Jimmy Butler may have signaled “the beginning of the end” of his time in Chicago with public criticism of new coach Fred Hoiberg, writes Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com. “I believe in the guys in this locker room, yeah,” Butler said after Saturday’s loss to the Knicks. “But I also believe that we probably have to be coached a lot harder at times. I’m sorry. I know Fred’s a laid-back guy and I really respect him for that, but when guys aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do, you got to get on guys. Myself included. You got to do what you’re supposed to do when you’re out there playing basketball.”
The 15-10 Bulls are tied for fourth place in the Eastern Conference but are having difficulty adjusting to Hoiberg’s style after years of defensive-minded “taskmaster” Tom Thibodeau, according to Friedell. Although Thibodeau’s relationship with the team deteriorated to the point where he was fired at the end of last season, Friedell notes that players always respected him and no one ever called him out through the media.
The writer points out that Butler has been making an effort to step out of the shadow of Derrick Rose and become “the face and voice” of the team. It’s not clear whether Butler will be disciplined for his comments, but Friedell speculates that he may be speaking for several players who are unhappy with Hoiberg’s coaching style. Friedell writes that the team could be “cemented or crushed” by Butler’s statement.
Either way, it’s unlikely to win him any points among the front office. Friedell writes that GM Gar Forman and executive VP John Paxson have given Hoiberg their full support since he was hired out of Iowa State over the summer and handed a five-year deal worth $25MM. Hoiberg is “entrenched” as the coach for the foreseeable future despite any player discontent, Friedell writes.
But the Bulls also made a huge commitment to Butler during the offseason. In July, he signed a five-year contract worth more than $90MM, with the expectation that he would be part of the foundation of the team for the rest of the decade. It was a near-maximum deal with a player option after the fourth year.
Now, Friedell notes, the relationship between player and coach will be closely examined for the rest of the season. It will have implications on whether the Bulls unify or splinter between supporters of Butler and supporters of Hoiberg. It’s also an issue that could linger until either Butler or Hoiberg is out of Chicago.
Was Butler justified in calling out his coach publicly? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.