Here’s a fun study in contrasts:
Former Wolves coach/executive Tom Thibodeau has been making the media rounds lately and was on with The Starters (love those guys) on Monday. Most of his work was breaking down the NBA playoffs, but he was asked at the end about Jimmy Butler and how Butler’s trade demand impacted the Wolves’ locker room.
Thibodeau — who also said he’d like to get back into coaching and considers all open jobs to be good ones — reiterated that he thinks it’s just a reality of the modern NBA. But he added this:
“I thought he did a lot of great things for us in Minnesota last year,” Thibodeau said. “He helped us change the culture there. … He brought the best out in people.”
The first part is undeniable. Butler helped the Wolves make the playoffs last season for the first time since 2004.
The parts about changing the culture and bringing out the best in people? Those are debatable.
Contrast that with a quote from Karl-Anthony Towns, when asked about Ryan Saunders late this season: “His understanding of people and his understanding of the game and the little things — I’ll say it again, he’s the greatest communicator possibly in the NBA. The process has been so much easier when you have a person like that. The culture is getting better every single day.”
You can read that solely as praise for Saunders, or you can also read it as a rebuke of the culture fostered under Thibodeau — and by extension when Butler was in Minnesota. Maybe they just have different definitions of what makes for a good culture?
Butler, by the way, was the subject of a long ESPN.com piece that appeared online Tuesday. The best line from David Fleming’s story: “Butler’s polarities, and his unwillingness to filter or hide them, are just far more pronounced than for the rest of us. In Minnesota, this left him seemingly oblivious to the wreckage he had wrought with the Wolves.”