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Jimmy Butler finds a new home, hope

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Trent
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« on: June 24, 2011, 04:54:33 pm »

Jimmy Butler finds a new home, hope

Homeless as a teen, Jimmy Butler lives out his hoop dreams with a new family
http://search.espn.go.com/chad-ford/http://search.espn.go.com/chad-ford/By Chad Ford
ESPN.com
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"I don't like the look of you. You gotta go."
Those were the last words Jimmy Butler says he remembers his mother saying to him before, according to his recollection, she kicked him to the curb.
He was 13 years old. There was no family to run to. No place to call home. No money in his pocket.
Most kids his age are concerned with school, sports, girls. Butler was just trying to survive. Alone.
Butler pauses as he speaks to me from a hotel room in Cleveland. He sounds unsure about doing this interview. For years, he's kept the story out of the headlines. Several times he tells me he's not sure it's the right time to talk.
He's focusing on NBA draft workouts. He just flew in from New Jersey, where he worked out June 8. Two days later, he tried out with the Cavs. His coach at Marquette, Buzz Williams, always told him to take everything one day at a time.
"That's literally what I live by," Butler said. "One day at a time. The NBA is a goal of mine. But I'm not there yet. I can't lose my focus."
Butler has 13 days until the draft, when he's likely to hear his name called somewhere between the late first round and early second round.
His workouts, by virtually all accounts, have been stellar. He won the MVP award at the Portsmouth Invitational. He impressed scouts with a strong performance at the Chicago pre-draft combine. He's drawn praise from virtually every NBA scout and GM who has worked him out.
But it's been the interview process that has created the most buzz. Representatives from team after team told me he was one of the most impressive young men they've ever met.
"His story," one GM said. "is one of the most remarkable I've seen in all my years of basketball. There were so many times in his life where he was set up to fail. Every time, he overcame just enormous odds. When you talk to him -- and he's hesitant to talk about his life -- you just have this feeling that this kid has greatness in him."
Butler is fine with that interpretation. But there's another one that he fears.
"Please, I know you're going to write something. I'm just asking you, don't write it in a way that makes people feel sorry for me," he said. "I hate that. There's nothing to feel sorry about. I love what happened to me. It made me who I am. I'm grateful for the challenges I've faced. Please, don't make them feel sorry for me."
Pity hasn't gotten Butler anywhere in life. Courage has.
Butler finds a family
After leaving his Tomball, Texas, home at 13, Butler did his best to keep his head above water. With his father out of his life since he was an infant, he stayed with friends as long as he could. Usually within a few weeks, he was moving on to a new place -- anywhere to lay his head down at night.
Basketball became his life, and Butler showed a lot of promise. The summer before his senior year in high school, he was attracting attention as a potential star in Tomball -- but not from the usual suspects. Division I coaches had yet to make contact, but a ninth-grader named Jordan Leslie was scouting him.


Courtesy Michelle LambertSoon after Jordan Leslie (left) challenged him to an impromptu 3-point contest, Jimmy Butler became a part of his family.
Leslie was from Tomball, too, and was following Butler closely. At the end of a summer league game he approached Butler and challenged him to a 3-point-shooting contest. Butler was taken aback by the brashness of the kid. He agreed to the contest. Leslie was an athlete too, an up-and-coming hoops and football star.
After the game, the two became fast friends. Leslie began inviting Butler to his house to play video games and to stay the night. Butler's life would never be the same.
Leslie's mother, Michelle Lambert, paused at first. She had four kids of her own from her first husband, who had died. Her new husband had brought three children of his own with him. Money was tight. The word around Tomball was that Jimmy was trouble. Her new husband finally told the kids that Jimmy could stay, but only for one or two nights at a time. But each night when Butler would come to stay, a different kid would say, "Tonight's my night to have Jimmy stay." After a few months, the Lamberts gave in, and Michelle told him he could stay for good.
Butler needed a family, and Lambert was offering hers.
But not before she set some ground rules. For the first time in his life he'd have a curfew. He had to attend class and improve his academic performance. He'd have chores around the house. Most importantly, Michelle told him, he had to be a role model.
"I told him my kids looked up to him," Lambert said. "He had to stay out of trouble. Work hard in school. He had to set an example. And you know what? Jimmy did it. Anything I asked him to do, he did it without asking questions."
"They accepted me into their family," Butler said. "And it wasn't because of basketball. She was just very loving. She just did stuff like that. I couldn't believe it."
With some family support for the first time, Butler became a star for the Tomball High School Cougars. As a team captain his senior season, he averaged 19.9 points and 8.7 rebounds per game and was named to the all-district first team.
But it wasn't enough to draw the attention from colleges he had hoped. Scouting services didn't rank him. He didn't play AAU ball, which hurt his chances of being seen. He had an outside shot at playing at Mississippi State, but didn't get a scholarship offer. With nowhere to go again, Butler took the only route he could and enrolled at nearby Tyler Junior College.
Once again, with his back to the wall, Butler not only survived; he thrived. In his first conference game for Tyler, he scored 34 points.
"After that I had a few 30-, 40-point games," he said. "It gave me the confidence that I can play at a high level."
As a freshman, Butler was Tyler's leading scorer and was an honorable mention juco All-American. College coaches around the country began to notice. By April of 2008, Butler had offers from Marquette, Kentucky, Clemson, Mississippi State and Iowa State.
Once again, Lambert became a guiding force in Butler's life.
"He had a lot of offers, but I was impressed by Marquette for academic reasons," she said. "That's a great academic school. I told him he should go there because basketball may not work out long-term. He needed a good education and a degree to fall back on. "
Soaring to new heights


Rick Osentoski/US PresswireButler could always score. But the versatility he showed at Marquette drew scouts' attention.
Butler listened and became Williams' first recruit for Marquette. But things didn't start as well as Butler may have hoped. He was used to being the man, but in Milwaukee, he had to sit and watch from the bench as a sophomore. At times, he was frustrated. He'd call Lambert and tell her he wanted to come home.
"Buzz was tough," she said. "He had never had a man tell him no. I did all the time. But often his coaches just enabled him. It was another chance for him to mature."
Said Williams: "I've never been harder on a player than I've been on Jimmy. I was ruthless on him because he didn't know how good he could be. He'd been told his whole life he wasn't good enough. What I was seeing was a guy who could impact our team in so many ways. "
Butler averaged just 5.6 points in 19.6 minutes a game for the Golden Eagles, coming off the bench behind two future NBA players, Wes Matthews and Lazar Hayward. Again, a difficult situation became a positive experience.
"I was tutored by the best," Butler said. "Those guys taught me so much about how to play and how to be a man. I knew that to be successful, I had to be more than a scorer. I had to become a leader. It's not about scoring. It's about doing what my team needs me to do. I wanna be that glue guy, I want to be a guy my team and my coach can count on. That's what I want to be."
By his senior season, Butler had shed the "scorer" label and drew attention from NBA scouts because of his versatility. He could still score -- Butler averaged 15.7 points in 2010-11 -- but he could also rebound, handle the ball and defend multiple positions. He played without ego. He was a winner.
"I saw him at a game versus Providence. He did everything," one NBA scout said. "He guarded Marshon Brooks. He was special. So many guys come into the NBA with role-player talent and think they're a star. I knew this kid could come in and fit, right away, on a good team. That's the appeal."
Scouts were coming to watch him play all year, but Butler was totally unaware. He said he had no idea he was projected as an NBA player until after the college season had ended.
"I was just so focused on our team, on us winning," Butler said. "It's not that it wasn't a dream. Like I said, I was just trying to live one day at a time."


Maggie Casey/Marquette AthleticsOn Marquette's senior night, Butler was surrounded by his new family and coach Buzz Williams.
The highlight of Butler's college career came on senior night when Lambert walked him out on the court.
"That night was a complete blur," Lambert said. "I cried the entire time. He had accomplished so much. I was both happy and proud. Everyone doubted him. His coach and principal in high school said he'd never amount to anything. And there he is, with the crowd cheering.
"But I was also sad and scared. Your baby is gone and now he faces the horrible world. Jimmy always talks about what we did for him. I'm not sure he understands what he did for us. He changed our life, too. We are better people for having him in our family."
Said Butler: "We are all attached at the hip. I give her the credit for helping me become who I am. I love her. You would think that she gave me birth. I talk to her every morning. She's very loving. That's my family. That's Michelle Lambert. She is my mom."
'I know I can overcome anything'
So don't feel sorry for Jimmy Butler. He's about to make a career out of the sport he loves. He has a loving family that's given him a place to belong. And any doubt that he had in himself is now long gone. He believes.
"It's taught me that anything is possible," Butler said. "My whole life, people have doubted me. My mom did. People told me in high school I'm too short and not fast enough to play basketball. They didn't know my story. Because if they did, they'd know that anything is possible. Who would've thought that a small-town kid would become a halfway decent player in college and now has a chance to be drafted in the NBA? That's my chip. That's what motivates me. I know I can overcome anything if I just take everything one day [at a] time."
"I hope someone gives him a chance," Lambert said, trying to fight back tears. "No one gave him a chance. I guess we did, and look what happened. He finally had someone to make [proud of him]. If an NBA team gives him a chance, he'll do the world for them. That's what he did for me."
On June 23, Butler will return to the Lambert home in Tomball to watch the NBA draft with his family. There will be no fanfare. No entourage. No fancy suits. Just his mother and seven brothers and sisters. Sharing a meal. Holding hands. Believing.

http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/draft2011/columns/story?columnist=ford_chad&page=Butler-110618
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Trent
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« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2011, 04:55:03 pm »

Bulls, Butler a perfect fit
In Jimmy Butler, the Bulls found a player with the skills Tom Thibodeau covets
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http://search.espn.go.com/jon-greenberg/http://search.espn.go.com/jon-greenberg/By Jon Greenberg
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Jimmy Butler In His Own Words
Andy Katz sits down with NBA Draft prospect Jimmy Butler to talks about his rough beginnings in Tomball, TexasTags: NBA, Draft, Jimmy Butler, Andy KatzJimmy Butler In His Own Words
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Jimmy Butler In His Own Words
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CHICAGO -- On Wednesday evening, as Tom Thibodeau prepared to throw out the first pitch at the Cubs-White Sox game at U.S. Cellular Field, Bulls assistant coach Ed Pinckney was asked which players blew them away in pre-draft workouts.
Pinckney stared ahead, shrugged his shoulders and looked toward his boss, as if to say it doesn't matter how high these hopefuls jumped or how many jumpers they hit in a practice gym.
"They have to be able to play for him," he said.
  • Enlarge\l ""
Anthony Gruppuso/US PresswireJimmy Butler has overcome tremendous obstacles to reach the NBA.That's no easy task. As the Bulls found out last season, Club Vinny was closed and Camp Thibs was no vacation. Playing for Thibodeau is a man's job, and the Bulls were looking for a rookie who could fit into a championship-caliber team.
The Bulls might have found their guy in Jimmy Butler.
Yes, for the 30th straight year, the Bulls were elated the guy they targeted fell to them, in this case, a 6-foot-8 swingman who played three years just up the road from the Berto Center, at Marquette.
The Bulls took Butler with the 30th and final pick of the first round, after trading the 28th and 43rd picks to grab 6-foot-10 small forward Nikola Mirotic with the 23rd pick. (The deal has yet to be approved by the NBA, but league sources told ESPN's Nick Friedell that is a mere formality.) While Mirotic will remain in Europe (he plays for Real Madrid) for the time being, Butler was chosen for the present.
The Bulls see Butler, who averaged 15.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as a senior, as a small forward on offense with the ability to defend every position except center, and the 21-year-old is saying all the right things already, talking defense and shutting down LeBron James.
"I think I'm a guard; that's how I'm going to make my mark in this league," he said. "I'm going to put in that work to be able to guard LeBron, Dwyane Wade and all those guys so the Bulls can get to that championship.
"I'm working on my outside shot, so I'll be able to knock it down, but I think the biggest thing is defense," he continued. "I'm going to be a pest, take up everybody's space and make them work for every little thing. I think that's where everything is going to go for me. If I want to get out there, it's going to be on the defensive end, getting stops and running after defensive rebounds."
Why not just buy Thibodeau flowers and chocolates while you're at it, Jimmy.
Of course, that's the kind of attitude the Bulls were targeting, and Bulls general manager Gar Forman allowed that they were thinking about a big swingman who could defend James, so he doesn't act like Michael Jordan again next June.
"It was discussed as we went through the process," Forman said. "And that's not to put pressure on a guy that just got picked, that we're going to throw him out there and expect him to guard LeBron, but we think got a lot of versatility defensively and we think that's a real plus for us."
Bulls draft pick Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler, whom the Chicago Bulls drafted with the No. 30 pick in Thursday's NBA draft, joined "Chicago's Gamenight" on ESPN 1000 minutes after he heard David Stern call his name.
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The Bulls did their homework on Butler. Forman knows every junior college coach in the country, and Butler's coach Mike Marquis is a close, personal friend. So he had been on their radar before he went to Marquette.
"After following him for several years, we got the chance to meet with him a couple times during the process," Forman said. "When we did, each time we met with him, he really kind of blew us away. We really feel he's going to fit in the locker room and the culture of this team, and fit on the floor."
The Bulls, as expected, will look for a true scoring guard in the free-agent market whenever the labor situation is figured out. But Forman thinks Butler's midrange game will help spread the floor at the 2 or 3 spot, while he contributes on defense.
Butler's story goes beyond the box score, though. As ESPN's Chad Ford recounted last week, Butler was essentially homeless at 13 after his mother kicked him out. He eventually found a surrogate home with a classmate's family and persevered, spending a year at Tyler Junior College before winding up at Marquette.
Before you get carried away, don't insult him by comparing his story to the Michael Lewis book-turned-tearjerker movie "The Blind Side." Butler's story is his own and should be treated as such. Trust me -- you're going to hear more about it in the coming months, especially if he turns out to be a legit player and not another James Johnson.
Butler said he was hesitant to share his background story during college, but he knew he had to open up to the NBA talent evaluators, and he's happy for it.
"It was tough for me because I never really talked about it," he said. "I kept it inside and tried to keep it a secret, but I knew it had to get out at some point. It just happened to get out now. I'm glad it got out, to tell you the truth, because I've been holding it in for a very, very long time. Everyone was inspired by it, but that's just me. This is my story, this is my family and I wouldn't change anything for the world."
Butler watched the draft with his surrogate family in Tomball, Texas, as his past and future intersected. When his name was called, his head was clear.
"The thought that ran through my head was, 'My dream came true,'" he said.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
http://sports.espn.go.com/chicago/nba/columns/story?columnist=greenberg_jon&id=6699187

Bulls draft bio: Jimmy Butler
June, 23, 2011
Jun 23
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By ESPNChicago.com


Player: Jimmy Butler
Position: SF
Pick: 30
Background: A native of Texas who played his college ball at Marquette
Birth date: Sep 14, 1989
Strengths: On paper, Butler appears to be a Tom Thibodeau type of player. He is a versatile perimeter player who defends effectively. As a senior with the Golden Eagles, he averaged 15.8 points per a game, scoring both inside and outside. He has overcome great adversity in his life to get where he is. That obviously speaks very highly of both his determination and his character. He could be used as a backup for Bulls small forward Luol Deng next season. ESPN's Chad Ford rated him as the eighth best small forward in the draft.
Weaknesses: At 6-8, Butler is a bit of a ‘tweener. He lacks great quickness and explosiveness, according to Ford. He's not a great outside shooter, having hit 20 of 58 3-point attempts as a senior.
Career highlight: Butler had 30 points and six rebounds in Marquette's loss to Cincinnati this past March. He also scored double digits in all three of Marquette's NCAA tournament games this season.


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Trent
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« Reply #2 on: June 28, 2011, 04:53:38 pm »

Forman confident Bulls will sign Mirotic in 2-3 years
1st-round pick under contract with Real Madrid through 2015



 
Bulls draft pick Jimmy Butler, right, shows his new Bulls jersey to Michelle Lambert, whose family took in Butler as a teenager. (Chris Walker, Chicago Tribune / June 27, 2011)   
By K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune reporter
6:37 p.m. CDT, June 27, 2011
There are myriad reasons general manager Gar Forman sounded confident the Bulls eventually will sign Nikola Mirotic, whose rights were acquired Thursday from the Timberwolves when the Bulls moved up in a draft-day trade.

Mirotic is under contract with Real Madrid through 2015 with a buyout of roughly $2 million Euros, according to sources. The Bulls' plan is to let him develop overseas for at least two to three seasons before negotiating a buyout. They took a similar approach with Asik, who just finished his rookie season after the Bulls acquired him in a draft-day trade in 2008.

Dukan is the Bulls' longtime international scout who has a longstanding professional relationship with Real Madrid officials.

"We can't say for sure when he'll be able to come over, but we're hopeful he'll be a big part of what we're doing," Forman said Monday at the Berto Center. "In our speaking with him, his desire and dream is to play in the NBA at some point."

Monday marked Forman's first public comments about Mirotic, whom the Bulls projected as a lottery talent whose contract status scared off teams.

"He's a 6-foot-10-inch power forward who has a great offensive package," Forman said. "He shoots it with range. He can handle and pass. He's already playing at a high level in the Euroleague in the ACB, which is probably the second-strongest league in the world behind the NBA. Historically, it's very unusual for players of that age to be playing such a significant role at that level."

Both Forman and coach Tom Thibodeau pointed to Mirotic's need to get stronger physically but believe he will complement Derrick Rose with his shooting ability.

"His skill set fits us well," Thibodeau said. "He also complements Carlos (Boozer). He's highly skilled, great touch. But he's more than a spot-up shooter. He can put it on the floor. I like his frame. He looks like one of those guys who will get better and better."

Quick connection: Jimmy Butler stood in the Houston airport when the text message landed on his phone: "Congratulations. Welcome. Maybe come by (Sunday night) and chill out for a bit and get to know each other."

Rose sent it.

So Butler, the Bulls' first-round pick, spent Sunday night watching the BET awards show with Rose and Randall Hampton. The latter is Rose's best friend and former teammate at Simon High School, who just happened to play with Butler in Butler's lone season at Tyler (Texas) Junior College.

"I've talked to Randall ever since I left junior college and went to Marquette," Butler said. "He's been one of my best friends throughout this process and he's forever one of my teammates and like a brother to me.

"We went to Derrick's house and just talked about basketball, my life. Randall and I were joking about our junior college days. It's crazy that I used to watch Derrick on TV and now I'm a teammate. He's a good dude. He's just like me for the most part. He just wants to win."

School spirit: Like Butler, Dwyane Wade is a Marquette product. He's also a member of a Heat team that eliminated the Bulls from the Eastern Conference finals. Light-heartedly asked if he liked or disliked Wade, Butler, who will wear No. 21, laughed.

"A little bit of both, I guess," Butler said. "He's a great player. I'm hoping to help shut him down in the future. He's a normal person. He's a great human being. He always comes back and talks to us like he played with us."

kcjohnson@tribune.com

Twitter @kcjhoop

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« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2011, 06:50:16 pm »

How come you don't post in the main forum anymore ?   Huh?


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