Jimmy Butler hopeful to stay in Chicago: 'This is the city I love'

HOUSTON -- Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler isn't concerned about the recent trade rumors regarding his future in Chicago.

Butler, who signed a five-year max contract worth over $90 million with the Bulls last summer, made it clear that he wants to stay -- and win -- in Chicago for the long haul.

"That's why I'm here," Butler told ESPN.com after Thursday night's 103-100 win over the Houston Rockets. "I don't plan on going anywhere. I can't control what everybody else does. I know that this is the city that I love, Chicago. And I want to wear that jersey. I want to wear that name on the front, and I wear it proudly. All I got to do is continue to control what I can control. That's try to help this team win games."

Butler's name has been bounced around in trade speculation since around the All-Star break, in part because of the Bulls' lackluster 38-37 record under first-year coach Fred Hoiberg.

Yahoo Sports reported Wednesday that the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic were expected to make another run at acquiring Butler this summer. The story also noted that the Celtics tried to trade for Butler around the deadline but a deal was never struck.

Butler, a two-time All-Star, said he hasn't spoken to Bulls executives John Paxson or Gar Forman since the latest story appeared. He said he is trying to focus on leading the Bulls into the playoffs.

Chicago is one game behind the Indiana Pacers for the eighth and last spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

"To tell you the truth, I don't pay attention to the rumors," Butler said. "Somebody sent [the story] to me today, and I just clicked off of it. I mean, why am I getting in [to the speculation]? I can't control it. I can't say don't do this or don't do that. That's not my job. If I do what I'm supposed to do on the floor, then everything else takes care of itself. I'm a firm believer in that."

Butler ripped Hoiberg after a December loss to the New York Knicks, saying that Hoiberg had to "coach harder" in order to get the struggling Bulls back on track.

Hoiberg, 43, said before Thursday's game that his relationship with Butler has gotten much better since then.

"I haven't heard anything about [the report]," Hoiberg said before the game. "But again, I don't read a lot right now. I think Jimmy and I have a really good relationship right now. I've been communicating a lot with him. Since he had the injury and has come back we've really limited his time. He hasn't done much in shootaround just to try and save his legs for the game. I obviously think the world of him for how hard he pushes himself and how much he's just improved his game over the years with his work ethic. I think that rubs off onto the other guys. So Jimmy absolutely is a very important part to this team."

There's also a feeling among some in the organization that Butler's All-Star personality has changed over the last year as his game developed and he signed a big contract.

Butler rubbed some of his veteran teammates the wrong way earlier in the season by trying to assert himself as more of the vocal leader and face of the Bulls.

Butler said it wasn't relevant whether his teammates were behind him in those efforts.

"I don't know," he said. "I don't think it matters. Everybody just needs to be on the same page. We can all be on the same level as long as we win. No matter who's following who, who's leading, we'll be in the playoffs. So we'll take care of that then."

Butler said the key for him as far as blocking out the rumors is to take care of business on the floor.

"When you win games, everything takes care of everything," he said. "Like I've always said, whenever you're losing, that's when everybody wants to talk. But when you're winning, everything's fine. So my job is to win games for the Chicago Bulls."

Hoiberg and Butler have moved past the comments from earlier in the season. Hoiberg said the notion that they don't have a good relationship is "completely false."

"That's not the reality at all," Hoiberg said. "Again, we have a very good relationship. Obviously, I have a lot of trust in Jimmy, putting the ball in his hands late in games to help us go out and finish games. I communicate with Jimmy as much as anybody on this team. Again, I think very highly of him just for what he's done with his game over the course of his career. I've always been a fan of his."

Butler said he still believes, after all the up and downs the Bulls have dealt with this year, they will still find a way into the playoffs.

"I think so," he said. "You'll never hear me say that we're going to lose. This is my team. This is our team. I like the group of guys that we have. I'm confident that we'll continue to win games and we'll find ourselves in the playoffs."