Then came a report Butler is bothering more than Rose.
What is happening in Chicago?
I don’t think that the tension between Jimmy and Derrick was ever as bad as it was made out to be. But the tension now, moving forward off the Derrick talk for a second, between Jimmy and other players in that locker room is bad.
Because you can’t just say, “I signed this new deal. I’m the leader.” That respect has to be earned over time. Nobody is questioning Jimmy’s work ethic. He’s worked his tail off. But they are questioning whether Jimmy can be the leader that this group needs with so much turmoil going on around them.
You talk to anybody within that Bulls organization, and they’ll tell you that Jimmy has changed. His personality has changed.
And it’s not to say he’s wrong in that.
But this was a kid that loved saying he was from Tomball, Texas and that he was just a role player on a really good team. And now he wants all the trappings that come with being a star in the league.
And that’s all well and good.
But again, this ties back into the leadership problem this team has. You can say all that, but you can’t just say, “Alright, I’m the leader.” You have to earn that respect over time. Maybe Jimmy will.
He’s really rubbed some people the wrong way with how he’s going about things. So, it’s something to watch for, and it’s something that I know is on the minds of the front office in that, “Can we trust this guy to go out and to be who we need him to be every night, and can he lead us the way that a championship-caliber team needs to be led?” And early on, the returns have been no.
Key words: “Early on.”
Butler admitted publicly criticizing Fred Hoiberg’s coaching style was not the best way to handle his concerns. Butler also brought controversy to himself and the team when he declared before the season, “I am a point guard” – Rose’s position.
But Butler is new to leading. He was a role player until last season – and that seemed like a great accomplishment for a late first-round pick who spent a couple years at a community college.
Now, Butler is an All-Star on a max contract. Things have changed – though maybe not enough.
Rose – who has led Chicago – is still there. Joakim Noah – who has led Chicago –is still there.
That makes it much more difficult for Butler to successfully assert himself. Not only are other players accustomed to looking to players still in the locker room, it can’t be easy for Rose and Noah to defer.
Butler hasn’t handled everything well, and that this issue could be deeper than we suspected if the personality that led him here has significantly changed. But as much as, if not more than, any individual, the Bulls’ leadership problems could just be due to circumstance.
Butler’s talent demands Chicago gives him an opportunity to grow through this stage. It’s just not easy to find 26-year-old wings who excel on both ends of the floor.
The other elements could sort themselves out soon. Noah’s contract expires this summer, and Rose might not be long for the Bulls, either.
I wouldn’t rush to declare Butler a problem in Chicago. His off-court issues would have to be far worse than we realize to counteract his on-court production.
But I would keep an eye on him and how he handles suddenly being the team’s best player – and how his teammates handle it, too.