They love the role of the underdog.
The Bulls thrive off the notion that people have counted them out. For Butler, it's a mantra that has defined his career. The first-round pick out of Marquette flew under the radar throughout much of his college career, but has emerged has a top-tier defender in Thibodeau's system. Despite the praise that has come his way from Thibodeau, and others, throughout the league, Butler's mindset hasn't changed. That was clear after Friday's shootaround when Butler was asked about his chances of getting some All-Defensive team votes.
"Maybe," he said. "I don't know. I don't think anybody knows who I am in this league still. I think I've still got a long way to go."
What Butler does admit is that, like many of his teammates, he had to take more of a leadership role this season.
While Butler's jump shot sill needs work, it's his defense that has earned him Thibodeau's trust. One of the most interesting storylines heading into the playoffs revolves around Butler's ability to continue playing heavy minutes in the postseason. He's averaging 38.4 minutes a game this season, after playing just 26 minutes a game last year. If the 24-year-old can still play at a high level in the postseason -- like he did a year ago -- even more people will start to take notice of what he's doing on the floor.
Familiar faces return: The Bulls rounded out their roster Thursday by signing veterans Mike James and Lou Amundson for the rest of the year. Those moves came just a few days after Ronnie Brewer returned to Chicago. While it's still unclear how much Thibodeau will use the trio, if at all, in real games, he is excited to have them back at practice. They know his system -- and he knows what to expect from them.
"Because we're familiar with them and they're familiar with us, I think it's good in general," Thibodeau said. "And where they're going to help the most is just with their approach, their attitudes. Obviously, they're brought in to bring energy, help the team prepare, and then if there's a need -- we're not going to be afraid to call upon them."
The last word: Joakim Noah, discussing how a team balances playing hard and having fun at the same time: "This is the life we chose and I'm living my dream. I get to play basketball for a living, play in front of 25,000 people that go crazy for us every night. I try not to take any of these moments for granted. Even though the playoffs are coming up and people want to always talk about what's going on ahead, it's just important for us to stay focused on our team and our progress and just enjoying the moment."