- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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Jimmy Butler has tried to take all the praise he's received over the past two weeks in stride, but he is enjoying playing with his close friend and teammate Luol Deng. The pair played some critical minutes together in the Chicago Bulls' win on Monday and may find themselves on the floor together more depending on matchups.
"Lu makes everything easier for everybody," Butler said. "If there's a ball screen it's like everybody can switch out there on the floor. And then on the offensive end he draws so much attention that it's easy for me to get open shots or when I drive he can space because he can knock down a shot or he can drive and create for somebody else. I guess that's the perks of having All-Stars on your team."
So is the Butler/Deng duo a sign of things to come? Thibodeau has said over the last few days that it depends on matchups, but it's clear that he has developed more trust in Butler's game. He appreciates the work Butler has put into his game and the mental toughness the Marquette alum has shown.
"That’s one of the things that’s unique," Thibodeau said. "He has the ability to start or come off the bench. In some cases, a guy has a hard time starting or coming off the bench. Jimmy does both very effectively. He also has a very quick motor. Oftentimes, he didn’t play a lot in the first half and ends up finishing the game. Whether you put him in early, late or in the middle, he handles everything well. It doesn’t take him long to get going. He gets right in the game and starts moving. I think his toughness is a big aspect. Now that he’s gotten more experience, he’s gotten better and better. I want him to continue to do so. He’s a very important part of the team."
For Butler, playing either the two or three position isn't going to change his mentality. He welcomes the challenge.
"I feel like back in my young days in college I had to do the same so I guess it kind of translated here," he said of playing the two or the three. "But I feel like it's a lot easier knowing that my teammates are going to have my back if I am beat. And then when I'm not beat, they know that I can contain whoever I'm guarding and then just get up and down and just help them on the offensive end."