“Blazing saddles,” Joakim Noah explained, in reference to teammate Jimmy Butler, also known as “Cowboy” to his teammates. “Blazing saddles! That’s him.” Butler notched his fifth straight double-figure scoring night Tuesday, scoring 18 points in the Bulls’ win over the Suns. And while it’s not as if the third-year swingman has suddenly morphed into the second coming of league scoring leader Kevin Durant, he’s in a much better place than he’s been for the majority of the season. Butler has assumed former teammate and on-court mentor Luol Deng’s role as Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau’s heavy-minute workhorse, usually drawing the opposing team’s top perimeter defensive assignment—for example, in the Bulls’ first game of their ongoing six-game trip, a win in San Antonio last week, Butler defended Spurs All-Star point guard Tony Parker for large stretches of the contest—while still being relied upon to provide offense. Butler is no longer that mysterious youngster that took the league by storm in the second half of last season and along with nagging injuries, the fact that he’s now on the opposing team’s scouting report has factored into his struggles. “Yeah, I can tell,” he admitted to CSNChicago.com. “They don’t go under [screens] as much anymore. Then, they just know they’ve got to get back more in transition like everybody else, and I guess people are challenging my shot a lot more, so you can definitely tell.” That’s why he’s now focusing on getting back to his essence, a defensive-minded wing who can make plays in transition and away from the ball, and letting his offensive game develop from there. “I feel like my teammates find me to where I take wide-open shots, so I get into the paint or get to the line. But whenever I let my defense dictate my offense, there’s not a lot of thinking involved. It’s just playing basketball,” he explained. “I think that’s where it starts for me. Mike James was definitely the one that was telling me, ‘Let your defense create your offense,’ so when I do that and I don’t think about offense, the offense comes. “Once you start seeing the ball go in—layups, mid-range, the three, however it may be—you start to gain confidence. So I’ve got to just keep getting out in the open floor and getting layups,” Butler went on to say. “Just be aggressive. Whenever you’re open, shoot. If you’re not, pass. Get into the paint and get to the free-throw line.
Butler quietly has fifth straight double-figure game in Bulls win over Suns
CSN Chicago | Feb 5