on this team. I obviously think the world of him for how hard he pushes himself and how much he just has improved over the years with his work ethic. That rubs off on the other guys.”
Indeed, no one is untouchable. The palace intrigue that surrounded Butler and Hoiberg prompted several teams to inquire about Butler’s availability at the trade deadline. Though they were rebuffed, several rival executives told The Vertical they intend to try again. Boston was among the teams trying to pry away Butler in February, and several executives point to Orlando, with its treasure trove of young players and defensive-minded head coach, as a team to watch closely in the pursuit of Butler.
The days of Thibodeau overextending Noah in a meaningless regular-season game seem like a distant utopia. Chemistry issues continue to plague the Bulls’ locker room, league sources told The Vertical. Grumblings range from Hoiberg’s inability to hold players accountable – a complaint registered publicly by Butler last December and one that lingers in the locker room today, a source said – to Butler’s shoddy shot selection to the disconnect within the team offensively.
It has nothing personally to do with coach Fred Hoiberg, about whom Butler earlier this season questioned, yet with whom he retains a good relationship. “It’s different (with a new coach),” Butler said. “It’s a learning curve for me, for everybody. You have to learn on the fly. We’ve been doing a great job of that. I think I can be better, he can be better, we can be better. I think that’s coming the second half of the season.”
“I still got respect for him,” Butler said after scoring 28 points in a 102-100 overtime win over the Indiana Pacers. “I don’t think it’s a different light. Nothing I do is to disrespect anybody. I think he realizes I’m going to be here, I realize he’s going to be here, so we got to deal with each other anyways. I think that he’s holding me accountable for everything. He talked to me whenever I was low energy last game, and I fixed it. That’s the type of guy he is. He has the utmost confidence in me because he continually put the ball in my hand when he didn’t have to.”
“I think we’re both learning a lot about each other,” Butler said. “He’s probably learning how moody I am on a daily basis, to tell you the truth. And it’s hard, but I think he lets me be who I am. He handles everything that I do very well. I’m not a big communicator, I’m not great at it, but he’s always talking to me. He’s always asking, ‘How are you doing? What can we do?’ He’s always asking my opinion on a lot of things. Yeah, it helped a lot.”
KC Johnson: Joakim Noah on Jimmy Butler’s comments: “I just wish it would’ve been kept in-house, maybe. That would’ve probably been better. Everybody needs to be a leader. It’s not about Jimmy. It’s not about Coach Hoiberg. It’s about everybody coming w/ the right attitude”
KC Johnson: Lengthy post-practice chat between Butler and exec VP John Paxson ends with a fist bump. (Yes, I’m bored waiting for players.)
When asked for an explanation as to why the intensity isn’t there consistently for this group, Butler didn’t have a good answer. “There is no explanation, truthfully,” Butler said. “It’s supposed to be there all the time. We talk about it. Obviously it’s not. It is a concern. We have to fix it as a group.”
That’s the problem for the Bulls. They say the right things but they don’t follow the words up with the right actions. When asked about Butler’s comments, Gasol, who wasn’t in New York City on Saturday after being given the night off to rest, actually seemed to agree with Butler’s sentiment. The veteran believed Butler should have kept his commentary “indoors” but didn’t condemn him the way he could have. “I don’t mind those comments,” Gasol said. “I think those comments are positive. Those comments and those attitudes doesn’t raise my eyebrows. I think it’s good that certain guys want to take ownership and say, ‘Hey, let’s go.’ But that also comes with responsibility. It’s not just on the floor, but off the floor in everything you do. So from that standpoint, absolutely, go ahead. I don’t disagree with it. I think Jimmy’s obviously one of the main guys here. But that’s not singling out who’s the leader, who’s the biggest star, who’s the whatever. It’s a team sport. It’s a team game and we all have our role and we all have to do it well in order for us to function and win.”
“Do I regret it? No,” Butler said, who has assumed a more vocal role in the locker room since signing a 5-year, $95 million contract this past offseason. “A little frustrated after a loss, yeah, but then again I put a lot of it on myself now because I got to lead better. … I know that we have what it takes to win here. I mean, people are going to think what they want to think. People want me to lead, you take my leadership for what it is. Some people may like it, some people don’t. Money has absolutely nothing to do with it. I feel like I’ve been here long enough, I’m one of the so-called vets that I can’t allow stuff to happen when I see it happen, so I put that on myself.”
The Bulls (15-10, 4th in the Eastern Conference) held a film session prior to Monday’s shootaround where the team discussed Butler’s comments. “You can’t hide the elephant in the room,” Butler said. “I think everybody knew what was going on today when we talked in the building.”
“I know emotions are part of this game. I was in it as a player for 10 years,” Hoiberg said. “And I saw it in a front office (in Minnesota). The comments that were made, you learn from them. Are there some things I can do better? Of course. Are there some things our players can do better? Absolutely.”
“Are there some things I need to demand probably a little bit more? Sure,” he said. “Look, there are plenty of times in this gym behind closed doors where we have some pretty heated talks. It’s part of being in the position that I’m in. It’s about accepting that and moving forward. I look at this as an opportunity for growth for our team.”
KC Johnson: Butler on if he accepts Hoiberg’s O: “I have to be because he signed here for 5 years. I signed here for 5 years. We have to make it work.”
KC Johnson: Butler: “Now that we’ve addressed it, everybody knows what they have to do. Before, everybody was maybe going through the motions.”
KC Johnson: Butler: “I had more things to say to people individually. Fred did the majority of talking when we were in the film room.”
KC Johnson: Hoiberg said there are things he can do better, that players can do better. Met with Butler for hour Sunday. Said he wasn’t hurt by comments
Furthermore, according to sources, Butler used profanity while addressing the coaching staff once and disrupted a film session on another occasion with critical comments. While those defending Butler say such instances stem from his frustration that few players match his work ethic, his habit of warming up on his own has alienated others to the point that Joakim Noah recently talked to Butler, a source said.
What would seemingly be an ideal fit for a player as mobile and athletic as Butler has instead led to Butler going to Hoiberg early this season and talking about the need for more touches in the mid-post and on isolations, sources said. When Hoiberg recently confirmed Doug McDermott’s assertion that the Bulls started running sets that worked last year, calling plays for Butler was one of the changes.
KC Johnson: Very strong media session from Butler. Only 2 eyebrow raisers: Claimed wasn’t calling out Hoiberg. Said teammates accepting his leadership.
Butler thrived in a featured role in Tom Thibodeau ‘s isolation-heavy offense. Butler is at least one player who still talks to the former coach, according to several sources.
Storyline Hype Rumor visits per day for the last week
Views per day
November 24, 2017 | 10:05 pm EST Update
Gerald Bourguet: Boogie to the ref: “I know I’m bigger than everybody else, but I’m getting hit just like everybody else. CALL IT.” #SunsVsPelicans
Marc D’Amico: #NEBHInjuryReport: Brad Stevens says Marcus Morris (knee soreness) will not travel with he team to Indiana.
November 24, 2017 | 9:41 pm EST Update
So when he learned Rose left the Cavaliers on Friday to re-evaluate his future in the NBA, James Johnson said his heart goes out to his friend and former teammate. “He’s going through a lot right now,” Johnson said. “He keeps coming back from injuries after injuries, it takes a toll on you, just rehab and treatment. It also takes a toll on you when you know you’re not getting back or you’re going through the same repetitive rehab and treatment.”
James Johnson: “My heart goes out to that man. I know he wants to get back to the old Derrick Rose, I know how bad he wants to get back to that but there’s more important things than basketball. … (that being) family, health.”