Web Editorial Associate
Wednesday morning’s shootaround before the Wolves’ biggest game of the season was much like any other day. The gravity of tonight’s game is obviously not lost on Wolves players, but they recognize the importance of playing their game, and of being themselves in the moments that will define their season.
“When you get away from who you are that’s when bad things happen,” Jimmy Butler said. “You go out there, you smile, you have fun, and you compete.”
There’s not much more to say that hasn’t been said, according to many Wolves players. The team needs a win tonight. It’s the little things that matter in every game that will decide this one—hustle, rebounding, staying focused for the entire 48 minutes, longer if need be.
The team’s veterans—Butler, Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford—know what it means to play a game like this, and they’re working to show the team’s younger players not only how to survive this type of game, but how to relish in it.
“It’s pressure. It’s a pressure game,” said Rose. “Of course, you don’t want to be in this situation, but competing and playing for something is good.”
Coach Tom Thibodeau has been here before as well. He was asked this morning if this game felt like a Game 7 in the playoffs. Of course it does.
“That’s what Game 7 is. You win and you go on. I don’t want to think about the alternative.”
There’s no doubt that Butler’s return has breathed life into the team. While Butler stayed engaged with the team while rehabbing his injury, his on-court leadership is irreplaceable, and it’s something the Wolves will not be afraid to lean on in the most important game many of these players have ever played in.
“It’s great to have him out there,” said Teague. “I think our team spirit is way better, our energy on both ends is way better. You’ve got a guy who is confident in himself down the stretch, so it’s good to have him back.”
As with any player, Butler’s shot may or may not fall tonight. He could score in single digits, or he could go for 30, but the thing that makes Butler so special is that he’ll be a positive presence on the floor either way.
“I don’t care if I don’t have a rhythm, I don’t care if I’m not making shots, I’ll find a way to impact the game. All in all I just want to help this team win,” he said. “I’ll be there to change the game.”
The Wolves will need everyone at their best tonight, but the team is up to the challenge. Four hours until tipoff. All Eyes North.