Of all the great numbers to come from the Bulls 129-120 shootout victory Monday night against Toronto, the most astounding to this writer — even more than the franchise-record 49 points in the fourth quarter — was that this is only game 23 in the back-court partnership of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. On the real, it is.
It didn’t even take another K.C. Johnson’s sidebar special to bring me to that revelation, it actually came minutes after my sluggish awakening this morning, watching WGN’s sports segment and their cute photo-shopped image of Rose and Butler as Mike and Scottie (Rose was Mike…advice to Pooh: don’t go bald).
‘GN’s imaging and its allusion was obviously done with tongue-in-cheek and without the “lets cover ourselves” hedging that a newspaper headline has to do. Knowing that, as a devoted copy editor myself, I understand why the Tribune went with “Rose-Butler could become an All-Star pairing…,” for Johnson’s online story today, but any humility can be spared here – they are an All-Star pairing today and the Toronto game made that abundant.
Rose may not be a shoe-in as voted starter due to added competition in the East since his last full-season — Kyrie Irving, John Wall, etc. — but beyond those two, you’re pretty much talking only Rose and Kyle Lowery as all-star level point guards in the conference, they all should make this year’s team but even if Rose is bumped out he’s firmly established as an all-star level talent.
Butler, on the other hand, has a reputation that is not rooted but is ever-growing and while he’s not enough of a star to be voted in (the SG spot is Dwyane Wade’s indefinitely…and he’s still playing well enough to get it) he damn sure has played well enough to earn the respect of the coaches, who should put him in among the first reserves.
But enough of all that exhibition talk. Even if both players were woefully underrated, Chicago knows what they have in Rose and Butler and the 23 game stat underscores just how separately these two players have acted as cylinders to the Bulls success in their time together thus far.
Butler’s first year, 2011-12, was the lockout-shortened season in which he was little much a factor due to being a low first-rounder drafted onto a perceived title contender. Meanwhile, with title contention all on his brain, Rose pushed himself through a injury-filled campaign (playing three less games — 39 — than the rookie Butler in the 66-game season) and we all know what has happened since then…
In that time, while Rose has climbed out the Pit like Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul, Jimmy Butler turned into Jimmy G. Buckets and has even in the time since this season’s beginning transformed fully into a true go-to player, meaning that the Bulls have two perimeter threats they can trust with the ball in clutch situations, trust to shoot from long range, trust to drive with the ball, trust to frustrate opposing defenses to no end, trust to even guard the opponents’ best clutch threats on-ball. Sounds familiar, huh?
Twenty-three games. Just over a third of that lockout-shortened season, maybe a little early to project all-time greatness. We can’t even put them clearly above the Splash Bros. and Wall and Beal and now Rondo and Ellis and whoever else you want to put up at this point, but the promise is there.
Both men are playing for great motivating factors — Rose to re-establish himself, Butler to simply establish (both on a competitive and monetary level) — and both approach the game with similar “ball-first, speak-second” mentalities. These twin cylinders are synchronized now and they’re really pumping. With a motor like this, the Bulls’ bandwagon can accept a lot more passengers.
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