Jimmy Butler is no stranger to adversity.
Friday night, the Timberwolves home opener began with a barrage of boos that rained from the rafters of the Target Center following the introduction of the All-Star forward. It was not a surprising reaction from a fan base that felt scalded by the fact that Butler very publicly requested a trade a mere five weeks ago. We all know fans are fickle though right?
Jimmy Butler won't get boos once he starts droppin 30
— Kirk (@jkirk41) October 20, 2018
Boos soon turned to MVP chants beginning with a steal in the first quarter of a game where Jimmy Buckets poured in a game-high 33 points on a tidy 10-12 shooting. It was the type of dominance that comes as a reminder that despite how people feel about Butler’s persona, his effect on the court cannot be debated.
“You may not like me. That’s OK,” Butler said to ESPN. “But as long as you know that my mind and my heart are in the right place, that I do everything to win and I would do anything for my guys.”
Many have questioned the leadership abilities of Butler, who both in Chicago and Minnesota publicly bashed teammates and ownership, questioning the efforts and motivations of those who surrounded him. Butler has always been the hardest, most obsessive worker in the room. At one point he was homeless and turned an unfortunate situation into a fight through being under-recruited out of high school to being the 30th pick in the NBA draft.
His mentality does not come without fault. Jimmy Butler expects for everyone around him to match his effort. What he may not have realized about the price of being obsessive and great, is that you will have few peers that match your energy. The NBA Hall of Fame is full of obsessive guys that had to find a way to outwork their teammates to elevate their already superior talents to another level. You can be a great player in spite of your teammates, but in order to be a champion, you have to be great and understand how to connect with less talented and less obsessive teammates.
It seemed as if Butler was headed towards a stormy ending in Minnesota, after infamously showing up to practice and beating the brakes off of the starters with third string players. He repeatedly challenged his Wolves teammates Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, chastising them about their heart and work ethic. However, yesterday’s performance and the comments of his teammates show that perhaps through the storm, there may have been some much-needed air cleared around the Wolves organization that gives way to a more successful and harmonious season than most people imagined. Once it became clear that Butler was going to begin the season in a Minnesota uniform, Andrew Wiggins appeared ready to attempt to make things work.
“All I know is when we start playing the real games, Jimmy is someone you want on your team,” Wiggins said, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.
There are 80 games to go in the season for Minnesota, and it is too soon to tell how the Jimmy Butler story will end here. For now, Butler is sticking to what he knows best, going hard and winning games no matter the cost. The opinion of others appears to matter to him as little as ever; he has always been an upstream swimmer.
“I love it. I love it,” Butler said. “I think people kind of love to hate me sometimes. Say whatever you want to say, but it really makes me smile, what people think about me. But no matter what, you gotta respect my effort.”