With Derrick Rose stricken by a range of injuries over the past years, the Chicago Bulls have been looking for a new star to take the mantle. The only question is, where would they find him?
Would they have to trade away a vital core player, or would they have enough money in the salary cap to sign a star free agent to secure the piece of the championship puzzle that has eluded them since the days of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and company?
The fact that the man was already in the Bulls roster came as a pleasant surprise to fans and coaches alike.
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Jimmy Butler is his name, and his rise from a solid role player to a prime defensive stopper and flat-out scorer is one of the surprise stories in the NBA over the past few years.
His back story is one of beating the odds whichever way you look at it. As an infant, his father abandoned the family. His mother's final words before kicking him out at the age of 13 were: “I don’t like the look of you, you’ve gotta go.”
Despite his personal troubles, Butler's sole aim was making it to the big league. He went to Tomball High School, where he was taken in by Michelle Lambert and her family.
Despite winning MVP in his senior year, averaging 19.9 points and 8.7 rebounds, he was ignored by major colleges across the country.
A good freshman year at local college Tyler Junior attracted the big names and he accepted a scholarship to attend Marquette University - on the advice of Lambert.
He had a solid three years in Milwaukee, twice earning All-Big East Honourable mentions and was subsequently drafted 30th in the 2011 draft by the Bulls.
In his rookie season - the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, he averaged 2.6 points in just eight minutes.
His role substantially increased in his second season. Then coach, Tom Thibodeau, asked the guard to be the primary small defender in the line-up. It was to be a pivotal moment in his development as a player.
In the 2013/14 season, he showed signs of offensive talent, cracking double figures in points during the regular season, and holding his own in the disappointing playoff loss to the Washington Wizards. He also won selection to the All-NBA defensive second team.
However, the Butler emergence really took hold in 2014/15. The franchise was already in a good frame of mind with the return to fitness of Rose, and the addition of Pau Gasol. But it was Butler that started to snatch the headlines.
He led the team in scoring, where his average jumped to 20 - the biggest increase across the league that season. His reward was a first All-Star selection.
Despite falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs, Butler's improvement continued; he deservedly won Most Improved Player, as well as winning selection to the All-NBA second team, again.
This season, he has taken all before him; averaging over 22 points, as well as 1.8 steals and 0.8 blocks, moulding himself into a complete player.
The 26-year-old is a lock to be named in his second straight All-Star game and has been named in Team USA's 30-man preliminary squad for the 2016 Olympics.
With his improved performances on the court, his popularity off the hardwood is rising.
Butler jerseys are the 10th most popular in the NBA. His teammate D-Rose ranks sixth.
The winds of change are in effect in the Windy City, and although he is somewhat of a late bloomer, the Bulls are undoubtedly becoming Butler’s team.
All credit to him.
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