Jimmy Butler

Wolves Rumors: Butler, Bjelica, Gibson, Rose

Jimmy Butler offered an update on his medical condition at a press conference before tonight’s game. Butler, who had surgery last month for a torn right meniscus, said there’s no projected date for his return, but he hopes to play before the end of the regular season.

“I’m excited at my progression because I know how close I am to returning back to the floor with my guys,” he says in a video tweeted by KSTP Sports. “I have a little bit of [recovery] time left, but I know my guys are going to stick this thing out and do what they’ve been doing. Keep us in that race, and when I come back we’ll see what we have left in the tank.”

There’s more news out of Minnesota:

  • Butler’s injury has provided an opportunity for Nemanja Bjelica, who is increasing his value on the free agent market with his recent performance, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Bjelica was averaging just nine minutes per game before the All-Star break, but has topped 40 minutes three times in March. “To be hon­est, I just try to play as good and hard as I can and at the end of the day, ev­er­y­bod­y will be fine,” Bjelica, who will be a restricted free agent, said about the possibility of staying in Minnesota. “I’m hap­py here. My fam­i­ly is hap­py. Some­times I hate Jan­u­ar­y be­cause it’s so cold, but I kind of got used to it.”
  • Also taking on a heavy workload is veteran forward Taj Gibson, Zgoda notes in a separate story. In his first season with the Wolves after signing as a free agent last summer, Gibson is averaging 33.5 minutes per night, roughly five minutes more than his career peak set four seasons ago. The 32-year-old said he doesn’t mind the extra work. “Life is too short to be holding back,” Gibson said. “I go out there and lay it on the line, just do what I got to do. When I come off the court, I don’t want to have any regrets when I go home. I don’t worry about minutes or how much I play.”
  • Historical trends are working against Derrick Rose ever being an effective player again, according to Zach Kram of The Ringer. His study finds that a small percentage of guards who have made an All-NBA team are ever able to raise their level of play after their first below-average season.

Northwest Notes: Exum, Blazers, Grant, Butler

With Dante Exum just about ready to make his 2017/18 debut, Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune takes a look at what the Jazz should expect from the former No. 5 pick down the stretch. While Exum’s role will likely hinge on how he plays in his first couple games back, he has looked good in practice, according to head coach Quin Snyder (link via Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News).

As Jones notes, Utah could initially have Exum share ball-handling duties with Donovan Mitchell or Joe Ingles when he’s on the court if he’s not 100% ready to run the team’s offense. However, all indications are that the Jazz have confidence in the fourth-year guard and view him as a piece of their future.

Exum will be eligible for restricted free agency this offseason, and given how injuries have hampered his development, a big-time payday seems unlikely. That could work out well for the Jazz, who “certainly” would like to keep him on the roster long-term, writes Jones.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • After signing Wade Baldwin to a rest-of-season contract earlier this week, the Trail Blazers remain $232K below the luxury tax line, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). That means Portland can fill its 15th roster spot with another veteran without becoming a taxpaying team, which is good news if the Blazers want to add depth for the postseason.
  • In his second season with the Thunder, Jerami Grant has been able to focus on his close-range game rather than being relied upon to space the floor. As Erik Horne of The Oklahoman details, Grant is enjoying his best offensive season as a result, averaging 10.6 PPG on .576/.355/.605 shooting since Andre Roberson went down in January. The 24-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent for the first time this summer, so he has shown signs of improvement at the right moment.
  • Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau said that Jimmy Butler is “moving along pretty well” in his rehabilitation from knee surgery, according to Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Minnesota’s star forward isn’t jumping yet, but has been running on an antigravity treadmill, Zgoda adds. A February report on Butler’s recovery timetable estimated that he’d miss four to six weeks — we’ll reach the three-week mark this Sunday.

Northwest Notes: Jokic, Brewer, Millsap, Butler

Nikola Jokic‘s offensive production has dropped dramatically over the last three games, coinciding with the return of Paul Millsap from a wrist injury. Nuggets coach Michael Malone told reporters, including the Denver Post’s Gina Mizell, that his offense still revolves around his center. Jokic has averaged 12 PPG and while committing 12 turnovers over the last three games. “Nikola is still the focal point of our offense,” Malone said. “I don’t want Nikola thinking that he has to play second fiddle to anyone. … I want him to shoot the ball more and be more aggressive.”

In other developments around the Northwest Division:

  • Playing time, and the possibility of a starting role, led to Corey Brewer‘s decision to join the Thunder, Eric Horne of the The Oklahoman reports. “I didn’t feel like I could really pass that up,” Brewer told Horne.  Brewer played 12 scoreless minutes in his Oklahoma City debut on Saturday after being bought out by the Lakers and agreeing to terms with the Thunder. He reportedly also drew interest from the Wizards, Cavaliers and Bucks. The Thunder have sought help at shooting guard since Andre Roberson went down with a season-ending knee injury in late January.
  • Millsap hasn’t played more than 27 minutes in his first three games back but Malone said his workload will increase very soon, Chris Dempsey of Nuggets.com tweets. Millsap scored 11 points in 26 minutes against the Cavaliers on Saturday.
  • The Timberwolves are 2-2 in the first four games without Jimmy Butler and their defense, in particular, has suffered without him, as Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune details. Metrics show that the Timberwolves have the 11th-best defensive rating with Butler on the court. When he’s not playing, their defensive rating is the worst in the league. Butler is recovering from knee surgery.  “Jimmy always guards the best perimeter player,” veteran guard Jamal Crawford noted to Hine.
  • There was skepticism when the Jazz signed Joe Ingles a four-year, $52MM contract last summer but it’s proving to be a bargain, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Advanced metrics rate Ingles as one of the league’s top 10 small forwards this season and the intangibles he brings add to his value, as coach Quin Snyder told MacMahon. “There just hasn’t been anything that he’s not willing to do for the team,” Snyder said. “That’s where he’s found his game. He’s found his game making the team better when he’s on the floor.”

Northwest Notes: Teague, Butler, Shabazz, Millsap

If the Timberwolves want to continue their winning ways while All-Star Jimmy Butler is sidelined, point guard Jeff Teague must continue to play with pace and aggression, opines Britt Robson of The Athletic Minnesota.

Despite an apparent tendency and preference to let his teammates get involved as playmakers, Teague no longer has that luxury, at least for the time being, with Butler out of the equation. Teague must also continue to push the pace of play, as he has done in the team’s last two games.

In fact, in the team’s first full game since Butler’s injury, Minnesota launched a season-high 35 three pointers, primarily a product of Teague’s ability to  get into the half-court offense quickly, beat defenders off the dribble, and present a viable threat to score at the rim or kick it out to the perimeter for a shot or extra pass.

As head coach Tom Thibodeau described, “We have to make sure we get to the right spots so we can get that pass out. And once you get that pass out, usually the second pass will get you a great shot.” 

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves‘ reserve guard Shabazz Muhammad is not likely to be bought out after all, tweets Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune. When asked about the possibility, Thibodeau simply said, “Nope, we like the team we have.”
  • In a piece for The Athletic Minnesota, Jon Krawczynski details Butler’s decision to have surgery on his damaged right meniscus. Fortunately for Butler and the Timberwolves, the procedure was neither a major repair nor a removal, and the hope is that he will be able to return to action without facing some of the long-term risks involved with removal.
  • With last night’s loss to the Clippers, the Nuggets have fallen to ninth place in the Western Conference, percentage points behind the Clippers, who now also own the the head-to-head tiebreaker between the two teams. Part of the problem recently is Denver’s defense, reports Gina Mizell of The Denver Post. Head coach Mike Malone is particularly frustrated, saying the recent struggles defensively have left him “questioning (his) whole being as a coach.”
  • In brighter news for the Nuggets, forward Paul Millsap played last night for the first time since he injured his left wrist on Nov. 19.

Central Notes: Griffin, Jackson, Butler, Gudaitis

While the Pistons remain within striking distance of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, privately the organization’s focus is on the 2018/19 season, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press writes. Most of the Pistons’ remaining schedule is on the road and Detroit hasn’t played well as the visiting team.

The Pistons acquired All-Star Blake Griffin from the Clippers before the deadline, a move that signaled a late attempt to keep battling for the postseason. Realistically, Griffin was acquired as a future piece to help the team contend beyond this season. However, whether or not the team can make a competitive run to end the season likely hinges on Reggie Jackson. Jackson is nearing a return from an ankle sprain.

“He is progressing, we’re hopeful those practices before the West Coast trip that we’ll get him back,” head coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I think anything earlier than that would be an unexpected bonus.”

Check out other Central Division notes below:

  • Speaking of Jackson’s return, this past Monday marked two months since he last played in an NBA game. If he does practice prior to the West Coast trip, and it goes off without a hitch, the Pistons can expect Jackson back by mid-March, Rod Beard of the Detroit News writes.
  • When Jimmy Butler collapsed with a meniscus injury last Friday, it evoked bad memories for his former coach Fred Hoiberg and recent torn ACL returnee Zach LaVine, Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago writes. LaVine tore his ACL last season and returned a few weeks ago; Hoiberg saw Butler suffer a similar injury that only cost him a few weeks in his first season as Bulls coach. Butler underwent surgery and will be sidelined for four to six weeks.
  • Cavaliers draft-and-stash player Arturas Gudaitis recently signed an extension with Olimpia Milano until 2021, per Sportando. However, Gudaitis, who was acquired in a three-team deal with the Kings and Jazz, holds NBA opt-outs in both 2019 and 2020 worth $650K.

Jimmy Butler Undergoes Surgery On Torn Meniscus

Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler underwent successful surgery on his torn right meniscus, the team’s PR department tweets. No timetable for Butler’s recovery is available and he will be sidelined indefinitely.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweeted that Butler may be sidelined for four to six weeks after the surgery. The hope is for Butler to be healthy in time for the postseason.

We noted yesterday that surgery was an option for Butler, who suffered the injury on a non-contact play in Friday’s loss to the Rockets. Butler reportedly received a second opinion before he went under the knife.

Butler, 28, has played a pivotal role in Minnesota’s ascension in the Western Conference this season. In 58 games, he averaged 22.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 5.0 APG and anchored Minnesota’s defense. He leads the league with 37.5 minutes per contest.

The Timberwolves hold third place in the West with a 37-26 record. However, there is just a 2.5-game difference between the Timberwolves and the eighth-place Pelicans. Losing Butler for the remainder of the regular season will test Minnesota’s ability to stay in the postseason picture.

Butler May Have Surgery, Hopes To Return For Playoffs

8:04pm: Butler will get a second opinion on his knee before committing to surgery, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. He will see another doctor tomorrow.

FEBRUARY 24, 6:57pm: Jimmy Butler plans to undergo surgery for his torn right meniscus and could be ready to play again in four to six weeks, tweets Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports. A formal timetable for his return will be set after the operation.

Butler suffered the injury in Friday night’s game in Houston. X-rays came back negative, but an MRI conducted today showed the full scope of the damage. The Timberwolves put out a statement this afternoon calling it a “meniscal injury,” but it was later revealed to be a tear.

Since being acquired from the Bulls in an offseason trade, Butler has played a key role in Minnesota’s rise to the top of the Northwest Division, averaging 22.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game, while serving as the linchpin of the defense.

There are fewer than seven weeks remaining in the regular season, so Butler could return in time for the playoffs if everything goes well with the operation. Of course, qualifying without Butler won’t be easy. The Wolves, who in a 13-year playoff drought, are in fourth place in the West at 36-26, but are just one game ahead of the ninth-place Clippers in the loss column.

Northwest Notes: Butler, Anthony, Millsap, Jazz

In the wake of Jimmy Butler‘s meniscus injury, the Timberwolves find themselves in a worse position than their Western Conference rivals who have lost star players, writes Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated. With the trade deadline already passed, Minnesota has few options to replace Butler if he is sidelined for several weeks or the rest of the season.

The Grizzlies lost Mike Conley early in the season and started pointing toward next year before Christmas arrived. Rudy Gobert of the Jazz and Paul Millsap of the Nuggets both had time to heal before the stretch run. The Pelicans were able to deal for Nikola Mirotic when DeMarcus Cousins got injured. The Spurs have a successful foundation to fall back on without Kawhi Leonard.

None of those benefits are available to the Wolves, who are trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Coach Tom Thibodeau has relied heavily on Butler on both ends of the court since acquiring him from the Bulls in an offseason trade. Butler ranks second in the league in minutes per game at 37.1 and is the key to a defense that becomes the NBA’s worst without him on the court.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Some tears can’t be fixed surgically, meaning the meniscus has to be removed, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. That leads to a faster recovery, adds Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link), but it has become less popular since Dwyane Wade had it done and blames it for his ongoing knee pain.
  • Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony is enjoying himself away from the stress that marked most of his time in New York, relays Tim Keown of ESPN. Anthony’s tenure with the Knicks was marked by disappointing results and a long public feud with team president Phil Jackson. “In New York, there was so much going on with the organization and the city,” Anthony said. “It was very tense up there, and you never really get a chance to have stability there. Here, man, I’m having fun with the game again. The joy of it — that’s what guys know me as: laughing and smiling and enjoying the game. I think over the past couple of years I’ve lost that, and I think guys around the league have seen it.”
  • After climbing to sixth in the Western standings, the Nuggets face the challenge of incorporating two injured players back into their rotation, writes Nick Kosmider of The Denver Post. Mason Plumlee returned to the lineup Friday, and Millsap is expected back soon. “It’s just great to have those guys back,” said coach Michael Malone. “We’ll figure out who plays and when they play, but being healthy with 24 games to go [is] a good thing to be.”
  • The Jazz, who haven’t hosted an All-Star Game in 25 years, have submitted a formal bid to bring the game to Utah in 2022 or 2023, according to Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News.

Jimmy Butler Suffers Meniscal Injury

4:50pm: The injury is a meniscus tear and Butler is deciding among several options for treatment, tweets Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.

FEBRUARY 24, 3:47pm: The team has reported that an MRI taken this afternoon revealed a meniscal injury and that more detailed updates as to Butler’s progress will be issued when more information becomes available.

FEBRUARY 23: Jimmy Butler will undergo an MRI on Saturday for a right knee injury that he sustained in the third quarter of the Timberwolves‘ 120-102 loss to the Rockets on Friday, according to the team’s PR department.

Butler underwent X-rays after tonight’s contest, which returned negative, tweets Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports. There is some optimism out of Butler’s camp that he might have avoided a torn ACL, David Aldridge of NBA.com tweets.

With 3:25 left in the third, Butler grabbed an offensive rebound and collapsed to the hardwood after his right knee buckled. Butler was helped off the court by teammates and was not able to put pressure on his injured leg.

Butler, 28, has averaged 22.4 PPG and 5.5 RPG in 55 games this season. He is shooting the ball at a career-best .476% clip and leads the league with 37.5 minutes per game. He was selected as a 2018 NBA All-Star, but sat out the game to rest.

The severity of Butler’s injury is unclear, but Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis recently suffered a torn ACL as his left knee buckled and forced him to the hardwood in obvious pain.

Needless to say, a season-ending injury to Butler would hamper the Timberwolves’ championship aspirations. Minnesota currently owns fourth place in the Western Conference.

Northwest Notes: George, Schedules, Rose

As we’ve already touched upon, fans in Los Angeles who hope to see Paul George don a Lakers uniform next season serenaded the five-time All-Star with chants during this past weekend’s All-Star festivities. And while Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook would obviously like to see George remain in Oklahoma City, the speculation about George’s future likely won’t stop until a decision is made this summer, writes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman.

George, who is scheduled to make $20.7MM next year on the final season of his current contract, has the ability to opt out and become a free agent this summer. Doing so would afford him the chance to make upwards of $30MM next season in the first year of his new contract, whether it be with the Thunder or another team.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reports that while some NBA executives still feel that George is drawn by Los Angeles and will leave unless the Thunder reach the NBA Finals, others have become increasingly skeptical that he’ll depart Oklahoma City. Regardless of what happens, George says he wants wherever he ends up to be a long-term commitment.

“I’m not looking to bounce around and play for multiple teams throughout my career,” George said. “The decision I make will ultimately be to build something. So, this next decision, whatever it is, is to make sure I’m there for a duration.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Some members of the Timberwolves believe that the new NBA schedule, implemented this season to reduce the number of back-to-back games and ensure teams now don’t play four games in five nights, is actually making the season feel longer, reports Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune. “You can tell there’s a big difference,” says Taj Gibson. “A lot of guys are getting hurt. The fatigue is there.”
  • The Jazz, on the other hand, have one of the most favorable slates in the whole league going forward after drudging through a 5-10 December that saw them play the toughest schedule in the NBA. And Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News opines that the favorable schedule could see Utah, now 10th in the Western Conference standings, move as high as the No. 5 spot by the time the playoffs roll around.
  • In another article for the Star Tribune, Zgoda writes that Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler, while a fan of free agent guard and former teammate Derrick Rose, will not try to influence the team to sign Rose. “That’s not my job,” Butler said. “Is he a hell of a player? Yeah. But that’s up to Thibs and everybody else to figure if he has a place on this roster and this team. Obviously, I’ve played with him before. I know the talent he has. (But) It’s not my job to say.”