The Minnesota Timberwolves need a veteran leader, and Jimmy Butler is embracing the role.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are off to a great start this season, at 7-3 and with a five-game winning streak heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Golden State Warriors. Jimmy Butler was the big offseason acquisition in a draft night trade with the Chicago Bulls, and some other veteran additions have also made an impact.
Butler’s numbers are down a bit, particularly as a scorer as he’s averaging 15.1 points and just over 12 field goal attempts per game in eight games played entering Wednesday. But, he’s clearly taken over as a vocal leader, with reports he banned former Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio from the post-game locker room after a win over the Utah Jazz in the home opener on Oct. 20.
Sam Alipour of ESPN The Magazine recently spent an off-day with Butler. To say Butler was candid would be an understatement, and he was specifically asked about dethroning the defending champion Warriors.
I don’t give a damn if you’re the Warriors. We got guys who can play. And we got constant mismatches — really big wings in me and Wigs, and Karl’s a constant mismatch. What can’t he do? Guy did a windmill the other day in practice. Hell, I almost left the gym. I didn’t know he had it. Then you got Jamal [Crawford], the score lord. You got Taj [Gibson], who does all the little things right.
The Timberwolves made it to the Western Conference Finals in 2004, but they have not made the playoffs since and have the NBA’s longest playoff drought. There’s been a lot of futility over that time, and some bad luck. But Butler was quick to dismiss that history, fairly profanely.
“Now, this organization hasn’t been to the playoffs in 13 years, but f— history. It’s a new bunch of guys here, and we all say the same thing: F— history.”
The Timberwolves need someone to take the reins as a veteran leader. More importantly, they need someone to be a buffer between Tom Thibodeau and players like Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns to drive home the coach’s message. Butler is clearly taking that role seriously, and it’s only a matter of time before he combines more typical numbers with leadership and outspokenness.