Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler and Tom Thibodeau got to know each other well during their time together with the Chicago Bulls.
Thibodeau, now the coach of the New York Knicks, had nothing but praise for his former player before Sunday's game between the Heat and Knicks.
“The best part of his game is that he plays to win,” Thibodeau said. “He’s always been a great passer. He’s always been a great defender. He’s always been a team-first sort of guy. The way he plays, it’s true to the game, and I think that’s what his teammates respect about him."
Thibodeau compared Butler to former Boston Celtics All-Star Kevin Garnett because of their ability to play on both ends of the court.
“There’s a lot of similarities to Kevin Garnett and what he did in Boston, in terms of Kevin was a two-way player, but he was a very unselfish offensive player," Thibodeau said. "And he was a player who sacrificed a lot of his own, individual stuff for the team. And I think Jimmy does the same thing.”
Thibodeau said he has monitored Butler's success from afar, especially when he led the Heat to last year's NBA Finals.
“Obviously very proud of all that he’s accomplished,” Thibodeau said. “I was very happy for him. I thought with all my teams in Chicago that those teams gave everything that they had. I think we would have had a good shot at winning it if Derrick [Rose] had been healthy for that entire period. But he wasn’t. “But also a byproduct of that was maybe the opportunity for Jimmy to play more and for him to grow into the player that he’s become. To Jimmy’s credit, I know he’s gotten better and better.”
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