The Minnesota Timberwolves didn’t get off to a great start this season. First, a disgruntled Jimmy Butler demanded a trade and refused to report to training camp. Then, when he finally did show up to practice, he proceeded to humiliate teammates Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins for what he saw as a lack of toughness on their part.
And he didn’t stop there. He went on to challenge both the coaching staff and the front office before promptly going on ESPN with Rachel Nichols to take his criticism and trade demands public. Head coach and team president Tom Thibodeau held out on trading Butler with the hopes that he could salvage the relationship, but ultimately was forced to acquiesce.
It ended up costing him his job and subsequently sent the Timberwolves into a tailspin they never really recovered from. So it was a bit surprising that Thibs had such positive things to say about Butler and the saga that ensued toward the end of his tenure in Minnesota. Here’s what he had to say on Monday’s episode of The Starters.
“He helped us change the culture there,” Thibodeau said. “Every year, he’s gotten better. I think he’ll continue to get better, and he brought the best out in people.
Without question, the Wolves reached a higher level than they had previously during Wiggins’ and Towns’ young careers. They finished with a winning record for the first time since 2004 and made the playoffs for the first time since the Kevin Garnett era.
Butler’s abrasive personality clearly rubbed many people the wrong way and sewed discord in the locker room, but they’ve both moved on. Thibs is currently looking for his next coaching gig, while Butler and the Sixers look to close out the Nets on Tuesday night and punch their ticket to the conference semifinals.