So when did Jimmy Butler make it clear to Tom Thibodeau that he wanted out of Minnesota?
Thibodeau, the Wolves’ coach and president of basketball operations, said in late September that Butler’s trade request hadn’t come until the previous week. But Butler, in an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols on Wednesday, told a very different story. This came only a few hours after Butler ended his hold out from the Wolves and returned to a practice in which he went nuclear on just about everybody.
Butler said he talked to Thibodeau four days after the Wolves’ season ended with a first-round playoff loss to Houston and conveyed the message that he wasn’t happy in Minnesota. How clear was Butler?
“Have you ever known me to hide anything?” he asked Nichols. “Look what happened today at practice. Have you ever known me to hold back? No. So there’s your answer. I was completely honest about everything. About everything.”
Butler said he remained in touch with Thibodeau throughout the summer and never backed away from what he had told him. The issue was that his trade request didn’t get reported until right before camp, but Butler made it clear that Thibodeau had plenty of time to work a trade.
“It wasn’t a week before,” Butler told ESPN. “We’ve been talking all summer long, everybody knew the truth throughout the organization because I’m gonna tell you the truth. Like it or not, anybody, fans, whatever. Like it or not, it wasn’t just then, so we can put that to rest. It was not just then.
“I know the truth. I’m OK. I know the truth, I know what I did, I know who I am to my core. ‘Jimmy’s a bad leader.’ Give it all here, I’ll take it. But when you go in that locker room and you ask those guys who do you want to play with? I’m telling you nobody in that locker room is gonna say that he is a bad teammate. That he’s a bad guy.
“I could be wrong, but that’s how I look at it, and that’s why you get the quotes that are all over the internet from me today because I felt a type of way, I held it in, I hadn’t said anything to anybody. This is my first interview — I haven’t said anything to anybody, but when it comes out, it comes out. That’s what it’s all about.”
If Butler is telling the truth, Thibodeau looks even worse than he did previously, if that’s possible. If Butler had told Thibodeau he was unhappy at the last moment, that means the Wolves were put in a tough situation when it comes to trading the four-time All-Star. But if Thibodeau decided to ignore Butler’s request, that means he was negligent and, thus, cost the Wolves the ability to make a trade that might have been palatable.
Butler also was asked about reports that he wants to be traded because he was seeking a richer deal from the Wolves than the four-year, $110 million offer he received. The Wolves would have been in a position to offer Butler a five-year extension worth $190 million next July. The Athletic reported that Butler wanted a contract this summer that would have paid him $30 million in 2018-19 and tacked on an additional four years and $145 million.
Butler said all of Nichols’ information was accurate but added, “it’s not about money.”
“It’s about saying we need you. We want you here. We can’t do this without you,” Butler said when asked what his trade request was about. “And that was the disconnect all along. You’re saying one thing and you’re saying it, and you’re saying it. I mean I’ve learned enough times in life that saying something is completely different than acting upon it.
“Actions speak louder than words, whatever quote you want to use. And when it came to that point, it was like I let y’all know what the deal was as soon as you traded for me. I told you the truth from Day 1 and I will continue to do it. And I did it. It’s kinda like, I don’t know, a slap in the face? I don’t know how to put it, but it made me think like maybe I’m not that important to your organization. That is how I took it.”