At Jimmy Butler’s introductory Minnesota Timberwolves press conference today, the All-Star gave out his phone number for critics who have leveled criticism towards him since being traded from Chicago on draft night to reach him directly.
In Minnesota, Butler is reunited with his former head coach Tom Thibodeau, who joined The Jim Rome Show on CBS Sports Radio Thursday and shared his reaction to Butler sharing his number with the entire world.
“I just chuckled. I mean that’s Jimmy,” Thibodeau laughed. “Whether it’s praise or criticism, it really doesn’t matter. It’s what he thinks and what we think. But as you know, he will use that as fuel for his fire and that’s what drives him. I think each year he’s shown how much he’s gotten better, and he’s never lost that hunger and drive that he had as a rookie, and that’s what makes him so special. It’s every year more and more.”
Minnesota’s first overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Karl-Anthony Towns, attended Butler’s presser at the Mall of America, a move that didn’t surprise Thibodeau, who thinks Butler will benefit the team’s two young stars, Towns and Andrew Wiggins, the first overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
“That’s who Karl is. You couldn’t ask for anything more. His love of the game and, of course, his talent’s pretty special,” Thibodeau said. “When you look at what he’s done and what Andrew’s done as 21 and 22-year-old players in this league, it’s pretty unique. The best thing about this pairing and along with Andrew is that what Jimmy has just gone through is what Karl and Wigg going through and the fact that Jimmy just going into his prime right now, I think he will be very helpful with those two guys in terms of showing them the way. He’s already just gone through what they’re going through now. And the fact that Jimmy’s a two-way player, I think that will help us tremendously,. I think that that’s the biggest area of growth that we need to improve upon is we need to make a commitment to play defense, and I think with Jimmy leading the way I think that will help.”
As for Wiggins, after spending the entire season with him, Thibodeau likes what he sees in the athletic wing player and reminded those it takes time to be elite in the NBA, but likes the former Kansas Jayhawk’s upward trajectory.
“He’s a special talent. What we tend to forget is that it does take time. They don’t get there overnight and when you look at Andrew’s first year, it was 16 points and then 20 points and now 24 points in his third year. So he’s making good, steady progress,” Thibodeau said. “I think he’s just scratching the surface. I think he can take off to a completely different level. But I like the progress that he’s made. It’s significant jumps in all three years. I think if you look back at players like Jimmy and Kawhi (Leonard), we tend to look at them as they are today, but we forget the steps they took along the way.”