In his first interview since Thursday night’s blockbuster trade, All-Star Jimmy Butler told the Chicago Sun-Times on Friday that he’s not mad at the Bulls, but he does wish the organization handled certain things differently leading up to the deal.
Butler’s name had been rumored in trade talks for much of the past year. Chicago opted to make a deal Thursday night, sending the face of its franchise and the 16th pick of the draft (Creighton center Justin Patton) to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and the No. 7 pick (Arizona 7-footer Lauri Markkanen).
“I guess being called the face of an organization isn’t as good as I thought,” Butler, 27, told the Sun-Times from Paris, where he first learned of the trade. “We all see where being the so-called face of the Chicago Bulls got me. So let me be just a player for the Timberwolves, man. That’s all I want to do. I just want to be winning games, do what I can for my respective organization and let them realize what I’m trying to do.
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“Whatever they want to call me … face … I don’t even want to get into that anymore. Whose team is it? All that means nothing. You know what I’ve learned? Face of the team, eventually you’re going to see the back of his head as he’s leaving town, so no thanks.”
Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson joined ESPN Chicago’s “Waddle and Silvy” on Friday and addressed Butler’s comments. Paxson was asked whether the Bulls told Butler there was a chance he would be traded.
“We’ve always said that to everybody,” Paxson said. “I don’t know how many times we have to say it publicly. We’ve said these type of things can always happen. … These are the hardest things to do, when you move a player that you’ve invested so much time in, who you’ve watched grow and develop as a player.
“The implication in the question is that we aren’t honest, and it’s not fair. … All we’ve ever said publicly and privately — have I not said the only player I’ve ever been around that couldn’t be traded is Michael Jordan?”
To Butler, the buildup to the deal — with his name in rumors involving teams such as the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and Timberwolves — before one was finally consummated while he was on vacation showed him how “crazy” the business side of the NBA is.
“I had so many people telling me what could possibly happen, but I just got to the point where I stopped paying attention to it,” Butler told the Sun-Times.
“You can’t get mad at anybody. I’m not mad — I’m not. I just don’t like the way some things were handled, but it’s OK.”
Paxson said he didn’t understand where Butler’s comments were coming from.
“I have been honest with Jimmy Butler every time I’ve ever spoken to him,” Paxson said. “That should be the end of the discussion.”
He added: “Are we supposed to let everyone know what we’re trying to do? We have a job to do. It’s just frustrating that there is so much misinformation out there and so much garbage. … In our world, we can’t answer to every little piece that isn’t true.”
As for his much-discussed relationship with Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, Butler told the Sun-Times: “Fred had the same objective that I did. He wanted to win. I do agree that we go about it differently, but I don’t care what anyone thinks about me as a basketball player. I have no bad things to say about Fred at all.”
Butler’s new coach in Minnesota will be the man Hoiberg replaced in Chicago, Tom Thibodeau.
Butler said he looks forward to reuniting with his former coach and believes the Timberwolves are going “to be the toughest team that takes the floor every night.”
“I love to be challenged by my coaches,” Butler told the Sun-Times. “I feel like I’ve talked so much about how I love Thibs and respect what he does, going back to my rookie year. He’s done so much for me. It’s great to be back with a guy like that. The guy knows how to win. I know his style of play, and I feel like I’ll fit in with that core that they have over there.”