While the Miami Heat came within one game of making their second NBA Finals appearance in three seasons, the Boston Celtics moved on to play against the Golden State Warriors for the championship in 2022.
After the Warriors (3-2) beat the Celtics 104-94 in Game 5 of the series, during which Andrew Wiggins scored 26 points with 13 rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block, his teammate, Draymond Green, revealed a highly-unexpected anecdote about the 27-year-old forward, and his relationship with Heat star Jimmy Butler.
During the postgame press conference on Monday, June 13, Green spoke about the two former Minnesota Timberwolves players and then-head coach Tom Thibodeau.
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Green said, “When [Wiggins] first came here, I’ll never forget Thibs, when wasn’t with the Knicks, he was like, ‘You’re going to love him.’ He competes. He defends. Jimmy loved him.’ We all know how Jimmy Butler is. If you have any softness to you, Jimmy don’t like you.”
The veteran All-Star’s statement flips the script on the reports surrounding Butler’s tenure in Minnesota, which was described as highly acrimonious.
Bulter was traded to Minnesota in 2017, where he joined Wiggins, the team’s No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. During the year they were teammates, Wiggins, along with Karl Anthony-Towns were reported to be targets of Butler’s outbursts and the wing was accused of being “volatile” in practice.
Therefore, Green’s comments came as a wild surprise to many viewers on Monday night. Yahoo! Sports reporter Ben Rohrbach tweeted, “Wait, we’re just going to pretend Jimmy Butler loved Andrew Wiggins all along now?”
Green Isn’t the First Warriors Star to Mention How Butler Changed His Views About Wiggins
Last year, Warrior veteran Andre Iguodala, who played alongside Butler in Miami during the 2020 NBA season, also made a point to mention how the Heat wing changed his views on Wiggins.
“I think with Wigs… We had a common teammate, Jimmy Butler, and Jimmy Butler had nothing but amazing things to stay about Wigs, and he really liked playing with Wigs,” Iguodala said. “And that was all I needed to hear to be honest because Jimmy doesn’t like anybody. So, when Jimmy said he liked Wigs, I started kinda looking at him different.”
After Butler requested a trade out of Minnesota before the start of training camp in 2018, and before he landed with the Philadelphia 76ers, the six-time All-Star admitted he was rough on the young guys:
Am I being tough on him? Yeah, that’s who am I. I’m not the most talented player on the team. Who is the most talented player on our team — KAT. Who is the most God-gifted player on our team — Wiggs. Who plays the hardest? Me! I play hard. I put my body [on the line] every day in practice, every day in games. That’s my passion. Everybody leads in different ways. That’s how I show I’m here for you.
At the time, then-Oklahoma City Thunder star Paul George publicly supported Butler. “Jimmy has a very valid point,” George said. “I’m on Jimmy’s side. It’s not coming from a place where he’s going against an organization.”
“Jimmy’s a guy, his whole career, he made it into the league off work, off him having to grind and scratch and claw to get to where he’s at,” George continued, who along with Green was teammates with Butler on th 2016 Olympic team in Rio.
“And then he sees the potential that he has around him and he just wants guys to match that, because if guys are skilled and have that ‘it’ like KAT (Karl-Anthony Towns) has, like Andrew Wiggins has, they have that ‘it’ that a lot of guys don’t have, now they just have to match it with what Jimmy’s bringing to the table. I’m all for what Jimmy is trying to do over there.”
Despite the Reports of Bad Blood, Wiggins Only Had Positive Things to Say About Butler
Conflicting with the outside noise surrounding Butler’s behavior, Wiggins has only spoken positively about his former teammate. In November 2018, following Butler’s trade, ESPN’s Malika Andrews reported, “Wiggins said he was in a better position to be a leader for the Wolves having played with Butler, and said he told 76ers big man Joel Embiid that, ‘if you’re going into battle, you want him on your side.'”
“I learned a lot of things from him,” Wiggins said of Butler. “We made the playoffs, something we haven’t done in a long, long time. So I think it was a positive either way you put it.”
In 2020, Wiggins tune hadn’t shifted. “He’s a great leader, Wiggins said, as reported by The Mercury News. “He’s someone who holds you accountable, someone who is going to make you play harder and it speaks for itself … He’s going to lead you on and off the court in the right direction.”
Now, with Wiggins entering the race as Finals MVP, it seems Butler’s tough love was not without merit.