The Chicago Bulls want Jimmy Butler to remain with the team long-term, which is why they’re working so hard on coming to an agreement on a contract extension.
The good news for the Bulls is that Butler also wants to be there.
“This is definitely the city and the team that I want to be on,” Butler said before Chicago’s final preseason game on Friday. “At the end of the day, at the beginning of the day, I want to be a Chicago Bull for as long as possible.”
Currently, Bulls team president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman are in negotiations with Butler’s camp to extend him before the October 31 deadline, mostly because if they don’t there’s a really good chance he’ll be tendered a lucrative offer in restricted free agency next summer.
That would price Chicago out of keeping their talented two-way star, but Butler seems confident that something will get done.
“I think we’re going to figure it out,” Butler said. “My focus right now is just to get healthy. If you get healthy, you’ll get paid. That’s how I’m looking at it.”
He said as much without an inch of stress or worry on his face, and both sides have plenty of motivation to get something done. A thumb injury sustained on October 19, however, has him sitting out the preseason finale, uncertain as to whether or not he’ll play in the season opener on Wednesday.
“It heals overnight and I play tomorrow is the best case scenario,” he said. “We’re just taking it day-by-day, seeing how quickly I can get back.”
At this point, it’s impossible to know whether he’ll be ready for the opener against the New York Knicks, but Butler is definitely anxious to get back on the court.
“I don’t want to not play. I’ll say that,” Butler said. “But if I can’t play, then I just can’t.”
The swelling is down, and Butler is still participating in workouts to stay as close to game shape as possible.
“I’m still running, I’m still lifting,” Butler said. “There’s nothing like basketball shape. You can’t simulate getting up and down a court guarding someone. But the closest you can get is running sprints, making sure you’re lifting, getting your body tired and breaking it down and building it back up. I think that’s what I’m doing every single day until I’m back.”
He’s still practicing, doing everything he can without his left hand.
“(I’m doing) a lot of ball handling with my right hand, lots of running, lifting, some one-handed shots, floaters,” Butler said. “The biggest part of this game is confidence, so hurt or not, if you see the ball go through that basket, you’ll still think that you can make shots.”
Confidence has never been Butler’s issue, and he’ll feel a lot more secure if and when he receives his extension from the Bulls. Chicago needs him, and he wants to be there. In a perfect world, Butler will get back on the floor and get his payday right around the same time.
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