Minnesota Timberwolves Rumors
When asked if he was humbled by last season, Thibodeau insists he wasn’t expecting greatness right away. “I didn’t know what to think going in,” Thibodeau says. “When you looked at the numbers, we had a minus-3.6 point differential (in 2015-16). I knew we were not close yet. I didn’t know how much of a jump Karl [-Anthony Towns], Andrew [Wiggins] and Zach [LaVine] could make.” And this much is true: the Timberwolves were not wolves, but puppies. The average age on the team was 24.0 years old, the lowest in the NBA according to Basketball-Reference.com, even younger than the infamously-green Philadelphia 76ers.
Now, Thibodeau can lean on Butler down the stretch, easing the burden on Wiggins and Towns’ shoulders in late-game situations. To Thibodeau, the Timberwolves didn’t blow leads because youngsters were worn down; they just didn’t have a bench. It was a roster weakness that Thibodeau admits now falls on him, the president. “We didn’t have depth,” Thibodeau says of last year. “I think a veteran understands that the fourth quarter is a lot different than the first three quarters. And Jimmy [Butler] has been one of the great finishers in our league.”
There were only six players left on the court a few minutes after Timberwolves practice ended on Oct. 10. Players were quick to leave the facility the day after landing back in Minneapolis after a 16-hour return trip from China that completed an 18-day trip to open training camp. But those six who stayed on the court refused to leave. They went on to play a series of one-on-one contests that lasted more than an hour. There was Melo Trimble, Amile Jefferson, Anthony Brown and Marcus Georges-Hunt — four young guys with no guarantee of making Minnesota’s 15-man roster, all trying to get in any extra work possible and maybe make a good impression on the right person in hopes of earning a roster spot. The fifth player was ageless veteran Jamal Crawford. The sixth? Jimmy Butler, the Wolves’ new All-NBA wing, one of the best two-way players in the world, whom Minnesota acquired via a draft-night trade with Chicago this summer.
“I’ll go hit the gym tonight,” Butler said after that Oct. 10 practice. “I love this. Damn. I’m so fortunate and happy that I get to play basketball every day. And I don’t know what else to do, like it’s crazy. I’m up there with (Thibodeau). He just don’t leave the office. I leave the office, but I go home and work. I’ve got weights at the house, we got a gym right there. I’m working. I’m on you, Thibs, I’m on your tail.”
When Bernie Lee, Butler’s agent and friend, went to turn on the TV at Butler’s place in California this summer, two months after Butler moved in, he found the remote’s batteries were missing. Butler legitimately doesn’t watch television, including basketball. He didn’t even watch the NBA Finals series in June between Cleveland and Golden State. He bought a video game console this summer, but not to play NBA2K — he just wanted to play Crash Bandicoot a few times.