Andrew Wiggins

Towns On Butler: “I Think He’ll Be Missed”

Although Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns both downplayed the idea, there was a sense that a frayed relationship between the two Timberwolves stars contributed significantly to Butler’s desire to leave Minnesota. Now that Butler is heading to Philadelphia, there’s no need for the two stars to play nice, but Towns still had nothing but praise for the four-time All-Star on his way out.

“He’s one hell of a player,” Towns said on Sunday, per ESPN’s Malika Andrews. “I don’t know how many Jimmy Butlers there are in the world, so I think he’ll be missed.”

Rumors circulated throughout Butler’s short-lived stint in Minnesota that there was friction between him and the team’s younger players – primarily former No. 1 overall pick Towns and Andrew Wiggins – with reports suggesting that the 29-year-old questioned his teammates’ desire to win. Butler came close to acknowledging that point during a preseason interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols when he cited Towns and Wiggins as the Wolves with the most talent, but referred to himself the one who played the hardest.

Despite that reported friction, Wiggins also complimented Butler following word of Minnesota’s trade agreement with Philadelphia. As Andrew relays, Wiggins told Joel Embiid that Butler is a player you “want on your side” if you’re going into battle.

“I learned a lot of things from him,” Wiggins said of Butler. “We made the playoffs, something we haven’t done in a long, long time. So I think it was a positive either way you put it.”

While Towns and Wiggins appear to be sticking to the line that there were no off-court issues with Butler, they should have the opportunity to regain larger roles on the court now that he’s gone.

In 2016/17, the season before Butler’s arrival, Wiggins averaged 23.6 PPG on 19.1 FGA, while Towns posted 25.1 PPG on 18.0 FGA. Those were career highs for both players, who saw those marks slip to 17.6 PPG and 15.8 FGA (Wiggins) and 21.1 PPG and 14.4 FGA (Towns) during Butler’s tenure in Minnesota.

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Barton, Jokic, Westbrook

The Timberwolves are back to where they started before the first Jimmy Butler trade with a young nucleus built around Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, writes Chip Scoggins of The Star-Tribune. Coach/executive Tom Thibodeau changed the blueprint in Minnesota last year when he acquired Butler from the Bulls in hopes of finding a veteran leader who could vault the team to the top of the West. Now the Wolves are back to square one, only instead of having Zach LaVine, who was sent to Chicago in the Butler deal along with a draft pick that became Lauri Markkanen, their core will include Dario Saric and Robert Covington.

Thibodeau has reduced job security after the Butler incident, and Scoggins suggests his first move should be to try to repair relationships within the organization. He let Butler virtually run the team over the past two months — catering to his outrageous behavior in an effort to convince him to stay —  which created dissension in the locker room that won’t be easy to erase.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets guard Will Barton is making progress in his rehab after surgery to repair core and hip muscle injuries, according to an Associated Press story. There’s still no timetable for his return, but Barton said he’s “getting stronger every day.” Team doctors planned to re-evaluate his progress six weeks after the October 23 procedure, so his comeback could start in early December. Barton said strengthening core muscles is the focus of his rehab work.
  • Nuggets coach Michael Malone defended center Nikola Jokic, who was fined $25K this week for using “derogatory and offensive language” in a postgame interview, relays Mike Singer of The Denver Post“There’s so many things being said about this poor kid, and I understand some of it, but those of us who know him, like most people in this hallway, give the kid a break,” Malone said. “He made a mistake, he’s paying for it, get off his back a little bit. He’s a great kid. He loves everybody, and he meant no offense to anybody.”
  • The Thunder are citing progress for Russell Westbrook, who is recovering a a sprained left ankle he suffered in Monday’s game, writes Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman. With a packed schedule this week, OKC hasn’t had time to fit in a practice to fully evaluate Westbrook’s condition. “He’s got to get out there, he’s got to practice, move and cut and do those things, so that’s going to take a little bit of time,” coach Billy Donovan said at Saturday’s shootaround.

Wolves Notes: Butler, Towns, Wiggins, Rose

The Clippers, who hosted the Timberwolves on Monday, were reportedly on Jimmy Butler‘s list of preferred destinations when he requested a trade in September, and the Lakers, who will face Minnesota tonight, have also been identified as a potential suitor for the 2019 free-agent-to-be. However, Butler was in no mood to answer questions about a possible future in Los Angeles this week, as Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com relays.

“No, I’m in Minnesota for the time being,” Butler said after Monday’s loss. “I’ll enjoy the sunshine for a couple days, and then if we go back there, we go back there.”

Butler also turned away inquiries on whether or not he’d even play in the game against the Lakers on Wednesday. The All-NBA swingman has only appeared in two of the Wolves’ last four contests, missing games against Utah and Portland due to what the team referred to as “general soreness” and “precautionary rest.” He’s listed as questionable for tonight.

Here’s more on Minnesota:

  • With Timberwolves president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau under fire for his handling of the Butler situation, Michael Rand of The Star Tribune revisits all of Thibodeau’s major personnel moves during his time in Minnesota, assigning each a grade. Karl-Anthony Towns‘ rookie scale extension received the highest marks of any transaction Thibodeau has overseen.
  • Speaking of Towns, Chris Herring of ESPN.com explored whether he and Andrew Wiggins are strong enough franchise cornerstones to make the Wolves a legit contender in the West once Butler departs.
  • Although he has started two of his last three outings for the Wolves, including last Wednesday’s 50-point game, Derrick Rose recently suggested that he’s aiming to win the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award this season, as Nick Fridell of ESPN.com writes. Rose, who has come off the bench in eight of his 10 games, is averaging 17.4 PPG, 4.6 APG, and 3.5 RPG.

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Butler, Morris, Sefolosha

The Timberwolves‘ roller coaster season took a new turn on Friday, with the team suffering a 30-point loss to the Bucks in front of their home crowd. Minnesota has been rocked by trade rumors centered around Jimmy Butler, who remains on the roster nearly six weeks after his trade request went public.

Despite the constant, sometimes nagging attention from media and fans, Wolves players have tried to keep their focus on handling business and business only.

“Me personally, I don’t care,” Gorgui Dieng said, according to Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “If they trade Jimmy, then they’re trading him. If they keep him here, then they keep him here. It’s not my decision, it’s not something that I have a voice [in]. Most important is just what’s important for the team, and what I can do to help this basketball team.”

The Wolves have opened the 2018/19 season with a 2-4 record, and discussions to trade Butler are ongoing. Butler scored just four points on 2-11 shooting in Friday’s game.

“No team is ever going to go through a perfect season unscathed,” Taj Gibson said. “Everybody has a story at the end of the year sometimes of triumph and sometimes falling down. We’re in a crazy situation, kind of difficult, but we have to push through it. That’s why we’re professionals.

“We have to go into every practice, into every game with a smile on your face and push yourself.”

Here are some other notes from the Northwest Division:

  • Andrew Wiggins discussed his relationship with Jimmy Butler last week, stating that he and Butler “have always been cool,” according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports (Twitter link). Wiggins also claims the infamous practice where Butler stormed the court and took on the Wolves’ starters was overblown (Twitter link).
  • The emergence of second-year player Monte Morris has greatly helped the Nuggets, who have jumped out to a 4-1 record this season, Mike Singer of The Denver Post contends. Morris is averaging 9.4 points in five games, providing depth in the backcourt with Isaiah Thomas still out to injury.
  • Jazz guard Thabo Sefolosha will be available to play Sunday against the Mavericks, according to Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News. Sefolosha served a five-game suspension this season for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy in April, and played just 38 games with the team last year.

Wolves Notes: Butler, Thibodeau, Towns, Wiggins

Timberwolves coach/executive Tom Thibodeau raised the asking price for Jimmy Butler in trade talks after last week’s infamous practice incident, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on today’s edition of “The Jump.” The ESPN scribe adds that Thibodeau feels like he came away victorious in his struggle with owner Glen Taylor because Butler remains on the team and will play in tonight’s opener.

“This is exactly what Tom Thibodeau wanted, which was him in the lineup on opening night,” Wojnarowski said. “The day that Jimmy came back and practiced, Thibs won. He waited out his owner, he waited out Jimmy, got him back on the court.”

He adds that Minnesota still hasn’t gotten serious about trading Butler and continues to ask for returns that it knows teams won’t agree to. Woj doesn’t expect the situation to change until closer to the trade deadline in February, when he says some teams that have been involved in trade talks will “circle back” to see if the Wolves have become more realistic.

There’s more today out of Minnesota:

  • Thibodeau isn’t concerned about team chemistry despite the surreal preseason and lingering rumors from last year of locker room disharmony, relays Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Thibodeau contends the bond that players have is reflected by their performance on the court. “That’s how you measure chemistry. When guys are playing together, how do they play with each other? Do they play effectively?” he said. “That’s what was so encouraging to me about what we did last year. The starters were a very dynamic group. To be third in offense and seventh in defense and the record we had when everyone was healthy (37-22) was terrific. And we want to build off of that.”
  • Karl-Anthony Towns has the talent to be considered the second-best player in franchise history after Kevin Garnett, but he may not reach his potential until Butler is gone, suggests Jim Souhan of The Star-Tribune. Towns has been targeted frequently by Butler because of a passive attitude, and Souhan believes the best outcome is a trade that leaves Towns as the team’s unquestioned on-court leader.
  • A Star-Tribune panel debates whether Andrew Wiggins can blossom into the player the Wolves hoped when they gave him a five-year, $148MM extension. That new deal kicks in this year, and there are concerns that he might never be more than an inefficient scorer.

Wolves Updates: Practice, Butler, Towns, Jones

After a Wednesday practice session that figures to go down as one of the notorious NBA scrimmages of the decade, the Timberwolves have cancelled their Thursday practice, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link).

As Krawczynski observes (via Twitter), head coach Tom Thibodeau complained just last week that the preseason schedule didn’t allow for much practice time for a Timberwolves team that desperately needed it. So the cancellation today is probably more about avoiding another media circus than anything else. After all, following Wednesday’s performance, Jimmy Butler told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that he planned on being back at practice on Thursday.

Here’s more out of Minnesota, with several notes on the Butler situation:

  • Within his conversation with Nichols, Butler confirmed much of the recent reporting on his situation, acknowledging that he wanted the Timberwolves to renegotiate his contract in the offseason and indicating that he believed he made it clear long before September 19 that he wanted out of Minnesota.
  • According to Jon Krawczynski and Shams Charania of The Athletic, Butler’s return to practice played out just like he frequently promised Thibodeau and owner Glen Taylor it would if they didn’t trade him. The Athletic duo reports that Butler also made it clear he wanted to sit down and discuss a handful of issues with Karl-Anthony Towns in the hopes of challenging Towns to be upfront and honest. It’s not clear whether that meeting has happened or will happen.
  • While Butler claimed that Towns started the trash talk in practice, others in the gym disagreed with that assessment, per Krawczynski and Charania.
  • Here’s what Butler told Nichols about Towns: “Am I being tough on him? Yeah! Yeah, that’s who I am. I’m not the most talented player. Who’s the most talented player on our team? KAT. Who’s the most god-gifted player on our team? Wigs (Andrew Wiggins). Wigs got the longest arms, the biggest hands, can jump the highest, can run the fastest. But who plays the hardest? Me. I play hard. I play really hard. I put my body on the line every damn practice. Every day in the games. That’s my passion. That’s how I give to the game. That’s how I give to you guys.”
  • The reactions to Butler’s performance in practice were mixed, according to Krawczynski and Charania, who suggested some players laughed and enjoyed it, while others in the building were concerned, wondering how Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden could stand for Butler’s conduct. ESPN analyst Stan Van Gundy said on SportsCenter (video link) that he heard from some members of the organization that it was the team’s best practice of the fall, which suggests Thibodeau and Layden weren’t bothered by it.
  • In non-Butler news, the Timberwolves have yet to have any contract extension talks with backup point guard Tyus Jones, per Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN (Twitter link). If the two sides don’t work out a new deal by Monday, Jones will be on track for restricted free agency in 2019.

Latest On Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler gave a first-hand account of his return to Timberwolves practice and offered his perspective on the standoff with team management in an interview with Rachel Nichols of ESPN’s “The Jump.” (Twitter link)

Butler describes an exchange with Karl-Anthony Towns during today’s drills. Towns allegedly quipped, “Anybody can get this work,” when they were matched up, and Butler responded with the challenge, “Do it to me” and “Every time I get switched out onto you, you pass it.”

Later in the interview, in an exchange tweeted by Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune, Nichols asked Butler if his presence at practice is a sign that the situation is improving. “I think people think that,” he responded. “I would think that, too. It’s not. It’s not fixed.” He suggested it “could be” fixable, but added, “Do I think so? No. You’ve got to be honest.”

Butler also defended his actions at today’s session, saying, “A lot of it is true. But you got to think I haven’t played basketball in so long and I’m so passionate. I love the game… All my emotion came out at once. Was it the right way to do it? No, but I can’t control it when I’m out there competing.” (Twitter link).

There’s more news to pass along on the Butler situation:

  • Butler sent a message to teammates and the front office by joining forces with third-string players and defeating the starters in today’s scrimmage, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Woj adds that some of the Wolves were “energized” by Butler’s performance and that he followed it by marching out of the gym as though he was doing a “mic drop.”
  • Butler spent much of the practice on a profanity-laced tirade, mostly aimed at Towns, Andrew Wiggins, coach/executive Tom Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Butler taunted Towns and Wiggins by yelling, “They soft” as he faced them in the scrimmage. Neither player confronted him for his actions. Haynes adds that Butler has warned team officials in the past that he might find ways to express his displeasure if his trade request isn’t met.
  • The organization has reacted poorly ever since Butler made his trade demand three weeks ago, argues Britt Robson of The Athletic in a roundtable discussion. Robson contends the best response would have been to trade Butler quickly and start rebuilding the team around Towns and Wiggins. Instead, Thibodeau and Layden publicly expressed a desire to work things out with Butler and dragged their feet on numerous trade offers. Robson also blasts Towns and Wiggins for not playing with more desire in an effort to prove that Butler is wrong about them.

Latest On Jimmy Butler

The Timberwolves appear as if they are preparing to start the season with Jimmy Butler on the roster despite the fact that the four-time All-Star has reiterated his desire to be traded. Butler maintains his stance even after the organization made numerous attempts to convince him to stay.

Heavy negotiations between the Heat and Wolves broke down yet again this week with Miami’s latest offer not satisfying Minnesota’s front office. The Heat’s proposal was a package headlined by Josh Richardson and a protected first-round pick, as Marc Stein of The New York Times reports in his weekly newsletter. Stein doesn’t provide full details on that offer, but based on Miami’s reported interest in moving Dion Waiters, it wouldn’t be surprising if he was also included for salary-matching purposes.

Here’s more on Butler and the Wolves:

  • Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden have been known as one of the most difficult front offices to negotiate with over the past two years, agents and executives within the league tell Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. That has continued to be the case with teams attempting to nab Butler. Rivals have been willing to undergo “unconventional” negotiations because of Butler’s talent, Krawczynski explains, adding that if Butler weren’t a franchise talent, rival organizations would simply hang up the phone and not deal with the Thibs/Layden duo.
  • According to Krawczynski, the Timberwolves are still talking with teams about a potential deal and talks with Miami are expected to resume this week.
  • Should Minnesota hold onto Butler through opening night, he is unlikely to sit out and forfeit game checks. Butler was in Los Angeles when the Wolves faced the Clippers last week and he dined with several current teammates. While some players have said Butler would be welcomed back on the team, Krawczynski notes that it would no doubt add to the club’s chemistry issues.
  • Thibodeau would welcome Butler back unconditionally should he warm up to the idea of playing out the season in Minnesota even though he could leave for nothing next summer, Stein reports in the aforementioned newsletter. Thibs also isn’t concerned about how uncomfortable the situation might get between Butler and the team’s young stars (Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins). Butler’s “chilly” relationships with Towns and Wiggins are said to be high on the list of reasons why Butler wants out, per Stein.
  • The Heat, Clippers, Sixers, Nets have all reportedly had negotiations with the Timberwolves for Butler. Stein contends that Miami’s package headlined by Richardson and a protected first-rounder is likely the best-case scenario for Minnesota, given the circumstances. Stein believes that deal allows the Wolves to recoup a good portion of the value they gave up (Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and the draft pick that became Lauri Markkanen) to bring aboard Butler in the first place.

Wolves Notes: Butler, Thibodeau, Wiggins

The Timberwolves have yet to move All-Star shooting guard Jimmy Butler in a trade, keeping a distraction on their roster one game into the preseason and almost a week after the team’s media day. Butler requested a trade in early September after spending just one season with the team, with head coach Tom Thibodeau now focused on making sure his players don’t get distracted.

“That’s the NBA. That’s part of everyone’s job,” Thibodeau said, according to Chris Hine of the Star Tribune. “Don’t allow yourself to be distracted. You have to be focused on what your job is. My job is to do what’s best for the Timberwolves and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Minnesota’s asking price for Butler is said to be steep, with the team reportedly seeking quality veterans, future assets and cap relief. The idea of losing Butler, a longtime teammate of Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, and other members of the Timberwolves, could make for a period of adjustment in the coming weeks.

“That’s part of being a pro,” Thibodeau said. “So in this league there could be distractions every day if you allow it, so it’s important to understand how to approach your job and I think we have a good mix of veterans who have been through it and they understand how important training camp is and getting ready for the season.”

There’s more from the Timberwolves:

Jimmy Butler Rumors: Dieng, Clippers, Bucks, More

The early trade market for Jimmy Butler is “confused and cool” as teams contemplate the risk of trading for the All-Star wing, according to Zach Lowe, who takes a deep dive into the Butler situation his his latest piece for ESPN.com. The 29-year-old’s reported desire for a five-year contract that could be worth in the neighborhood of $190MM may make some potential suitors back off, though those teams could also be posturing in the early going, Lowe notes.

One of the most interesting tidbits that Lowe passes along in his article is on the Timberwolves‘ desire to include Gorgui Dieng in a deal if they decide to move Butler. Lowe is skeptical that any prospective trade partners will be eager to take on Dieng, who still has three years and over $48MM left on his contract.

Here’s more from Lowe and others on Butler and the Wolves:

  • It would be “shocking” if the Clippers were willing to offer rookie guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in any package for Butler, sources tell Lowe. In fact, there has been no indication that the Clips haven’t acted aggressively – or much at all – on Butler so far.
  • The Bucks placed a courtesy call to the Timberwolves asking to be kept in the loop if the team gets serious about moving Butler. Still, Lowe doesn’t view Milwaukee as a fit, observing that Khris Middleton would probably have to be included. The Bucks would likely have a better chance next summer to re-sign Middleton than Butler.
  • After reporting earlier today that the Timberwolves are telling teams Butler’s not available, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has updated his story to suggest that opposing clubs believe the “fastest avenue” to negotiating a trade is to engage owner Glen Taylor, rather than Tom Thibodeau. Thibodeau is less inclined to part with Butler, but Taylor has stepped in on this sort of matter in the past, overseeing trades involving Kevin Garnett and Kevin Love.
  • In the wake of Butler’s trade request, initial reports suggested his desire to leave Minnesota was motivated more by “contractual matters” than any discord with Karl-Anthony Towns or Andrew Wiggins. A source in Butler’s camp who spoke to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times disputes that notion, suggesting it was “manufactured” by “ownership mouthpieces” to make Butler look bad. “According to the source, this is about a philosophy in making an impact in the Western Conference,” Cowley writes. “In Butler’s mind you can’t run down a dynasty like Golden State when two of the so-called dogs in the pack are in fact kittens.” Presumably, that’s a reference to Towns and Wiggins.