Jimmy Butler: "I Just Want to Win"
As the NBA season races towards All-Star weekend, the Eastern Conference looks more heated than ever. Aside from the action on the court, news of Blatt’s firing shocked coaches and players alike.
“I’m embarrassed for the league that something like this can happen,” said coach Rick Carlisle.
When reporters asked LeBron about the quick move to fire the best coach in the Eastern Conference, he defended his position: “That’s not my concern. I found out about it just like everybody else.”
Here are two reasons why the east is still up for grabs:
KYLE LOWRY PUSHING THE RAPTORS TO NEW HEIGHTS
With the help of intense summer workouts Kyle shed some serious pounds to prepare for this season. “I hardly recognized him,” said coach Casey.
Critics to the Raptors progress quickly point to last year’s post-season disaster sweep against the Wizards. How could the Raptors ever challenge the reigning Eastern Conference champs if they can’t even make it past the first round?A franchise-record 10 straight wins for the @Raptors, lead by 52 from their @NBAAllStar duo @KLow7 & @DeMar_DeRozan! pic.twitter.com/it8TpqfbTe— NBA (@NBA) January 29, 2016
Lowry showed early warning signs after a key injury sidelined him for a few games before the playoffs. Due to this, “Lowry’s offensive numbers dipped: he settled for more midrange shots and drew fewer fouls; he ran the pick-and-roll less often…and struggled with his jump shot in a way he hadn’t for years,” writes NBA analysts Neil Paine.
Indeed, it seemed as though Lowry’s career was headed down the tubes, and the Raptors' hopes with it.
Nevertheless, the pressure poured onto him entering this season helped Lowry go further than ever before. “I’m my own toughest critic, but I’ve learned to let it go and then try again tomorrow,” Lowry told Adrian Wojnarowski via Yahoo Sports. But more than just trying again tomorrow, Lowry inspired the Raptors to fight for a higher goal—the NBA Finals.
“It’s cool to make the playoffs,” said Lowry. “It’s not cool to lose in the first round anymore. The goal is to make the finals.” Grueling summer workouts at Villanova helped mold Lowry into the best shape of his life. He obviously took last season’s early exit to heart.
It’s not enough to dream about the finals. Players need to put in the work and to prove their game on the court. And what better way to go the extra mile than during the summer break.
“Preparation is key in life, and I think that’s what I did,” said Lowry to ESPN’s Mike Mazzeo. “I prepared for it, and I just wanted to make sure that I started to live the way I wanted to live.”
Kyle’s stats reflect his preparation and life style changes. He is averaging 20.9 points per game while shooting 38% from three-point range, all career highs. On the defensive end Lowry averages 2.2 steals per game, also a career high.
Of course, players don’t win championships on their own. But Toronto is one of just four other NBA teams in the top 10 in points scored and points allowed per 100 possessions. When Lowry plays well, the team plays well. Indicative of this, both Lowry and DeRozan are headed to the All-Star game. “He deserves it,” said star guard Kyrie Irving.
JIMMY BUTLER DISHES OUT BEST SEASON OF HIS CAREER
“Butler has reached an elite status in this league,” said head coach Fred Hoiberg. “The ball handling, his ability to get to the rim, using a ball screen, his three point shot if the defense tries to go under on him. And he’s always had that elite defensive mindset as well.”
It’s true that Butler is a freak of nature on both sides of the court, but at what cost? Critics point to Chicago’s history of illness: Noah’s shoulder, Derrick Rose in general, and now less seriously Nikola Mirotic. You have to wonder if Butler’s iron man work ethic will eventually be his kryptonite. What happens if he takes it too far, if the coach asks too much of him? The Bulls are 15-17 with Butler on the bench.
Butler leads the league in minutes per game with 38.3 for the third consecutive season. When asked about the huge amount of time spent on the floor, Butler didn’t seem too freaked out: “I just want to win. I want to help us in any way, shape or form. If that’s 48 straight minutes, if that’s 60 minutes I’m willing to do it.”
And he proves it on the court. Flash back to January 14th, 2016. Butler carried the team on his back when he scored 53 points in a complete turnaround to win in overtime. The problem? It came against the lowly 76ers. If it takes that kind of fantastic individual effort to beat one of the worse teams in the league, will Butler be able to keep up the pace? “It’s clear the Bulls will go only as far as Jimmy Butler will take them,” writes NBA reporter Rob Ogden.
Just how far is that? The mark of a true champion is how well they play the best teams in the league. The Bulls are 2-0 against the Cavaliers, one of those wins spoiling Tyronn Lue’s debut.
The Toronto Raptors have been boiling hot, winning their last 10 games in a row. Against the Bulls, it’s a different story. Chicago has one its last 7 straight against Toronto.
On their last meeting, Butler scored a memorable 40 points in one half to help the Bulls win 115-113.
The last player to score that much in a half for the Bulls was the great MJ with 39 points. So sure the Bulls are playing with fire when it comes to Butler’s minutes, but why not strike while the iron is hot?
When asked about his teammates All-Star season, Rose had nothing but high praise for Butler: “He’s been balling. As far as us having one of the top teams in the East, he’s held us up so far.”
NBA analysts Jalen Rose, who Butler admires, had this to say about Butler’s season up to this point: “He’s one of the best players in the league.”
When the playoffs arrive in April, you better believe that the stars will come to play.
Kyrie Irving says Kyle Lowry deserves to start in All-Star Game By James Herbert | NBA Writer
How Kyle Lowry transformed the Raptors and become one of the NBA’s top point guard By Adrian Wojnarowski | Yahoo Sports
Kyle Lowry lifted up his game by dropping the pounds By Mike Mazzeo | ESPN
Kyle Lowry Could Make Toronto An NBA Finals Dark Horse By Neil Paine | FiveThirtyEight
Looking to leap in Toronto By Zach Lowe | ESPN
LeBron’s Cavs Are The Best Team Ever To Fire Its Coach Midseason By Nate Silver | FiveThirtyEight
Jimmy Butler is Carrying the Bulls into the Future By Paul Flannery | SB Nation
Jimmy Butler broke Michael Jordan’s franchise record By Ricky O’Donnell | SB
Fred Hoiberg says Jimmy Butler has reached ‘Elite Status’ in NBA By Rob Ogden | Chicago Sun-Times
Bulls are playing with fire By Josh Planos | Washington Post