After Jimmy Butler posed for a picture with a fan and before he hopped in a black SUV following the 76ers shoot-around at North Central University in Elliot Park, he got a reminder of what life is like in Minnesota.
“Damn, it’s cold,” he said as the door opened.
It was the only time Butler conceded to feeling something in his return to Minnesota, the place that will likely end up being a one-plus year layover in Butler’s career.
“It’s no different to me,” Butler said of his emotions returning to Target Center before Saturday’s game against the Timberwolves.
During his interview session, Butler left any acrimony he had for the Wolves behind and spoke positively about his relationships with some in the franchise like guard Tyus Jones, who he still stays in touch with on a regular basis, and interim coach Ryan Saunders.
“Those are my guys forever man, especially Tyus,” Butler said. “I’m so happy for Ryan. He deserves it. He works so incredibly hard, and he wants to do right by everybody. ... Tyus, that’s my dog. That’s family, forever and ever. … All in all, the whole organization has got some really good people in it.”
But one of those people Butler was closest with, Tom Thibodeau, is not in the organization anymore. Butler and Thibodeau still are close, he said, and nothing about how Butler’s trade saga played out affected their relationship — not even the fact that Butler’s trade demand messed with team chemistry early in the season, leading to a 4-9 start and ultimately to Thibodeau’s ouster.
Butler said the conversation he and Thibodeau had in Los Angeles before training camp when Butler made his trade request was a difficult one.
“But like I told him: You’re forever my guy,” Butler said. “We started this thing together, went through another stint of this thing together, but like I tell everybody: That was one of the tougher conversations to have to tell one of my favorite people and one of my favorite coaches, you know, ‘[This] ain’t it.’ He tried his best to change my mind, I’ll tell you that.”
Butler added that he checks in on Wolves games from time to time or catches their highlights. He’s watched as center Karl-Anthony Towns, who, along with Andrew Wiggins, became targets of criticism for Butler during their time together, has blossomed during the second half of the season.
“As he should. They run everything through him,” Butler said. “I think he’s doing a good job of doing what he does, getting everybody involved. I’m happy for the kid, man. I want you to be successful, I want you to be the best player that you can be. I don’t got no ill will towards the kid.”
Butler may say he doesn’t feel much emotion in his return, but he said his time here had some good moments he’ll remember.
“I think I did some pretty solid things here in Minnesota,” Butler said. “We made it to the playoffs; we won; you can leave it at that. You can say what ifs here and there, but all in all I think I did a decent job here.”
• The Wolves announced the signing of forward Mitch Creek to a 10-day contract. Creek previously played on two 10-day deals with the Nets this season. He played in 41 games for the Long Island Nets of the G-League and averaged 15.3 points per game.