Jimmy Butler knew that after a disappointing season in which the Chicago Bulls failed to make the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons, either he or Derrick Rose would probably be dealt as the Bulls start a rebuilding process. While the Bulls continue to ponder whether to deal Butler, they pulled the trigger to move Rose last week, trading him to the New York Knicks for three players.
"They called me," Butler said of the Bulls' front office during an appearance on The Jump on Wednesday afternoon. "I can't say that I was surprised, but I knew that it had to be one of us, to tell you the truth. Obviously, I enjoyed playing with him. I came into the league when he was the MVP. I've got so much respect for the guy. I have no bad things to say about him and I wish him the best moving forward."
Butler's name repeatedly popped up on draft night, as speculation surfaced about potential deals that would have sent the two-time All-Star to either Boston or Minnesota, but the Bulls did not feel they were getting significant enough value in return. Butler has said on several occasions that he hopes to stay in Chicago for the long haul, but admitted Wednesday that he isn't sure where he will be when the season opens.
"I don't think anything is for certain," Butler said. "I really don't. I love the city of Chicago, Chicago basketball, I think everybody knows that. They drafted me: I've been here my entire career. Nothing is for certain."
Butler rubbed some teammates and front office personnel the wrong way last season as he tried to take a more vocal leadership approach within the Bulls' locker room. The 26 year-old admitted in May that he needed to do a better job of keeping his mouth shut in certain situations, and the Bulls are hoping he can learn from some of his mistakes this season and grow from them. But Bulls GM Gar Forman has not publicly said the Bulls were going to build around Butler moving forward despite being given multiple chances in the last week to say that.
For his part, Butler did confirm that he was at the Bulls' training facility last week during the draft but says that had nothing to do with the speculation regarding his future.
"I was working out during the draft," Butler said. "I was working out there to get a massage to take care of my body and then that's when all of that stuff came up. I got text messages and phone calls. I am just trying to be able to be in the best shape possible, keep my body right for this upcoming season, I think for the Chicago Bulls."
Butler, who signed a max contract worth over $90 million last summer, will be competing for Team USA in the Rio Olympics.