The Bernstein Brief: Jimmy Butler Can Save The Bulls From Themselves

By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist

(CBS) Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson has been a regular riot over the past two days, first spending an entire press conference Wednesday telling us how poorly Fred Hoiberg coached and how he was considering trading Jimmy Butler, then using radio appearances the next day trying to walk much of it back for some reason.

The public waffling over Butler’s future is due in part to the fact that Butler may not want to spend his prime years playing for a going-nowhere team and a coach he doesn’t respect. Remember that Butler thinks he’s a much better player than he actually is and now considers himself in the rarefied air of stars that define themselves by titles won more than anything else. He knows he’s not getting one as a Bull anytime soon and understands how hard he’s going to be asked to work to achieve nothing.

Butler has actively refused to run Hoiberg’s plays, has publicly called out his coaching style and has been seen demonstratively ignoring his instructions during timeouts and in games. Paxson also made it clear that Butler’s game is a less-than-ideal fit for what Hoiberg wants to do offensively.

So perhaps the upcoming summit meeting in Los Angeles is Butler’s chance to drive the Bulls’ agenda more than Paxson cares to do, demanding a trade that would let another team commit to his maximum contract extension.

Paxson is considering this scenario, and that’s why he’s talking out of both sides of his mouth about Butler’s future — painting a picture of commitment to their star while also talking about openness to a deal, passive-aggressively inviting anyone to make an offer.

It might be the best move for all involved, letting Butler try to be what he believes himself to be while forcing the Bulls to confront what they’ve become.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s “Bernstein and Goff Show” in afternoon drive. You can follow him on Twitter  @dan_bernstein and read more of his columns here.

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