NFL pick aside, plenty to like about Butler

November, 8, 2012
11/08/12
11:16
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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Jimmy ButlerGary Dineen/NBAE/Getty ImagesJimmy Butler worked hard on his game over the summer to play a bigger role with the Bulls in his second season.
DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Jimmy Butler wants everybody to know he's from Texas.

That's why he proudly rolls into the Chicago Bulls locker room sometimes wearing cowboy boots. That's why he admits to listening to country music. And that's why, on Tuesday afternoon, the Tomball, Texas native made a proclamation that will surely rile up his own Chicago fan base.

When asked for a prediction on the score for Sunday night's Houston Texans-Chicago Bears game, Butler didn't shy away from his Texas roots.

"Texans 120, Bears 3," Butler said. "When you've got the Super Bowl team in Houston, anything's possible."


The same could probably be said for Butler's basketball career.

The second-year swingman may not make Bulls fans very happy with his football predictions, but he is definitely pleasing them on the floor. Butler played the entire fourth quarter in Tuesday night's win over the Orlando Magic and will likely serve as a defensive stopper alongside Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Luol Deng in the final 12 minutes throughout the season.

It's an opportunity the easy-going Butler is relishing.

"It builds my confidence," Butler admitted after Wednesday's practice. "It builds my teammates' confidence in me. I feel great whenever I'm out there at the end of a game or however many minutes I'm able to play."

Butler, who virtually lived in the gym throughout the summer working on his game, has clearly developed that confidence even more over the past few months. He feels like he belongs on the floor, and it shows in his play.

"I feel like I work hard enough to where I can battle day in and day out with anybody," he said. "I've got great teammates so I see their work ethic, so it makes me want to get in and do the same thing. Lu's constantly bringing me in the gym to shoot extra with him, so I feel like the more work I put into it, the more ready I'll be."

His hard work is being noticed by his teammates and coaches. Bulls center Joakim Noah noted his play in describing the Bulls' overall mindset in their victory over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night.

"Just found a way," Noah said. "Just finding a way. I think that we fought hard at the end and Jimmy (Butler) gave us a great spark, Taj hit some big shots. It wasn't pretty, just found a way."

The same goes for Butler's career. He's admitted in the past that he didn't really even think about an NBA career until he started working with Marquette coach Buzz Williams. Now he's finding a way to contribute for a team that has been one of the league leaders the last two seasons.

One of the reasons he is so well-liked in the locker room is because of that hard-working attitude. It's that work ethic that Butler believes will pay off for him down the line.

He acknowledged it has been tough for him to wait to show everyone he could produce.

"It has been," he said. "But you have to wait for everything. Nothing's given to you. I've been waiting all my life for the most part, so whenever the opportunity's there, you've got to capitalize on it."

In Butler's mind, there's one area where he believes he has improved upon the most. It's the reason Thibodeau feels comfortable leaving him in at the end of games.

"My defense," he said. "I feel like my job is to go in and attempt to shut down whoever they assign me to guard, crash the offensive boards, be an energy guy and make an open shot when it's needed."

Butler better continuing working on his defense if he wants to stay in Chicago long term. Listening to Thibodeau bark at him day after day is one thing. Having angry Bears fans bark at him about picking against their team is another.

Given his track record, Butler will find a way to deal with both and make the best out of the situation, no matter what happens on Sunday.

Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jimmy Butler
PTS AST STL MIN
21.6 3.2 1.6 39.2
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 10.5
AssistsD. Rose 5.0
StealsJ. Butler 1.6
BlocksP. Gasol 2.3