OAKLAND, Calif. – The Minnesota Timberwolves went from an emotional high after witnessing Derrick Rose’s epic performance on Wednesday night to having their two-game winning streak snapped in a 116-99 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Friday.
Inside the visiting locker room at Oracle Arena, the atmosphere was what you’d expect from a team that had just been handed a beating. Talking was at a minimum and most of the players quickly showered before hopping on the bus.
Veteran forward Taj Gibson sat at his locker stall with ice bags wrapped around both knees and just stared into space without moving an inch for about five minutes.
The room had a somber feel.
But an unlikely source of positive energy came from Jimmy Butler, the team’s disgruntled All-Star who is desperately seeking to be traded. He lightened the mood by cracking inside jokes with Gibson, Tyus Jones and the training staff while grinning cheek to cheek.
And when Butler left his locker stall to head to the showers, Andrew Wiggins — a teammate he’s had issues with for not fully utilizing his immense talent — passed by on his way out of the locker room. Butler patted him on the back of his right shoulder as he walked by and said, “Good game, boy.”
Wiggins, who scored a team-high 22 points, returned the gesture by slapping Butler on the rear. “Don’t be patting me on my ass!” Butler shouted in jest. “I patted you on your shoulder.”
It was a quirky moment, but that’s Jimmy. He arrived at the arena in an Uber, something he does frequently, according to a team spokesperson.
In an exclusive interview with Yahoo Sports, Butler was adamant that he wasn’t putting on an act and stressed that he genuinely enjoys being around his teammates even though he wants to be traded.
“These are my guys,” the four-time All-Star told Yahoo Sports after scoring 21 points and dishing out five assists. “Look, [my situation] don’t got [expletive] to do with me and everybody in this [expletive] locker room. I love these [expletive]. I’m going to keep it one hundred with you. I love these guys. So, when everybody says, ‘Oh, there’s going to be a problem in the locker room.’ Yeah, all right. Does it look like there’s a problem in the locker room?
“I’m going to be the same guy at the end of the day. That’s the crazy part. Nobody knows what’s going on. You can only guess. You can’t only go by what somebody says. But until you’re in here and you notice what’s going on, you have no clue. I’m not worried about nobody, man. My guys are my guys.”
It’s been over six weeks since Butler first requested a trade, and there have been multiple developments during that span that could lead one to question whether Butler is being a negative influence on the Timberwolves’ young core of Karl-Anthony Towns (22) and Wiggins (23).
But the four-time All-Star disputes that perception.
“I don’t give a [expletive] [what people think],” Butler told Yahoo Sports. “I don’t. I swear to you. Because I know where I’m at with my guys. I know how I am as a person. They can write whatever they want, they can say whatever they want and I can address it the way that I want to. But at the end of the day, I go to war with my guys. Those are my guys. We’re out there trying to win. Nothing is going to come between us. I’m going to play the right way, do what I do, and they know that. They know that.”
On Wednesday before facing the Utah Jazz, reports emerged that Butler was contemplating taking some extended time off in an attempt to force the Timberwolves to move him. But that storyline was later debunked, with Butler clarifying that he was merely sitting to recover from nagging injuries.
Although Butler might not have been directly responsible for that latest misdirection, it was still another turn of events his teammates had to endure.
It’s only a matter of time before Butler is relocated, but in the meantime, he maintains that his situation is not a distraction to his teammates.
“No, because they know the truth,” Butler told Yahoo Sports. “My team knows what’s going on and they understand everything. As much as this is basketball, it’s a business and everybody knows that. I tell everybody, ‘Hey, if you’re nicked up, sit out. If you can’t go out there and give everything you got without worrying about getting injured, sit out. Injuries do happen, but you can prevent them if you’re not right.
“That goes for everybody in this league. You have to take care of yourself because at the end of the day, every organization, their job is to take care of themselves. You have to look out for you.”
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