In a wide-ranging sit-down dinner interview with Jimmy Butler, Yahoo Sports senior writer Chris Haynes covered everything with the four-time All-Star from his upcoming free agency to where he got his confrontational personality from (the NBA can thank Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah for that).
One nugget, in particular, caught our attention. It came during a conversation about Butler’s controversial trade request from the Minnesota Timberwolves, as Haynes raised the point that Butler’s interaction with teammates in the locker room belied reports of his infamous practice blowup.
“Ain’t nothing personal, man,” said Butler, who was subsequently traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in mid-November. “It’s not. I still talk to some of the guys. I really do. I want them to be great.”
Asked who he still talks to from Minnesota, Butler listed ex-teammates Tyus Jones, Jeff Teague and Andrew Wiggins (“a little bit”), as well as Ryan Saunders and what’s left of a coaching staff that saw head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau fired in the wake of Butler’s deal.
As Haynes noted, “You left out a name.” Specifically, Karl-Anthony Towns.
“I know,” conceded Butler. “Ain’t nothing wrong with that. I didn’t say I talked to everybody. I didn’t say I talked to everybody, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want KAT to be great. I want KAT to be great. I want KAT to have everything that he wants out of the game. I want Minnesota to win. I want them to be successful, because I think whenever you win, you get hungry for more winning.”
This certainly lends credence to reports that Towns’ laissez-faire attitude was the source of much of Butler’s frustration in Minnesota. There were rumors of a divide prior to the trade request, and Butler detailed a confrontation between the two in an ESPN interview immediately after the aforementioned practice. They continued their back and forth even after Butler got his ticket to Philadelphia.
Ironically, it was Rose — one of the players Butler credited with instilling his competitive streak — who “got Karl through that whole Butler mess,” according to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan. Towns’ college coach, John Calipari, went so far as to tell MacMullan that Butler bullied Towns during their tenure together.
So, it seems Butler and Towns have their reasons for not talking since the trade. Then again, Butler was just as harsh with Wiggins in Minnesota, and apparently they’ve exchanged pleasantries since. Maybe there’s more to this rift than we know. For the full interview with Butler, listen to the podcast.
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