Kentucky head coach John Calipari and Philadelphia 76ers guard Jimmy Butler aren’t the best of friends right now, and it’s all centered around former Wildcat center Karl-Anthony Towns.
As you may remember, there was major discontent in the Minnesota Timberwolves locker room when the season began, with Butler calling out Towns and former Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins out for supposedly not having what it takes mentally to win.
The locker room controversy ended up getting so bad that Butler demanded a trade, disrupting practices and team chemistry until that demand was granted. In November, the former Marquette star was moved to Philadelphia in a trade.
In an interview with Jackie MacMullan of ESPN, Calipari said Towns would finally be able to take that next step into superstardom and “be himself again” with Butler gone.
“You wait,” Calipari said. “Karl’s game is going to take off. He can be himself again.
“I bet that environment was so uncomfortable for him. First of all, he and Jimmy are totally different people — how they were brought up, their likes and dislikes, how they approach competition. You have one guy on this side and one guy on the other side.
“There was a dogfight, and Karl’s not one to get into that. So, he stepped back.”
Calipari went as far as to say Butler was a “bully” in the locker room,
“Things happen. There are power struggles all the time in [the NBA],” Calipari said. “If a guy can bully you, he will bully you. And that’s what Jimmy did to Karl. C’mon, that’s the league.”
And who was the individual that came to Towns’ defense? Calipari’s former Memphis star point guard Derrick Rose.
“Derrick is the one who got Karl through that whole Butler mess,” Calipari said.
In that same ESPN article, Butler responded to Calipari’s comments, saying he didn’t see himself as a bully and believed the Kentucky head coach wasn’t looking at the situation the same way he was.
“I don’t think bully is a good word,” Butler said. “I tell it how it is. Whenever I was in college, I had [Marquette coach] Buzz Williams to tell me how it was. I didn’t have a bunch of McDonald’s All-Americans like [Calipari] has. So, he can look at it a different way.”
Butler then said that if Calipari wants to see him as a bully, he’ll show him a bully the next time they see each other. The Philadelphia star said he was going to “confront him” about the situation.
“He can call me a bully, but when [Calipari] sees me, I’m gonna confront him about it,” Butler said. “If I’m a bully, I’m gonna bully him, too. I’ll tell him how I feel, just like I’d tell anyone else.
“I don’t care if he’s some big head coach. I’m not bullying nobody. I’m just keeping it real. Some of these guys aren’t used to it. When you have as much talent as [Karl] has had throughout his life, guys don’t keep it real with him. I do.”