SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Jimmy Butler missed his second straight game on Monday, as the right heel contusion was still “about a six’’ on the pain scale.
Butler’s pain, however, meant another opportunity for Michael Carter-Williams to continue climbing his way out of end-of-the-bench purgatory.
After being named the starter in early January for Rajon Rondo, Carter-Williams lost that starting gig three weeks later, benched before a Jan. 24 win in Orlando for Jerian Grant.
Over the next four games he received the DNP [Did Not Play] Coach’s Decision, until Fred Hoiberg threw six minutes his way in the blow-out win over the Thunder to start this current road trip.
With Butler out against Houston, however, Hoiberg not only started Carter-Williams, but watched the former first-round pick for the 76ers have his best game in a Bulls uniform, playing 35 minutes, scoring 23 points, grabbing nine rebounds and also handing out six assists.
Not earning him a second consecutive start, but also showing Hoiberg that the bad feelings Carter-Williams initially had with the benching have been turned into somewhat of a positive.
“The big thing is when you do make a change like that is you’re not going to expect them to be happy,’’ Hoiberg, who has made his share of lineup changes this season, said. “As a competitor you want them a little disappointed to maintain their edge, but at the same time you want them to stay professional and accept the role that’s given to them, and I think our guys have done a nice job of that.
“My biggest thing is I can relate to these guys. I was a guy that was taken out of lineups and inserted back in. I didn’t play a lot of games until maybe five left in the season, and then all of a sudden I’m in the playoff rotation, so you never know when your name is called but you have to stay ready.’’
While Carter-Williams still would like his starting role back, he’s at least in the right head space again.
“I think in any situation it’s good to use that fuel and just have a chip on your shoulder when you go out there,’’ Carter-Williams said. “That’s what I try to do, me personally.’’
Going the other way with it wasn’t really an option for the fourth-year player.
“It’s hard sometimes,’’ Carter-Williams said. “Of course you want to be out there playing. It’s just controlling your emotions really. Take everything and put it into positive energy instead of negative.’’
Hoiberg still isn’t sure what the ceiling will be on rookie Paul Zipser, but he continues to make him one of the first players off his bench until he sees that the former German League standout can’t handle it.
“He’s been playing at a very high level, playing against grown men for several years in the league that he was playing in,’’ Hoiberg said. “So it’s, how does that translate? I think it’s a shock initially, because of the athleticism that the NBA game has. But Paul has shown, he has a tremendous basketball IQ and he plays extremely hard. He plays both ends of the floor, and I think he’s shown that he’s a guy you can count on and rely on to go out there and play solid basketball. So I’m very pleased with Paul’s growth.’’