Jimmy Butler told Tom Thibodeau this week that he would like to be traded by the time Timberwolves’ media day arrives on Monday. It appears Thibodeau, the Wolves president of basketball operations and head coach, didn’t get the message. Or he’s ignoring it.
Teams calling about Butler’s availability are getting their inquiries rebuffed, according to an ESPN report. Instead, Wolves officials are informing teams the franchise intends to keep the four-time All-Star.
The report from Adrian Wojnarowski points out that ordinarily this is part of the strategy for a team that doesn’t have much leverage in trade talks — and that team officials eventually ask what the inquiring club might be willing to offer — but in this case that hasn’t been happening.
There have been multiple reports that Thibodeau has no interest in trading Butler, whom he acquired from the Chicago Bulls on draft night in 2017. That means Thibodeau is ignoring the fact that not only does Butler want out, but also that Butler’s relationship with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins appears to be fractured beyond repair.
Wojnarowski reported that Wolves owner Glen Taylor has become fully engaged in the decision-making process on a potential Butler deal and is far more open to the idea of working a trade than Thibodeau and general manager Scott Layden. Taylor was attending the NBA’s Board of Governors meetings on Friday in New York and, thus, is around owners and top league executives.
Taylor is no stranger to having to move an unhappy player who wants out. He was the Wolves owner in 1999 when Stephon Marbury was traded to the Nets and in 2014 when Kevin Love was dealt to Cleveland.
The Sporting News reported on Thursday that Thibodeau would rather leave the Wolves than trade Butler for younger players and drafts picks and begin another rebuilding process. The Wolves made the playoffs last season after a 13-year absence and Thibodeau knows a step backward in 2018-19, something that almost certainly will happen without Butler, likely will cost him his job.
“No one expects Tom to coach a 25-win or even 35-win team,” a front-office executive told Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. “Even if he has to agree to dissolve the contract, they’d do that before they go and trade Butler for draft picks.”