After the Bulls were eliminated from playoff contention Sunday, All-Star Jimmy Butler had a personal situation he felt he needed to attend to, whatever that was. He did not travel with the team to New Orleans for its next game, but instead sent word that he would rejoin the team for the game. He did in fact play in that game, despite it having no meaning for the Bulls, and despite other members of the Bulls sitting it out.
Still, Butler didn't travel with the team. And apparently that didn't sit well with some of his teammates.
In a video on ESPN.com, Chris Broussard reports that some Bulls players were bothered by Butler's absence, and that it speaks to a greater feeling of inequality within the Chicago locker room. Transcript via ProBasketballTalk:
Some players, and I’m not saying it wasn’t a family commitment, but there were some – I know at least one player in particular, a starter – who felt like he was a bit bothered by the fact that Jimmy wasn’t on the plane. And it was a misperception. He felt it was emblematic of a little bit of the preferential treatment that a lot of people say Butler’s been getting now that he’s emerged as the best player on the Bulls from the front office and things like that.
There’s a division. There’s all types of dysfunction in Chicago. There’s kind of a division in that locker room.The younger players see Butler as the leader. He’s clearly been their best player the last two years. They see him as the leader. The other guys, the veterans who’ve been there, it’s not so much of disrespect of Jimmy, but they don’t see him as the team leader. They remember when you were averaging two points a game.
This situation is more complicated than just this scenario, which, honestly, seems like a lot of whining from the Bulls players. After all it's not uncommon for players to miss time due to family situations. That happens all the time, to everyone. Life gets in the way.
There's a lingering perception, though, that Butler's ego has been a bit of a problem since he emerged as the team's best player last season. But on the other hand: Ge played. He came back, traveled more and played in a game he didn't really have to. That should matter.
This report isn't really about him going to a family situation after the Bulls were eliminated. It's about a greater problem, and it's one that has been foreshadowed by comments from teammates and coaches. There's a chemistry issue with the Bulls, and that -- more than anything -- is why you can expect big changes this summer.