NBA Finals: Emotions Still Run High In Chicago For Jimmy Butler

By Drew Stevens (@lookwhatdrewdid)

It’s as simple as this, Aaron Rodgers.

If you no longer want any part of an organization whose general manager has begun to dig your grave even as you continue to withstand the rigors of professional quarterbacking with flying colors, then you should most certainly look for a change of scenery. You see how well things are working out for Tom Brady after he ended his longterm relationship with New England, right?

He found greener — and far warmer — pastures in Tampa Bay. Now while it may be tempting to move across country where friendlier climates and your childhood favorite 49ers play, remember, that team blew its chance with you years ago. Besides, the coldest dish of revenge you could serve that bay green and cheese gold-colored front office would be aligning yourself with its sworn enemy, the Chicago Bears.

That’s how you retaliate against Brian Gutekunst, who had the audacity to trade up to select Jordan Love in last year’s NFL Draft, and head coach Matt LaFleur, who was a little too eager to co-sign that move and chose Mason Crosby’s leg, not your invaluable arm, when it mattered most. After all, when you have a chance to really stick it to your ex you don’t date a stranger. You round the bases with the best friend.

Think about it.

Not only would you move from the hallowed ground at Lambeau Field to that at Soldier Field, but you’d also go from being one of the city’s most hated visitors to one of its most beloved residents a la Dennis Rodman.

Plus, you love it here. Or at least that’s what I took from how you talked about the chills you feel before game time listening to both Jim Cornelison belt out the national anthem and Bears fans equally resounding reaction. “Those tingles over the years have made that place a really special environment,” you said in December. “And I do have a lot of respect for the organization, the fan base, their team.”

And we for you, albeit begrudgingly.

But you can’t really blame us for that though, can you? I mean, you did author a 35-16 beat down with your 240 yards and four touchdowns just a few days after speaking so highly of practically all things Chicago. Not to mention that was the 10th victory of your career in the Windy City in the 13 times you’ve played here. Hard feelings are even harder to shake when they’re mixed with the envy of watching your arch-rival swap one hall-of-fame signal caller for another while our carousel of mediocrity at that position continues to turn nonstop.

You can change that. You can rip that ride from its lousy rails. It’ll take some convincing, maybe even a little acting on your part. You’re pretty believable in those State Farm commercials. How good are you at faking or threatening retirement?

As far as compensation goes, tell Gutekunst we can offer the 20th overall pick in this year’s draft and future first-round picks in each of the next two as well. There figures to be a nice crop of blue chip offensive lineman this summer. Something for him to keep in mind given his franchise left tackle, David Bakhtiari, will be playing the rest of his career on a surgically-repaired knee. Also, considering how Kevin King had two touchdowns scored on him and drew a crippling defensive pass interference penalty that essentially robbed you of the chance to play in your second Super Bowl, it seems an upgrade at cornerback is in order. We’ve got a promising one in Jaylon Johnson he might be interested in, too.

If that package doesn’t move him, perhaps we can throw in the tag-and-trade of Allen Robinson. We’d much rather have the two of you here, but if we must sacrifice our most lethal offensive threat then so be it. You’re that special to us. Even today, just a handful of months from beginning your 17th year in the NFL.

Look. Breaking up is hard. There’s no two ways about it. But once you finish sopping up the best comfort food our city has to offer, you’ll adjust. You’ll see that while the sum of the Bears’ current weapons don’t yet compare to that of Davante Adams, Aaron Jones and Robert Tonyan, you’ve had far less to work with in your career than David Montgomery, Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney.

None of this is to say you’d find the type of immediate success that Brady’s found with the Buccaneers. What it does mean is your arrival would, quite frankly, send an already rabid fanbase over the moon; push our mockery of a front office into credible standing; and our overworked defense into more favorable situations.

If nothing else, how satisfying would it be to flip the league’s oldest rivalry on its head, to force Gutekunst and LaFleur to forever rue the day they chose Love?

In Green Bay you had to escape the shadow of Brett Farve — who, against conventional wisdom, was cast out to the Jets of all teams after reaching near-deity status as a Cheeshead, his association with the Packers being the only one that can rival yours post-Bart Starr. Here, in Chicago, you’d cast a shadow as far as our franchise’s list of starting quarterbacks is long before you even threw your first pass in dark navy and orange.

The offseason is long. Our patience for a player your caliber has been woefully longer.

Just give it some thought.

Ok?

No, he isn’t the theme of every sentence written about the Miami Heat’s Cinderella season, but Jimmy Butler is as essential to the Heat’s storybook venture into the NBA Finals as the glass slipper was to the tale of a certain overlooked-to-obsessively sought heroine. 

Though this latest Heat run deep into the postseason, Butler has willfully faded into the periphery of the offense early in games, yet like the crafty vet he’s become Butler has still taken on the role of protagonist in the climatic moments of tight games, having made 10 of 17 shots from the field, 40 percent of his three-point attempts and 17 of 19 free throws in the last five minutes of games in which Miami and its opponent were within five points of each other — in the process outshining most of his more distinguished counterparts in the process.

Yet, in the face of the best example yet of Butler’s superior ability to win at all costs, there still exists a sizable segment of basketball fans convinced that his superstar bark lacks qualifying bite. 

Nowhere is one more likely to be scoffed at for merely mentioning Butler or his capability to spearhead a title-winning team than in the town where he spent the first six years of his career, and whose heart is forever promised to former Bulls teammate Derrick Rose. The spectacular rise and turbulent fall of Chicago’s beloved son inversely coincided with Butler’s evolution from spot-minute defender to spotlighted star. 

But is it any coincidence that Butler remains a source of contention among those whose adoration for Rose still ignites volatile exchanges on the subject some four years since the two both played for the Bulls? 

“Whenever you juxtapose Jimmy with Rose the torches come out,” said NBC Sports Chicago podcast producer Tony Gill.

Gill’s recent tweet pointing out the unlikelihood of Butler advancing to the Finals before then-higher profile teammates Rose, Joakim Noah and former head coach Tom Thibodeau was largely interpreted by much of #BullsTwitter as a slight toward Englewood’s finest and upon hearing that, retaliatory responses ran rampant.

“We can respect both players for what they have done,” Gill said. “I don’t know why fans want to boost Rose and bring down Jimmy when respect can be given all around while embracing the facts.”

For Bulls fans, there’s a cruel reality that always has to be accepted regarding Rose and Butler: despite early evidence that they could help lead a new Bulls renaissance, the apex of their individual career trajectories never intersected under the roof of the Madhouse on Madison or culminated in its adornment of a seventh championship banner. 

Given his eventful and rocky stops in Minnesota and Philadelphia, its become clear that Butler expects his teammates to mirror the tireless work ethic that’s resulted in him being named to his third consecutive All-NBA Third-Team in 2020 along with an 11th place finish in Most Valuable Player voting this season. Before he found quintessential compatibility in Miami, Butler’s expectations often proved to be both lofty and irrational, and when unmet led to alleged locker room dissension. 

“Jimmy wasn’t the best leader early on,” Gill said. “You can make an argument that he wasn’t ready to be a leader of a franchise when he was (in Chicago).”

To Gill’s point, as the late-first round draft pick surpassed even the most generous projections for his career while a Bull, it was reported that not even the work ethic of the youngest MVP in league history was beyond Butler’s reproach.

According to a report from Chicago Sun-Times columnist Joe Cowley in which he cited a former Bull, the then-newly recognized Most Improved Player questioned the message being sent to teammates if, in his opinion, the homegrown franchise cornerstone wasn’t putting forth maximum effort in practice before the 2015-2016 season. 

Butler gave a different, if not confounding, impression publicly. 

“I love having Derrick as a teammate,” Butler told then-Chicago Tribune Bulls beat writer K.C. Johnson at the time. “Just let us play together. I think we can be one of the best, if not best, backcourts in NBA.”

Following a disappointing 42-40 campaign and Rose’s departure to the New York Knicks eight months later, Butler joined ESPNs The Jump and conveyed a lack of surprise to the trade. He even expressed his belief that either he or Rose had to be dealt. When pressed to explain why the duo had to be broken up Butler said, “I have no idea.”

Jimmy Butler Reportedly Doesn’t Respect Derrick Rose’s Work Ethic (B/R)

The two reunited briefly as Minnesota Timberwolves teammates during the 2017-2018, though this time around Butler served as the undeniable leader.

“He’s a superstar right now and I’m a guy that’s trying to find my way back into the league,” said Rose who, at the time, had played in just 89 regular season games since his departure from Chicago due to the tormenting of injury. 

Rose has since gone on to lead the Detroit Pistons in points (18.1) and assists (5.6) while shooting a career-best 49% from the field in 50 games this past season. 

Emmy nominated broadcaster and host Camron Smith said anyone who discredits Butler simply out of admiration for Rose may have some deep-seated issues in need of reconciliation. 

“What people don’t understand is the respect and love that Jimmy and Derrick have for each other,” Smith said. “That’s always been there.”

As the Heat prepare to embark on the final leg of their latest remarkable journey tonight — squaring up not only against the Los Angeles Lakers but also the man who last led Miami to a championship and thrice eliminated Butler and Rose from the post-season — the only thing clearer than the mutual respect between the former teammates is that this conversation, much like Chicago’s love for Rose and its polarizing position on Butler, is here to stay. 

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