Jimmy Butler returned from a two-game absence on Wednesday when the Bulls defeated the high-octane Golden State Warriors 103-83.
Still recovering from a bruised rib he suffered last Friday in a win over Denver, there was no time to ease his way back into things as he was tasked with guarding Warriors sharp-shooter Klay Thompson.
Not only did Butler not skip a beat in defending in his usual aggressive manner, holding Thompson to just 3-for-8 shooting, he also didn't skip a beat on offense finishing with 16 points on 5-for-10 shooting (5-for-6 on free throws) and also contributed a game-high three blocked shots.
"I felt all right," Butler said afterwards. "(My mindset) was just to stay aggressive on both ends of the floor and I feel like my teammates are the best at reminding me to do so, so I’ve just got to keep going. I just wanted to play. I hate sitting out, but when my body can’t do it, I just can’t and today I felt good enough to where I could go out there, I could get the ball up to the rim with a limited amount of pain. So I said, ‘Why not? I’m going for it.’
Thibodeau wasn't sure that Butler would play, but after warming up, he told his coach he wanted to give it a shot. Aside from Butler's conditioning, Thibodeau was also worried about his offensive rhythm.
"He had such a good rhythm prior to the injury," Thibodeau said. "It was good to see he picked up right where he left off. I thought he had a really good rhythm and played great defense."
After a January to forget, Butler is averaging 13.1 points on 44 percent shooting to go along with 6.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.3 blocks. His three-point shooting is still dismal (26 percent), but he's also getting to the line nearly five times a game, which wasn't the case last month in which he settled too often on his jumper.
"Even with the games that he missed, he was in here working out, working on his game every day," said Carlos Boozer regarding Butler. "That’s why he was able to come back in and seamlessly helped us like he never missed a beat because he put the time in, even though he was getting rehab on his rib."
When asked what it meant to have Butler back in the lineup, Joakim Noah summarized it best.
"He brings that fire, intensity and brings a lot of heart to this team," Noah said. "He takes matchups really personally and I love that about him. I think that he represents what Chicago Bulls basketball is all about. I love playing with Jimmy."