Tom Thibodeau made it clear Monday that he is willing to trade Jimmy Butler but only if it’s a good deal for the Timberwolves.
Thibodeau, the Wolves’ president of basketball operations and head coach, talked publicly for the first time about Butler’s trade demand during the Wolves’ media day on Monday at Target Center.
Butler was excused from taking part in media day, but Thibodeau said the four-time All-Star had undergone a physical exam and would not be on the court for the first week of camp because he was continuing to rehab and do conditioning work. Butler had a procedure performed on his hand in July.
“When you look at who Jimmy is, he’s a top 10 players in the league,” Thibodeau said. “We’re not going to make a bad deal. … If it’s a good deal, we’re interested.”
Thibodeau said that if Butler is not traded in the coming days, and is set to return from his rehab, he will practice with the Wolves.
Thibodeau, according to reports, was initially reluctant to trade Butler, whom he coached in Chicago and then acquired from the Bulls in June 2017. However, owner Glen Taylor made it clear to Thibodeau and general manager Scott Layden that Butler would be moved.
Butler, who is entering the final season of his contract, made his trade demand last week and Thibodeau said that was the first time Butler had made such a request. ESPN initially reported that Butler’s list of desired locations included the Clippers, Knicks and Nets. But the all-sports network said the list of teams interested in talking to the Wolves about a deal for Butler includes the Nets, Clippers, Pistons, Rockets, Heat, 76ers, Trail Blazers and Kings.
If Butler remains in Minnesota, it could present an extremely awkward situation given that his relationship with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins is reportedly fractured at this point. The Wolves signed Towns to a super-maximum contract over the weekend after it became clear Butler would be moved. Towns attempted to say his relationship with Butler “was fine” on Monday.
Thibodeau refused to get into the specifics of what Butler told him about wanting out.
“There are many people who say all the right things and never do any of the right things,” Thibodeau said of Butler’s impact in Minnesota. “And sometimes a player might say something and it might not be the right tone, but it is the right message.
“So when I look at what was the impact (of having Butler), it was huge. To win 47 games? To me, the impact he had was great. To see the building sold out, to see the interest in the team and the way it worked on the floor … we won 47 games and Jimmy missed something like 25 games. The winning was what brought everyone’s value up.”
The Wolves went from 31 to 47 wins last season and ended a 13-year playoff drought in Thibodeau’s second season in charge. The hope was that Butler and Towns could reach higher levels this season. That is unlikely to happen and another former Bull, Taj Gibson, gave a truthful answer when asked about the situation.
Gibson on if Butler's trade talks are a distraction: "It is. It really is. You look at the talent and the strides we took last year just to get to the playoffs, so many up and downs and you get hit with a right hook before training camp, it's weird."
— Chris Hine (@ChristopherHine) September 24, 2018