Three-time All-Star Jimmy Butler returned to the Timberwolves for Friday’s rematch with Oklahoma City after a two-game illness, with boogers, snot, mucus and all.
He mentioned all three symptoms separately Friday while he discussed an upper respiratory infection that left him too ill to play and his Wolves teammates truly defenseless during lopsided losses to Indiana and Detroit.
“I’m here to play, I’m here to compete, I’m here to win,” he said Friday morning. “If you all see snot rolling down my nose and my face into my mouth, it’s disgusting but it might happen a few times.”
He watched those two games from home and said he saw a team too slow to run back on defense and too preoccupied with arguing with the referees.
“It’s going to take time, but we don’t have that much time,” Butler said. “You can’t continually practice bad habits, man. You’ve got to lose those habits ASAP. That’s what practice is for. … You can’t keep doing it over and over again in the game. That’s when it really counts, but we’re getting better at it.
“That being said, with my being out on the floor, I can cover up a lot of things. Not everything, don’t get me wrong. I’m not that good of a player. But on the defensive end, I pride myself on that end. I have to make sure that I’m at the top of my game at the defensive end and that everybody else is up there with me.”
Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau seemed a more contented man knowing Butler was ready to return.
“It’s big for us just because of all the things he brings to our team,” Thibodeau said. “From a defensive standpoint, from a toughness standpoint, from a playmaking standpoint. The one thing I know he can do is score big. But I think he’s trying to get the team to function at a high level right now.”
Takes a lot
Even without such things as mucus, longtime teammate Taj Gibson knew Butler must have been really ill.
“I’ve never really seen him miss a game in all my years I’ve been with him,” Gibson said. “For him to be out those last two, he really had to go through a lot.”
Gophers men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino attended the Thunder’s morning shoot as the guest of coach Billy Donovan, his former boss and longtime family friend.
“I’ve known Richard since he was 4 years old,” Donovan said. “We’ve got a great relationship, got a great relationship with his family. I’m happy for him. He’s excited about being in Minnesota and he’s excited about his team and what the potential and the possibilities could be this year.”
• The Wolves’ brief experiment with forward Nemanja Bjelica playing small forward in Detroit on Wednesday will continue eventually, Thibodeau said. “We haven’t had a chance to work on it as much as we’d like,” he said. “But we will as we go along.”
• Maybe the Thunder’s George is a big wrestling fan with a sense of the sport’s history, or … when referring to Wolves big man Gorgui Dieng, he called him “Gorgeous” and then “Georges” while searching unsuccessfully for Dieng’s correct first name.
• The Wolves presented longtime Target Center public address announcer Rod Johnson with a microphone stand during a second-quarter timeout. He retired from the job this season after 21 years on the job.
• Wolves strength and conditioning coach Dave Crewe received the 2017 David Craig Assistant Athletic Trainer award by his NBA peers.