- Associated Press - Monday, June 27, 2011

DEERFIELD, ILL. (AP) - Jimmy Butler was at the airport in Houston on his way to Chicago when he got the text message from Derrick Rose.

A few hours later, they were hanging out and watching the BET Awards on Sunday. How soon it will be before the Bulls’ MVP and their first-round draft pick are on the court together remains to be seen.

With the collective bargaining agreement about to expire and a lockout looming, a huge cloud of uncertainty is hovering over the NBA.

General manager Gar Forman insisted it’s business as usual for now and on Monday, that meant introducing Butler.

Taken 30th overall last week, the former Marquette standout joins a Bulls team that won a league-leading 62 games and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals before losing to the Miami Heat in five games. It’s another big turn in the dramatic story of a player who was homeless for a while after being kicked out by his mother when he was 13.

With his father out of the picture since he was a baby, Butler bounced between friends’ houses before finally settling in with the family of friend Jordan Leslie and his mom, Michelle Lambert, going into his senior year of high school in Tomball, Texas.

On Sunday, he got quite a welcome to the NBA when he was at the airport.

Rose’s text message was quick and to the point: “Congratulations. Welcome. Come by tonight and just chill out a little bit, get to know each other.”

Turns out, Butler played with Rose’s friend and Simeon Career Academy teammate Randall Hampton at Tyler Junior College. All three got a chance to reminisce Sunday night.

It’s crazy to know I used to watch him on TV,” Butler said of Rose. “Now, I’m a teammate. I try not to let that show too much, to tell you the truth. He’s a good dude. He’s just like me for the most part. He just wants to win.”

It would help if the Bulls added an outside shooter, something they were sorely lacking last season, particularly in the playoffs. Butler’s strength is his defense, and although that should make him a good fit for coach Tom Thibodeau, he vowed to extend his jump-shooting range.

The Bulls believe he can do just that after hitting 36 of 94 3-pointers in his three seasons with Marquette. He averaged 15.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals as a senior and was honorable-mention, all-Big East for the second straight year.

“We felt he had all the attributes that we feel are important to help the team become successful,” Thibodeau said. “I think he showed great progress through his career.”

Considering his story, that’s hardly a surprise. Now, look at him.

There was Butler holding up his No. 21 jersey while posing with Forman and Thibodeau at the end of the news conference. Off to the side was Lambert, the woman he calls “mom,” unable to contain herself.

Story Continues →