The Timberwolves introduced three-time All-Star Jimmy Butler in front of a packed rotunda at the Mall of America on Thursday, and the reception was more than Butler could have anticipated.
“The city of Minneapolis and Minnesota as a whole has shown me so much love,” Butler said. “I’m so grateful for that. Everywhere I go, everybody’s smiling. I think that’s because my face is all over the sides of buildings, which is an incredible feeling for a kid that’s from Tomball.”
When you think about it, it’s probably the biggest trade in team history as far as acquiring a player, and thus leading to the most anticipated press conference in team history.
Fans filled all four levels of the rotunda and yelled, “Jimmy!” throughout the press conference, eventually starting a chant. And for good reason. The Wolves acquired a player who is entering the prime of his career, who is coming off of three All-Star appearances and was named to the 2016-17 All-NBA Third Team.
For Butler, he’s a man of the people. Literally. After being traded from Chicago, Butler posted a heartwarming Instagram message, thanking the people in Chicago for the support through his six seasons there.
So far in Minnesota, Butler has noticed the billboards in the city. He’s noticed the love from fans. And he made it known to the fans that it’s all appreciated, and he plans to show that love back to them.
“The most important thing and what I really pride myself on is the city that I love,” Butler said. “You all will see me do the most in this city to make it the best place that it can possibly be. I love my people, anybody will tell you that, and you all are my people. You are my people. I’m so happy to be here to represent this city now and I look forward to my future here.”
So far, Butler has already toured U.S. Bank Stadium and Target Field.
The move to bring Butler to Minnesota also reunites with President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach Tom Thibodeau. Butler and Thibodeau were together from 2011 to 2015 and advanced to the playoffs each season. Thibodeau took a chance on Butler at No. 30 in the 2011 draft and did it ever pay off. From his rookie season to his last year with Thibodeau, Butler’s points per game increased from 2.6 to 20. He became an afterthought for most teams to one of the best two-way players in the NBA.
The two joining forces again has the Timberwolves brass excited.
“One of the things that I am really excited about is the reunion of these two guys,” Timberwolves General Manager Scott Layden said. “They have had so much success together and we look for that to continue here.”
Thibodeau said that when he was with Boston as an assistant coach, the Celtics really liked what they saw out of Butler, then at Marquette. That offseason, Thibodeau was named head coach of the Bulls, who picked 30 in the draft while the Celtics drafted 25th.
“I was really nervous because I know how much Doc (Rivers) liked Jimmy, but we had the good fortune for him to slide down to 30th,” Thibodeau said.
Butler showed how grateful he was for Thibodeau drafting him in 2011 and turning him into the player he is today.
“When I came into this league as a kid, that’s literally what I was. I did not know what I was getting myself into and Thibs let me know you have to work in order to make it, each and every day,” Butler said. “When nobody is looking, you’re working. When the camera is on you, you’re working. I have become a halfway decent basketball player because of him.”
But(ler) wait. . . There's more!
- Wolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns was in attendance to support his new teammate. The two plan to head to Los Angeles to work out together this weekend.
- Butler carries a football around pretty much everywhere. And for good reason. It’s a football that was given to him by Steelers All-Pro Antonio Brown, another player Butler trains with.
- When he was asked about leaving Chicago on a sour note, Butler gave his phone number out, telling people if they have anything to say, they can always give him a call. We have a feeling Butler may have received a few calls and text messages.