“I’ve been everything from defamed by teammates, been a scapegoat for people, COVID, my own personal life,” Towns said. “I mean, shit hasn’t been easy since I came here, but the only thing that’s constant is me being a constant professional in all of that. I’m not going to ever change to fit an agenda or narratives that people have for me or they want me to be. I’m going to always continue to be me, and at the end of the day, I’m always going to continue to be a professional through everything. A cool man by the name of Drake, Aubrey Graham, he said, ‘A wise man once said nothing at all,’ and I’ve always chosen that route to keep to myself and be a professional and put this organization first in everything, even when it required me to be I guess the punching bag for the world.”
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Towns didn’t name Butler, but it was clear who he was talking about. During the turmoil of that saga, Towns never went public with his concerns, never responded to the criticism that fell on his shoulders, the labels of “soft” that hit him in the wake of Butler’s exit. But he also clearly wasn’t happy with Tom Thibodeau and other leaders of the organization, who he believes never came to his defense, either.
“I put the Wolves first before myself. I’ve done that every single step of my career to make sure new teammates who come here have been comfortable in this situation, made sure that they felt important, made sure that they felt that they had a chance to do something special here, and most of the time it comes at the price of me. And I’m OK with paying that price every time if it leads to wins.”
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
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
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.
Kelly Iko: This was Jimmy Butler.
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.
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October 27, 2021 | 2:40 pm EDT Update
Brad Turner: LeBron James out tonight with right ankle injury and AD questionable with right knee soreness, per Lakers.
Ira Winderman: Heat announce they will honor Bam Adebayo for his Olympic gold in Tokyo at halftime of Friday’s game vs. Hornets. As part of the event, his new Olympic banner will be unveiled alongside those of Mourning, Hardaway, Wade, LeBron.
Eddie Sefko: Jason Kidd on Kristaps Porzingis (low back stiffness): “He’s doing good. He did some work on the floor and we’ll see how he feels. Hopefully he can go.” Said talk about minutes on b2b will come later. Sterling Brown (left ankle sprain) also questionable for the Spurs’ game.
The Mavericks on Wednesday morning announced a five-year partnership with publicly traded cryptocurrency platform Voyager, which will become the team’s first cryptocurrency brokerage and international partner.