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Jimmy Butler growing as leader for Minnesota Timberwolves

Jimmy Butler has a come a long way from his rookie days in Chicago, when being vocal in a veteran locker room was simply not an option for the wide-eyed swingman from Marquette. Times have changed, of course. Butler has developed into a much more vocal leader over the years, as becoming an All-Star and Olympic champion has a way of forcing some of those leadership qualities out of you.

Those qualities have been on full display this season in Minnesota. It’s Butler’s first since an offseason trade that reunited him with his old coach from Chicago, Tom Thibodeau, and his first as the unquestioned leader of a talented group of Timberwolves fight to end the franchise’s playoff drought. Butler’s individual star is shining, as Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune details in a lengthy Q&A, thanks in part to that dramatic shift in his leadership style:

Q: Your coach says he watched you and Luol Deng work out every night from up in his office in Chicago, but you never said a word. What happened?

A: I’ve become a much better player, so I feel like my voice is heard and taken for what it’s worth a little bit more. Back then, I wasn’t very good. I worked to be at the point where I am now. Now I always think I’ve got something to say because a lot of it falls on my ability to help us win games.

So if you’re not doing what we believe is the best you can do to help us win, I have something to say about it. Other people might have something to say about it as well, but they won’t. But I’ll always have something to say and I’ll always tell you the truth.

Q: Thibs said you’ve become a leader since he coached you in Chicago. What does being a leader mean and how have you changed being one?

A: It means a lot. I’ve changed and I’ve learned every single year, what to do and what not to do. But I still pride myself on going out and doing the right things. Doing what I’m supposed to be doing on both ends of the floor.

It’s cool to talk and say what you’re supposed to be doing, but if I’m not out there doing it, my word really doesn’t mean too much of anything. Just go out there and play hard. Do what you’re asked to do, be locked in, be a fierce competitor and everybody will follow suit.