By Cody Westerlund–
(CBS) A day after Bulls management left the sign open for business regarding a potential trade of star Jimmy Butler, executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson emphasized another point.
“Don’t misunderstand — we think the world of him,” Paxson said of Butler in an interview with Mully and Hanley on 670 The Score on Thursday morning.
Butler’s future has been a hot topic after the Bulls went 41-41 this past season and the front office acknowledged that a roster overhaul and infusion of new blood is more likely to come in summer 2018 than this summer. The way to speed up that process, of course, would be to trade Butler, a three-time All-Star who is far and away the team’s most valuable piece. Butler found himself amid trade talks last June on draft night and again this past February ahead of the trade deadline.
He’s repeatedly said he wants to remain in Chicago, but management hasn’t committed to building around him yet. Butler will seek clarity regarding the Bulls’ future direction and his standing in the organization in a meeting in the coming weeks.
Until then, Paxson wants it known that the organization values him greatly, even if some outside observers don’t read it that way.
“The thing with Jimmy, I feel sorry for players today in a lot of ways,” Paxson said. “Because with all the social media and everything and the noise that’s out there, there’s a lot of misinformation. You know, it gets to players. Look, we’re going to sit down with Jimmy. We talked to him briefly Saturday, and like I said, everything was raw that day. We just lost the night before.
“We’re going to be very open and honest with him. He’s become such a good player, and he’s trying very hard to be a good leader for this organization. He represents us very, very well. We have an obligation — this is what’s very difficult — we have an obligation as an organization to always keep your mind open. If somebody came to you and offered you some unbelievable deal, you’d have to look at it. But that’s not a knock on the player and that’s not saying you’re not committed to him. That’s just being realistic in this business, keeping your options open.
“You can’t say enough good things about how this young man has made himself into the player that he is. It’s been through hard work, it’s been through dedication, it’s been through this mindset that ‘I’m tougher than every other guy out there’ and that’s a wonderful and admirable quality to have.
Listen to Paxson’s full interview below.