Jimmy Butler's Comments on Not Being 'Kobe Stopper' Speak Volumes on Bulls

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2013

Jan 21, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) is defended by Chicago Bulls small forward Jimmy Butler (21) during the second half at the United Center. The Bulls beat the Lakers 95-83.  Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bulls wing Jimmy Butler knows he has all of the tools to step in for should-be All-Star lock Luol Deng, who has missed the past three games with a right hamstring injury.

Just don't expect Butler to make his feelings known publicly.

The versatile second-year player out of Marquette made his humble, team-first approach readily apparent when he quickly deflected the "Kobe Stopper" moniker thrown his way by his teammates, one night after holding Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant to 16 points on 7-of-22 shooting.

Butler, appearing on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000 (via ESPNChicago.com), credited the effort of his teammates in slowing down the league's second-leading scorer.

I feel like everywhere he went I was there but also one of my teammates was there, two of my teammates were there, Butler said. It never was really just me guarding him. It was always four other guys, and that's what makes this team so great, because we always have each other's back on the court and off the court.

Butler's humility sings a familiar tune for a Chicago team that has solidified its standing in the Eastern Conference (fifth at 25-16) despite playing without former MVP Derrick Rose, who is still working his way back from a torn ACL suffered in the opening round of the 2012 playoffs.

The team-first mentality set forth by coach Tom Thibodeau and embodied by his players has made this club the antithesis to the NBA super powers.

It's not that they've built a contending team sans-superstar—it's that they've remained more than competitive despite a sizable, pricey void at the top of their rotation.

Thibodeau's group is teamwork personified.

They're willing to sacrifice statistics in pursuit of a common goal. They rotate with a collective grace defensively and carve up opponents with a passing ability that extends to their frontcourt.

Without Rose, the Bulls have overcome the lack of a go-to scorer thanks to a balanced offensive attack. Five players (Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Richard Hamilton and Nate Robinson) average between 17.4 and 10.6 points per game.

Wednesday night's 85-82 win over the Detroit Pistons was yet another example of the club's balance:


Boozer, Butler, Noah, Hamilton, Gibson + Robinson all with 10 or more points for the #Bulls. Total team effort getting back in this one.

— Matthew Schwerha (@MatthewSchwerha) January 24, 2013


What makes this group such a unique threat for the Eastern Conference crown, though, is the fact that this common goal will not be lost on their superstar whenever Rose returns.

The hungry, savvy star knows the importance of his teammates in guiding this club down the championship path that the city has not traveled since the days of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

Butler's humility may be refreshing to see, but it takes on a new meaning when it comes from one of the game's biggest stars.

And when that same feeling envelops a franchise from the top down, that's when championship thoughts start breezing through the Windy City.


*All statistics used in this article are accurate as of 1/22/2013.