Butler rejected the Bulls’ final offer on Friday morning and plans to enter into restricted free agency in July.
“It came down to me deciding that I want to bet on myself,” Butler told Yahoo Sports in a text message on Friday. “It was about me believing that I put the work in this summer to become a better player with the hope that my improvement will give the Bulls a better chance to win a championship.”
The sides still have until midnight EST on Friday to reach agreement on a 2011 draft class rookie extension, but Bulls officials expressed to Butler and his reps at Relativity Media, Walters and Steve McCaskill, that they made their final offer earlier on Monday.
The Bulls will have the chance to match an offer sheet and retain Butler next summer, but looming is the threat of a rival believing that it can extract Butler with a steep offer that threatens the Bulls’ payroll structure. Teams could include a player option on a three-year deal that would allow Butler to become an unrestricted free agent in 2017.
“All the [rookie extension] deals done so far have shown that teams are building around their stars of the future, and they’re compensating those players as such,” Walters told Yahoo Sports on Friday. “I was under the impression Jimmy was also viewed as one of those future building blocks with the Bulls.
“We tried like heck to get something done, but ultimately, the Bulls wanted a ‘hometown’ discount. While understandable, I doubt their GM or coaches give Mr. Reinsdorf a discount when negotiating their own deals.”
Butler, 25, is considered an excellent two-way player, and his pedigree as part of a winning team and culture under Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau will certainly be at a premium on the market next summer. Butler was chosen as a second-team All-NBA defender, often tasked with covering an opponent’s best player. He will be a key for the Bulls in covering Cleveland’s LeBron James in the playoffs.
Butler, who averaged 13.1 points per game last season, played most of the year with a foot injury that impacted his shooting percentage, but he’s shown better perimeter consistency in the preseason.
For Butler to solidify his market status, he’ll need to further develop his shooting this season.
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