For the second time in a week, Timberwolves president and head coach Tom Thibodeau is pushing the idea that the future is very bright in Minnesota despite reports of inner conflict.
It's been reported that Karl-Anthony Towns is unhappy with the front office and that Jimmy Butler is "uncertain" if he wants to play with Andrew Wiggins, with Butler said to be displeased with Wiggins' work ethic and approach to playing defense.
Thibodeau, in an interview with KFAN's Dan Barreiro on Monday, put on his salesman hat and tried to convince anyone willing to listen that Wiggins and Towns learned invaluable lessons from Butler in their first season together.
"The impact that Jimmy had was tremendous. I believe we were 29-9 against the West when he played. I think he did have great impact on both Andrew and Karl. The most important statistic is the winning, and to go from 31 wins to 47 wins is a huge jump," said Thibodeau.
"I think the big part of that was also the young guys carrying on when Jimmy went out after the All-Star break. We had a very tough schedule and every game was meaningful. The last game of the season was basically a Game 7, it was win or go home. I thought that was a very valuable experience for our young guys, particularly Karl, Andrew and Tyus [Jones]. To get playoff experience with those guys is huge, and now I think they have a better understanding of all the things they have to do to continue to develop and get better, and that's why I think the future is so bright here."
Barreiro then challenged Thibodeau on the thought that Butler had a big impact on Wiggins developing into a complete player, to which Thibodeau praised Wiggins for being an efficient scorer four years into his career, then adding:
"The most important thing was the winning, and if you're going to win, sacrifices have to be made. The team has to come first. The thing is, is Andrew is very young and Karl is very young – they're going to continue to get better."
Eventually, Thibodeau admitted that the next big step the entire team has to make is becoming a group of complete players.
"We have to be strong on both sides of the ball," he said. "To have the ability to play well even when you don't shoot well, and that was one of the things that I thought, for a guy like Jimmy Butler, he got in on the strength of his game - when he was a rookie - was his defense. And then he added offense to his game. With all players, you want to be consistent and that's where the growth has to come."
More quotes from Thibs
"I know I'm in a good place with Glen [Taylor] and I know I'm in a good place with Karl," Thibodeau said when asked about his relationship with the team's owner, Glen Taylor and Towns. "We all want to win. As I mentioned, most things we all agree on."
Thibodeau wants to bring back Derrick Rose: "We're hopeful. He's a free agent also. He has the right to look at all of his options and I'm sure he will, but we'd like to have him."
You can listen to the entire interview right here.