Jimmy Butler has virtually become the franchise player for the Chicago Bulls over the past two or three seasons.
This is despite playing on a roster with a former MVP in Derrick Rose, and the likes of Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol.
However, injuries or age have seemingly caught up with that aforementioned trio and the 2015 Most Improved Player of the Year had been doing a stellar job stepping into the limelight.
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That was until the Chicago Bulls failed to make the playoffs this term for the first time in seven years.
Questions have been asked as to how a franchise with such talent could have failed to acquire one of the top eight spots in the Eastern Conference. Was it Rose's injuries? Was it Tom Thibodeau's exit as head coach last summer?
Butler has the answer: it was him.
In a candid and frank assessment of himself, Butler told the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday that he, as an integral part of the Bulls, shoulders the responsibility for his team's shortcomings.
"I'm the reason that we did not make the playoffs," Butler said. "I'm fine with that. I'm not happy with it, but I'm fine with it. Because it's only going to make me stronger and better.
"I wasn't consistent enough. I had good games, average games, decent games and some terrible games. I don't want to have terrible and decent games. Average games can get us over the hump. Really good ones can make us win."
Consistency is probably the key word Butler touched upon there. He actually broke his career-high for points twice last season, the last of which saw him rain down 53 during an overtime in against Philadelphia 76ers.
However, the very next game, he only managed four points in 36 minutes against the Dallas Mavericks. He also only managed to put up seven points in 36 minutes against a leaky New York Knicks outfit on 3-of-11 shooting back in March.
That last game is perhaps most prevalent because of its timing. Heading down the season's stretch desperately looking for victories, a team with any playoff aspirations simply cannot afford to drop games to a team like the Knicks, who's record for the past three years reads 86-160.
In fairness, around this time, Butler was sporadically missing games due to swelling and soreness in his left knee. However, the two-time All-Star didn't buy that as an excuse.
Following that loss, Butler echoed a similar statement to K.C Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.
“My teammates won’t say it. My coaches won’t say it. But if I continue to play like this, I’m hurting this team. Ain’t nothing wrong with me physically. Right now, it’s mentally. The ball’s not going in. I let that affect me on both ends.”
Butler has four years left on his $95 million contract. Is he the cornerstone of a better Bulls next year, or is he part of the problem?