HOUSTON — Prior to Thursday night’s game against the Rockets, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg claimed there are no problems in his relationship with Jimmy Butler that could lead to the Bulls trading the All-Star shooting guard during the offseason.
Chris Mannix of The Vertical reported that he has heard there is “legitimate interest in Chicago” in potentially dealing Butler this summer, with the Magic showing particular interest in the two-time All-Star.
Chemistry issues between Butler and Hoiberg resulted in several inquires about Butler’s availability at the February trade deadline from multiple teams, Mannix said.
Butler criticized Hoiberg’s coaching style in December, telling ESPN that he feels the team needs to be “coached a lot harder at times.”
Butler signed a five-year, $92.34 million deal with the Bulls last year. He is averaging 21 points, 4.4. assists, and 5.2 rebounds this seasons. But the Bulls have been inconsistent all season, entering the game against the Rockets at 37-37 and currently out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“I haven’t heard anything about that, but I don’t read a lot right now,” Holberg said in the hallway of the Toyota Center. “I think Jimmy and I have a really good relationship right now. I’ve been communicating a lot with him. Since he had the injury and has come back we’ve really limited his time. He hasn’t done much at shootarounds just to try to save his legs for the game.
“I obviously think the world of him for how hard he pushes himself and how much he’s just improved his game over the years with his work ethic. I think that rubs off on the other guys. So Jimmy absolutely is a very important part of this team.”
Hoiberg said the perception that the two are at odds is false.
“That’s not the reality at all,” he said. “I think Jimmy and I have a very good relationship. Obviously I have all the trust in Jimmy, put the ball in his hands late, late in games to help us go out and finish games. I communicate with Jimmy as much as anybody on this team. Again, I think very highly of him just for what he’s done with his game over the course of his career. I’ve always been a fan of his. Again, it’s completely false.”
Butler’s numbers have been down across the board since returning to the lineup from a knee injury.
“You can just tell he’s laboring out there,” Holberg said. “I think he’d be the first one to tell you just how sore he is with his body right now. He’s got a lot of back stiffness. He’s got leg issues with everything going on. He’s out there fighting and battling through it. He understands everything that’s at stake right now. He’s not gonna leave his teammates out to dry. He’s going to go out there and put himself in uniform and help us battle and fight for a playoff spot.”