Jimmy Butler was just as surprised as anyone to find out he got traded.
Following his sixth season with the Chicago Bulls, Butler met with general manager Gar Forman and VP of basketball operations John Paxson to reflect on the campaign and discuss what the team needed moving forward.
The club had finished the year smack in the middle at .500, and had to decide whether it would try to contend or blow it all up. Butler admitted that while it wasn’t entirely clear which direction the franchise would go, he left under the impression he’d be back because the execs had suggested as much.
“I thought I was going to be there,” the 27-year-old swingman recently told Bill Simmonson his podcast. “When I left there, I did think I was going to be there.”
The premier two-way wing added that, in fairness, the Bulls may not have known they were going to move him at that point, either, so he doesn’t have any ill will toward the organization that selected him at the end of the first round in 2011.
“I don’t know if they really knew what they wanted to do until something was presented to them that was like ‘OK yeah, we gotta take this, we gotta go that way,'” he said.
And though the news did come as a surprise, the three-time All-Star did know the day would come eventually.
“I may not have known it was going to happen that day, but I mean, let’s be honest. I knew I wasn’t going to be there,” he said, adding that he asked Melo for advice because the New York Knicks star has been traded before, and could very well be on the move again.
Chicago was one of the most inconsistent clubs in 2016-17, looking like one of the stronger teams in the East one night and a hot mess the next with head coach Fred Hoiberg toying with rotations throughout the year en route to a first-round playoff exit.
Butler had thoughts on the instability, but suggested they didn’t matter.
“If I could tell you why or how, I would, but I don’t control the substitutions,” he said. “I don’t control anybody’s playing time. … My opinion is heard, but at the same time it probably wasn’t.”
Now Butler is ready to begin a new chapter with the T-Wolves, but with some familiar faces: in Minny, he’ll reunite with coach Tom Thibodeau and power forward Taj Gibson.
“We’re gonna be alright,” he said. “We got some really good players. We got a phenomenal coach who knows how to win. We’re gonna be alright. Minnesota, the T-Wolves, we’re going to be just fine.”
The 2015 Most Improved Player has gotten better every year of his career. He averaged career highs across the board – 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 1.9 steals – last season as he carried the Bulls to the playoffs and got his first All-Star start and All-NBA nod.
He has two guaranteed years and about $39.7 million remaining on his (relative) bargain deal.