Ric Flair once said, “to be the man, you gotta beat the man.”
Well, maybe if “the man” gets traded to another team – or in Flair’s case WCW? – then that counts all the same, right?
In all seriousness, following the trade that sent Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks for Jerian Grant, Robin Lopez and Jose Calderon, the title of “the man” rests squarely on the shoulders of Jimmy Butler.
This is what Butler wanted: to be the alpha dog and to be the guy that everyone looked up to when the game is on the line. There was always whispers and rumors of tension between the two guards, though Butler did his best to squash that with this Instagram post.
Still, that goal was really never going to be fulfilled as long as Rose remained a member o f the Bulls. He is a former MVP after all and anyone who has watched him play knows what he’s capable of some big moments and playoff time.
Now, the burden sits with Butler. Jimmy’s gone a long way in his career: he started out averaging 2.6 points per game in garbage time minutes during his rookie year, worked his way up to respectable role player his next two seasons alongside and eventually replacing former Bull Luol Deng and exploded two seasons ago averaging 20 points per game to earn a 5 year, $95 million contract.
The pressure lies with the man they call Jimmy G. Buckets so handle an offense by himself. For the record Butler – who is the subject of many trade rumors around the NBA most notably with the Timberwolves and Celtics – didn’t exactly get a ringing endorsement from general manager Gar Forman.
Is this Jimmy Butler's team?
Gar Forman: "It's all our team … He's our best player"
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) June 22, 2016
If (and he likely will be) Butler is still here for the long haul, there are questions about him being the lead scorer and how far a team will go with him as the best player. Those questions exist, in all honesty, because we’ve never seen him do it before. He’s been surrounded by guys like Deng, Rose, Pau Gasol and a Joakim Noah in his prime.
Now Jimmy Butler stands as the lone gunman in a sedated Eastern Conference. Can he drag the Bulls into contention or at least playoff aspirations?
We’ll find out one way or the other.