Dane Moore: Karl-Anthony Towns was asked postgame about his exchange with Jimmy Butler, and Anthony Edwards stepped in to take the answer “Man, they grown men, dog. They just be talkin, havin a regular conversation, if you ask me… It’s no competition if we not talkin shit to each other.” pic.twitter.com/gDEP0hjbVZ
Clutch Points: Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns exchange words, get double techs. Beef ain't dead yet 👀 pic.twitter.com/aTEEWZIFat
NBA Central: Jimmy Butler tells KAT that he’s "soft as baby sh!t" (@Yfz84 ) pic.twitter.com/GOajUUV0hA
Through Butler’s exit, Thibodeau’s firing and all of the drama in between, Towns never engaged in the mess. In a league that has become as much about the off-court hijinks as it is the on-court results, he has worked hard to steer clear of it. “I go out there to do my job and do it better than everybody in this league. That’s what my focus is,” Towns said. “I’m not here to be a show.”
Team members say that as Butler's frustration and unhappiness swelled in Minnesota, Towns' locker room presence receded, allowing Butler to dominate the conversation -- and the mechanisms on the court. "Things happen. There are power struggles all the time in [the NBA]," Calipari said. "If a guy can bully you, he will bully you. And that's what Jimmy did to Karl. C'mon, that's the league."
Some of Calipari's intel on the inner workings of the Timberwolves came from another one of his ex-players -- former Memphis star Derrick Rose, who has run the gamut of NBA experiences, from basking in the limelight of an MVP season in 2011 to being unceremoniously dumped by two franchises last winter. "Derrick is the one who got Karl through that whole Butler mess," Calipari said.
"I don't think bully is a good word," Butler told ESPN. "I tell it how it is. Whenever I was in college, I had [Marquette coach] Buzz Williams to tell me how it was. I didn't have a bunch of McDonald's All Americans like [Calipari] has. So, he can look at it a different way. "
Butler paused, perhaps to consider ending the conversation. But he couldn't -- and didn't. "He can call me a bully, but when [Calipari] sees me, I'm gonna confront him about it," Butler continued. "If I'm a bully, I'm gonna bully him, too. I'll tell him how I feel, just like I'd tell anyone else. "I don't care if he's some big head coach. I'm not bullying nobody. I'm just keeping it real. Some of these guys aren't used to it. When you have as much talent as [Karl] has had throughout his life, guys don't keep it real with him. I do."
Sources close to the team told The Athletic there were stretches of the 2017-18 season in which Butler would avoid giving Towns the ball consistently on offense. It was a protest of sorts at Towns’ inconsistent effort and execution on defense. A motivational tool that sacrificed shot attempts for the center while trying to galvanize a defensive effort. While sources wouldn’t offer up specific games or instances, the first half of the season seemed to be a roller coaster for Towns being involved properly in the offense.
We saw an even more dramatic increase with Towns’ scoring rate. With Butler on the floor, Towns 23.3 points per 100 possessions. When Butler would sit, Towns’ scoring rate skyrocketed to 34.5 points per 100 possessions and he was more efficient in how he scored. In the nine games since Butler’s trade, Towns has a usage rate of 27.4 percent. He even had three straight games of a usage rate of 31.0 percent or higher. Last season, he never had back-to-back games of a usage rate over 30.0 percent and only had eight of those games total. He has five total in the Wolves’ first 22 games.
How about you and KAT? Jimmy Butler: Me and KAT are cool. I ain’t got a problem with KAT. Don’t nobody got a problem with nobody, I’m telling you. Everything ain’t what it seems.
It’s been over six weeks since Butler first requested a trade, and there have been multiple developments during that span that could lead one to question whether Butler is being a negative influence on the Timberwolves’ young core of Karl-Anthony Towns (22) and Wiggins (23). But the four-time All-Star disputes that perception. “I don’t give a [expletive] [what people think],” Butler told Yahoo Sports. “I don’t. I swear to you. Because I know where I’m at with my guys. I know how I am as a person. They can write whatever they want, they can say whatever they want and I can address it the way that I want to. But at the end of the day, I go to war with my guys. Those are my guys. We’re out there trying to win. Nothing is going to come between us. I’m going to play the right way, do what I do, and they know that. They know that.”
Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins aren’t the type of players who’ll respond well to Butler’s leadership, which is based on hard work as an example and harder truths. “They’ll take tough love. They had Kevin Garnett, Tayshaun Prince and Andre Miller as examples,” one league executive told Yahoo Sports. “Jimmy isn’t too dissimilar from K.G., but it just doesn’t mix.”
Towns reportedly won’t sign his rookie-scale extension until Minnesota handles the Butler situation, and the standoff apparently isn’t at all over haggling about contract terms, particularly what would happen if Towns qualifies next season for the super-max. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN: They’re offering him as much money as they can. I’m led to believe that a big reason why he hasn’t signed it is that he – through his agent, Leon Rose – went to the Wolves and said, “Hey, I can’t coexist with Jimmy. Do something about it.” So, Figure out the Jimmy situation. On top of that – whether it’s right or wrong, this is the way he feels – that it’s been Jimmy and Thibs ganging up on him.
Internet Detectives Present Evidence That Jimmy Butler Hooked Up With Karl-Anthony Towns' GF Which Caused Their Breakup & Was Part of The Reason Butler Demanded Trade (Tweets-IG-Pics-Vid) http://bit.ly/2Ddlm9U Karl-Anthony Towns: 😂😂😂 #FakeNews
The Thibodeau-Butler relationship has been largely strong since the Bulls drafted Butler in 2011, but Butler's partnership with young star Karl-Anthony Towns has been strained and remains an obstacle to the 2018-19 team's success --- and perhaps the ability to sign Butler to a new contract next summer, league sources said.
June 23, 2021 | 5:32 am EDT Update
Sullivan is the author of “Can’t Knock the Hustle: Inside the Season of Protest, Pandemic, and Progress with the Brooklyn Nets’ Superstars of Tomorrow,” which released on Tuesday. In a conversation with our friends from Celtics Wire on their podcast, Celtics Lab, Sullivan said that Nets ownership was unhappy with Irving over his midseason “pause,” and that Irving could be available for the right offer.
Matt Sullivan: “Let me give you guys a little news, I’m not sure that’s been out there. I’ve heard that Nets ownership was quite upset with Kyrie’s ‘pause,’ especially that maskless party that turned his psuedo-paternity leave into more like a COVID suspension. And in the last week I’ve heard rumblings – whispers, really, because cracking the Nets is kind of like breaking into the Kremlin, that Brooklyn GM Sean Marks would maybe, possibly, apparently be willing to at least listen to a trade offer for Kyrie this offseason. Now, I’m not sure what the market for Kyrie is at this point. It’s not like Ben Simmons giving you the headache on the court. It’s that complex personality that comes from off the court. I think it’s been annoying some people in the franchise. I can’t speak to his teammates, who obviously want to play with one of the world’s best and get him back there.”
Deandre Ayton couldn’t stop smiling after the Phoenix Suns’ 104-103 win on Tuesday gave them a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals over the LA Clippers. The big man wore a permagrin as he basked in the joy that came from dunking home the go-ahead bucket in the game’s final second, finishing one of the most dramatic alley-oops in NBA playoff history, but he didn’t want any of the credit. “I’ll start off by saying that’s definitely Jae [Crowder’s] game winner, making a great pass for a 7-footer,” Ayton said after his dunk with 0.7 seconds left lifted his final line to 24 points on 12-for-15 shooting and 14 rebounds.
No wonder Ayton said he completed the best play of his three-year NBA career after finishing with 24 points, 14 rebounds and one memorable lob that gave the Suns a 2-0 series lead. “I never played so hard from the jump ball to the end, 150%,” Ayton said. “Usually it’s like 110%, but tonight it’s 150% and it’s 150% mentally. Just the level of focus and the things you have to really pay attention to, it’s really intense.”
And the production has been eye-popping. Per Elias Sports Bureau research, this postseason Ayton is the first player in the shot clock era (since 1954-55) with a 70% or better field goal percentage in any 12-game postseason span. He has had five 20-point, 10-rebound games this postseason, the most by a Suns player since Amar’e Stoudemire in 2007. “I’ve never played so hard from the jump ball to the end,” Ayton said. “A hundred and fifty percent. Usually, it’s like 110, but this is 150%. And it’s 150% mentally, too. Just the level of focus and the things you really have to pay attention to. It’s really intense, man.”
The cloud of the 2018 draft doesn’t follow Ayton. He has admitted in the past to being sensitive to perception and criticism, but put all of it behind him. “At the end of the day, we’re all different players,” Ayton said of comparisons to Doncic and Young. “I’m a 7-footer, big man, and they’re two point guards. I don’t know what you can compare. But me, I play as hard as I can. This is my team. I dominate the best way I can for this team and try to take this team as far as I can. Other than that, I trust my work, I trust my work ethic, I trust my craft.”
But with a chance to give them a three-point lead with 8.2 seconds left, George surprisingly missed both free throws despite coming into this game making 89.2% from the free throw line this postseason. “I’m not going to put too much on that,” George said afterward. “Obviously it was an opportunity that was missed. Pat made an unbelievable play that put me in position to extend the lead. I’m always confident at the free throw line. I’ve always been very successful in clutch moments at the free throw line.”
Meanwhile, the Clippers failed to capitalize on a game that was there for the taking, and now trail 2-0 for a third straight series this postseason. “This game, I’ve played a lot of games in this league, this one’s hard,” said Beverley, who got the start in Game 2. “This one goes up there. This is a hard game to kind of swallow because you look at this game, I mean, we got this game won, you know. “But we’ve been in the trenches before. We respond well in the trenches. We’ll respond well. We always do.”