Butler has clashed with Towns and Wiggins as teammates, league sources said. Butler's and Wiggins' tension played out on social media in recent days.
But all of that affection from Towns seemed to disappear this summer as the Wolves were thrust into the headlines for rumors of chemistry issues and a disconnect with coach and president Tom Thibodeau. It’s been no secret that Towns and Thibs have never quite been on the same page in their two years together, and the relationship wasn’t helped when Thibodeau in May let go of assistant coach Vince Legarza, who worked closely with Towns in his first three seasons in the league.
Team owner Glen Taylor has engaged in discussions with teams about a possible trade, but those teams have been rebuffed by Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden when contacted directly, a bizarre dynamic that has several executives around the league scratching their heads. Given the chaotic nature of the situation, Butler sought and has been granted permission not to appear at the team’s media day on Monday, when every player on the roster answers questions from the media and poses for photos with teammates.
Players on the team have been searching for answers, but Thibodeau has held firm to this point, sources said. Teams continue to reach out to the Wolves to gauge their interest and begin trade talks, only to be told that Butler is not available. If this is some kind of renegade negotiating strategy aimed at causing confusion and muddying the waters, it’s working. Members of other front offices don’t know whom to contact or what to believe. But nearly all of them expect Taylor to eventually shepherd a deal to the finish line.
According to the source, this is about a philosophy in making an impact in the Western Conference, and 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. Memo to Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins – meow. Meanwhile, who could have ever guessed that Bulls general manager Gar Forman suddenly looks like a big-boy basketball executive?
Towns reportedly won’t sign his rookie-scale extension until Minnesota handles the Butler situation, and the standoff apparently isn’t at all over haggling about contract terms, particularly what would happen if Towns qualifies next season for the super-max. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN: They’re offering him as much money as they can. I’m led to believe that a big reason why he hasn’t signed it is that he – through his agent, Leon Rose – went to the Wolves and said, “Hey, I can’t coexist with Jimmy. Do something about it.” So, Figure out the Jimmy situation. On top of that – whether it’s right or wrong, this is the way he feels – that it’s been Jimmy and Thibs ganging up on him.
But it’s not often a player gets called out the way Wiggins has been called out by his peers, and so the whispers about his lack of passion and commitment to the task are gathering to full-blown shouts. How Wiggins responds could well define an NBA career that has certainly shown promise — the only players in NBA history to score 6,000 career points at a younger age than Wiggins did are LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady — but has often been dismissed as too many empty calories, leaving observers and (apparently) teammates wondering if he’s ever going to give all that his package of ability and skill would suggest is there is to give. I’ve heard Timberwolves executives wonder about the exact same thing.
“It just wasn’t a happy environment,” Crawford said. “I thought I would be playing more before I signed. It ended up being the second fewest minutes I’ve ever played. Just wasn’t a fit or went like I was under the impression it would.”
Internet Detectives Present Evidence That Jimmy Butler Hooked Up With Karl-Anthony Towns' GF Which Caused Their Breakup & Was Part of The Reason Butler Demanded Trade (Tweets-IG-Pics-Vid) http://bit.ly/2Ddlm9U Karl-Anthony Towns: 😂😂😂 #FakeNews
After weeks of seriously contemplating his future in Minnesota, Butler requested a trade from the Timberwolves and informed Thibodeau of his decision on Tuesday in a meeting in Los Angeles, league sources told The Athletic. Players within the locker room first began to hear whispers of Butler’s plans last week, according to sources. Butler has given the Timberwolves a list of teams that could interest him. The Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers are expected as desired destination, and could extend to the Miami Heat and others, sources said. He’s long held a level of desire to potentially play in Los Angeles, a scenario those around him discussed internally as a Bulls free agent in 2015.
There were reports of friction between Butler, Towns and Wiggins, but sources say that is not the main reason Butler has decided to move on. Butler was hoping for a renegotiation and extension of his contract this summer, one that would have raised his salary for 2018-19 to $30 million and added another four years and $145 million on to that. But the Timberwolves would have had to cut an enormous amount of salary to pull that off and deemed it unreasonable if they wanted to stay competitive in the near term.
Butler met with Thibodeau on Tuesday in Los Angeles, and informed him that he didn't want to start the season with the Timberwolves and hoped to be traded to a big market team that would want to sign him in the summer. ... Miami has also been a team with interest in Butler, league sources said, but the Heat don't have the salary cap space in July to pursue him.
The Clippers, Knicks and Nets have differing levels of interest in Butler as a free agent, each prioritizing him in different ways, league sources said. ... Butler, 30, wants the five-year, $190 million maximum extension that could come with a trade to a new team, but there is some reluctance to teams to commit $40 million-plus annually as Butler reaches his mid-30's, league sources told ESPN.
He is enamored with the idea of playing a central role in a big market, sources said. Butler had once imagined playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, but LeBron James' arrival as the franchise's cornerstone made it less appealing for Butler in the prime of his career, league sources said.
Darren Wolfson: As someone with a vested interest texted, "Glen must be beside himself." Definitely curious to eventually hear the owner's thoughts. #Twolves
Adrian Wojnarowski: Minnesota's Jimmy Butler has three preferred destinations for a trade, league sources tell ESPN: The Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks. Those three teams have max cap space to sign Butler as a free agent in July.
Butler and Thibodeau met on Tuesday in Los Angeles to discuss his situation, according to multiple sources. Over the last several weeks, Butler began to seriously contemplate his future with the Timberwolves and a potential trade request, league sources said. It was in that meeting that Butler expressed a desire to be traded, telling Thibodeau that he does not intend to sign a long-term extension with the Wolves next summer. He has provided a list of one to three teams with which he would be open to signing a long-term deal, sources said.
Thibodeau was initially resistant to the idea, according to sources, but Butler is determined to find a new home. The Timberwolves are scheduled to have media day on Monday and their first training camp practice on Tuesday, so the clock is ticking.
Shams Charania: Jimmy Butler has requested a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves, league sources tell me and @ Jon Krawczynski. Butler has given Minnesota a list of one-to-three teams with whom he's open to signing extension, in anticipation of trade.
Shams Charania: Less than one week before Timberwolves' training camp begins. After weeks of contemplating future in Minnesota, Butler informed Tom Thibodeau on Tuesday, sources said.
Jon Krawczynski: Tom Thibodeau has been resistant to the idea of trading Butler, we're told. With media day on Monday and training camp set to being on Tuesday, the clock is ticking.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Minnesota's Tom Thibodeau is traveling to Los Angeles to meet with Jimmy Butler today, league sources tell ESPN. Original plan had been a meeting in Minneapolis, but that changed in the past 24 hours.
Shams Charania: There’s been a lot of uncertainty around Jimmy Butler all summer. He hasn’t been back to Minnesota. This is going to be a telltale week for him. Very much so, I’m told, this a last-ditch meeting for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Tom Thibodeau, and how they respond and how Jimmy responds to it will be interesting. Karl-Anthony Towns, who’s one of the top talents in the league, has yet to sign to sign his rookie max extension, which should be a no-brainer. And I’m told there won’t be any decision on that until this Jimmy Butler situation resolves itself.
A meeting set between Minnesota Timberwolves four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler and president of basketball operations/coach Tom Thibodeau is expected to set the tone for Butler's final season under contract -- and his impending free agency in July, league sources told ESPN on Saturday. Just days before the start of training camp in Minneapolis, Butler and his agent, Bernie Lee, are planning to meet with Thibodeau on Monday in Minneapolis for what's expected to be a serious conversation on the franchise's fragile state, sources said.
The Thibodeau-Butler relationship has been largely strong since the Bulls drafted Butler in 2011, but Butler's partnership with young star Karl-Anthony Towns has been strained and remains an obstacle to the 2018-19 team's success --- and perhaps the ability to sign Butler to a new contract next summer, league sources said.
The Timberwolves are negotiating a rookie extension with Towns that could be completed before the start of the season. Rival executives believe that Butler could come available on the market by the February trade deadline if Minnesota fears that it will lose him for nothing in July free agency.
The Butler-Towns tension is paramount, but it's hardly the only organizational drama that's threatening to undermine the franchise's current structure. Owner Glen Taylor has significant concern with the broader franchise culture under Thibodeau and general manager Scott Layden -- so much so that Taylor considered changes in the offseason, league sources said. Taylor has privately second-guessed his decision to give Thibodeau full control of basketball operations as a part of hiring him as coach, league sources said.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Jimmy Butler's meeting w/ Minnesota management early next week as @ Jon Krawczynski reports. Butler, Tom Thibodeau have had a strong relationship for years, but there are organizational issues that need to be sorted. Source on meeting: "Whatever needs to be communicated...will be."
With the opening of training camp 10 days away, it appears the Wolves and Butler have reached a fork in the road. He can become an unrestricted free agent next summer and has long said that playing for a team that can contend for championships is his highest priority at this stage of his career. It’s widely known how close Butler and Thibodeau have been ever since Butler was drafted by the Bulls, so the assumption can only be that he wants to hear the coach’s vision for how the upcoming season will play out.
In the meeting Monday, the Timberwolves will have to lay out a plan that shows a clear path to contention that will get Butler to commit to plunging into another season in Minnesota. But the Timberwolves will also have an enormous decision to make. If they don’t believe Butler is committed to be in Minnesota long-term, they would have to at least consider moving him. Thibodeau traded Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the No. 7 overall pick (Lauri Markkanen) for Butler and the No. 16 overall pick (Justin Patton) last year.
Media reports throughout the summer have, using unnamed sources, suggested Butler is unhappy with his young teammates’ will and dedication and has decided he won’t play in Minnesota after this season and wants to unite with pal Kyrie Irving or other stars elsewhere. “I’ve been around a long time; I don’t buy into any of that stuff,” Thibodeau said. “You have to distinguish what’s real and what’s not real. You never heard any of that come from Jimmy’s mouth. It’s always a source close to Jimmy. If Jimmy has something to say to someone, he usually says it directly …
Adrian Wojnarowski: "Jimmy Butler in Minnesota: Who knows how it starts out this season there, but they may have to look at doing something with him. If they don't have a commitment from him, do they have to look at doing something with him by the trade deadline? Do they risk losing him for nothing? You look back, they gave up a lot for him. That deal with the Bulls at the time, they gave up some really good pieces. It's hard to let that walk out the door for nothing."
What's the feeling you get about KAT - amendable situation or not? Jon Krawczynski: I don’t think we’ve reached a breaking point between Towns and the organization. Had that been the case, I could have seen him canceling the Minnesota basketball camp to avoid coming back to town. As reported at The Athletic during summer league, the Wolves have put a max contract offer in front of his representatives. But as KAT first made clear to me in a phone call from Italy, and as he reiterated last week in Plymouth, there is still some communication that needs to take place before pen is put to paper.
Jon Krawczynski: Everyone in the organization expects Towns to sign the extension. No rookie has passed up this much money before and Towns doesn’t figure to be the first. While he has not provided specifics on what he wants to discuss, one would think Tom Thibodeau’s decision to fire Legarza, a close confidante of KAT’s during his first three NBA seasons, would probably be on that list.
Darren Wolfson: We were warned that #Twolves All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns would only take questions about his camp today. So specific questions about Butler, Legarza, Thibs, contract extension, etc. were tough. But he did offer up a little something at the very end [when Towns concluded, "I'm very proud of the things I've been able to do so far [in Minnesota], but I [have] a lot of things that need to be talked about."]
Sources familiar with the situation told Sporting News that Butler is uncertain about playing with Wiggins — Butler had problems last season with Wiggins, his work ethic and his approach on the defensive end of the floor. Thibodeau has had similar problems with Wiggins in the past, too, and he had some hope that bringing a tough-minded veteran like Butler into the locker room would spur Wiggins to improve. It didn’t.
Another source of friction with the Wolves has been the way that Thibodeau used his bench last season, which has long been a criticism of Thibodeau, carried over from his time in Chicago. He rides his starting unit hard, and all five Wolves starters averaged 33.0 minutes or more. The Wolves had three players — Butler, Wiggins and Towns — in the top 14 in minutes per game last season.
Brian Windhorst: "Has anybody noticed what's going on in Minnesota with Karl-Anthony Towns and that organization?" Zach Lowe: "Darren Wolfson [veteran reporter in Minnesota] alluded to a lot of it on a podcast a couple weeks ago. I said on a podcast recently that I just have a gut feeling something crazy is gonna happen there this summer. It's not in a good place right now internally." Windhorst: "If I were the Celtics, I would make a quiet call to Minnesota."
Jon Krawczynski: Butler also went to bat for Thibs: "Ain’t no coach in the world that can make somebody play hard. Ain’t no coach in the world that can make anybody want it."
Jon Krawczynski: More Butler standing tall for Thibs on the defensive issues: "To tell you the truth, we haven’t done it all year. ... All in all, we’ve just got to want to play defense. Thibs, he don’t got too much to do with that."
After some hours to reflect, and after a lengthy film session, Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau was still talking about toughness — or the lack thereof — in the way of Monday’s loss to Memphis.
“There is a preseason intensity,’’ he said. “Then there is the start of the regular season. And now you have a playoff racing going on. You’re facing a guy like [Grizzlies center Marc] Gasol, who has a lot of pride. And the physicality? We didn’t do a good job with that.’’
Nate Duncan: Do you think that Andrew Wiggins, a couple of years from now, is on [the Minnesota Timberwolves]? Do you think there's a chance they might move on from him, given how he's played this year? Marc Stein: I think that's something that people will be looking at and I think other teams will be coming after him. Because he's, at best, gonna be the third option if you're playing with Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns. [....] I don't think there's any question that Wiggins' future is gonna be talked about. He's under contract now—it's a big number but for some teams, that appeals, to be able to get a guy when there is contract certainty and you know you've got him, there will be teams who want to trade for that.
On Wednesday, a radio remark on 1500ESPN that said Wolves forward Andrew Wiggins has whispered to teammates he’s unhappy being a third option behind Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns ricocheted around the internet. After Thursday’s practice, Thibodeau called the claim and its sourcing “total nonsense” and said, “I know Andrew’s character. There’s no way in the world Andrew is saying any of that, particularly from a guy who’s taken the most shots on our team.”
Kevin O’Connor: And not only that, it's more than that...yes, you're playing these guys for a ridiculous amount of minutes, but you know what else you're also doing? You're really disrupting the locker room. A lot of the guys in that bench who probably deserve to play, or thought that they have may have been getting opportunity and minutes, especially when there have been injuries? I've heard rumblings that there's some chemistry issues in that locker room, maybe a little bit with guys against Towns a little bit because of his effort, maybe a little bit with some of the guys on that bench unhappy with playing time and opportunity. There's issues there and it all, in my opinion, from what I can tell, derives from Thibs with the usage, with the system, with the opportunity.
On Sirius XM Radio, Sam Mitchell said he thinks it could influence Kevin Garnett's decision to retire, but as of the last time they spoke, K.G. remained undecided. "Last time I talked to him, he hadn't made up his mind. I just think the way last year ended with the owner at the very last minute -- and people don't understand, we all felt pretty good about us. Myself, Milt Newton, and the coaching staff, we all felt pretty good about us coming back. We felt like we did a good enough job to at least earn us a couple of years, a year or two, to keep that thing rolling. And I just think KG was just so hurt by the way things happened."
"For people to send you messages as if you were going to be back and your staff was going to be back and we had everything going in the right direction, and to get a phone call [from owner Glen Taylor] two hours before your last game basically saying, 'I've changed my mind and I'm going in a different direction,' it just kind of knocked us all for a loop. We've all recovered from it and moved on but if you know Kevin, Kevin is very sensitive and he's very loyal. And there was a lot of people in that organization that was let go, and the way it was done just left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouth."
"To be honest with you, I don't know how he's going to deal with that. Kevin takes that stuff personally and it's going to be interesting to see ultimately what he decides to do. It's a shame that if he doesn't come back and play, that his last year in Minnesota ended the way it did."