Jimmy Butler played ready for another meeting with Tom Thibodeau.
After playing under the Knicks’ new coach in Chicago and Minnesota, Butler – who credited Thibodeau with his development from the late first round to five-time All-Star – said he believes the core of the youngsters of RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson can make similar progress by learning Thibodeau.
“He’s going to do really well. He’s going to turn those youngsters into some real players; some superstars, some All-Stars,” Thibodeau’s Butler said. “I know he’s been itching for this. I know he’s been preparing for this. When you talk about Thibs and the big stage, I think they go hand in hand.”;
After four seasons together in Chicago – during which Butler went from an average of two points per game as a rookie to 20 points in 2014-15 – Thibodeau, as coach and president of basketball operations, brought Butler into Minesing in a 2017 trade. That season, the pair helped produce the Timberwolves ’first playoff appearance in 14 years.
However, Butler’s happiness with the team led to a commercial demand ahead of the next training camp, which led to Thibodeau firing in the middle of his third season as coach. After landing in Philadelphia, Butler accepted the blame for how the situation developed.
“I take all the blame. I’m sure he’ll say he’s going to take it too,” Butler said last year. “But like I tell everyone, Thibs is a big part – and you can tell I’m smiling because she’s the truth – it’s worth it as a player today. He gave me a chance after he didn’t let me play in my first few years. But then he saw something in me and gave me a little rocking. “
The distance, though, made Butler’s heart grow bigger. Last year, Butler also acknowledged the challenge of playing for the famously intense coach, suggesting that the style would be more suited to college basketball.
“Hell yes it’s different,” Butler said. “[Butler’s former coach] Buzz Williams, who looks like Thibs in the sense that he’s shouting, they’re going to you, you’re going to say it all, so talk to you. I think in the league you can’t talk to anyone like that. You know what I’m saying? “