Jimmy Butler has a reputation that precedes him. He plays hard. He is a skilled scorer. He competes. But this year Butler is doing what many thought he would never do. And that is lead. He has allowed his younger Heat teammates to thrive by giving them ownership, something he was reluctant to do in Minnesota. He is a willing sharer and the Heat have thrived because of it.
But Butler hasn’t let go of his other narrative, the one in which he’s a trash talker who is the first to the mic to call somebody out. He did it with the Bulls when he played with Dwyane Wade. In one particular game that the Bulls lost, (Rondo was on the team too), he lectured his younger teammates. He advised them to just give the ball to him and Wade and get out the way. He also, during his Bulls tenure, was known to make sarcastic comments about then Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, questioning his basketball acumen and strategy.
In Minnesota, the Jimmy Butler show rolled on. He feuded with teammate Karl-Anthony Towns and called him soft. It’s how Butler lives in the world. He feels it and then he says it. Philosopher Descarte famously said, “I think therefore I am.” Butler is more in your face. “I feel therefore I am.” Last night was no exception.
He went to the he’s soft card, this time in reference to Pacers small forward T.J. Warren who is a physical player like Butler. The thing about Butler with the media is he sounds so rational and composed when he’s about to eviscerate someone. His eyes aren’t bulging out his head. His mouth isn’t foaming. Nothing about his tonality changes. He is just stating Jimmy Butler facts.
His thoughts about T.J. Warren:
- He can’t guard me
- He’s trash
- We’re not in the same league
- He’s soft
- He crossed the line by what he said
This reminds me of the time Kobe Bryant was caught on tape saying some not very complimentary things about his teammate Andrew Bynum. Bynum was a kid at the time, maybe 20. He sulked when he heard about it. But then someone in his camp told him that Bryant did him a favor. He popularized his name.
Same thing with T.J. Warren.
A six year vet, Warren is a role player, a small forward who can score and his defense is above average. The reason the Pacers have been able to thrive without Victor Oladipo, in part, is because of T.J. Warren. He’s shooting 50%, and 50% on midrange shots. He’s an efficient scorer, 44% on jump shots. He’s consistent. In every quarter, he is shooting 50%. He doesn’t wear down. His only offensive knock is he isn’t particularly clutch. That 50% shooting drops to 43% when the game is on the line.
A lottery pick who has played on two NBA teams, Phoenix and Indiana, T.J. Warren is averaging 18 points a game. Now everyone knows his name because of Jimmy Butler.
They play the same position and both play a physical brand of defense, though Warren’s is all effort. T.J. Warren isn’t trash. Not by a long shot. He’s a NBA player, drafted 14th in the 2014 draft. If we readjusted the draft based on points scored, T.J. Warren would have been drafted 6th. Only Andrew Wiggins (1), Joel Embiid (3), Aaron Gordon (4), Julius Randle (5), Zach LaVine (13) have scored more points than T.J. Warren.
While Jimmy Butler is the 3rd ranked small forward, behind LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard, T.J. Warren is ranked 13th (Real-Plus Minus). As a defender, Jimmy Butler is second at his position and T.J. Warren is 8th. (Defensive Real-Plus Minus).
Neither Butler nor Warren are going to give in. Butler is the star so he has a bigger platform but he’s not in a beef with the non-confrontational Towns. T.J. Warren is up for what happens next in this feud. So will the refs. Butler circling their next date of March 20th got the attention of the league. The refs will be extra sensitive to the melodrama.
At the end though, the winner in this fracas, (my favorite Butler thing was calling Warren a second tier wrestler)- is the fans and that March 20th matchup. Victor Oladipo will be back so Warren will have some high octane company but Butler is going to do what Butler does and now with added motivation.
Don’t expect blowing kisses or ejections. It will be a hype show save Butler dropping 40.