Jimmy Butler has always been one of my favorite basketball players.
I learned about how he was kicked out and homeless at just 12 years old and the struggles he went through just to make it to the league when he was drafted by my favorite team. No stranger to having a traumatic childhood of my own, I gravitated towards the hard-working underdog who forced his way onto that Bulls team. He earned everything he was given in Chicago.
As much as I loved Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, I was happy that the Bulls decided to go with Jimmy when it came time for the split. You heard about Noah and Butler getting into heated arguments and excuse that as frustration in a disappointing season. It wasn’t until much later the details about Butler dressing with the coaching staff and creating a toxic locker room situation come to light.
Jimmy Butler’s work ethic has always been comparable to the other hardest workers in the league. For someone who has had to climb the ladder not just from role player to star but to be homeless before even being a teenager to reaching the heights of being one of the best players on a championship team requires a drive and determination that few people will be able to match. This was just the first case of a team not living up to Jimmy’s standards.
“Got to say, I never did see that before. To separate yourself from the team. How the hell do you think we’re a team when that’s going on? Of course, I got the blame. But Jo saw it, he and Jimmy were at it. There was a lot of fracturing.”Derrick Rose’s autobiography “I’ll Show You”
Following that season up with management promising Fred Hoiberg a chance to play pace-and-space before adding Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo spelled disaster. The season of the “Three Alphas” was a train wreck that saw Jimmy throw his younger teammates under the bus before quickly reuniting with Thibs in Minnesota. While it was justified in the moment, this is the first bridge we watch Jimmy burn in a career that can be earmarked by them.
The split from the Timberwolves was well-publicized, especially after the interview with Rachel Nichols after proving his alpha status in practice. That was the spark that lit the fire that eventually saw Butler traded before he even made it two seasons with Minnesota. And while KAT seemed to take the brunt of this divorce, seeing him team with a positive motivating alpha in Anthony Edwards compared to the negative motivating, “if you’re not with me you’re against me” personality type of Jimmy Butler.
It’s not surprising that Karl Anthony-Towns and Jimmy Butler had personalities that clashed. At the time it was sold as Jimmy would light a fire under Towns and show him how to be a winner. Instead of embracing Towns and attempting to reach him on a level the more passive Towns was comfortable with, Butler went with the only tool he has in his toolbox. The hammer wasn’t the tool to unlock KAT’s potential however and Jimmy would be taking his hard hat and toolbox to Philadelphia 10 games into the season.
When someone struggles to survive at such a young age it can harden a person and cause them to embrace the chaos as they grind their way to success. Jimmy Butler was able to grind his way all the way to the NBA in what is an amazing story.
But it’s that same determination and refusal to give in to the doubters that see him push away people he deems “unworthy” and use them as scapegoats when things go poorly. Jordan and Kobe got away with this type of behavior because they were good enough to get their teams to the promised land. No matter how hard Jimmy Butler grinds, he’s never going to reach that tier of player.
When being interviewed by former teammate JJ Reddick on the episode with the quote above Butler also talks about how the issues were there from the start in Philadelphia. Brett Brown had the team watch film but they didn’t talk about the film as they watched it, instead having silence.
I agree with Jimmy Butler that the coaching staff needs to be breaking the film down for the players but as the great David Jacoby says “It’s not about what you do, it’s how you do it”. Rather than waiting weeks for things to boil over and then throwing a teammate under the bus you finally do speak up I’d rather Butler have taken the chance to show leadership.
“I’m reminded that he wears people down and he knows it…He’s aware of it and he doesn’t think anything wrong of it in the process”David Thorpe on The Lowe Post
Coming in as the final piece for a team built to win the title, Butler could have set the standard by initiating the film breakdowns and challenging the coach’s authority that way. The media would have eaten up a tidbit like that as “setting championship standards” and “proving his worth as the missing piece for this team”.
Things didn’t work out that way though and with free agency at his fingertips, it seemed like fate had finally found a perfect match for Butler in the Miami Heat. A team that will hold everyone accountable with the standards they set all on their own, a coaching staff that is considered one of the best in the entire league, and the “Heat culture” that embodies the kind of attitude Butler thrives around.
But after coming up just short in the Bubble and the team starting to struggle after overachieving all year the frustrations boiled over with the argument on the court Butler started with Spoelstra and Haslem by challenging their head coach to a fight. While it may seem like the cracks are starting to show, I’m hoping that the opposite happens.
The Miami Heat are the perfect team to hold Jimmy accountable when he loses his temper and lets things escalate further than they should. In a perfect world, Butler will see this, and instead of taking advantage of that fact try and channel the frustration he gets out in a negative way other than challenging members of the coaching staff to fistfights. If he doesn’t I can see the Heat deciding they are better off without him before the end of that contract extension and what team would he be better suited for?
There’s a saying about how if you run into an asshole once a day that you ran into an asshole, but if you run into three assholes every day then you’re the one who is the asshole. Jimmy Butler needs to realize that he is the one that is the asshole and embrace the fact that he has found a franchise that has embraced him.