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Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler accepts ‘King Slayer’ challenge

Bulls guard Jimmy Butler looks surprised when no foul was called his drive basket second half Chicago Bulls 80-76 loss

Bulls guard Jimmy Butler looks surprised when no foul was called on his drive to basket in the second half of the Chicago Bulls 80-76 loss to the Indiana Pacers December 4, 2012 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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BULLS at HEAT

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Updated: February 5, 2013 6:35AM



MIAMI — This latest roll of the eyes was brought to you by Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler, a k a the “King Slayer.’’

Butler doesn’t know how it happened, whose fault it was or how many people even remember it, but the night the Bulls made him the 30th overall pick in the 2011 draft was memorable for a lot of reasons.

Fresh out of Marquette and with the Bulls fresh off a playoff loss to the Miami Heat, Butler was somehow labeled as the answer for LeBron James.

Blame the media and also blame general manager Gar Forman. Either way, it’s still a situation that brings some uneasiness, especially with the Bulls set to face James and the Heat for the first time this season Friday in Miami.

“Yeah, I remember all that,’’ Butler said with a deep sigh. “I mean, come on.’’

Right after Butler was selected by the Bulls, Forman met with the media at the United Center to discuss the pick. He talked about Butler’s makeup and went on and on about his defensive prowess. So, naturally, he was asked if Butler was selected with the sole purpose of locking down James.

Forman said that was the mind-set down the road.

“It was discussed as we went through the process,’’ Forman said. “And that’s not to put pressure on him that we’re just going to throw him on LeBron. The thing we’re so excited about Jimmy is his versatility.’’

Too late.

The seed was planted, and like many honest answers — fair or unfair — the media instantly fertilized it and helped it grow.

Within a few days, Butler was labeled as the player that would help slow down James. He was the “King Slayer.’’

“Like I said, come on,’’ Butler said, shaking his head.

If there was a positive to come out of the NBA lockout last season for Butler, it was that all those expectations were somehow forgotten. With no summer workouts and no real training camp, Butler was given the built-in pass. His playing time as a rookie was minimal.

But now? That pass has been revoked, and Butler is a significant player in coach Tom Thibodeau’s rotation.

If James overcomes a sore knee that kept him out of practice Thursday and plays, Butler expects to get his Round 1 meeting with King James.

“I feel like . . . look, I’m not going to say the wrong thing,’’ Butler said. ‘‘[James] is a superstar, one of the best to ever play the game, you know? I don’t think players like him can be stopped, but I do think they can be contained.

‘‘Great players, they don’t just score. They also defend, they also pass the ball, they rebound, do a lot of great things, so that’s a matchup that we’re going to have. Not only LeBron, but [Chris] Bosh and [Dwyane Wade]. You just have to make everything tough on them, every dribble, every basket, everything they do in a basketball game.’’

Butler reiterated that he never has come out and said he can be the defensive equalizer for James, but he also isn’t about to back down.

“My thing is, I’m not scared of anybody,’’ Butler said. “That’s the way I have to look at it. I feel like that’s how everyone should look at it.

‘‘But if I get lined up against [James], I’ll play hard just like I would if I was guarding anybody else. I do whatever it takes for my team to win, whether it’s guarding him, guarding D-Wade, guarding Bosh or guarding the five man. I don’t care what it is or who it is. I feel like I’m not going to back down from any matchup.’’

“King Slayer’’?

We’ll see.



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