Jimmy Butler played his first four seasons with the Chicago Bulls under head coach Tom Thibodeau.
Butler's ascension to his current status as one of the league's best two-way players didn't come easy. He averaged 2.6 points in 8.5 minutes over 42 appearances as a rookie. He then put up 8.6 points in 26.0 minutes over 82 games (20 starts) in his second season.
However, his breakthrough began in 2013-2014, when, under Thibodeau, he was elevated to a full-time starting role, averaging 13.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per contest. He backed that up with his first of three All-Star appearances in 2014-2015, when he averaged 20.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 38.7 minutes per contest over 65 games. All of those averages were career-highs at the time and he owed much of his success to Thibodeau, who saw his potential.
But, in the summer of 2015, the Bulls parted ways with Thibodeau, hiring Fred Hoiberg to take over.
Under Hoiberg, Butler was named an All-Star two more times, but plenty of drama was a part of the franchise. Butler and his coach seemingly never got into a groove and the Bulls as a whole didn't find much success.
When he was sent to the Timberwolves in a surprising draft-day trade this summer, Butler was shocked, but was excited to be reuniting with Thibodeau, who is not only the coach, but also the director of basketball operations in Minnesota.
Butler recently sat down with ESPN's Sam Alipour and talked about the respect that he now has for his coach on their second stint together.
Thibodeau has been known to be extremely hard on his players, demanding a ton of minutes and production from his starters in particular. Butler seemed to get used to it over time and now he actually appreciates it.
"I love it, but you have to find the balance and get your point across without running bodies into the ground," he said. "I can say: 'Thibs, we get it. I'm on these guys. Let's move on to the next one.' That's part of my role here."
He also revealed a major way that his coach changed from his days in Chicago.
"In Chicago, it was like, 'We're getting right into drills. I don't care how your day's going.' Now he's joking around and asking guys, 'Hey, how's your wife and kids?' I'm human. Basketball's not the most important thing in my life. I think he's starting to realize that," Butler explained.
Thibodeau might have realized that there's more to life than just basketball during his time away from the game in between coaching stints.
Hilariously, Butler explained that he disliked Thibodeau at first, but grew to like him over time.
"I won't lie: Couldn't stand him. I never use the word 'hate,' but he was right there. I worked so hard, but he wouldn't play me. Finally my time presented itself, and I got a little bit of, 'What's up, Jimmy?' I'm like, 'I'm moving up!' Now he's my guy," claimed Butler.
Although it's early in the season, Butler and the Timberwolves have one of the best records in the NBA. Heading into Wednesday night's game against the Golden State Warriors, they held a 7-3 mark.
The chemistry and cohesion of Butler and Thibodeau might help Minnesota reach the playoffs and even contend for an NBA title this season.