CLEVELAND -- Jimmy Butler always tried to emulate Luol Deng on the court. Since Deng was dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this month, Butler has been getting his chance more than ever to show how much he has learned from his mentor.
Specifically, Butler has filled the role for coach Tom Thibodeau as ironman of the Bulls. Night after night, Butler plays heavy minutes, hardly ever coming off the court much the same way Deng did. It's a role Butler is accepting with open arms.
"I feel like that's what I wanted though," Butler said after playing 50 minutes in an overtime win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night. "My teammates trust me to do so, [as does the] coaching staff, so I have to be ready for it. And that's on both ends of the floor. I have to play extremely hard every possession and just go."
Wednesday's game against the Cavs will be emotional for a lot of Bulls given Deng's close ties to the organization, but it will be interesting to watch and see how Butler performs. He is one of many Bulls who developed a brother-type relationship with the All-Star forward and he's the man who probably will start the game off defending Deng. He's looking forward to the challenge of facing off against the man he learned so much from.
"More than anything, how you have to take care of your body," Butler said. "I think Lu played a million and some minutes, and he took care of his body the way you're supposed to, so I'm starting to do the same."
What's next: The Bulls face Deng for the first time. Thibodeau is hoping his players will stay locked in on the fact they need a win and not focus as much on the opponent.
The last word: Taj Gibson on the mentality of the Bulls:
"I know a lot of people talk about wanting us to tank, do all this, but we got too much pride in this locker room. There's guys coming from being No. 1 seeds a couple years ago, going deep in playoffs, battling with numerous things against us and we still have that same character. Thibs just says it's all about what we think in the locker room and we really believe in that. We really believe we can beat anybody."