Jimmy Butler’s trade request sent everyone from Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor on down scrambling to salvage what’s left a neophyte playoff team. As reporters sort through the wreckage, it’s hard to sort out everything they have uncovered, especially since new stones are unturned every hour.
We’ve got you. Here’s the latest on Butler’s dramatic exit, at least as far as Thursday is concerned.
Tom Thibodeau will honor Jimmy Butler’s trade request
Reports earlier this week indicated that Taylor was at odds with Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau, with the former working to get a deal done sooner rather than later and the latter digging in his heels as part of a last-ditch effort to keep Butler in Minnesota. But Thibodeau told CBS Sports reporter Reid Forgrave that he has come to terms with trading Butler.
“Our reality is that he has requested a trade, so we’ll honor that,” Thibodeau told Forgrave. “But we’re not just going to make any deal. … Our conversations will remain private. He requested a trade and we’re going to honor his request. But we’re not going to do anything that’s bad for the Timberwolves. We’re going to do what’s good for the Timberwolves. We have to prioritize that. That’s what our job is.”
Surely, Taylor would agree with that assessment, so the owner and team president may now be moving forward in closer step than they were in previous days. The disagreement could come with respect to timing. While Taylor may be more concerned with moving Butler in order to stabilize a dysfunctional workplace, Thibodeau might be more willing to wait in hopes of maximizing his return (or, in the longest of shots, in the event that Butler agrees to return to the Timberwolves this season).
The Timberwolves expect Butler in training camp
The Wolves agreed to let Butler miss the team’s media day festivities, which was probably wise, consider what a circus it would have been had he attended. The team was also informed that Butler “will not be available for on-court activities at the outset of training camp,” according to The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski, presumably in an effort to avoid the awkwardness of Butler practicing with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, with whom he has respectively had public and reported quarrels.
The official reason for not being in uniform to start training camp? The “elective” minor surgical procedure Butler had on his hand, which the team announced in late July, along with a note that he had already begun offseason activities. He has been playing pickup basketball and getting up shots at Minneapolis-area fitness centers while the team has been practicing, according to the Star-Tribune.
Thibodeau has been urging Butler to return to practice, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe. The coach told Forgrave that the team expects Butler to report to training camp once he has fully rehabbed his hand. “He’s under contract,” Thibodeau told CBS Sports. The Timberwolves could begin fining Butler exponentially after every missed practice, should he be cleared to play.
The Wolves want the moon in return for Butler
The Wolves continue to demand “quality veterans, top prospects, future assets and salary-cap relief” in a trade for Butler, according to ESPN, which has understandably been met with resistance from would-be suitors. Even if Minnesota was to fill two of those needs in return for a guy who will become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, it would do well to salvage what is now a no-win situation.
There has been much interest in Butler’s services. He is, after all, a top-15 player in the NBA and one of the game’s top two-way talents at one of its most important positions. Earlier this week, the list of teams that had reached out about what it might take to acquire Butler had climbed to eight — the Brooklyn Nets, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings, with the Heat reportedly having been most aggressive.
As of Wednesday, Miami had also climbed to the top of Butler’s list of preferred destinations. The 29-year-old originally listed the New York Knicks, along with the Nets and Clippers, as his top priorities. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was also pushing for his team to land Butler, per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.
The Timberwolves can trade Butler anywhere they please, and the list of teams inquiring about Butler has grown to include the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards, according to ESPN. However, the asking price has been so steep that the Suns and 76ers have reportedly withdrawn from the trade sweepstakes. ESPN reported that some teams even believe Thibodeau is purposely inflating his trade requirements in an effort to avoid having to deal Butler.
The Kings remain interested in serving as a third party, looking to get a draft pick in return for providing salary-cap relief for potential trade partners, according to USA Today’s Sam Amick, but the cost of doing business with Sacramento would limit the return on “future assets” for Minnesota.
Butler is growing impatient with the trade process
While the Wolves attempt to maximize their return, Butler has grown “extremely frustrated” with their unwillingness to take the best offer on the table now, whatever that is, per ESPN’s Stefano Fusaro.
That’s quite the demand from Butler, too, since he only informed Minnesota of his desire to be traded last week. If you’re going to throw the franchise into a state of flux one year after they essentially gave up three lottery picks to get you — Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and the pick that became Lauri Markkanen — so you’ve at least got to wait until they’re convinced they can recoup that same value now.
Have a little patience, Jimmy. That goes for the rest of you, too. Stay tuned.
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