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Bulls Wed Sep 30 2015
You don't have to be best friends with your co-workers. Better chemistry can help long meetings go by quickly or an assembly around the water cooler to be more jovial, but the goal of any business and the responsibility of any co-worker is to get the job done.
In the realm of professional sports, that feeling can be a bit different. We forget that playing sports is a full-time job. Players may get hefty contracts or lavish endorsement deals, but this is still their 9-to-5 gig. And chemistry plays an integral part in how a team thrives. We have witnessed teams succeed when there is a good clubhouse and awed at the tire fires of bad chemistry. For the Chicago Bulls, there may be a bit of turmoil brewing between their top employees.
Towards the end of the 2015 playoffs, there were rumors circulating that Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler were developing a bit of a beef. You could tell by the final game of the playoffs that both players were checked out and ready for vacation. Rose looked more passive while Butler grinded away, but his efforts felt unrequited. Granted, these two players aren't the most animated in the NBA, so the notion that they were at odds should be taken with a grain of salt.
But over the summer, neither player did anything to dispel the rumor that they were each itching to be the heir apparent to number 23. It created a whole mess of odd drama, which gave the media plenty to write about, but Rose and Butler didn't really want to expand upon any of these points. During Butler's contract extension press conference, over general manager Gar Forman's Emperor Palpatine-like laugh, he scoffed at the notion there was any type of issue with Rose.
"With the more time that we're out there we'll definitely get better at it," Butler said on July 9. "Off the floor, I mean he has a son, so he has a family that he has to take care of...But I mean when we have a chance we'll hang around each other, but I feel like we spend enough time together on the court. I think when you're off the court then you go your separate ways a little bit.''
There is absolutely no problem with the two superstars going their separate ways once they punch out after the work day, but the way Butler went about addressing the issue seemed to show that he and Rose were not clicking, even on the court. The passive aggressive attitude shows that there may be some underlying tension between the two.
During the Bulls media day on Sept. 28, Rose unleashed a cavalcade of awkward quotes about his future. He is known to put his foot in his mouth, but this was different. Rose is not a free agent until 2017, but was pretty keen on making it known that the almighty dollar was his primary concern coming into the season. He keeps reiterating that he wants to make sure his family and son are financially secure -- and one would hope they already are after being guaranteed $300 million by the Bulls and Adidas alone in his career. Coming into a season where you need to prove yourself, Rose probably shouldn't bring up the topic that he thinks he should be paid more, especially when you consider the Bulls return on investment with him the past few injury riddled seasons.
When asked about these comments, Butler seemed undeterred about Rose's mindset. "He could talk about unicorns and rainbows for all I care," Butler said during the first team's practice on Sept.29. "Just help us win games.''
Fred Hoiberg should address the situation, real or imagined, and squash the rumors before anything happens that could send the situation farther down the rabbit hole. Many will say that team chemistry means nothing, but over 82 games it sure does help. For the Bulls to succeed in the coming year, both Rose and Butler will need to compromise about who runs the show. Barring any major setbacks, Rose will be at full steam this season and Butler will hope to equal the stats he put up last year when everyone was saying "Derrick who?" They are not the only two players on the roster, but they are the cogs to success for this incarnation of the Chicago Bulls.