The Knicks beat the Bulls Saturday, 107-91. It was Chicago's second loss in the past two days, following a painful quadruple overtime defeat at the hands of the Pistons. Needless to say, it hasn't been a good stretch for the Bulls, who had won four in a row before Friday.
Jimmy Butler, who finished the game against New York with 12 points and five assists, clearly wasn't happy with blaming fatigue for the loss. After the game he decided to call out his coach, Fred Hoiberg.
"I believe in the guys in this locker room but I also believe we probably have to be coached a lot harder at times," Butler said, according to The Chicago Tribune's Chris Kuc. "I'm sorry, I know Fred is a laid back guy and I really respect him for that but when guys aren't doing what they're supposed to do, you have to get on guys -- myself included."
As mentioned, the Bulls were doing fine before the past two games and no one can blame them for losing a second game of a back-to-back on the road after playing four overtimes. That makes the timing of Butler's statement curious, as there's no real emergency. Chicago is 15-10 for the season, good for fifth in the East. Yet it's obvious he is seeing things he doesn't like on the court and wants his coach to intervene.
"We weren't doing what we were supposed to be doing," Butler continued. "Nobody spoke up about it. I did (but) probably not enough times. I think that (Hoiberg) has to hold everybody accountable from the No. 1 player all the way to how ever many guys we have. Everybody has to do their job. When you match up and do your job we'll win the game."
It's not clear what exactly Butler is referring to, but the fact that he felt the need to go public about the issues shows he believes they are serious enough to need an immediate response.
On Monday Butler addressed the media and attempted to walk back some of his comments.
"I was never calling out my coach," he said, via K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. I think he's a hell of a coach. I think he's done great through these 25 games."
He added that in the wake of his comments Hoiberg had addressed the team. But when asked about Hoiberg's offense Butler didn't exactly give a ringing endorsement.
Butler on if he accepts Hoiberg's O: "I have to be because he signed here for 5 years. I signed here for 5 years. We have to make it work."— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) December 21, 2015
Hoiberg, for his part, declined to publicly criticize Butler.
"I know emotions are part of this gam," he said, via Johnson, later adding: "There are plenty of times in this gym behind closed doors where we have some pretty heated talks."
Some will see Butler's statement as proof that there's a rift in the Bulls' locker room, but it might just be a question of an intense player adjusting to a laid back coach. In past seasons the Bulls had the more hands-on Tom Thibodeau at the helm, the only coach Butler had known since becoming a pro. The comparison is inevitable and in the bad times, it's possible that he simply wants to revert to what's familiar.
Regardless of why he did it and what it means, the challenge for Hoiberg now is to not let Butler's statement become a distraction. If he can do that, he will likely figure out how to balance his relaxed tendencies with the discipline his star player thinks the team lacks.