PHOENIX – Out in the Sonoran Desert to play the Suns on Saturday night, Jimmy Butler didn’t go so far after Timberwolves practice Friday to declare there’s a new sheriff in town.
But he did promise he will be a different player than the one who sought to involve his new teammates foremost through the Wolves’ first 11 games of the season.
Friday, Butler was asked when he will know the time is right to seek his own shot more.
“Right now, right now,” the 6-7 All-Star said. “I’m going back to putting the ball in the basket. I like to put the ball in the basket. I think I’ve gotten really good at it over the years, so we’ll see a different player from here on out.”
The Golden State backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson outscored Wolves guards Butler and Jeff Teague 60-25 in Wednesday night’s lopsided 125-101 loss to the Warriors in Oakland, Calif., one that ended the Wolves’ five-game winning streak.
The Wolves trailed by four points midway through the third quarter, then were outscored 18-4 over the next four-plus minutes and never came close again.
When asked if that resounding defeat is the reason he vows to change, Butler said: “A lot of different things go into it. Whatever the reasons are, much more scoring, much more aggressiveness on the offensive end.”
Until now, Butler has led his new team with his commitment to defense and his ability to defend the opponent’s best perimeter player, along with his experience and his willingness to make both the right play and the extra pass.
The one exception: When really needed, he scored nine points in the Wolves’ deciding 11-3 run late in an Oct. 27 victory over Oklahoma City at Target Center.
“Leadership isn’t about scoring points, to tell you the truth,” Butler said. “But I do think I have to start scoring the ball a lot more. I think I’ve come too far to be as passive as I am right now. I’m always going to pass the ball to the open man, but if I feel like I can get my shots off and think I can make it, I’m going to take each and every one of those.”
Butler scored 23.9 points per game and was named All-NBA third team last season in good part because of that. He has averaged 14.7 points in his nine games with the Wolves (missing two losses because of an upper respiratory infection) and shot 43.1 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three-point range. He has averaged only four free-throw attempts per game after averaging more than double that — 8.9 — last season with Chicago.
Butler’s scoring average is third on the Wolves to Andrew Wiggins’ 21.3 and Karl-Anthony Towns’ 19.6.
Coach Tom Thibodeau last week acknowledged Butler “might be overdoing it” by “trying to get everyone else going.”
On Friday, Thibodeau said: “Jimmy will figure it out. Right now, he’s doing a lot of things. He has had a huge impact on us in terms of winning, but he can have even more of an impact as he continues to be more aggressive, too.”
Butler attributed Wednesday’s 24-point loss — by one point the largest of this young season — to too many missed shots.
“I told you that from Day 1, we just outscore people a lot of the time,” Butler said. “We don’t guard nobody. We’ve got to guard. We can always score. What did we score, 101 [at Golden State]? We can score, but we have to guard.”
Butler defends nightly, but now he promises he will score more, too.
He was asked if he felt it was important to be more playmaker than scorer until now.
“I don’t know,” Butler said. “It’s important to see what different roles can play in winning a basketball game. I just know what I can bring to the table in all aspects of the game. I know the reasons they wanted me here and a big part of it is scoring, closing out games, guarding, getting everyone involved. So I’ll be a new player from here on out.”
The Wolves recalled guard Marcus Georges-Hunt from their Iowa G League team, one day after they assigned him there to play a game in Prescott Valley, Ariz.
He played 39½ minutes, had 34 points and four rebounds in a 141-140 loss to the Northern Arizona Suns and was back for practice Friday in Phoenix.
“I feel good,” he said. “I had fun with the guys. It was just a test to see where I was at.”