During the 2015-16 season, Jimmy Butler began isolating himself from his Chicago Bulls teammates, as he was quickly climbing up the NBA ranks and let his ego get in the way of the team’s success.
According to ESPN, Butler started dressing in different parts of the locker room before and after games and got into several heated exchanges with Joakim Noah, who was the unquestioned emotional leader of the club.
Noah and Butler were very close during Butler’s first couple of years in the league, but the two didn’t see eye to eye anymore and Noah wasn’t a fan of the way Butler was conducting himself.
“There is no better illustration of the breaking point between one era of Bulls players and another than the deterioration of Noah and Butler’s relationship during the 2015-16 season. The pair had grown very close in Butler’s first few seasons, but, as the season unfolded, it became impossible for the organization to ignore just how much love had been lost between the formerly tight pair. According to multiple sources, Noah and Butler engaged in several heated disagreements throughout that season.”
Everyone is familiar with Butler’s story by now.
The Bulls took a chance on him in the 2011 draft with the 30th pick and watched the Texas native grow from a defensive specialist into one of the best two-way players in the game in a short amount of time.
The 2014-15 season was Butler’s breakout year. The 6-foot-7 swingman averaged 20.0 points per game and won the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award.
It was after that stellar campaign, however, when Butler started to change according to some people within the Bulls organization.
Butler was no longer that humble kid from Tomball, Texas.
The Bulls, who still had Derrick Rose in 2015, looked primed to make a deep playoff run and were up 2-1 against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second-round.
Game 4 was there for the Bulls to take, but LeBron hit a game-winning three right in Butler’s face to tie the series at two games a piece and Chicago was never able to rebound after that loss, losing the next two games to close out their season.
That Game 4 defeat was the end of the Tom Thibodeau era in Chicago so to speak. The Bulls fired the demonstrative coach after five successful seasons and hired Fred Hoiberg as his replacement.
Hoiberg’s first year in The Windy City was a mess from start to finish and Butler didn’t help the cause with his outbursts.
The Bulls missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season in 2016 and Butler publicly ripped Hoiberg in the media, calling for Hoiberg to coach harder.
Butler’s comments weren’t received well with the higher-ups in the Bulls’ front office because Hoiberg was essentially their puppet.
After Chicago traded Rose, Butler was the new franchise player this past year and he produced like one, averaging 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists during the regular season.
But the Bulls’ brass never fully committed to Butler being the guy they wanted to build around, as they dangled his name in trade talks for two years straight before finally moving him this offseason.
Butler’s reputation took a hit after he and Dwyane Wade called out the young guys on the Bulls after an epic collapse to the Atlanta Hawks, as some pundits were claiming Butler wasn’t a good leader and is toxic.
Former NBA player Antoine Walker even went as far as saying Butler is a “bad locker room guy.”
In a summer interview with Vice Sports, Butler shared an interesting tidbit about himself which will either excite or worry fans in Minnesota depending on how they view the quote.
“I’m confrontational,” Butler said. “I feed off of confrontation. It makes me go. Not everybody’s like that.”
The future is bright for the Wolves, who possess a lethal Big Three in Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
The question now is how will Butler’s new teammates react to his strong personality if and when he acts out.