DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Chicago Bulls rookie Jimmy Butler might have been the happiest person in the Berto Center on Tuesday afternoon. After five long months of waiting, the Marquette alum can finally begin his professional career.
"It was definitely tough," Butler said Tuesday afternoon.
The realization that he was no longer in college started to hit home these past few months, but it took on a whole new meaning on Tuesday.
"I could kind of look [and say] 'OK, I know these plays. I know what to expect. I know what I'm getting myself into [at Marquette]," he said. "I have no idea what I'm getting myself into right now to tell you the truth. All I can do is ask [fellow Marquette alums] Wesley Matthews, Steve Novak, [and new teammate Derrick Rose]. So they keep me up to par on what I need to know, basic things to get off to a good start. I think that really did help, but as of me knowing, I have no idea as of right now what this is going to be like."
Butler said he spent some time meeting fellow Bulls Joakim Noah, Ronnie Brewer and Keith Bogans (who was working out with his old teammates despite not knowing whether or not the Bulls will pick up his option in the next few days.
"I'm extremely happy to be here," Butler said. "This is always a dream and I'm know I'm going to have to work so it's not a doubt in my mind and I'm willing to do that, but I'm glad I get to be here and workout and be around my future teammates, so it feels good to be here."
Before the lockout began on July 1, Butler said he sought advice from the Bulls coaching staff before he left for the summer.
"They were just telling me to stay in shape and be ready," he said. "And just pay attention to a lot of different things. But for the most part, work out, stay in the gym and do what I've been doing. Get better, obviously, and I know that. They gave me certain things to work on, but at the same time stick with what got me to this point."
Butler has been in Florida training at the IMG Academy, trying to prepare for the road ahead, but he realizes that Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau is going to conduct drills and practices much differently than what he's grown accustomed to over the summer. He's ready for the challenge.
"My expectations are to play hard and win," Butler said. "I'm not a real big 'self' guy. Never have been, never will be. I think at the end of the day, the team is the only thing that matters."
That kind of attitude will be music to Thibodeau's ears. The veteran coach actually had a piece of advice for his new rookie during their brief chat on Tuesday.
"Be ready," Butler said of Thibodeau's message. And be ready to work."