BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — For a week, Jimmy Butler has sat back and listened to the criticism. Former NBA All-Star Antoine Walker called him “a bad locker-room guy.” Local TV personalities said he’s not the kind of guy you build around. Others noted how “Hollywood” he became in recent seasons.
On Thursday, the former Bulls All-Star had an answer for all of it.
“It’s not frustrating,’” Butler said, meeting the Minnesota media for the first time since the Bulls traded him to the Timberwolves last week. “It’s expected. Somebody’s gotta take the blame. I’ll be that guy — I’m OK with it. Everybody is entitled to their opinion, but with that being said, my phone is in my back pocket right now. If whoever has anything to say to me, feel free . . . 773-899-6071. So if you want an interview, there you have it. Please do. Remember that.”
One person who won’t likely be calling Butler anytime soon is Bulls general manager Gar Forman. After the trade last week, Forman said on two occasions that Butler had been kept informed of what was going on leading up to it and that he never lied to Butler or his representatives.
However, a source close to the situation told the Sun-Times on Thursday that Forman’s version of events doesn’t match what happened in the days — and even the minutes — leading up to the draft-night deal.
“[Forman] knows what he said,” the source said. “That’s just who he is. Travelle [Gaines] hit it on the head.”
Gaines, who has been Butler’s trainer, sent out a tweet minutes after the trade was announced. It read, “0-82. Worst culture in the league. I met drug dealers with better morals then their GM. He is a liar and everyone knows.”
Reached for comment Thursday, Forman said in a text message, “Absolutely false! Never talked with Jimmy again after John [Paxson] and I had our meeting with him several weeks prior to the draft.”
Given the chance Thursday to comment, Butler took the high road.
“I already said how much love I have for the city of Chicago,” he said. “I don’t have anything to say about anybody in that organization, in that city. They took a chance on a kid from Tomball, [Texas], who didn’t know where he belonged. But now this new chapter, this new era, I’m looking forward to it.”
Timberwolves coach Tom Thibo-deau — Butler’s coach with the Bulls before his own ugly break-up with Forman and Paxson — stepped in.
“Jimmy knows this: Whether it’s praise or criticism, to treat it the same,” Thibodeau said. “The only thing that really matters is what we think, and we think he’s a great player and a great addition.
“For the most part, our experience [in Chicago] was great. We won a lot of games together. Jimmy achieved greatness there. We’re not going to get lost in any sideshows or distractions.”
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