Jimmy Butler And USA Men Ready For Chicago
- Chicago, Illinois
Jimmy Butler waited patiently while San Francisco Bay Area fans celebrated the pre-Olympic Games appearance of three Golden State Warriors standouts at Tuesday’s exhibition against China in Oakland, Calif.
Butler absorbed it all, which was easy to do. He played 14 1/2 minutes in the 107-57 win, recording four points and three rebounds.
So you could excuse Butler for wanting to be the first player on the plane out of town early Wednesday morning.
That chartered jet was headed for Chicago and another celebration … Butler’s.
“Going home to Chicago. Going to show these guys around my city,” the five-year member of the Chicago Bulls proclaimed. “I guess dinner’s on me.”
The USA National Team, 3-0 in its USA Basketball Showcase tour and now just two exhibitions from heading to Rio de Janeiro, took Wednesday off.
And while Thursday will be a serious practice day for a team center DeMarcus Cousins says is “nowhere near where we need to be,” Butler is confident one aspect of the workout will be similar to the preparation for Tuesday’s game in Oakland, when coaches and players alike were designing ways for Kevin Durant, who joined the Warriors earlier in the month, to shine in front of his new home fans.
“What we’ve tried to do in each of the locations is start the guys from the area,” USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said of sending out Warriors stars Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson among his starting five in Oakland. “The crowd was great, a festive atmosphere. The welcoming for Kevin was fantastic.”
Suffice it to say, that’s music to Butler’s ears. He’s totaled eight points in 44 minutes in the wins over Argentina (one) and China (two).
Durant, by comparison, had 10 points in the first 2 minutes, 57 seconds alone when hand-fed the ball in the Oakland game.
“It’s an honor to be here and to play with the best,” Butler unselfishly said of his understated role on the powerhouse team. “When the coach calls on me, I just do my best.”
The opponent Friday at the United Center will be Venezuela, a team the American coaching staff doesn’t know all that much about.
Not that extensive study of Venezuela’s two wins over Brazil at this summer’s South American Championships would help. Krzyzewski admitted he thought he knew some things about the Argentinian and Chinese teams, only to be surprised when the visitors took the court.
“We’re looking forward to playing different people … seeing different styles,” he said of the remaining exhibitions against Venezuela and then Nigeria at the Toyota Center in Houston on Aug. 1. “I wouldn’t have thought that Argentina and China would have pressured us. In the NBA, you just walk the ball up. That was good for us.”
Butler and Krzyzewski agree that the American team must get better before its Aug. 6 Olympic opener in Brazil.
Butler, who has committed just two turnovers in his 44 minutes of exhibition play, cites giveaways (40 in the three games against overmatched opponents) as the uber-talented crew’s chief concern.
Krzyzewski believes part of the sloppiness has been due to a highlight-reel approach to otherwise simple plays in one-sided games. That easily can be cleaned up, he assured.
A bigger potential headache for the coach is fouls.
“We’re constantly yelling out team fouls. That’s because the fifth foul is two free throws,” Krzyzewski noted. “You can have guys out there not in foul trouble, but we’re in the bonus.
Then you put a sub in, and he doesn’t have a foul, and then he fouls, and then all of a sudden they’re scoring (at the free throw line) without pressure on them.”
Despite being blessed with far less athleticism with which to draw fouls, American opponents have drawn 61 fouls and gone to the line 58 times in the three games.
Butler has only two fouls in his 44 minutes. It isn’t what he’s thinking about on the eve of his Chicago showcase.
“Playing in front of my hometown fans,” he gushed. “I’m hoping to get an ovation like those guys (in Oakland).”