But­ler’s re­turn: Wing- win sit­u­a­tion

Shoot­ing guard’s two- way play sets him apart

Chicago Sun-Times - - BULLS BEAT - JOE COW­LEY Email: jcow­ley@sun­times.com Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ sun­times_ hoops.

Derrick Rose has im­proved sig­nif­i­cantly since the be­gin­ning of Jan­uary, but his play isn’t unique.

The Bulls will take it. Any NBA team will take a point guard play­ing at a high level. But many NBA teams fea­ture that al­ready.

Shoot­ing guard Jimmy But­ler’s play falls into an en­tirely dif­fer­ent cat­e­gory, and his skills at both ends of the court put him in an elite class.

“But­ler’s a big, phys­i­cal wing who can de­fend any­body in this league,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said.

“Ob­vi­ously, we missed that as much as any­thing. Jimmy’s ab­sence, when he was out for that month, it was hard to find a way to de­fend those big, strong wings.

“You saw it [ Satur­day] night: When Jimmy got in foul trou­ble, we strug­gled, and we threw a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent cov­er­ages out there to try to make up for that as far as dou­ble teams.

‘‘ That puts you in scram­ble sit­u­a­tions. You don’t have to do that as much when Jimmy is on the floor.’’

As Pau Ga­sol said last week, this team is what the record says it is. With Rose sit­ting out, the Bulls are 6- 4. In 11 games with­out But­ler, they’re 3- 8.

In the Bulls’ 108- 100 vic­tory over the Hous­ton Rock­ets at the United Cen­ter, But­ler had 24 points and 11 re­bounds af­ter miss­ing close to a month.

More im­por­tant, But­ler held Rock­ets star James Har­den to six points when he guarded him. Har­den scored 30 points against ev­ery­one else.

Be­sides Stephen Curry of the Golden State War­riors sin­gle­hand­edly rein­vent­ing the point­guard po­si­tion, the NBA is wing dom­i­nant with two- way play­ers such as LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and But­ler sit­ting atop that group.

So Hoiberg took ad­van­tage of But­ler’s re­turn again dur­ing prac­tice Sun­day.

Of­fen­sively, Hoiberg said they needed to get back to some iso­la­tion sets in which But­ler can play to his strengths.

That doesn’t mean Hoiberg wants But­ler hold­ing the ball un­til the shot clock has dwin­dled, es­pe­cially with ball move­ment and quick de­ci­sion- mak­ing such an es­sen­tial part of his of­fense.

There’s a happy medium some­where, and Hoiberg wants But­ler to find it.

“Added a cou­ple of new wrinkles Sun­day and re­ally tried get­ting some of the things that we were suc­cess­ful with Jimmy at ear­lier in the year,’’ Hoiberg said. “Dif­fer­ent iso­la­tion- type ac­tions us­ing Jimmy in the ball screen, not only as a han­dler but as a screener and just get back to that.

“We went over some of those ac­tions the last two days. So it’s just a mat­ter of clean­ing that up and do­ing it in the game sit­u­a­tion, as op­posed to the prac­tice floor, where you’re go­ing through your of­fense at maybe 80 per­cent.

‘‘ Not only do­ing it on the floor, but do­ing it when you’re fa­tigued. That’s where we need to get bet­ter.’’

Hav­ing But­ler, their best player, back is a great start.

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Jimmy But­ler had 24 points and 11 re­bounds and played great de­fense Satur­day against Rock­ets star James Har­den.

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