The Timberwolves have looked foolish before and they are certain to do so again. This is a franchise that long has been unable to get out of its own way. But even by Wolves standards what happened on the practice court Wednesday at Mayo Clinic Square has to be considered a new height in organizational buffoonery.
After reportedly being told by disgruntled star Jimmy Butler that if he ended his holdout and showed up for practice that it wouldn’t be a pretty sight, the NBA’s version of Odell Beckham Jr. delivered on his promise by loudly belittling everyone in his path. This included Tom Thibodeau, the Wolves’ coach and president of basketball operations; general manager Scott Layden; and teammates Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
Butler, who has made it clear that he wants to be traded and has no interest in playing again for the Wolves, then bolted from practice and into a one-on-one interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that had been previously arranged and was all part of Butler’s day-long attempt to show the Wolves exactly how miserable he could make things if he isn’t dealt.
Any sane and professionally run organization, would have issued a press release by late Wednesday afternoon saying that Butler had been suspended without pay for conduct detrimental to the team. The Wolves? They decided to handle the Butler matter in the only way they know how. By embracing the dysfunction and doing absolutely nothing.
Butler told ESPN that he believed Thibodeau approved of what he did because that might help to provide motivation for some of the Wolves’ younger players. “I know Thibs. He’s in there by himself, he locked his door and he’s smiling. He’s laughing,” Butler said “Thibs, I know you man. He’s like, ‘Yeah.’ … Thibs is like me. He likes confrontation. He might not tell you all but he likes it.”
Stan Van Gundy, a former NBA coach and now part of ESPN’s NBA coverage, said he had talked to members of the Wolves (probably Thibodeau and/or Layden) and said they called it the best practice of the season because of the energy Butler brought.
This is both amusing and pathetic.
If Thibodeau or Layden think that allowing Butler to embarrass everyone in sight is going to be a positive than neither one is qualified to be in any type of job where they work with people. They also aren’t very bright.
Butler spent much of his interview with Nichols talking about his desire for honesty. Asked about his on-court antics, Butler said: “I think that I was honest. Was I brutally honest? Yes. But I think that that’s the problem. Everybody is so scared to be honest with one another. If you didn’t like the way that I handled myself in practice, one of the players come up to me, somebody say something. Anybody. I’m not going to take offense. It’s not personal.”
You want honesty, Jimmy? Here it is.
Butler is nothing more than a fraud, a bully and a jerk who is intent on getting his way and doing whatever he needs to do so the Wolves deal him. He used the words “passionate” and talked about his “love” for the game in discussing why he acted like he did during his one-hour of practice time on Wednesday. This is nonsense. This had nothing to do with passion, this had to do with a petulant 29-year-old who thinks he’s a winner (but hasn’t won a thing in the NBA) deciding that going nuclear might accomplish his goal.
It speaks volumes about Thibodeau, and this isn’t meant in a good way, that he apparently embraced this act and enabled it. That Thibodeau is still employed by the Wolves is as mind-boggling as the fact that Butler wasn’t suspended after Wednesday’s practice. Heck, Butler is expected to show up for Thursday’s practice.
That apparently will happen unless someone steps in and we can be sure it won’t be Thibodeau. That would mean owner Glen Taylor would be the guy to make the call on suspending and/or trading Butler.
That’s another part of the problem in this saga. If there’s a constant in the Wolves’ ability to make dysfunction an art form it has been Taylor’s presence. The illegal contract with Joe Smith, the hiring of David Kahn, the twice fractured relationship with former superstar Kevin Garnett and on and on and on. All under Taylor’s watch.
There have been reports that Taylor has been involved in the Butler situation — and was pushing Thibodeau to deal the player — but so far Thibodeau and Layden have been allowed to drag their feet and even sabotage potential trades because they can’t stand the thought of life without Butler.
Taylor’ failure to take control of this situation was questionable before but after Wednesday it’s become absurd and embarrassing.
The basketball world and Butler have again made the Wolves look foolish and reminded everyone why this franchise long has been considered a laughing stock. The question now is does anybody care enough to do something about it?
Sadly, the answer appears to be no.