On Wednesday, ESPN the Magazine published a frothy interview featuring Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler and writer Sam Alipour canoeing and camping in the Minnesota wilderness. The piece is mostly silly fare that produced this viral video of Butler capsizing and purifying himself in what we can only hope is Lake Minnetonka. It’s the closest the Timberwolves swingman will ever come to being considered a Splash Bro:
This was pleasantly weird, but it’s the blood-curdling scream (from the 2:27 to the 2:30 mark) that he’ll never live down. Fortunately for Minnesotans, Butler is more intimidating in his comfort zone on a basketball court than he is in a canoe.
On a more serious note, Butler briefly expounded on his breakup with the Chicago Bulls, and more specifically how head coach Fred Hoiberg played into the decision. It’s hard to take Butler seriously as he dishes on Hoiberg while wearing two life preservers, but let’s try:
“I probably did a lot of things that they didn’t like — like maybe the way I would talk to my peers or coaches. People don’t work as hard as I do. They don’t expect the same things out of the game that I do. And I said from the beginning, it was either gonna be me or the Fred Hoiberg route. And rightfully so, they took Fred. Good for them. But I got that game marked on my calendar. Feb. 9, baby — I’m back. Oh, man, they better hope I go 0-for-30, ’cause every basket I score, I’m looking over at the bench and I got something to say. But I’m so happy to be here. Sometimes you just gotta appreciate it, man.”
Never one to hold his tongue, this stream of thought runs the gambit of everything that contributed to Butler’s estrangement from Hoiberg and many of his teammates.
He begins by addressing his intense nature, which partly explains why former Bulls and current Wolves head coach Tom Thibodeau continuously gravitates to him. However, his antipathy for Hoiberg spans space and time. Butler notoriously called out Hoiberg for being too nice and not openly challenging players, and the two never could get on the same page. Butler seems to thrive in chaos, and he takes every slight personally.
Butler is a great player, but his ultimatum probably played a minor part in the Bulls jettisoning him. The organization was ready for a rebuild and needed to stock up with young players who could thrive in a Hoiberg offense. Based on how he grated everyone’s nerves when the team struggled, they realized his inflated sense of self would be an even bigger headache in that scenario.
Butler’s cockiness busts through the seams in this one-on-one when he takes digs at teammates who didn’t have his work ethic. That cockiness is a component of his competitive nature, but it also made him a locker room pariah last season after he and Dwyane Wade blasted the effort of their teammates following a loss in late January.
We’ll see how much Butler actually taunts Chicago when he returns to the United Center on Feb. 9, or if he’s more gracious and thankful that the Bulls gave him a soft landing spot in Minnesota. Butler ultimately laughed off his critiques of the Bulls, but he clearly hasn’t let go of how he was cast off by the team that drafted him.
On the plus side, he finally sounds content in Minnesota as the veteran leader who commands respect from the young guys on his team: