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Leader of the pack: Butler’s antics receive Thibodeau’s stamp of approval (with video)

What drama?

That was the spin that Tom Thibodeau and Timberwolves players attempted to put on things Friday in Milwaukee, two days after Jimmy Butler spent practice reportedly hurling invectives at just about everybody on the court.

Butler, who told ESPN he made it clear to Thibodeau four days after last season that he wanted out of Minnesota, remains on the roster but Thibodeau confirmed Friday he will not play in the Wolves’ final preseason game against the Bucks.

Thibodeau, the Wolves’ president of basketball operations and head coach, told reporters that Butler stayed in Minneapolis to “work on his conditioning.”

Butler’s orchestrated in-practice meltdown was reported by ESPN on Wednesday afternoon. Butler verbally went after Thibodeau, general manager Scott Layden and teammates Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, whose work ethic and desire to win he has previously questioned.

“There’s a lot of different ways to define leadership,” Thibodeau told reporters. “The biggest job of a leader, in my eyes, is to unite and inspire. And it’s OK to confront — that’s not an issue. The way you confront is important, but if you do confront, don’t beat down. The big thing is, you lift people up. Make people better.”

Thibodeau told reporters he did expect Butler to end his holdout and show up for the practice. Butler reportedly had told Thibodeau in a meeting the day before that he would practice but made it clear what his approach would be.

“I did expect (Butler) there and some things that have been reported are correct and some are not,” Thibodeau said. “It’s not uncommon when players scrimmage that there will be some talk. It was competitive.”

Thibodeau had this to say about Butler’s comments on Towns and Wiggins: “To me, like they’re young guys improving, this is a team sport. It’s not an individual sport. If you look at every great player in this league, they don’t start off being great players, there’s a progression to it. That’s what everyone has to understand, it’s all about the team. The team has got to come first.”

Towns, meanwhile, attempted to dismiss anything that might have happened in practice and added, “I’m happy to play basketball with anybody,” when asked if he would be OK with Butler staying on the Wolves roster to start the season.





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