Chicago Bulls Discipline Wade, Butler for Making Derogatory Comments About TeammatesAfter leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to Cleveland's first professional sports championship in over 50 years, LeBron James will probably be granted a lifetime pass by that city and that franchise to say/do whatever he wants; he recently made it clear that he believes that all of his teammates except Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are scrubs and that Cavaliers' owner Dan Gilbert is a cheapskate despite Gilbert spending over $150 million on salaries/luxury tax. James has received little to no backlash from the team in response to his intemperate remarks.
Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler just found out that they do not enjoy similar privileges with the Chicago Bulls.
Wade--who was a key member of three Miami championship teams before leaving the Heat to join the Bulls last summer--and three-time All-Star Butler--who is one of the top all-around players in the NBA--each blasted their teammates on Wednesday night after the Bulls fell apart down the stretch en route to a 119-114 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. Wade declared, "I'm 35 years old, man. I've got three championships. It shouldn't hurt me more than it hurts these young guys. They have to want it...It has to change. It has to hurt inside to lose games like this." Butler fumed, "(Expletive teammates) just got to care if we win or lose. At the end of the day, do whatever it takes to help the team win. You play your role to the T. Be a star in your role, man."
The Bulls fined both Wade and Butler and removed both players from the starting lineup in Friday's 100-88 loss to the Miami Heat. Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo--who started alongside Boston's fabled Big Three as the Celtics won the 2008 NBA title--was not disciplined for his public comments that unfavorably compared the leadership of Wade and Butler to the leadership of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, the two best players on Boston's championship team. Rondo posted this on Instagram, accompanied by a picture of Garnett and Pierce: "My vets would never go to the media. They would come to the team. My vets didn't pick and choose when they wanted to bring it. They brought it every time they stepped in the gym whether it was practice or a game. They didn't take days off. My vets didn't care about their numbers. My vets played for the team. When we lost, they wouldn't blame us. They took responsibility and got in the gym. They showed the young guys what it meant to work." Rondo emphasized that the only reason he went public with his thoughts is that he felt it was important that someone stick up for the team's young players.
Rondo's message is right on point. TNT's Kenny Smith had a great take on the situation as well, noting that it is cowardly for Wade and Butler to blast their teammates in the media as opposed to approaching them privately one on one.
Wade has a mixed track record as a leader. After winning the 2006 NBA Finals MVP, Wade presided over one of the worst collapses ever experienced by a defending NBA champion, as the Bulls trampled the Heat by a record-setting margin during the Heat's championship ring night, serving as a prelude to the Heat's first round playoff loss in 2007 and 15-67 record in 2008. Later, Wade helped Pat Riley recruit LeBron James and Chris Bosh to join him in Miami to form a power trio that eventually won two titles while advancing to the NBA Finals for four straight years. Wade understood that James was the team's best player by far and Wade not only willingly ceded center stage to James but he implored James to live up to the responsibilities inherent in being the team's best player.
Perhaps Wade believes that his championship pedigree gives him the right to speak out against his teammates--but Rondo and Smith are right: Wade's words and actions in this case are not the words and actions of a true leader.
Butler has no track record as a leader. He clashed with the since-departed Derrick Rose--the 2011 NBA regular season MVP who once seemed to be a great player and a great leader but recently has not met the standard in either department--last season. Butler's emergence as an individual star during the past few seasons has not correlated with increased team success; this is not to suggest that the Bulls' struggles are Butler's fault but Butler has not yet proven that he has the skill set and temperament necessary to be the best player on a championship team.
The Bulls are paying Wade and Butler a lot of money without receiving much in return, as the team is struggling to just hold on to the eighth playoff spot. The organization has to seriously reconsider how this roster has been constructed.
posted by David Friedman @ 7:54 PM