Jimmy Butler poised to take advantage

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
4:12
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Jimmy ButlerDavid Banks/Getty ImagesJimmy Butler looks forward to getting some open looks playing alongside Derrick Rose.
DEERFIELD, Ill. -- If the Chicago Bulls have done their math correctly, the calculation that has everybody intrigued is one that centers around Jimmy Butler.

The player who looked to take the most advantage of Derrick Rose's absence last season will come into the 2013-14 season with a better all-around game, but still could be poised to get less attention from opposing defenses.

The return of Rose suggests that opponents will have their hands full with the former MVP meaning the player who burst onto the scene with a vengeance last year should still have plenty of room to operate and grow even further.

"I'm moving, getting to the open place, cutting to the basket," Butler said after playing in a pair of scrimmages in practice Wednesday. "It's the same type of game for me. It just may be a little easier because Derrick is out there. He's always looking to find that open guy. If he can't finish at the cup or get a pull-up jumper out of it, he's going to get it to the right guy."

Rose hasn't even played in his first preseason game after missing all of last year and he is salivating over the chance to have Bulter as a third or even fourth option in the offense.

"Oh yeah for sure," Rose said. "He's been knocking down his shot. He's been shooting the ball a lot better. He's coming in, staying afterward, just getting up shots, and I think his timing is going to come back."

After shooting 38.1 percent from three-point range last season (42 percent in home games), the Bulls will be asking Butler to hang out on the wing this season and let it fly.

"When he gets to shoot the ball he has to because the way our offense is, if he doesn't shoot it kind of leaves us stagnant and we don't need that for our offense right now," Rose said.

Enter another reason why Butler is expected to thrive in his new role: He isn't looking at his chance to start this season, or his blessing to catch and shoot as some sign that he has arrived. He looks at his role as nothing different from the past.

"My job is to play hard, guard, hit open shots and be a good teammate," he said. "(Coach Tom Thibodeau) wants a team full of leaders so I have to be much more of a leader also. The one thing that's different is I'm coming out of the starting lineup."

If Butler doesn't want to notice how things have changed, others have. His profile rose enough last season that he was invited to attend the ESPY Awards and while eating dinner in Los Angeles, he received some validation for the work he did last year.

"I was having dinner and Tyson Chandler came up to me and shook my hand," Butler said. "He said, 'I really respect you and how hard you play and your game.' That's like, wow. Dude knows who I am and I'm from Tomball, (Texas)? Nobody is supposed to know who I am. That's a really great feeling."

His "Aw, shucks," moment doesn't last long, though. Butler is locked back into the task at hand. The difference with Rose back on the court is obvious. Some fans might have been disappointed that Rose didn't return last season, but the most important thing for the Bulls is that none of the players were down on their young playmaker.

All that matters to them is that Rose is back and looking like he used to, if not better.

"I'm moving, getting to the open place, cutting to the basket," Butler said. "It's the same type of game for me. It just may be a little easier because Derrick is out there. He's always looking to find that open guy. If he can't finish at the cup or get a pull-up jumper out of it, he's going to get it to the right guy."

A healthy Rose and a more experienced Butler give the Bulls so many more options.

"I think that (Butler) has a much better understanding of what we need him to do," Thibodeau said. "I thought he had a terrific year last year. Now the challenge is to build consistency, to be able to do it over a long period of time. I love his attitude and approach. That hasn't changed from the day he walked in this gym and I hope it never does. I think when you have those type of characteristics, you'll continue to improve, so his approach to the game is very, very good."

Just watching Butler play last season, Rose saw improvement. Playing with him already in the past few days, Rose thinks he underestimated how much improvement Butler made.

"Jimmy is good man; he improved so much," Rose said. "He came out to L.A. and worked out with me for about a week. He came back here for a couple of weeks and then when I came back, he's playing with a lot more confidence.

"We're just trying to get him comfortable. We're going to allow him to make mistakes. Just get that chemistry. He deserves to be a starter and he deserves to play through his mistakes and we're just trying to get that to him right now where he deserves do whatever he wants to do, what's comfortable, and it will make us better."

Doug Padilla

Chicago White Sox beat reporter
Doug joined ESPN Chicago in July 2010 and covers the Chicago White Sox for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Derrick Rose
PTS AST STL MIN
15.9 4.3 0.5 31.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Noah 11.3
AssistsJ. Noah 5.4
StealsJ. Butler 1.9
BlocksJ. Noah 1.5