By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
Jimmy Butler has seemingly been hell-bent on bringing hell to the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise in the past couple weeks, you know, the franchise that’s still signing his checks.
In a saga unique to any NBA preseason before it, the former Chicago Bull has stampeded through practices, laced interviews with criticisms and demanded a trade somewhere, anywhere as long as he doesn’t have to seemingly play with the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns again.
There no a lack of nuance and detail to this story, and despite the craziness of the events of this week, all this hasn’t come out of nowhere, the Butler/T’Wolves relationship has previously gone through Butler turning down a potential extension to his contract, his demanding a trade, skipping media day and his going MIA until the second practice of training camp, which should now go down as the most infamous second practice of training camp any NBA team has had.
“You f—ing need me, Scott. You can’t win without me,” said Butler directly to team general manager Scott Layden and coach/team president Tom Thibodeau after taking a team of T’Wolves third-teamers and beating the current Minnesota starters in scrimmage on Tuesday.
Initial details of the wild practice were just getting out to social media when Butler’s interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols was being broadcast and cemented the whole incident as one to remember due to the star not holding back at all.
“A lot of it is true,” he said. “I haven’t played basketball in so long. I’m so passionate. I don’t do it for any reason but to compete. All my emotion came out in one time. Was it the right way? No! But I can’t control that when I’m out there competing. That’s raw me, me at my finest, me at my purest. Inside the lines.”
When questioned about his relationship with Thibs and his teammates, specifically Towns and Wiggins, who he questioned regarding their honesty and commitment to winning.
“I think that’s the part everybody doesn’t see,” Butler said. “I’m not going to say no names. I’m going to be honest: If your No. 1 priority isn’t winning, people can tell. That’s the battle. Now there is a problem between people. That’s where the disconnect is.”
I understand Butler’s sentiment about playing hard and making winning a priority, but throughout this entire saga, I find it hard to believe that winning for Butler is his No. 1 priority. Quite frankly, the real issue for all this discontent Butler is causing is money.
Along with his public demand to be traded from the Timberwolves, Butler initially announced a list of teams he would sign long-term to if he were traded, that list included the Los Angeles Clippers, Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat and the New York Knicks.
None of those destinations make sense when it comes to win-now situations. Even long-term, neither the Knicks, Nets and Clippers look very promising as all three have a negative history of bringing established stars to play for their teams. Also, none of those teams have a total of cap space needed to sign max-level players or marketable/available assets to help Butler via trade.
The Timberwolves have engaged with more competitive teams across the league, mainly the Miami Heat and Houston Rockets, in trying to get Butler out of their hair. Miami recently had a deal in place, but when Thibs increased the asking price, the deal fell apart and ended with Pat Riley dropping an M-F bomb on Thibs while hanging the phone up, according to a report by ESPN’s Jorge Sedano.
Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has stressed his franchise’s ideal love for making a Butler trade, but the price for the asset as set by Minnesota is too steep and what is holding the two principals back from making a trade, according to Steven Godfrey of SB Nation.
Thibs is making it very clear that he does not want to let Butler go unless the price is enormous. Management has also made it very clear that Wiggins and KAT are their top priorities for the long-term, having signed both to massive extensions.
With all this said, Butler, do us a favor and cut the drama.
You are not going to find a winning situation better than what you have with the Timberwolves right now. If all this is really about winning, compete this season, wait until its end and to make your decision to play for a franchise that is in position to compete for an NBA title while negotiating a deal for all the max money that you can, which teams know at the end of the day is your real worth.
Joshua M. Hicks is the lead columnist of WARR