Welcome to the new season, Timberwolves fans.
In the space of a few minutes today, we learned that Jimmy Butler will hold a meeting Monday with coach/executive Tom Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden to discuss his future with the team, and that second-year center Justin Patton broke a bone in his right foot.
The bigger story is obviously the Butler news, which could affect the organization’s course for the next several years. Minnesota acquired Butler in a trade with the Bulls last summer to bring some star power and veteran leadership to a team whose best players were both young. Unfortunately, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins haven’t responded well to Butler’s tough love, and reports of a locker room rift have haunted the Wolves all summer.
If things don’t go well at the meeting, the team’s best option is to work out a trade, tweets Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report. However, he notes that Thibodeau may not be on board because of his loyalty to Butler and the danger of taking a step back when his job could be in jeopardy.
There hasn’t been a good atmosphere in Minnesota for more than a year — roughly the time that Butler came on board — adds ESPN’s Zach Lowe (Twitter link). ESPN colleague Adrian Wojnarowski expects a lot of frank discussion Monday, with a source telling him, “Whatever needs to be communicated … will be.” (Twitter link).
Butler may be looking to the future and seeing control of the team slipping away from him, suggests Kurt Helin of NBC Sports (Twitter link). Towns is mulling over an extension that would pay him $158MM over five years. Once that happens, he will become the focus of the organization, not Butler.
The Wolves need to be careful about promising too much to Butler, warns ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). The organization won’t have cap flexibility for several years once Towns’ extension takes effect, so the front office shouldn’t be talking about roster upgrades. Marks suggests approaching Butler like a free agent, then asking for a firm answer at the end of the meeting on whether he plans to stay or not (Twitter link).
Free agent Jamal Crawford, who spent last season in Minnesota, gave an insider’s view of the situation during an appearance Friday on Howard Beck’s Full 48 podcast. “For me, it just wasn’t a happy environment,” Crawford said. “It just wasn’t happy.”
How will the Wolves make things happier? Should they start offering Butler in trade talks or hope to re-sign him next summer? Will he and the other veterans brought in over the past year ever be able to co-exist with Towns and Wiggins? Should the team dismiss Thibodeau and his “Timber-Bulls” plan and get to work on building around its two young stars? Please leave your responses in the space below.