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CHICAGO (AP) There was a time when Jimmy Butler didn’t have a home. Considering he now has one in the NBA, he sure has come a long way.
Homeless for a while as a teen, Butler’s remarkable story took another turn when the Bulls selected the Marquette forward with the 30th pick in the NBA draft on Thursday night.
“I never really talked about it,” Butler said. “I always kept it inside, tried to keep it a secret, but I knew it had to get out at some point. It just had to get out now. I’m glad I got it out, to tell you the truth, because I’ve been holding that in for a very, very long time. Everybody was inspired by it.
“That’s just me, that’s my story,” he continued. “This is my family, and I wouldn’t change anything for the world.”
Butler got kicked out of his house by his mother when he was 13, in Tomball, Texas. His father out of his life since he was a baby. He had no money and nowhere to go, really.
He’d stay with friends for a few weeks and then move on to another one, looking for some place – any place – to stay. He finally settled in with the Lambert family, became a star at Tomball High and went on Tyler Junior College before spending the past three seasons at Marquette, starting each year.
Now, he’s making another big move.
“Each time we met with him, he really kind of blew us away,” general manager Gar Forman said. “We really feel he’ll be a fit in the locker room, he’ll be a fit with the culture of this team. We think he’ll fit on the floor, and we were ecstatic Jimmy was still there when we were picking 30th.”
Butler was one of two first-round picks by the Bulls, but he’s the only one that will wear a Chicago uniform for now.
They took Cleveland State guard Norris Cole at No. 28, but several reports had him and the No. 43 pick (UCLA guard Malcolm Lee) going to Minnesota for the rights to 6-foot-10 forward Nikola Mirotic, whom Houston took at No. 23 and dealt to the Timberwolves. Minnesota agreed to send Cole to the Miami Heat, a person familiar with the situation told the Associated Press.
Mirotic is locked up with Real Madrid in Spain for the next four years, meaning Chicago will have only one rookie under contract next season.
Butler was an honorable-mention All-Big East pick for Marquette after finishing second on the team in scoring (15.7 points per game) and rebounding (6.1 rpg.) while averaging a team-high 1.4 steals. Although he doesn’t fill the need for an outside shooter, he can hit the mid-range jumper and defend four positions.
He joins a team that made a big leap last season, winning a league-leading 62 games and advancing to the Eastern Conference finals behind MVP Derrick Rose and a major overhaul that came on the heels of back-to-back first-round playoff exits.
The Bulls’ inability to hit from the outside ultimately cost them, and they wound up getting eliminated by Miami in five games. Even so, Forman said this week he was more inclined to go with the best available player rather than simply fill a need.
If they get another shooter, it’ll come in free agency or a trade. Of course, there’s a big cloud of uncertainty with a possible lockout.
“Shooting is something we put at a premium,” Forman said. “We need to get as many guys as we can to space the floor because we have such a special guard in Derrick Rose.”
Forman doesn’t see a need for another major shake-up, even though the Heat figure to remain a hurdle for the Bulls in the coming years. They contained Rose in the conference finals, and without a reliable scorer at shooting guard, Chicago bowed out in five games.
For the playoffs, they shot 42.2 percent overall and 32.9 percent on 3-pointers and they weren’t much better during the regular season. Chicago ranked 19th in field-goal percentage (46.2) and 18th on 3-pointers at 36.1 percent.
Butler said he can become a guy who stretches defenses and vowed to extend the range on his jumper after going 36 of 94 over his three seasons with Marquette. He believes he can play shooting guard in the NBA.
“I will be able to play that because I don’t think you understand how much time I’m going to spend in this gym to where I can stay at this level, and I want to stay at this level for a long time,” he said. “In order to do that, I’ve got to get better at every aspect of my game – not just shooting.”
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