Sportress of Blogitude

Jimmy Butler, nearing return, takes issue with Wolves’ effort level

Jimmy Butler on Tuesday proclaimed to be “this close” to returning to the Minnesota Timberwolves. And with a playoff berth in sight for the first time in years, the superstar criticized the team’s overall compete level, especially during lapses of effort on the defensive side of the court.

“We just gotta get tougher,” Butler said after fully practicing with the team for the first time since undergoing knee surgery on Feb. 25, via the Star Tribune. “We gotta play like some dogs with a sense of urgency. Teams just do whatever they want against us. I don’t like it.

“Ain’t no coach in the world that can make somebody play hard. Ain’t no coach in the world that can make anybody want it. Right now, in the position we are … we gotta realize that as a whole, we got to go out there and be the tougher team every single night, every single possession.”

The Wolves (44-34, 7th in Western Conference), have gone 8-8 in Butler’s absence. And the team saw it’s already woeful defense suffer mightily without Butler leading the charge. Already 26th in the league in defensive rating at 108.9, the Timberwolves saw that number swell to 111.2 in its past 15 games.

“I just think if we play hard, it covers up for a lot,” Butler said. “Defense is a lot of playing hard, effort and the will to want to do something. … Good things happen when you play hard. I think sometimes we lose focus on how hard you do have to play because we’re so talented. Right now everyone is talented, and these next couple games we have, everybody’s talented and everyone’s going to play hard. And we need to be the same way.”

Butler, who was cleared for contact just last week, without question is one of the more hyper-competitive players in the NBA, which was made plain while sitting on the bench at a recent game. It must drive him insane to see the Wolves compete so poorly on defense.  Perhaps Butler in the next four games can ignite a spark and get the Wolves into the postseason.