Western Notes: Butler, Lillard, Anthony

The Timberwolves have given off the impression that they won’t trade Jimmy Butler but Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders speculates that a rocky start to the season could make the franchise reconsider its position.

The Western Conference is as competitive as ever and Minnesota is no lock to be a playoff team. Should the Wolves slide in the standings, Butler’s frustration with his teammates could grow and with only one season remaining on his deal, there won’t be much time to mend the relationship.

The front office has tried to get Butler to sign an extension with no success. However, it is worth noting that it’s in the 28-year-old’s best interest to wait and sign a new deal in the offseason rather than inking an extension now since he’s eligible for a larger starting salary this summer.

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • The Trail Blazers have no clear path to improve enough in order to compete with the Warriors for the Western Conference crown and Kyler (in the same piece) wonders whether it will force Portland to consider dealing Damian Lillard. Kyler adds that the point guard is “loyal to a fault,” meaning a lack of success for the franchise won’t result in him demanding a trade.
  • The Rockets‘ loss of Trevor Ariza and addition of Carmelo Anthony has critics yet again doubting the team. Coach Mike D’Antoni isn’t worried about the skeptics, as Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle relays. “It’s our job to prove them wrong,” D’Antoni said. “And we did it for two years now.”
  • Solomon (in the same piece) notes how many around the league doubted the Chris PaulJames Harden pairing, believing that with only one ball, the two players couldn’t possibly flourish. The Rockets ended last season with a record of 44-4 in games in which both players started and Solomon cautions against writing off the Anthony acquisition without seeing him alongside the team’s stars.
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