Saturday, March 9, 2013
Butler: I'm not a 'Kobe stopper'
By Nick Friedell
CHICAGO -- Jimmy Butler doesn't want to even hear the words.
Jimmy Butler is one of the Bulls' best defenders, but he'd prefer team defense receive the credit for any success.
"Kobe stopper," a voice says.
He sheepishly turns his head and looks the other way when they come up again late Friday night.
"I'm not even worried about that, man," Butler says. "I'm not the Kobe stopper. We as a team are."
Butler better get used to hearing the good-natured ribbing from his teammates over the weekend, though. After slowing down Kobe Bryant to the tune of a 7-for-22 shooting performance in a Jan. 21 home win over the Los Angeles Lakers, Butler will be expected to help do the same Sunday afternoon in L.A. It's a challenge the proud second-year swingman isn't backing away from, but he does not want to disrespect the future Hall of Famer by saying he will be able to play him the same way again.
"He's a great player, so it's not like you can key in on just one thing," Butler said of Bryant. "I feel like he's been doing this for an extremely long time and been extremely successful at it, so it's just going out there and competing. And my teammates got my back, so it will never just be me guarding him like I always say."
That's exactly the type of attitude that coach Tom Thibodeau wants Butler and the rest of his team to have. The veteran coach knows nobody can guard Bryant one-on-one; it has to be a team effort, especially with the way Bryant has been playing over the past few weeks.
"Kobe's Kobe," Thibodeau said. "[His recent play] says a lot about his will. When you look at him to still be able to play at the level he's playing at, it's incredible really. He's doing everything. Playmaking, shooting, playing defense, you name it, playing through injuries. He's a great leader because of what he does when he's on the floor. And you play with that type of intensity and that type of will -- he's moved that team in the right direction."
The difficulty in preparing for Bryant is that he can do so many things on the court. The Bulls were able to limit Bryant and Dwight Howard in January, but now Howard is playing at a much higher level and Bryant comes in having scored 83 points over his last two games. It's going to a major challenge for a banged-up Bulls team to come out with a win, and Thibodeau understands that.
"The thing is [Bryant] doesn't have to shoot the ball well to really help his team win," Thibodeau said. "And that's what he figured out a long time ago. Sometimes it's his ability to play-make. Sometimes it's his ability to get to the free throw line, his ability to move without the ball. He can have a poor shooting night and still end up with 25 points. So you have to concentrate on your body position. You got to make him play in a crowd. Whatever the game needs, that's what he's going after."
Rose update: Thibodeau said there was nothing new as far as Derrick Rose's status goes.
"Just concentrate on each and every day," Thibodeau said. "Put everything you have into it, and we'll see where we are."
Thibodeau was asked how he would handle the situation if Rose returns this season.
"We'll see," he said. "We'll cross that bridge when we get there. We just want him to keep working. There is no timetable."
While Rose's status remains in limbo, Rip Hamilton (lower back) will not travel with the Bulls on this trip. Kirk Hinrich (foot) and Taj Gibson (sprained MCL) are both day-to-day, but it doesn't sound as if either will play Sunday.
Thibodeau also noted that he thought the Bulls would be using the Dallas Mavericks team charter Saturday, as their plane is still being fixed after a scary engine mishap last Saturday night.
The last word: Butler, on playing against the Lakers at Staples Center: "I feel like that's what you grow up knowing. Those big arenas you watch on TV and know you get the chance to play against the greats in those arenas."