Minnesota Timberwolves: Calipari rips Butler, Butler fires back

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 18: Karl-Anthony Towns #12 of the Kentucky Wildcats listens to head coach John Calipari. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 18: Karl-Anthony Towns #12 of the Kentucky Wildcats listens to head coach John Calipari. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Karl-Anthony Towns’ college coach spoke out this week, saying that Jimmy Butler was a ‘bully’ to Towns, and that the Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star will be better off moving forward.

It’s not exactly a controversial opinion that the absence of Jimmy Butler has allowed Karl-Anthony Towns to be himself both on and off the court with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

But the words that were chosen by University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari were … pointed, to say the least.

This week, the fantastic Jackie MacMullan published an article on ESPN.com that featured comments from Calipari on Towns and the situation in Minnesota with Butler, who was traded to Philadelphia in November. The column also included comments from Butler himself after MacMullan passed along Calipari’s comments to the Sixers star.

"“You wait,” Calipari told ESPN. “Karl’s game is going to take off. He can be himself again.“I bet that environment was so uncomfortable for him. First of all, he and Jimmy are totally different people — how they were brought up, their likes and dislikes, how they approach competition. You have one guy on this side and one guy on the other side.“There was a dogfight, and Karl’s not one to get into that. So, he stepped back.”…“Things happen. There are power struggles all the time in [the NBA],” Calipari said. “If a guy can bully you, he will bully you. And that’s what Jimmy did to Karl. C’mon, that’s the league.”"

Calipari isn’t saying anything that fans didn’t already know, but to hear it coming from someone who is quite plugged in throughout the league, and especially with a pair of Wolves players in Towns and Derrick Rose, is intriguing.

The Kentucky coach went on to state that Rose, who played for Calipari at the University of Memphis during the 2007-08 season, was the one who got Towns through “that whole Butler mess.”

Rose, of course, was Butler’s teammate in Chicago for five seasons and is a key ally of fired Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau. Towns and Thibodeau had their difference, too, so the idea that Rose was attempting to play peacemaker and apparently also console Towns throughout the ordeal is fascinating.

It makes some sense in that Rose is a quieter, more reserved personality in a similar mold as Towns while Thibodeau and Butler are more high-strung, in-your-face people. But again, it’s the level of candidness from Calipari that is so interesting.

When confronted with Calipari’s ‘bully’ comments, Butler opted to say exactly how he felt — not that we’d expect anything different from Jimmy.

"“I don’t think bully is a good word,” Butler told ESPN. “I tell it how it is. Whenever I was in college, I had [Marquette coach] Buzz Williams to tell me how it was. I didn’t have a bunch of McDonald’s All Americans like [Calipari] has. So, he can look at it a different way. ”Butler paused, perhaps to consider ending the conversation. But he couldn’t — and didn’t.“He can call me a bully, but when [Calipari] sees me, I’m gonna confront him about it,” Butler continued. “If I’m a bully, I’m gonna bully him, too. I’ll tell him how I feel, just like I’d tell anyone else.“I don’t care if he’s some big head coach. I’m not bullying nobody. I’m just keeping it real. Some of these guys aren’t used to it. When you have as much talent as [Karl] has had throughout his life, guys don’t keep it real with him. I do.”"

Butler isn’t wrong; there is certainly a culture surrounding top recruits and college one-and-dones that suggests that they aren’t truly challenged, or perhaps not coached the same way as the blue-collar guys that had to earn their scholarships.

Butler is right to be passionate about this, but that doesn’t mean he’s approaching the situation in the right way. Once again, typical Butler fashion.

MacMullan’s article is a great read and the comments from Calipari are certainly eye-opening, but there isn’t really any new information here. It’s just more of the same: Towns and Butler have vastly different personalities and didn’t get along, and Butler felt that way because of the level entitlement that he thinks Towns (and Andrew Wiggins, for that matter) have received from high school on up.

Towns and Wiggins were both No. 1 draft picks and each signed larger contracts than Butler over the past couple of years. The source of Butler’s frustration is clear, but that doesn’t give him a license to say whatever he wants and not expect people to react.

3 trade ideas to improve the Timberwolves. dark. Next

Keep Saturday, March 30 circled on your calendars: when Butler and the 76ers visit Minnesota on for the next chapter in the saga.