Jimmy Butler is making the Timberwolves matter again

Jay Croucher Columnist

By Jay Croucher, Jay Croucher is a Roar Expert

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    Minnesota Timberwolves' Jimmy Butler plays against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Oct. 27, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

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    It never looks easy for Jimmy Butler. It always looks hard. That is his gift.

    When Butler’s teammate Andrew Wiggins scores, he does so with grace and inevitability. He somehow floats and bounces at the same time, cruising to the rim, elevating, and making defenders look ground-bound and inadequate. When he scores, it feels like he was always supposed to.

    Butler isn’t as blessed. Every bucket is a battle. He puts his head down, charges to the rim, gets knocked down and goes to the line. His legs flail awkwardly on his mid-range jumper. When he takes threes, he jumps emphatically into the shot, like a kid trying to get the extra oomph to make the distance.

    He never stands and admires his jumper – he always follows it in, which is the most responsible and least cool thing a player can do.

    If Wiggins’ success is a testament to athleticism, then Butler’s is a testament to relentlessness. It’s that relentless that is restoring the Timberwolves to mattering again, giving them an integrity that has been lacking ever since Kevin Garnett left.

    Jimmy Butler for the Minnesota Timberwolves

    (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

    The Wolves have been an afterthought for the past decade, a team that has topped out as an interesting failure. In the last 12 seasons, they’ve eclipsed 33 wins just once, a 40-win 2013-14 made famous for shortcomings in the clutch.

    This year, Butler is grasping opportunities that were once let go by others. The OT victory against Denver was Butler’s first veritable Minnesota masterpiece, a game he won essentially by himself. With Karl-Anthony Towns and Taj Gibson fouled out, Jeff Teague injured, and Andrew Wiggins characteristically faded into the background, Butler dragged his team across the line, by getting there time and time again.

    When he wasn’t drawing contact, he was finishing at the rim with a delicateness that belied the violence it took to get there. Or he was pulling up in the mid-range, stopping on a dime for a Kobe-esque jumper, without the art or the nonsense of Bryant.

    Throughout the overtime period, it felt like one man against five, and you felt for the five.

    Butler cuts an odd figure in the NBA. He sits on the bench or stands calmly at the line in a pose of Zen that you can’t but feel is tinged with a certain small but unmistakable anxiety. He is a champion, but one who seems to be perpetually figuring things out.

    He is a superstar, but one whose crowning achievement is dragging Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade to an eighth seed. He’s never really had a moment in the playoffs, and has always played in the shadow of bigger personalities, be it Wade or Derrick Rose.

    The shadow is gone in Minnesota. This is Butler’s team, unambiguously. Things are finally being figured out, for a star and his franchise.

    Jay Croucher
    Jay Croucher

    From MSG in New York to the MCG in Melbourne, Jay has spent his adult life travelling the world, indulging in sport and approaching it from the angle of history and pop culture. Follow him on Twitter @CroucherJD

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    The Crowd Says (12)

    • January 1st 2018 @ 7:51pm
      steve said | January 1st 2018 @ 7:51pm | ! Report

      Sorry, Minnesota belongs to Karl Anthony Towns. He’s their franchise player.

      • January 1st 2018 @ 10:57pm
        Swampy said | January 1st 2018 @ 10:57pm | ! Report

        If you think that Steve, you either don’t watch them & /or judge them only by box scores. Jimmy is balling right now and minny are winning as a result. Towns is somewhat disappointing – probably not as disappointing as Wiggins however.
        Towns makes a great second banana and Wiggins is a pretty good third. As a one-to-one punch they didn’t get W’s.

        • January 2nd 2018 @ 5:09pm
          steve said | January 2nd 2018 @ 5:09pm | ! Report

          Wiggins is one of the worst defenders in the league.

      • January 2nd 2018 @ 3:56am
        Roger ram said | January 2nd 2018 @ 3:56am | ! Report

        Amen!

    • January 2nd 2018 @ 3:54am
      Roger ram said | January 2nd 2018 @ 3:54am | ! Report

      1. Jimmy Butler is nothing more than a glorified role player and any attempt to elevate above that reality will destroy your team.

      2. It’s no coincidence that the Chicago Bulls are playing much better without Jimmy Butler and all of the players who looked awful with Butler (MIROTEC, MCDERMOTT, PORTIS) etc, look very good WITHOUT Jimmy Butler.

      3. In the NBA, miscasting a ROLE PLAYER (like Jimmy Butler) for a Franchise Player is the unforgivable sin that could set a franchise back a decade.

      * Luckily for the Chicago Bulls, Thibodeau bailed them out with a nice trade package. Nobody else would.

      • Columnist

        January 2nd 2018 @ 11:08am
        Ryan O'Connell said | January 2nd 2018 @ 11:08am | ! Report

        Wow. That’s certainly an ‘interesting’ perspective.

      • January 2nd 2018 @ 1:39pm
        Swampy said | January 2nd 2018 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

        Is that some type of type of sarcasm that I don’t get? Please tell me it is so I can face-palm myself

        How on earth can you compare last year’s bulls to this year. Not ignoring the glaring omissions of Rajon Rondo and Dwayne Wade being present – the Bulls made the play-offs last year and before rondo went down, thus leaving them with no nba quality point guard at all, they were walloping the Celtics (in Boston).

        They still have a terrible record this season and are very unlikely to make the play-offs. And I guarantee once latrine starts playing they crater again.

        The wolves were immensely disappointing again last year and they are actually good this year after trading away two starters. All they gained is Butler. Enough said.

        No, not enough said. Jimmy Butler is much better than Derrick Rose.

    • Roar Pro

      January 2nd 2018 @ 12:41pm
      Tom Clarke said | January 2nd 2018 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

      Karl Anthony Towns is not a superstar yet. Jimmy Butler is and he’s proving it this season with the Wolves. KAT should be an All Star in the near future, and Wiggins might be too, but right now the Wolves are Butler’s team and he alone has forced them into contention in the West.

    • January 2nd 2018 @ 2:37pm
      Roger ram said | January 2nd 2018 @ 2:37pm | ! Report

      1. We are truly living in the dark age of NBA Sports Journalism.

      2. A period when the novice fan have been dumbed down to the point where they’re convinced that a clear role player (Jimmy Butler) is a superstar.

      3. Fact of the matter is Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose are the same age.

      4. When Derrick Rose was winning NBA Rookie of the year, NBA All Star, YOUNGEST MVP IN NBA HISTORY and carrying a team of offensive scrubs to the BEST RECORD IN THE NBA and EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS – Jimmy Butler was barely scraping by in college.

      5. Another hard fact is when the worst NBA Front Office in the NBA (Gar Forman & John Paxson) decided to make the Bulls “Jimmy’s team…

      …the Bulls missed the playoffs for the first time in eight years… which so happens to be when Derrick Rose was drafted.

      * This is where even bad Front Offices would’ve been reminded that Jimmy Butler hadn’t accomplished anything that his teammate AARON BROOKS hadn’t accomplished (Most Improved Player).

      6. The 2nd year the Bulls were “Jimmy’s team”. the Bulls BARELY made the playoffs ON THE LAST GAME OF THE SEASON…

      … against the scrub New Jersey Nets who decided to REST THEIR STARTERS!

      * This is when even the novice fans (with cognitive skills) could see that Jimmy Butler’s empty stats came at the expense of making his teammates look worse than they actually we’re.

      * Ask McDermott, MIROTEC, etc. And I’m not even mentioning the locker room dysfunction that materialized after the Bulls became “Jimmy’s team.”

      7. If a player cannot ELEVATE his team to a TOP FIVE SEED IN THE WEAK EASTERN CONFERENCE…

      …that player is NOT a Superstar!

      8. There’s not a General Manager in the NBA who would take Jimmy Butler over DEVIN BOOKER!

      * Jimmy Butler isn’t even in the top two players on his current team. Hence, he isn’t a Superstar! Ask Danny Ainge.

      9. Advise:. Lay off of the Sports Talk Radio/Television and find credible NBA Journalist such as Hall of Famer Sam Smith (The Jordan Rules).

      10. Otherwise, like Fox news viewers, I hereby charge you off to the game.

      • Columnist

        January 2nd 2018 @ 2:45pm
        Ryan O'Connell said | January 2nd 2018 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

        Jog along, Skip Bayless.

      • January 2nd 2018 @ 5:36pm
        Swampy said | January 2nd 2018 @ 5:36pm | ! Report

        Wow. Interesting perspective. Not really backed up by anything remotely sensible.

        I get Rose was your idol but really his career ended after his second knee injury. His game was reliant on athleticism. He has a negative basketball iq (along with his low actual iq). He will likely be the player with the worst career to make it to Springfield.

        Butler is a top 20 player in the nba. By every measure.

        KAT is yet to reach his potential – he is a good fantasy draftee but his win/shares and other advanced metrics paint a different story – as does the eye test when watching.

        Wiggins – just not sure why anyone would rate him higher than butler – has yet to prove any value other than the occasional sportscentre highlight.

        Both KAT and Wiggins have been defensive disasters. Basically on defence, despite all the assets they possess, they don’t try.

        Butler is one of the premier defenders in the NBA. He’s also one of the best offensive players.

    • January 2nd 2018 @ 8:31pm
      Steele said | January 2nd 2018 @ 8:31pm | ! Report

      Roger Ram may have gone a bit far, yet so did the author. The words Champion and Superstar seemed a little excessive, perhaps even hyperbolic. I’m with Swampy, in that he is a top 20 player. If he gets them to a conference final I might start joining the chorus.

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