The Bulls are in a bit of a funk, having lost four of their last five. At 16-12, they sit No. 7 in the Eastern Conference as we approach the new year. And while most people tend to focus on Derrick Rose, ESPN’s Nick Friedell hinted on a recent Washington Post Sports podcast that in fact Jimmy Butler might be the focus of more of the in-house issues. Why? The combination of a new max contract and his growing role as the best player on the team. Maybe it’s not mixing 100 percent perfectly with the older vets on the roster. Here’s the transcript of Friedell’s comments on the matter, via NBC Sports:

I don’t think that the tension between Jimmy and Derrick was ever as bad as it was made out to be. But the tension now, moving forward off the Derrick talk for a second, between Jimmy and other players in that locker room is bad.

 

Because you can’t just say, “I signed this new deal. I’m the leader.” That respect has to be earned over time. Nobody is questioning Jimmy’s work ethic. He’s worked his tail off. But they are questioning whether Jimmy can be the leader that this group needs with so much turmoil going on around them.

 

You talk to anybody within that Bulls organization, and they’ll tell you that Jimmy has changed. His personality has changed.

 

And it’s not to say he’s wrong in that.

 

But this was a kid that loved saying he was from Tomball, Texas and that he was just a role player on a really good team. And now he wants all the trappings that come with being a star in the league.

 

And that’s all well and good.

 

But again, this ties back into the leadership problem this team has. You can say all that, but you can’t just say, “Alright, I’m the leader.” You have to earn that respect over time. Maybe Jimmy will.

 

He’s really rubbed some people the wrong way with how he’s going about things. So, it’s something to watch for, and it’s something that I know is on the minds of the front office in that, “Can we trust this guy to go out and to be who we need him to be every night, and can he lead us the way that a championship-caliber team needs to be led?” And early on, the returns have been no.

What do you think is going on in Chicago? Hit up the comments section below.