NEW ORLEANS — Jimmy Butler logged just under 20 minutes of floor time on Sunday, scoring six points for the Eastern Conference All-Stars in their 192-182 defeat at the hands of the Anthony Davis-led West. But despite shouldering a much lighter load than he typically does when he steps onto the court, the Chicago Bulls star was looking forward to some R and R after All-Star Weekend.
“Now I get to go lay down,” he told reporters Sunday. “Me and the guys are going to go traveling to some places, then lay down, go to a beach somewhere. I’m gonna be in the gym somewhere, though. But it will not be in Chicago. It’ll be somewhere nice and weather-y, where the sun’s out.”
While he said Sunday he doesn’t feel mentally or physically fatigued at this point in the season, it’d be hard to blame Butler for looking forward to a break. After all, not only does he lead the Bulls in scoring and minutes, but he’s also continued to hear his name bandied about in the kind of trade rumors you can’t avoid, even at All-Star Weekend.
Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical said Saturday that he viewed a potential deal between the Bulls and Boston Celtics centered on Butler as the biggest story in the league running up to the trade deadline. (Well, the biggest until DeMarcus Cousins actually got traded, anyway.)
The Celtics and Bulls have “engaged on the potential of this trade,” as Woj told Chris Mannix, and while they haven’t gotten too far down the road on it, the two sides “have exactly what the other wants”:
Butler downplayed trade talk on Friday, saying that “it’s not my job” to determine whether he deserves to be traded, or whether moving on from him would improve the Bulls. Chicago went to the playoffs the first four years of his career and twice won 50 games before falling to 42-40 and the lottery last year, and entering this season’s All-Star break one game below .500 at 28-29.
He took a similar tack on Sunday, intimating that he intends to do what he’s paid to do to help the Bulls make the playoffs — “Score some points, get some assists, rebounds, steals, defense” — while leaving everything else alone.
“Who knows? Who knows what’s ahead?” said Butler, looking somewhat amused by the topic. “You never know what tomorrow brings. So I’ll just lay down, dream, and hopefully wake up the next day.”
Butler doesn’t expect his sleep to be interrupted by nerves between now and Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline.
“I don’t know. Like, am I anxious for it? No, I ain’t worried about that. It don’t bother or scare me none,” he told reporters, including a couple of Bulls beat writers. “I’m not saying I’m untradeable, but I don’t think about that. If I’m not in a Bulls uniform [after the deadline], man, then I’ll give you a hug and say goodbye to you.”
Sunday’s blockbuster trade — which sent Cousins and forward Omri Casspi to New Orleans in exchange for guards Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans and Langston Galloway, and 2017 first- and second-round picks to the Kings — increases the likelihood that the Kings keep their 2017 first-round draft pick, which is protected for the first 10 spots in the draft. If it fell outside the top 10, it would go to Chicago, to satisfy the terms of a deal first struck in the long, long ago of June 2011.
At the break, the 24-33 Kings have the league’s 11th-worst record, which would put them in position to send the pick to Chicago. A no-Boogie, diminished Sacramento squad is much more likely to stumble to the finish line and land squarely in the top 10, meaning the Bulls would instead get the Kings’ second-round pick in the 2017 draft. It remains to be seen if that decreased likelihood of netting another first-rounder in what’s expected to be a loaded 2017 draft has any bearing on Chicago’s decision whether to move Butler, severing a relationship that has reportedly had its rocky moments, or renew their efforts to build around him.
Reminded that a move away from the Bulls wouldn’t exactly be tantamount to dying — especially, perhaps, if he was headed to Boston, which currently sits second in the East and, with Butler alongside fellow All-Star Isaiah Thomas and ace two-way big man Al Horford, might be poised to push the Cleveland Cavaliers in the race for the East’s top spot — Butler joked, but remained on message.
“I’m not going to die. Hopefully! Hopefully, I’m not going to die. But hopefully, I’m not going to get traded, either,” he said. “But I don’t know. I don’t control that. Control what I can control. Like going on vacation.”
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