Jimmy Butler knows what Tom Thibodeau can do for Knicks’ young core

Jimmy Butler sounds ready for another reunion with Tom Thibodeau.

Having played under the new Knicks coach in Chicago and Minnesota, Butler — who has credited Thibodeau with his development from late first round pick to five-time All-Star — said he believes the young core of RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson could make similar progress with Thibodeau’s teachings.

“He’s going to do great. He’s going to turn those young guys into some real players; some superstars, some All-Stars,” Butler said of Thibodeau. “I know he’s been itching for this. I know he’s been preparing for it. When you talk about Thibs and the big stage, I think they go hand in hand.”

After four seasons together in Chicago — during which Butler went from averaging two points per game as a rookie to 20 points in 2014-15 – Thibodeau, as coach and president of basketball operations, brought Butler to Minnesota in a 2017 trade. That season, the pair helped produce the Timberwolves’ first playoff appearance in 14 years.

Nevertheless, Butler’s unhappiness with the team led to a trade request before the next training camp, leading to Thibodeau’s firing midway through his third season as coach. After landing in Philadelphia, Butler accepted fault for how the situation unfolded.

“I’ll take all the blame. I’m sure he’ll say he’ll take it, too,” Butler said last year. “But like I tell everybody, Thibs is a big part – and you can tell I’m smiling because it’s the truth — of who I am today as a player. He gave me an opportunity after not letting me play at all my first couple of years. But then he saw something in me and he let me rock a little bit.”

Distance, though, made Butler’s heart grow fonder. Last year, Butler also acknowledged the challenge of playing for the famously intense coach, suggesting the style is better suited for college basketball.

“Hell yeah it’s different,” Butler said. “[Butler’s former coach] Buzz Williams, who is a lot like Thibs in the sense that they’re going to yell at you, they’re going to motherf— you, they’re going to say it all, that’s how they talk to you. I think in the league you can’t really talk to nobody like that. You know what I mean?”

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