Q: I assume Jimmy Butler enters the season as the starting 2-guard?
A: He does, he does. I thought he had tremendous growth last year, and I think it started at the conclusion of his rookie year. He came into the gym and worked every day, had a terrific Summer League, and came right back into the gym in August. And he just got better and better throughout the season.
Q: You’ve cycled through a lot of shooting guards in your time here that brought some very good skills, but not an entire two-way package. Kyle Korver is a great shooter, and I think he’s actually underrated as a defender, but he’s not a stopper and doesn’t do much off the bounce. Ronnie Brewer was a stopper, but he can’t shoot. You tried Rip [Hamilton], you tried [Keith Bogans]. Is Jimmy finally the answer?
A: Hopefully. We want him to continue to grow. The one thing is — he plays both sides of the ball, he’s worked extremely hard on his shooting, and that has significantly improved. His defense has always been very, very good. He’s an all-around player, and he plays to win. If you need defense and rebounding, he’ll do that for you. If you need a little more scoring, he can give you that. He guards 1 through 4 [point guards through power forwards], and he guards them all well.
Q: Do you know what country Joakim Noah is in at this moment?
A: No, no. [Laughs.] He’s on a world tour. But he stays in great shape, and you know he’s always working. He’ll hit through Chicago a few times, and we’ll grab him there. But he’s doing well.
Q: Does he have an e-mail address, if you at least want to check in? Will he answer?
A: Yeah, yeah. You can get him. Sometimes it’s not as easy as we would like. He’s involved in a lot of things. He does prioritize staying in shape, but he’s also involved in a lot of charities and does a lot of great things.
Q: Do you guys have a replacement ready for Ron Adams?
A: No, we’ll see.
Q: Can you elaborate on why, from what you’ve heard, the team allowed him to move on?
A: Nah. We’re not going to look backward. We’re going to look ahead. We’re just thinking about next season.
Q: Did that decision create as much tension between you and Gar [Forman, the team’s GM] as was rumored?
A: We’re fine. We’re just thinking about next year.
Q: I remember talking to Marco Belinelli when you guys passed through Brooklyn early last season, and he was saying that while he really enjoyed playing for the Bulls, he was surprised at how hard a time he was having picking up your defense. Is that a worry when you sign free agents? Are you confident Mike Dunleavy Jr., a very heady guy, can pick up the schemes right away?
A: In Marco’s case, the first 20 games there was a clear adjustment period, but I thought he was great by midseason. He really picked things up well. He had a great all-around season. Each guy is different, but I think the first year, you do go through an adjustment period. But I don’t think it’s any different from any other team — when you’re a first-year player, the biggest hurdle is to learn your teammates and to learn the system that you’re in.
Q: Now that the season is done and Derrick has announced he’s going to be ready for opening night, maybe it’s time to ask again: At what point last season did you know for sure he wasn’t going to come back?
A: We never really knew, to be honest. The one thing we did know, and that our owner [Jerry Reinsdorf] made clear from the beginning, was that we were going to be patient, that we weren’t going to rush him back, and that we weren’t going to put him out there until he was completely comfortable being out there again. He tried as hard as he possibly could, he couldn’t quite get there, and I think he made a smart decision. His game is a lot different than most — very explosive, change-of-direction type of guy. What the summer has done is given him additional time to build strength and confidence in his knee.