Butler’s return: Wing- win situation
Shooting guard’s two- way play sets him apart
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.
Jimmy Butler had 24 points and 11 rebounds and played great defense Saturday against Rockets star James Harden.