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Butler says he can shake Timberwolves out of defenseless habits

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jimmy Butler talks to an NBA official in a break in action against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City on Oct. 22, 2017. Mark D. Smith / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — No, Jimmy Butler was not 100 percent as of Friday, but he's good enough. He had to be.

Still sniffling every few seconds, a lasting side-effect of the upper respiratory infection that sidelined him for two blowout losses this week, the Timberwolves' All-NBA wing was set to make his return to action Friday night, Oct. 27, against Oklahoma City at Target Center.

Asked if rest was the remedy for his ailment, Butler responded: "I don't want any rest tonight. If I'm out there hooping, I want to go. I want to help this team win. I've got to be prepared for that."

Even if snot is dripping down from his nose into his mouth — Butler's words.

"It's disgusting, but it might happen a few times," he warned. "I'm ready to play. I'll just get a towel and wipe it away."

Minnesota was in a different place prior to Butler's absence, 2-1 and coming off a thrilling win over the Thunder on Sunday. But what happened in the next two games was troubling for a team that believes it's ready to start battling for Western Conference postseason position.

Losses to teams with inferior talent, Indiana at home and at Detroit, betrayed a team that lacked intensity and drive while Butler watched helplessly from a distance.

"We didn't get back, talking a lot to the refs, not doing what we're supposed to be doing on the defensive end," Butler said. "Not saying with me (back), that's going to change everything, but I'm hoping it'll change a little bit."

So, never fear, Butler is here?

"I think with me being out on the floor, I can really cover up a lot of things," he said. "Not everything, don't get me wrong; I'm not that good of a player. But on the defensive end, I pride myself on that end, so I've got to make sure I'm at the top of my game on the defensive end and everybody else is up there with me."

Most alarming about the Timberwolves' early struggles is seeing the same mistakes this team has made for years. Nothing was being corrected. Progress wasn't evident. Taj Gibson, one of several big offseason acquisitions, said a lot of the early struggles have to do with guys getting used to playing with one another.

Maybe, but Butler warned, "We don't have that much time."

"We can't continue to practice bad habits, man," he said. "You've got to lose those habits ASAP. That's what practice is for, but when you correct it in practice, you can't go out there and keep doing it over and over in a game. That's when it really counts.

"This game is 90 percent mental. If you want to do something, you're going to do it. You can't fool anybody. We point it out on film, we talk about it, and now it's all about going out there and executing, to tell you the truth. I think guys want to do it; I think they just are a step behind at times. ... All teams basically run the same thing, so it's going to come to you more than once every game, so we've just got to correct it."

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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