New Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler called his relationship with his former coach “love-hate” even after he and Tom Thibodeau won a gold medal together at last year’s Summer Olympics in Brazil.
It’s sure to be so again, but for now it’s much more one than other after the Wolves coach and president of basketball operations dealt two young players and a first-round draft pick to Chicago for Butler in Thursday’s NBA draft.
Not usually given to such things, Thibodeau was all smiles, almost buoyant after making a trade he first pursued this time last year.
“He’s looking forward to coming here,” Thibodeau said. “I can tell you that.”
Butler spoke well of his former coach when reached by phone Friday in Paris by the Chicago Sun-Times.
“I love to be challenged by my coaches,” Butler told the newspaper. “I mean, I feel like I’ve talked so much about how I love Thibs and respect what he does, going back to my rookie year. I mean, he’s done so much for me. It’s great to be back with a guy like that. The guy knows how to win. I know his style of play, and I feel like I’ll fit in with that core that they have over there.
“We’re going to be really good, I believe that. We’re going to be, at least I’m hoping, the toughest team that takes the floor every night. That’s what we can bank on, that’s something we can control. If we can do that to the best of our abilities, we’re going to win some games.”
Butler is expected to be introduced as a Timberwolf the middle of next week.
• The Wolves’ sales team worked until midnight Thursday and was back at it early Friday morning after the team acquired Butler. Wolves chief revenue officer Ryan Tanke said the team sold “hundreds” of new season tickets on a night when the team held five draft parties across the metro area while Target Center is being remodeled.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” he said. “It really is uncharted waters. … It speaks to how great of a basketball market this really is, how starving this fan base is.”
• Undrafted Iowa State star Deonte Burton and Dayton’s Charles Cooke are expected to join the Wolves’ Las Vegas Summer League team. The Wolves will use it to audition players for roster spots on their new Development League team in Des Moines.