After their latest round of Jimmy Butler discussions with Miami came to a standstill over the weekend, the Timberwolves reached out to the Rockets again on Tuesday morning, a league source tells Stefano Fusaro of ESPN (Twitter link). According to Fusaro, talks between the Wolves and Rockets have yet to advance, since Minnesota wants both Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker in any deal, and Houston is unwilling to put Tucker on the table.
The Wolves’ asking price in negotiations with the Rockets doesn’t come as a surprise. With James Harden, Chris Paul, and Clint Capela sure to be unavailable, Gordon and Tucker are Houston’s next-best assets. Marc Stein of The New York Times suggested last week that the Rockets may have to package both veterans, along with at least one first-round pick, in order to have a real chance to land Butler.
On the other hand, it makes sense that the Rockets would balk at that request from Minnesota. Gordon and Tucker are crucial pieces in Houston’s lineup, and Tucker is an especially good fit in a system which values versatile players who can make three-pointers and defend multiple positions. Having already lost a pair of reliable veterans who fit that bill – Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute – the Rockets presumably aren’t eager to part with another one, plus additional assets, even if it means acquiring Butler.
Fusaro’s report comes on the heels of a Tuesday story which quoted Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta speaking about Butler. Fertitta told SBNation that he and the Rockets would “love to have” the Houston native if the price is right, a comment that seems likely to earn the owner a tampering fine.
Meanwhile, in other Butler news, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN tweets that he has “zero sense” that Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor balked at a Heat offer that featured Josh Richardson, a first-round pick, and cap filler. Stein had reported on Tuesday that the Wolves turned down an offer of that nature from Miami.
Wolfson’s tweet doesn’t necessarily suggest that the Timberwolves didn’t receive an offer that included Richardson and a first-rounder — it may simply have been front office executives Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden – rather than Taylor – who passed on Miami’s proposal. Either way, Wolfson noted in a follow-up tweet that he’s not sure he has covered another story where the two sides’ versions differ so much.
While it’s clear the Wolves are still exploring trade options for Butler, the team is also said to be preparing to open the regular season with him still on the roster, as Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic detailed on Tuesday. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Butler was in the Timberwolves’ locker room this morning, though that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll join his teammates on the court.
Wojnarowski adds that the Heat are still pursuing a potential Butler trade.