BOSTON — Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade played with LeBron James long enough to know how overwhelming James can be on both ends of the floor. After watching Bulls All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler’s monster performance against the Celtics on Sunday, he was ready to compare his current teammate to his old running mate on the Miami Heat.
Butler scored 30 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and also spent time guarding Celtics All-Star Isaiah Thomas in a Game 1 win.
“I had the luxury of playing with a guy named LeBron,” Wade said before Monday’s practice. “And we did the same thing when we played — to Derrick Rose. You have a point guard who guards him but when you need a guy who’s longer, who’s just as fast, and all those things, it helps. It gives them a different look, it kind of throws off things. You’re not going to slow down Isaiah Thomas from getting the looks and getting opportunities. The guy can score as good as anybody in this game. But just to give them a different look, if you get their offense out a little further, if it takes a little bit more time off the clock, all those things help. It’s good to be able to have a guy like that to say, ‘Get us 30, and then go guard the guy that’s got 30.’”
Thomas finished the game with 33 points, but Butler was able to help keep him in check down the stretch, while also carrying the Bulls at times offensively. Wade knows that there are only a handful of players in the NBA who have that kind of ability.
“As I sit here, obviously Jimmy, Paul [George], Kawhi [Leonard], Draymond [Green], Bron,” Wade said. “I’m sure I’m leaving somebody out. Avery Bradley’s a great defender. He’s not as tall as those guys, but he’s a great defender. Patrick Beverley’s a great defender. Obviously he’s not guarding 4-men … there’s some guys that really get after it. We have the luxury of having one.”
For his part, Butler tried to take the attention in stride. His goal against Thomas is to set the tone early in the matchup, while keeping a body on the diminutive guard.
“Be physical,” Butler said. “If I foul, I foul. Don’t foul too many times. Challenge every shot. Contest everything at the rim. We all know what he does for that team and what he’s done this year putting the ball in the basket. I think I can guard anybody. Especially if that’s what my team needs me to do. However long it is, however many minutes, I’m out there to do that. This is what playoff basketball is about and you got to be ready.”
Wade, who scored 11 points in Game 1, has been open about the fact he has to take a backseat to Butler’s game. He’s just hoping to help Butler out when he needs a boost from his teammates.
“When I came here, in my [introductory] press conference, I said it was Jimmy Butler’s team,” Wade said. “And we’ll ride Jimmy until we can’t ride him no more. And then when they’re ready to ride me, I’m ready. At this point in the year it’s all about doing whatever it takes to win, and each game is different. You don’t know what kind of defensive coverage they’re going to throw at him [Tuesday]. So we all got to be prepared but, whatever it takes.”