Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Opening Tip: Butler finds his form again
By Nick Friedell
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Jimmy Butler never sounded too concerned about his aching right toe over the past week despite the fact he walked around with a noticeable limp after Saturday's blowout loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Even after missing almost a month because of the same injury, the Chicago Bulls' energetic swingman was convinced he would bounce back to form. He was right. Butler had his best game in weeks on Monday night, scoring 26 points in a hard-fought win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
"The adrenaline and all that other good stuff [kicks in]," Butler said before Monday's shootaround. "And I'm playing basketball. It's kind of like there's no worries. There's plays when you can feel it but then a trip down the court and right back it's like it's not even there anymore."
Jimmy Butler scored 26 points Monday against Memphis, including a 12-for-14 effort at the line.
Butler didn't appear to be feeling too much pain on Monday night, despite the fact the toe, as usual, was covered in an ice wrap after the game. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau is convinced Butler is over the mental hurdle of the injury.
"I think so," Thibodeau said. "I'm watching how he's reacting and the things he's doing, the things that he's saying -- I think he's a mentally tough kid. He had a day to gather himself, then he got right back in there and he was attacking. He's at his best when he's attacking at both ends. He's had a few bumps this season but he'll keep grinding. That's why even after the last game ... you feel good when you see a guy come in every night to work on his game. It may not be going well at that [point] but you know it's going to turn. When you put the work into it good things happen."
The key in Butler's performance was that he was aggressive in getting to the free throw line. He went 12-for-14 from the stripe and continuously drove to the rim.
"His aggressiveness, you could see it," Thibodeau said. "I think a big part of that is his timing. I'm watching how he's working so I feel pretty good, I know that it will come around. He did that earlier in the year. He's put a lot of extra time in and I think being out there and playing is helping him. His defense is terrific, but we need him running the floor, making his cuts, driving the ball, get to the free throw line, those are big plays for us."
After missing so many games already this season, Butler is just happy to be able to contribute again.
"I'm getting real comfortable," he said. "I sat down with a few of these vets today at brunch and they just talked to me and just told me to play my game and have fun. When you have fun, everything else takes care of itself."
Joerger feels Bulls' pain: Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger can empathize with all the injuries Thibodeau and his staff have dealt with this season. Memphis has been without center Marc Gasol as he tries to come back from a knee injury. The Bulls have already lost Derrick Rose for the season due to a torn medial meniscus in his right knee.
"As time goes on you try to catch a rhythm with the group that you have," Joerger said. "Offensively, [Rose] can clearly create his own shot. Now that can be at the rim or anywhere else and can create a shot for anybody else. Marc was the same way for us, a facilatator, as a playmaker, as a scorer. You take those players off the floor, it makes guys who can't create their own shot, it makes it very difficult because you try to roboticize your offense, and try to make the offense manufacture points, and manufacture looks for guys. I know that's what they're going through as well as we are."
What's next: The Bulls face off against the Toronto Raptors at 7 p.m. CT Tuesday at the United Center.
The last word: Thibodeau, on whether he feels like better days are ahead for his team.
"We just got to keep grinding. We can't worry about what might be, what could be. Just come in [Tuesday], concentrate, improve, hopefully [Luol Deng]'s back. I like the way -- I think our bench will be solidified. I think D.J. [Augustin] is playing at a very high level. Taj [Gibson] has been great all season. Mike Dunleavy has been great in the different roles that he's had. Just getting people back, I think, is good for us."