When the Chicago Bulls added Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade this summer, a lot of questions popped up about who was going to be the leader and how the pecking order would shake out. At his introductory press conference, Wade tried to quell any question of where he stood with Jimmy Butler, first saying emphatically that it's Butler's team, and then revealing that Butler was the one who called Wade to sell him on joining the Bulls.
CSN Chicago caught up with Butler at the Team USA exhibition Friday night in Chicago and asked what Butler's pitch to Wade was:
"Just what we can do if we were to play basketball together. I said look man, I'm okay with whatever role you want me to play," said Butler to CSNChicago.com in an exclusive interview after Team USA beat Venezuela 80-45 Friday at the United Center, with Wade sitting next to Team USA's bench. "But we can win games if you're here with us. So that's basically how it went.
"I was telling him, of all the things that have been said, I'm here to win. I don't care what role I'm supposed to play, whose team it is, you come here, we'll win games."
Free agent acquisitions Wade and Rajon Rondo have openly said Butler is the first name on the basketball masthead, but Butler has termed them "the three Alphas". Regardless of what Butler has said before publicly about not being concerned with his standing in the locker room of the Chicago Bulls, he's feeling more and more comfortable with the position of leadership--perhaps emboldened by the validation of the two.
"Outside of all of that, all anybody wants is to be wanted," Butler said. "He wants me to step up and lead. He wants this to be my team. Just like I wanted him for my team. That mutual respect, us being honest with each other like that, that's where it starts. That's the foundation."
This is summer, when everything is peaches and cream, no one has any squabbles, there's no power struggle, and the sky is the limit for every team (except the Lakers and Sixers, pretty much). So this all sounds good.
Will Wade be alright with Butler's approach if things go sideways? There were persistent rumors last season about Butler's teammates being frustrated with his leadership, especially given that when many of those players joined the team Butler was a youngster just finding himself, and not the All-Star best-player-on-the-team he became over the past two seasons.
But Wade seems to really understand where he's at in the scheme of things, saying he can't play 40 minutes anymore and making a very public and emphatic show of Butler being the main man.
As for those issues with former teammates (never named but presumably Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose), Butler took the highest of roads. Again from CSN Chicago:
"I think man, it was a lot of mixes of everything," he said. "We weren't winning games we wanted to win. We were in and out the lineup, so many guys."
"I don't wanna use any excuses but that had something to do with it. We have a whole new team, we gotta move forward. I'm happy for those guys, I want them to be successful on their new team."
Butler also admitted to "stubbornness" but remained adamant that it gets back to his competitive nature. The issue is that Wade and Rondo would say the same thing about their penchant for ball dominance and breaking the offense. We'll see how the three of them mesh as personalities, let alone on the floor, given how similar their shot charts are:
Two scorers taking many of their shots from the same places has the potential for clash. But for now, everyone's saying the right things, and there's reason to hope that the Bulls can return to playoff contention and be a force in the East.
That's what makes summer so nice.