Andrew Wiggins

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.

Early Reactions, Notes On Leonard/DeRozan Trade

The highest-profile trade candidate of the 2018 NBA offseason finally appears to be on the move, as the Raptors and Spurs have reached an agreement in principle to swap Kawhi Leonard and DeMar DeRozan. The Spurs will also acquire Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick, sending out Danny Green in the deal.

It’s a fascinating trade for a number of reasons, not least of which is the apparent distaste that each star has for it. DeRozan, who was reportedly recently informed by the Raptors that he wouldn’t be traded, published an early-morning Instagram story saying that there “ain’t no loyalty in this game,” and TNT’s David Aldridge (Twitter link) hears from a source that the longtime Raptor remains “extremely upset.” DeRozan isn’t backing off the claim that the team lied to him about a potential trade, Aldridge adds.

As for Leonard, his long-reported desire has been to return home to Los Angeles, so a move to Toronto represents just about the furthest thing possible from what he wanted. While it would be a surprise if he refuses to report to his new team, a long-term stay with the Raptors beyond the 2018/19 season will be a “very tough sell,” a source tells Aldridge (Twitter link),

Here’s more on the NBA’s latest blockbuster trade:

  • The Spurs are entering uncharted territory and facing an uncertain future, according to Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com, who relays a few interesting tidbits on the franchise and Leonard in his latest article.
  • Sources tell Wright that Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich “begged’ Leonard to let him announce to the media last season that the star forward wouldn’t be returning from his quadriceps injury, but Kawhi declined each time, believing he could still return. Leonard already “felt betrayed” by the club’s handling of his quad issue, and the uncertainty surrounding his absence and possible return didn’t help either side.
  • In a separate piece for ESPN.com, Wright breaks down the timeline of the Leonard saga, which started during the forward’s rehab process in the summer of 2017.
  • Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe passes along several initial thoughts on the deal, including the ripple effect the Raptors‘ acquisition of Leonard will have on other Eastern Conference contenders like the Celtics.
  • This isn’t the first time that the Raptors have looked into the possibility of moving DeRozan. According to Marc Stein of The New York Times, Toronto held exploratory discussions with the Timberwolves during the 2017 offseason about a deal that would have sent DeRozan to Minnesota and Andrew Wiggins to the Raptors. Those talks likely took place before Wiggins signed his five-year, maximum-salary extension.

Timberwolves Owner Talks Towns, Wiggins, FAs

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor confirmed last week that Jimmy Butler turned down the team’s contract extension offer, since he’ll have the ability to earn a much larger payday if he waits another year and signs as a free agent in 2019. In his conversation with Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN, Taylor also discussed several other topics, including a possible rookie scale extension for Karl-Anthony Towns.

According to Taylor, the Wolves have already put a maximum-salary offer on the table for Towns and there shouldn’t be much negotiating required. The club has until mid-October to finalize an extension with the former first overall pick, and Taylor sounds confident it’ll happen before then.

“I’m sure he’s going to sign it. It doesn’t really make that much difference to me when he does it,” Taylor said. “We haven’t put any deadline on it or anything like that. The offer’s out there. … I’m confident that we won’t have any problem with it.”

Here’s more from the Timberwolves’ owner:

  • According to Taylor, the Timberwolves aren’t interested in trading Andrew Wiggins at this point. The Wolves owner stressed that the franchise doesn’t want to “give up” on a player as young as Wiggins, who is still just 23. “A lot of players, it took them three or four years to get better and then they just keep getting better,” Taylor said. “I don’t see why Andrew won’t be one of those people, because he has such natural ability.”
  • The Timberwolves signed Anthony Tolliver because they didn’t want to wait on a decision from Nemanja Bjelica, who was seeking a two-year deal. Bjelica ultimately signed with Philadelphia for less than what Minnesota offered him, according to Taylor.
  • Asked about filling out the rest of the Timberwolves’ roster, Taylor acknowledged that minimum-salary signings are the most likely path for the club. “I got the list of who they’re talking to, and they’re not exactly [big-]name players,” Taylor said of the free agents his front office is targeting. “The names they have right now are a little younger, but they have some experience. [The front office] believes that they have the ability to improve.”
  • Taylor also noted that many of Minnesota’s free agent targets are strong defensively, adding that the team wants to improve its bench’s defensive numbers.
  • The Timberwolves owner downplayed the idea that there’s tension between Jimmy Butler and some of the Wolves’ other stars, suggesting that Butler “just wants to win” and wants to make sure that “people around him play really hard.”

Wolves Rumors: Butler, Wiggins, Jones, Dieng

Jimmy Butler will have the opportunity to opt out and sign a new contract with the Timberwolves a year from now, but Sean Deveney of The Sporting News hears from sources familiar with the situation that Butler is uncertain about playing alongside Andrew Wiggins in the long term. According to Deveney, Butler had issues last season related to Wiggins’ work ethic and defensive approach.

As Deveney details, head coach Tom Thibodeau has had similar gripes with Wiggins in the past, and had hoped that bringing in a “tough-minded” veteran like Butler would motivate the former No. 1 pick to improve. However, it didn’t seem to help much.

While the Wolves figure to explore the trade market for Wiggins this summer, it will be hard to find a viable deal with his five-year, maximum-salary contract set to take effect, Deveney notes.

Here’s more from Deveney on the Wolves:

  • Thibodeau’s use of his bench continues to be a source of friction in Minnesota, with Tyus Jones among the backups adversely affected. A source tells Deveney that Jeff Teague suggested to Thibodeau last season that Jones should play more.
  • According to Deveney, Jones considered requesting a trade out of Minnesota, but Thibodeau “reasserted his support” of the young guard following the season, assuring Jones that his role will increase next season even if Derrick Rose is re-signed, due to the presumed departure of Jamal Crawford.
  • While the Wolves don’t appear likely to move Jones, they’ll look to deal highly-priced backup Gorgui Dieng, per Deveney.
  • I touched on several of these topics earlier this week in my preview of the Timberwolves’ offseason.

Canada Basketball Unveils 18 Training Camp Invites

Canada Basketball has announced its preliminary 18-man roster of players who have been invited to participate in training camp and exhibition play ahead of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers next month, reports Josh Lewenberg of The Sports Network.

Among the 18 named individuals, eight played in the NBA last season – Khem Birch (Magic), Chris Boucher (Warriors), Dillon Brooks (Grizzlies), Cory Joseph (Pacers), Jamal Murray (Nuggets), Kelly Olynyk (Heat), Dwight Powell (Mavericks), and Tristan Thompson (Cavaliers).

The preliminary roster also includes former No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett, as well as three other G League players – Aaron BestOlivier Hanlan, and Kaza Kajami-Keane.

The remaining six players are former first-round pick of the Magic, Andrew Nicholsonformer college standouts’ Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim, Baylor’s Brady Heslip, and Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos, as well as brothers Phil Scrubb and Tommy Scrubb.

As also highlighted by Lewenberg, notable absences include Trey Lyles (Nuggets), Nik Stauskas (Nets), and most glaringly, Andrew Wiggins (Timberwolves). Per Lewenberg, multiple sources indicated that one factor in Wiggins’ decision to decline Canada Basketball’s invitation is his strained relationship with national team head coach Jay Triano, who left Wiggins on the bench during the final moments of a qualifying game for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.