Tom Thibodeau

Thibodeau On Butler Trade: “We Had To Be Patient”

In his first comments since the Jimmy Butler trade became official, Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau addressed the organization’s decision to deal its superstar.

Speaking to reporters, including ESPN’s Malika Andrews, Thibodeau said that Minnesota pondered several offers for Butler. The Timberwolves felt the return from Philadelphia was the best of the bunch and that’s when the decision was made.

“We knew we had to be patient,” Thibodeau said. “We felt we had a few offers that were good. So once we got offers to the point where we felt good about what the offers were, we thought this was the best one for us. So we executed.”

After nearly two months of trade rumors and drama, the Timberwolves dealt Butler and center Justin Patton to Philadelphia for a package of Robert CovingtonDario SaricJerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick.

As we relayed earlier today, Minnesota considered trade packages from the Rockets and Pelicans before accepting the Sixers’ offer. The Nets were also reportedly involved in discussions but were not a serious suitor for the four-time All-Star.

Woj’s Latest: Butler, Timberwolves, Thibodeau

In a piece regarding the final days of the Jimmy Butler saga in Minnesota, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN provides a closer look into the Timberwolves‘ front office and the back-and-forth that went down before the trade was finally completed. Let’s dive into some of the highlights he provides:

  • Tom Thibodeau sold Timberwolves‘ owner Glen Taylor on passing on the initial offer from the Heat centered around Josh Richardson because he believed that Pat Riley would come back with a better offer down the road (the Heat never returned with Richardson on the table in subsequent trade talks).
  • Taylor considered firing Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden this past summer before the Butler saga broke out and continues to think about the possibility of replacing both of them.
  • According to Woj, the Timberwolves desperately tried to find other trade partners throughout the past week, including reaching out to the Pelicans and Wizards, to no avail. The Wolves actually had “extensive” discussions with the Pels, but New Orleans wouldn’t offer Jrue Holiday or multiple draft picks. Washington, meanwhile wouldn’t offer Bradley Beal, which comes as no surprise.
  • The Sixers initially offered the Timberwolves their choice of Robert Covington and Dario Saric in an offer for Butler before eventually agreeing to include both players.
  • The Sixers believe they are operating out of a position of leverage when it comes to dealings with Butler. According to Woj, there are league executives that understand that Butler must be on his best behavior in order to get the full five-year max contract he desires this summer.

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.

Behind The Scenes Of The Jimmy Butler Trade

After two months of trying to make a dysfunctional situation work with Jimmy Butler, the Timberwolves finally reached their breaking point after an 0-5 road trip, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

A combination of losing, economic concerns and the stress of not knowing from game to game if Butler was going to be available became too much for team officials. The Wolves, who left home with a .500 record but returned at 4-9, were worn down by the pressure that Butler has been applying since making his trade request two months ago.

Sources tell Krawczynski that coach/executive Tom Thibodeau, who had been resisting a trade while trying to convince Butler to stay, informed his coaching staff after the latest loss that a deal had to be made. Owner Glen Taylor stepped in Saturday and finalized the trade with the Sixers.

Minnesota had three offers to consider before pulling the trigger on the package that brought Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick from Philadelphia in exchange for Butler and injured center Justin Patton. Philadelphia made its latest offer on Wednesday, resuming discussions after a disappointing start to the season. The Rockets, who offered four first-round picks, never stopped pursuing Butler, while the Heat remained steadfast in their refusal to include Josh Richardson in any deal.

The schedule also factored into the timing of the Butler deal, Krawczynski adds. Attendance has plummeted as Wolves fans have grown tired of watching their team feud with its star player. The organization has been offering discounted ticket packages, but with 10 of its next 12 games at home, management wanted to resolve the situation to get paying customers back on their side.

There was also concern about the effect that the precedent that was being set for Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and any other young players who will eventually be free agents. Butler has been allowed to set the terms of the dispute without consequence, whether through provocative public statements about teammates and the front office, well-publicized confrontations at his first practice and day-to-day decisions on whether “general soreness” would keep him out of the lineup.

Players had grown tired of answering questions about Butler after every game, Krawczynski reports, and the situation had become too much of a distraction to continue. The Wolves finally decided the cumulative effect of dealing with Butler was too much and sent him away less than 18 months after he arrived.

Rockets Aggressively Pursuing Butler Deal

The Rockets have put together numerous packages in an attempt to acquire Timberwolves swingman Jimmy Butler but Minnesota coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau has taken a hard and somewhat confusing stance on all potential deals, Kelly Iko of The Athletic reports.

Houston is intent on prying Butler away from the Timberwolves to strengthen its porous defense and give it another special talent to combat the star-powered Warriors. Minnesota is intent on dumping Gorgui Dieng‘s four-year, $62.8MM contract, which still has two more fully guaranteed years remaining, in any deal involving Butler, Iko continues. In general, the Timberwolves are treating negotiations as if they were dealing a difference-maker locked into a long-term contract rather than one who wants out and can opt out after the season.

With the Rockets already dealing with luxury-tax issues, absorbing Dieng’s contract would be virtually impossible. In the earlier stages of negotiations, the Rockets made inquiries to as many as six teams in the hope of involving a third party to facilitate a deal but failed to find a partner, according to Iko.

That’s when the Rockets decided to offer up to four future first-round picks for Butler, in all likelihood their first-rounders in 2019, 2021, 2023 and 2025. The reasoning behind that was to entice the Timberwolves to make the deal without Dieng.

The proposal would have allowed Minnesota to pursue a separate deal packaging Dieng and a pick or two to shed his salary. Even though it was willing to mortgage the future in a bid to win the title this season, Houston wasn’t confident that reported offer would get Thibodeau to soften his stance, Iko adds.

The Rockets have a couple of minor trade exceptions — one for $1.545MM and another for $2.85MM — but nothing substantial to help absorb the approximate $35.5MM in combined salaries of Butler and Dieng.

Wolves Demanding Eric Gordon From Rockets

The Rocketslatest attempt to get Jimmy Butler from the Timberwolves by offering Brandon Knight, Marquese Chriss and four first-round picks is a non-starter, according to Malika Andrews of ESPN, who hears from sources that Minnesota won’t consider any deal that doesn’t include Eric Gordon.

Coach Tom Thibodeau is focused on returning to the playoffs and wants a trade that will benefit the team right away. Knight and Chriss are both injured and neither has been effective over the past two seasons in Phoenix. Thibodeau still has three years and $24MM left on his contract, but there have been rumors that his job may be in jeopardy if the Wolves commit to a full rebuilding project.

Plan A for Thibodeau is to hold onto Butler for as long as possible — possibly until February’s trade deadline — to help with the playoff push, Andrews adds. However, the team is off to a 2-4 start, including a 30-point loss last night to the Bucks, so that strategy isn’t off to a great start.

Butler, who started the process with a trade request last month, has received assurances from owner Glen Taylor that the team will continue to pursue a deal, according to Andrews, who hears from sources that another serious effort will be made about 10 to 15 games into the season.

Taylor has put GM Scott Layden in charge of working out a trade while Thibodeau coaches the team. The Heat and Sixers remain interested and Taylor has been hoping both teams will consider increasing their offers.

“I don’t consider anything drama,” Butler told reporters after a season-low four-point performance Friday. “I consider it business.”

Northwest Notes: Nuggets’ D, Rose, Thunder

Despite scoring being at a near-all-time high early on this NBA season, one team has still been able to hold every one of its opponents to less than 100 points in each game played thus far – the Nuggets.  And while one may not think of the up-and-coming Nuggets as a defensive juggernaut just yet, head coach Michael Malone is a defensive guy at his core, writes Christopher Dempsey of Nuggets.com.

Yes, it’s awfully early to make any long lasting conclusions about a team’s defensive prowess this season, but Malone is excited about the potential for this year’s team to be one of the best defensive teams to come along in Denver in a while. This is the defense I dream about,” Malone said. “Ever since I got here.”

Asked why exactly it is his team is playing so well on the defensive side of the ball so far during the 2018/19 campaign, Malone lauded his team’s effort and want-to. “I would say just an overall buy-in and commitment. You can talk game plan and you can talk strategy but at the end of the day, for me, defense comes down to pride. Do you want to go out there and give it everything you have to defend?

Additionally, Dempsey opines that adding defensive-minded players like Torrey Craig, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee has helped the mentality around the team morph into a more defensive-oriented group.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves’ head coach Tom Thibodeau evidently thinks backup guard Derrick Rose still has a lot of gas left in the tank, despite a bevy of evidence to the contrary, telling Jace Frederick of the Pioneer Press that “as long as (Rose is) healthy, he’ll be one of the best players in the league.”
  • The Thunder, praised as one of the best teams in the deep Western Conference to begin the season, have gotten off to a rocky, 0-3 start. Yet, as Erik Horne of The Oklahoman writes, there exists reason for optimism, with rookie Hamidou Diallo and newcomer Nerlens Noel both providing a spark off the bench in Sunday’s loss to the lowly Kings.
  • In other Thunder news, Brett Dawson of The Athletic is reporting that guard Alex Abrines, who left Sunday’s game in the first half with a mouth contusion, and who will compete for Diallo and Terrance Ferguson for minutes until the return of Andre Roberson, is not expected to miss any additional time.

Jimmy Butler Trade Talks ‘Mostly Dormant’ For Now

With the 2018/19 season officially underway, the Jimmy Butler trade talks that were so active in the weeks leading up to opening night are “mostly dormant” for the time being, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Heat were the most aggressive suitor for Butler during the preseason, having nearly reached a deal with the Timberwolves that would have sent Josh Richardson, Dion Waiters, and a protected first-round pick to Minnesota for the All-NBA swingman. However, according to Charania, Heat president Pat Riley informed his players a few days before the regular season began that the club planned to stick with its current roster for now.

While the Timberwolves aren’t close to any deals involving Butler at the moment, trade discussions figure to pick back up at some point. Team owner Glen Taylor confirmed earlier this week that he and the 29-year-old reached an understanding — Butler will play hard for the Wolves while the team continues to seek out a trade package for him.

If and when those trade talks resume, Miami still looks like a prime landing spot. Marc Stein of The New York Times also noted earlier this week that “rumbles persist” about the Rockets maintaining serious interest in trading for Butler, despite the Wolves’ aversion to helping Houston build another super-team in the Western Conference.

Although Butler isn’t necessarily happy to still be in Minnesota, he has been making an effort to display leadership and help out his teammates by easing the pressure from head coach Tom Thibodeau, according to Charania.

“Just hoop, I told them, and I think that I can get Thibs to relax a little bit,” Butler said. “He’s never going to say anything about offense as long as you go down there and play with effort on the defensive end and get a couple stops. It’s whenever you’re not getting stops when he starts yelling. I think Thibs has calmed down a lot, and guys are playing with effort.”

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 Notes: Garnett, Taylor, Thibodeau

Kevin Garnett is not a shy person when it comes to speaking his mind and he offered his thoughts on the Jimmy Butler saga during an appearance on TNT’s pregame show.

“I totally understand [Butler]. I totally get it. And he’s dealing with [owner Glen Taylor], who doesn’t know [expletive] about basketball,” Garnett said (h/t AJ Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today). “He knows how to make money, but he don’t know anything about basketball. I wouldn’t say that he’s the best basketball mind.”

Taylor said he reached an understanding with Butler: the Wolves’ wing will play to his full ability while the team continues to search for a trade offer. “I think [Butler has] made it very clear that he would not re-sign with us at the end of the year and therefore it is in our interest to get a trade so that we can get a player or two to replace him that helps our team,” Taylor said.

Here’s more from Minnesota:

  • Taylor gave a vote of confidence to Tom Thibodeau, telling Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune that the executive/head coach is not on the hot seat. “No, no, the only thing now is that we are starting to play games and I am asking him to concentrate on coaching,” Taylor said. “GM Scott Layden will help to see if any trades are available.”
  • Taylor told Hartman (same piece) that he is alright with how Thibodeau handed the whole Butler situation so far. “Well, I’m OK with it,” Taylor said. “Initially, when Butler told [Thibodeau] he wanted to leave, you know Tom did everything he could to try to keep Jimmy here and I understand that. They have a close relationship. Thibs brought him here so that he would stay here. But eventually I think that in listening to Jimmy, Thibs and I are lined up on this. We need to be looking at a trade.”
  • Taylor has owned the Timberwolves since 1994 and the messy situation with Butler has not made him think about selling the team, Hartman relays. “No, no, we will get through this,” he said. “The changes we have to make, we will get through this. I’ll just keep working and doing the best I can on it to keep our team very competitive.”