Butler started and had 23 points in 11 assists in a Bulls win.
So why did anyone care how Butler got to New Orleans?
Some players, and I’m not saying it wasn’t a family commitment, but there were some – I know at least one player in particular, a starter – who felt like he was a bit bothered by the fact that Jimmy wasn’t on the plane. And it was a misperception. He felt it was emblematic of a little bit of the preferential treatment that a lot of people say Butler’s been getting now that he’s emerged as the best players on the Bulls from the front office and things like that.
There’s a division. There’s all types of dysfunction in Chicago. There’s kind of a division in that locker room.
The younger players see Butler as the leader. He’s clearly been their best player the last two years. They see him as the leader.
The other guys, the veterans who’ve been there, it’s not so much of disrespect of Jimmy, but they don’t see him as the team as the team leader. They remember when you were averaging two points a game.
The Bulls have at least one problem, maybe two:
- Butler receives too much preferential treatment.
- His teammates are so paranoid about Butler, they accuse him of receiving preferential treatment when he doesn’t.
In many circumstances, it’s not unusual for a player to travel separately when personal matters arise. Obviously, it’s impossible to judge this specific case without more information.
But Butler deserves some preferential treatment – like a high salary. He’s Chicago’s best player, and he should be treated as such. That doesn’t mean he should be above the rules, but there’s nothing wrong with the team allowing him concessions not made to others. His teammates shouldn’t resent some preferential treatment (like salary and media opportunities).
That gets complicated with Derrick Rose on the roster. He was the best Bull until injuries took a toll, though he’s still the team’s highest-paid player and point guard – statuses that naturally lend themselves to leadership. How does the team conform to both Rose and Butler?
This is why re-signing Joakim Noah might not be such a hot idea. Though Noah’s leadership deserves praise, it could naturally undermine Butler’s. Every player knows Noah as a leader. Some seem to be unsure about Butler.
Of course, if Butler is a poor leader even to the young players who look at him, that’s a whole other can of worms. But even if that’s the case, Butler can still grow into the role – if he gets a chance from his bothered teammates.
Maybe Butler needs to earn that opportunity. But I think, just as much, if not more, some of his teammates need to become more open to it.