There were reports last week that Jimmy Butler had no plans to miss regular season games (and, thus, forfeit paychecks) if his trade request wasn’t granted by the Timberwolves before the Oct. 17 opener in San Antonio.
It’s become clear that unless Wolves owner Glen Taylor steps in and trades the four-time All Star himself in the next week that Thibodeau is planning to test whether Butler will show. This dysfunctional act that continues to play out at Target Center can lead to only one conclusion: Thibodeau, the Wolves’ president of basketball operations and head coach, has no intention of parting with his favorite player.
So what will Butler do? That remains uncertain.
The Athletic reported Tuesday that Butler has returned to Minnesota and reiterated his desire to be traded in a meeting with Thibodeau.
This come two days after ESPN reported that the Wolves and Miami had advanced to the brink of a deal that would have sent Butler to the Heat, but the trade fractured before completion when Minnesota attempted to amend the framework of the agreement. This happened even though Miami reportedly softened on including guard Josh Richardson, who initially had been believed to be off limits.
There continue to be reports that several teams have questioned whether the Wolves are really interested in finding a trade for Butler and the breakdown of the discussions with the Heat certainly gives those rumblings validity.
Those who want to give Thibodeau the benefit of the doubt, continue to point to the terrible situation Butler put Minnesota in by asking for a trade right before the season. The Thibodeau backers say he’s trying to make the most of a terrible situation by getting a fair return for Butler when that’s next to impossible given the Wolves’ lack of leverage and the fact the Butler Camp has made it known he’s not happy.
But if the Wolves really were going to try to get the best deal for Butler, and thus were willing to let him sit out, why wasn’t he been sent home and suspended? The relationship between Thibodeau and Butler has been destroyed, so Thibodeau should take control and tell Butler that his failure to take part in training camp means that he’s no longer welcome at Target Center. Suspend him, fine him and, most importantly, tell Butler and his agent that you will call them when you have something but other than that you don’t want to hear from them.
Let them file a grievance with the NBA. But, remember, it was Butler who did not show up for training camp and it’s Butler who is staying away.
Is any of this ideal? No. But right now, Thibodeau looks embarrassingly weak each time we see a report that he’s begging Butler to change his mind. How do you think that looks in the locker room? If Thibodeau yells at a player now, or demands something, is that player going to think, “Yeah, he’s right,” or is he going to think, “Why should I have respect for this guy?”
It’s going to be the latter.
The other issue is that as the Wolves’ basketball boss, Thibodeau should have gotten clarity on what Butler wanted months ago. It was apparent at the end of last season that not all was well with the Wolves’ top players and, yet, nothing was done until training camp.
That’s negligence on Thibodeau’s part and right now, assuming Taylor did tell him to trade Butler, Thibs also is being insubordinate. Would that be enough for Taylor to fire Thibodeau with cause and attempt not to pay him the remaining $24 million left on his three-year contract?
It’s also odd that Thibodeau seems to have little interest in the rest of his team. Holding onto Butler is only going to make things worse for a group of players being forced to live a soap opera existence because their coach can’t let go of one guy.
Butler, by the way, isn’t the good guy in this.
This is one situation where all the primary players deserve to be criticized. Butler came here with the hope being he would be a star player and a leader. Instead, he’s turned out to be an injury-prone diva who is turning himself into a pariah at each of his NBA stops. Thibodeau, for some reason, remains enamored with the guy.
Honestly, these two deserve each other.
It would just be nice if they could reunite far away from the Twin Cities.