Jon Krawczynski: Ryan Saunders was good today, talking …

Jon Krawczynski: Ryan Saunders was good today, talking about understanding that this is a process while also saying yesterday was unacceptable. “I believe in what we’re doing. I believe in the down-the-line vision of this. But we need to make sure that we correct last night.”

More on Minnesota Timberwolves Turmoil

Jon Krawczynski: KAT "We just gotta all be committed to this and go from there." Q: Do you think everyone is committed? A: "I do. I think everyone's committed. We gotta be smart. Gotta be smarter all around."
Throughout a trying last two months, as the Timberwolves have put in place a system designed for future relevance over immediate success, Ryan Saunders has served as a beacon of positivity to try to make the inevitable hard times easier to stomach. He rarely argued with officials. He accentuated the positives in postgame press conferences. He fed a team in transition a steady diet of encouragement to try to quell the indigestion that comes from losing over and over again. The team has largely followed suit. Karl-Anthony Towns preached chemistry. Andrew Wiggins changed his shot chart. Jarrett Culver maintained his confidence despite clank after clank.
Now the Timberwolves are staring a second double-digit losing streak in as many months right in the face. In the last three losses, which have run the Wolves’ latest skid to nine straight, a mixture of tension and despair is bubbling to the surface. “Losing’s not me. It’s not none of us,” said Shabazz Napier, seemingly on the verge of tears after 113-104 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night. “It’s tough, man. It hurts. I really mean it when (I say) it hurts. It hurts really bad.”
“We’re not a good basketball team right now.” It is easy to dismiss the words that came out of Saunders’ mouth after that ugly loss in Chicago, easy to crack wise or hit that reply button on Twitter with a “no kidding” remark to rag on one of the league’s long-suffering franchises. Put that statement into full context — who said it, when it was said, what happened to prompt it — and it should not be so easily dismissed. It came from the team’s relentlessly positive coach assessing a team that was not getting enough from some of its key players.
While he was out, reports surfaced concerning teams monitoring Towns’ level of unhappiness. In his first public comments since the injury, he made a strong statement that reaffirmed his commitment to the Wolves when asked about those reports. Here it is in full, with a curse word edited. “I think you’ve been around me long enough to know I don’t go for all the ...,” Towns said. “I just do my job, go home and I know what the real story is. There’s a reason those stories are made because people need to sell papers, sell links and clicks, whatever the case may be. I’m here to be a Minnesota Timberwolf. Very fortunate I have a head coach like [Ryan Saunders], a President and friend like [Gersson Rosas]. I’m not worried about all that nonsense.
League sources told The Athletic there wasn’t anything out there from Towns’ camp about a fracturing relationship or a growing frustration with the Wolves as an organization. They claimed the losing is frustrating for Towns and other members of the organization, but there wasn’t any reason to believe this will became a long-term issue… yet.
Team members say that as Butler's frustration and unhappiness swelled in Minnesota, Towns' locker room presence receded, allowing Butler to dominate the conversation -- and the mechanisms on the court. "Things happen. There are power struggles all the time in [the NBA]," Calipari said. "If a guy can bully you, he will bully you. And that's what Jimmy did to Karl. C'mon, that's the league."
Some of Calipari's intel on the inner workings of the Timberwolves came from another one of his ex-players -- former Memphis star Derrick Rose, who has run the gamut of NBA experiences, from basking in the limelight of an MVP season in 2011 to being unceremoniously dumped by two franchises last winter. "Derrick is the one who got Karl through that whole Butler mess," Calipari said.
"I don't think bully is a good word," Butler told ESPN. "I tell it how it is. Whenever I was in college, I had [Marquette coach] Buzz Williams to tell me how it was. I didn't have a bunch of McDonald's All Americans like [Calipari] has. So, he can look at it a different way. "
Butler paused, perhaps to consider ending the conversation. But he couldn't -- and didn't. "He can call me a bully, but when [Calipari] sees me, I'm gonna confront him about it," Butler continued. "If I'm a bully, I'm gonna bully him, too. I'll tell him how I feel, just like I'd tell anyone else. "I don't care if he's some big head coach. I'm not bullying nobody. I'm just keeping it real. Some of these guys aren't used to it. When you have as much talent as [Karl] has had throughout his life, guys don't keep it real with him. I do."
Darren Wolfson: Boos still raining down on Thibs from here in section 126. By the way, any tweeters here tonight that I've won a bet with? Might need a few adult beverages as I'm flying solo with my two rebels and my nephew. #Twolves
Minnesota is sorting through what's left in Butler's wake. Taylor considered firing Thibodeau and Layden in the summer -- well before the Butler situation escalated -- and has continued to consider possibilities to eventually replace both of them, league sources said. There's immense pressure on Minnesota's management structure to see dividends on this trade.
Minnesota desperately tried to cobble together trade offers in the past week, including extensive discussions with New Orleans, league sources said. The Pelicans are limited on tradeable assets, but desperate to find star power to keep Anthony Davis for the long run. The Pelicans wouldn't include point guard Jrue Holiday in its offer, nor multiple draft picks, league sources said.
Malika Andrews: League rules prohibit Tom Thibodeau from discussing the Jimmy Butler trade until after its officially consummated, but when asked generally about the Wolves’ morale he said: “There’s a lot of ups and downs over the course of the nba season... you have to be mentally strong.”
You played 41 minutes tonight… Jimmy Butler: That shit has to stop. Why? Jimmy Butler: We’ve got fucking 14 other guys.
“I absolutely hate — hate to fucking lose, and the way that we go about things sometimes isn’t the right way, myself included, and a lot of other people as well. I just think that, man, whenever you win, everything takes care of itself. But we’ve got to figure out a way to do that, man. No matter what, all I want to do is win. I don’t care what anybody says, any media outlet, anybody says as a person, the one thing they can’t say is that I don’t want to win.”
A few moments later, Jimmy Butler finished changing and was asked if he agreed with Rose’s assessment – that the Wolves needed more self-criticism. Butler didn’t mince words. “Do I agree with it? Yeah. But I don’t think everybody can handle it,” Butler said. “I don’t. I know actually. But I’m with him on it. … Everybody got to talk to one another and be able to handle it if somebody says something they may not like. We’re all grown men.”
Christopher Hine: Jimmy Butler: "As a team we do a lot of talking (about defense and rebounding) and we’re not going out there and doing what we’re supposed to be doing. We talk about it during the game, before the game, damn sure the same thing after the game."
“It’s about understanding one another and having that chemistry where you could give someone good or bad criticism,” Rose said. “There’s nothing wrong with coming up to your teammates, tapping them when he’s doing something wrong, doing something right and vice versa.”
In an exclusive interview with Yahoo Sports, Butler was adamant that he wasn’t putting on an act and stressed that he genuinely enjoys being around his teammates even though he wants to be traded. “These are my guys,” the four-time All-Star told Yahoo Sports after scoring 21 points and dishing out five assists. “Look, [my situation] don’t got [expletive] to do with me and everybody in this [expletive] locker room. I love these [expletive]. I’m going to keep it one hundred with you. I love these guys. So, when everybody says, ‘Oh, there’s going to be a problem in the locker room.’ Yeah, all right. Does it look like there’s a problem in the locker room?"
It’s been over six weeks since Butler first requested a trade, and there have been multiple developments during that span that could lead one to question whether Butler is being a negative influence on the Timberwolves’ young core of Karl-Anthony Towns (22) and Wiggins (23). But the four-time All-Star disputes that perception. “I don’t give a [expletive] [what people think],” Butler told Yahoo Sports. “I don’t. I swear to you. Because I know where I’m at with my guys. I know how I am as a person. They can write whatever they want, they can say whatever they want and I can address it the way that I want to. But at the end of the day, I go to war with my guys. Those are my guys. We’re out there trying to win. Nothing is going to come between us. I’m going to play the right way, do what I do, and they know that. They know that.”
Butler, who has asked for a trade from the Timberwolves, sat out Wednesday's game because of general soreness and made it clear that he might decide to sit out one of the team's next two games, as well. The Timberwolves play at the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night and at the LA Clippers on Monday night. "I let them know," Butler said after Friday's 116-99 loss to the Golden State Warriors. "They don't know how my body feels. So if I'm nicked up, then you can count on that. I don't know. We'll see how it goes. I don't know what we plan on doing tomorrow. Obviously, I got to get some treatment along with a lot of other guys. But we'll see whenever Sunday and Monday gets here."
"I'm not worried about no deal," Butler said. "Injury or not, I got to take care of myself. I realize they have a job to do as an organization; I have one to do as a player. But if I'm not in the right with my body to go out there and do it, I don't want to get hurt. I've been hurt almost every year now, so we're going to take things with caution." Butler said he would "see how his body feels" before making a decision, but he did not reveal what particular injury he might be dealing with. "If all of this talk wasn't going on and I sat out because my body was sore, you would not be asking me things like that," Butler said.
"I know it's true," Butler said when the reporter acknowledged the trade demand factored into concern over his injury status. "So stop asking me questions about if I'm going to sit out or not. If I'm going to sit out, you probably won't talk to me on the day I sit out; but if I do, then I do and you can create a story around it with a lot of made-up stuff like ya'll normally do."
And even when mistakes are made -- particularly on defense, where there might be a missed rotation -- Towns said he's more interested in trying to figure out how to remedy the situation on the fly. Perhaps one of the most valuable lessons he's learned thus far came from playing next to Kevin Garnett. "You realize there are a lot of mistakes that can be covered up by pure hustle," Towns said, explaining that an imperfect defensive possession can still be salvaged if he and his teammates show enough effort to force a miss. This inconsistency from Towns and Wiggins is a swing skill for Minnesota's future.
Butler showed up to the team’s shootaround on Wednesday morning, but did not participate, sources said. After the session was over, he had a brief conversation with coach and president Tom Thibodeau about his decision and declined interview requests.
Several Wolves players just shook their heads as they left the arena in the morning, facing another day full of Butler drama. Jeff Teague also missed the game against the Jazz with a knee injury.
Rachel Nichols: Spoke to Jimmy Butler, who told me he plans to sit out of tonight's Wolves game "because my body is hurting" after he missed nearly all of training camp. He said he doesn't want to see any soreness escalate into injury as he continues to seek resolution to his situation with Minnesota. He strongly pushed back on any idea he is sitting out tonight as a protest and confirmed Adrian Wojnarowski's report that plans to fly with the team to Oakland and play against Golden State. He said he plans to be in the arena for tonight's game as well.
Jimmy​ Butler is​ not​ playing in​ the Timberwolves’ game​ on Wednesday​ night​ against Utah, the latest​ step in a six-week​​ standoff between the disgruntled All-Star and the team that has not yet granted his wish to be traded, league sources told The Athletic. Butler showed up to the team’s shootaround on Wednesday morning, but did not participate, sources said. After the session was over, he had a brief conversation with coach and president Tom Thibodeau about his decision and declined interview requests.
Shams Charania: Jimmy Butler is taking next step in six-week-long process aimed at getting the All-Star out of Minnesota by sitting tonight against Utah, and could lead to extended absence for Butler, league sources tell me and @JonKrawczynski. Butler started contemplating not playing tonight on Tuesday, and the final decision was made Wednesday morning, sources tell me and @JonKrawczynski. Timberwolves termed it "general soreness and precautionary rest,” but Butler informed Tom Thibodeau of his decision.
As the Minnesota Timberwolves remain stagnant in trade talks, All-Star forward Jimmy Butler has expressed an intention to join the team on its trip to Golden State for Friday night's game, league sources told ESPN. Butler will miss Wednesday's home game against Utah for what the team is calling "general soreness and precautionary rest."
There's a belief within the Timberwolves that Butler could target specific games to sit out, trying to force a trade, league sources said. Sources familiar with Butler's thinking don't believe he wants to sit out high-profile games against Golden State and Los Angeles. The Timberwolves play the Clippers and Lakers next week at Staples Center, and Butler considers the Clippers one of his top free agent destinations, sources said.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Sources: The Timberwolves suggested that Jimmy Butler rest vs. Utah tonight and there’s an expectation that he will join the team on flight to Bay Area to play Golden State on Friday. Teams talking to Minnesota about trades say that the asking price remains steep.
Christopher Hine: Taj Gibson from today's practice when asked if the Butler situation was seeping into the team's performance (1/2): "No team is ever going to go through a perfect season unscathed. 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."
Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 16 points for a listless Minnesota squad dealing with the distraction of star Jimmy Butler's trade request. Butler started despite being questionable with an illness and had a season-low four points on 2-of-11 shooting. "I think I was a lot like everybody else," Butler said, downplaying the illness. "We let our offense dictate what our defense was going to bring. Me, speaking for myself, I can never let that happen. My entire career has been my defense dictates my offense. Bad one; it's behind me right now this second. Hopefully, it is for everybody else."
Josh Lewenberg: Wiggins on the infamous Butler return practice: "It wasn't that bad. I feel like from the outside looking in it was a lot worse than from the inside looking out. As basketball players, competitors, it was just a competitive practice. It wasn't as chaotic as people think."
Jimmy Butler encouraged the fans to boo him, and the Minnesota crowd obliged. But some appeared to quickly forget their anger. The Timberwolves' home opener began Friday night with Butler getting heartily booed during introductions before facing the Cleveland Cavaliers. It ended with Butler on the free-throw line to seal a 131-123 victory and some of the same fans showering the disgruntled star with an "M-V-P!" chant. "I knew as soon as I made an effort play, it was going to turn into cheers," Butler said. "I like it, though. Like I told you, it's OK to boo me. I'm still going to play hard. I'm still going to try to my best to help win games. Boos, cheers, silence, I've got a job to do."
Butler has been at the center of turmoil since demanding a trade last month. In an interview earlier this week, Butler said he anticipated a negative response from T'wolves fans but didn't seem worried about it. "Sure. Go ahead, boo me," Butler told The Athletic. "It ain’t going to change the way I play. That’s going to make me smile more. So please, come on with it."

http://twitter.com/BleacherReport/status/1053439413114437632
“Thibs didn’t exert as much energy as he always does the past few weeks. He needs to do that more: Sit down, take the load off and trust your guys to get a W.”
Even Wiggins, long a target of Butler’s chiding and prodding, insisted that he had no issues with the demanding veteran. Not now, not ever, despite his brother’s famous “Hallelujah!” tweet when news first broke of Butler’s desire to be traded. “We’ve never had any major problems. No problems at all,” Wiggins said. “Even when everyone said all that stuff happened in practice, nothing had to do with me. I was just there hooping. “But everyone has something to say. Once it’s out there, then everyone has their own opinion. The story gets broken down into 1,000 pieces. But at the end of the day, we’re all here to hoop. It’s always a plus to have Jimmy on the team.”
“We got room for growth,” Rose said when asked about the team’s chemistry. “We don’t even have an identity with how we’re going to play offensively and defensively. You just gotta build those things along the way. Every day you come in here, you’ve got to get your job done. … We all know it’s going to take some time. It’s going to take all of us on the same team and fighting through the hard times together.”
Minnesota star center Karl-Anthony Towns suggested it wasn't clear whether the team was "ready" for the start of the regular season, given how poorly Minnesota played during the preseason amid questions surrounding Butler's trade request. And Butler himself sounded unsure as to exactly how he'd react if his teammates didn't show enough intensity now that the season is upon them. "I think we'll bring [the intensity]. If not, you'll see me yelling at people. That's what I'm supposed to do," Butler said. "And you'll see me talking with guys nicely. That's what I'm supposed to do."
Q: Will Jimmy Butler ever get traded? I’m starting to feel bad for the guy. — @codylaws2 from Twitter. Marc Stein: I remain convinced that, yes, Butler will be traded — somehow. Things have gotten so farcical just since our last newsletter that the Timberwolves surely understand, deep down, that trying to hang onto Butler for a little longer, like the Denver Nuggets did with Carmelo Anthony in 2010 after a trade with the Nets collapsed shortly before training camp, is doomed to flop in the Twin Cities. Unless Wolves management are intent on emasculating their young cornerstones Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins to an even more damaging degree than we’ve already seen, I would suspect that, at some stage, Minnesota Owner Glen Taylor will realize that the wisest course is to direct his coach and team president, Tom Thibodeau, to focus all his energies on prioritizing the two players whose long-term contracts are valued at nearly $340 million combined.
This isn't to say Minnesota is blameless. Tom Thibodeau, Scott Layden, and Glen Taylor watched their team culture erode and did nothing, assuming it would repair itself. Taylor and the front office have sent contradictory messages to Butler suitors, sometimes within minutes of each other, league sources have said.
But LaVine got more personal and detailed in offering support for former teammates Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Both players’ work ethic has been called into question both publicly and privately by Butler. “KAT and Wigs are some of my good friends,” LaVine said. “Wigs just had his newborn baby and congratulations to him on that. And KAT is a really laid-back dude, but they are extremely competitive at the same time. They work hard. I feel like they are getting some flak because some people are saying they don't work hard. People in the organization are saying that. But I think they are extremely hard workers.
Three days before the start of the regular season, Taylor met with his disgruntled All-Star before practice, searching for some sort of understanding to calm the noise that has drowned out any sense of excitement for the upcoming season. In the meeting, Taylor and Butler came to an agreement, sources said: Taylor will continue to work diligently to find a trade as soon as possible. Until that happens, Butler will be a good teammate and play as hard as he always does.
There may have been some sort of accord reached, but the situation is “fluid,” as Thibodeau likes to call it, and could change at a moment’s notice. One thing was certain: Butler wasn’t walking anything back. Speaking carefully, and occasionally coyly, to avoid breaking any league rules about publicly discussing trade requests, Butler said there has been no change in his stance and no second thoughts about how he has handled things.
"We don't got no more time to be here saying, 'Aw, it's OK; it's preseason.' This momentum we're riding right now, this wave we're riding, it's not good. It's not good at all," said Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, who finished 2-of-9 shooting for eight points. Towns said the nature of the loss bothered him most. "I really don't damn know," he said when asked why the club has failed to put together solid 48-minute stretches this preseason. "But if you find out, let me know. You can get beat. Everybody in this league -- I don't care if you're the Golden State Warriors my rookie year, the 95-96 Bulls -- you're gonna lose some games. But you can't get embarrassed. That's just unacceptable."
Dane Moore: “There’s no magic switch... I’ve been on teams that were supposed to be really good and I’ve been on teams that were supposed to suck.” Jeff Teague, like the rest of the locker room, not hitting any sort of alarm. pic.twitter.com/QdnCkYcgPp
Paul George, no stranger to uncomfortable situations with NBA management, said on Friday he's spoken with Jimmy Butler about what's happening in Minnesota and is firmly on his side. "Jimmy has a very valid point," George said. "I'm on Jimmy's side. It's not coming from a place where he's going against an organization."
"Jimmy's a guy, his whole career, he made it into the league off work, off him having to grind and scratch and claw to get to where he's at," George said. "And then he sees the potential he has around him and he just wants guys to match that because if guys are skilled and have that 'it' like KAT (Karl-Anthony Towns) has, like Andrew Wiggins has, they have that 'it' that a lot of guys don't have, now they just have to match it with what Jimmy's bringing to the table. I'm all for what Jimmy is trying to do over there."
George said he talked to Butler "a little bit" and that Butler's demonstrative behavior is "not coming from a bad place." "He wants the best for that organization and is trying to bring out everything for that organization to get to where they want to get to," George said.
Dane Moore: Q: Do you have any rules about teammates public criticism of teammates? Thibodeau: "I don't really know what you're talking about."
As​ word of​ Jimmy​ Butler’s​ expletive-laden​ return to Timberwolves practice this week​ started to​ spread,​ those steeped​ in​ this​​ franchise’s basketball lore found it eerily similar to the days when Kevin Garnett prowled Target Center with a foul-mouthed fury and a never-ending lather. Watching it unfold from afar, the original alpha wolf recognized some similarities in the way Butler went at coach Tom Thibodeau, GM Scott Layden and teammates Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins during a spirited scrimmage on Wednesday. He also sees some noticeable differences. “You don’t think that I went crazy sometimes? Man, I was a damn Tasmanian devil,” Garnett told The Athletic in a phone interview. “I would say shit at (Kevin) McHale. I would say shit at Flip (Saunders). But it was all to motivate all of us. We had a big game against Chicago and I’m just raising the level to what I’m expecting the next day to be like.”
That’s why he is so concerned at the current state of affairs. He may have won a championship in Boston, but he still sees himself as Minnesotan, as connected to this woebegone franchise that he put on the map. “I’m a T-Wolf for life, man,” Garnett said. “I’m ‘Sota for life. I’ve always wanted better for not only the city and the franchise, but Wigs, KAT, those are my guys. I root for those guys. Gorgui Dieng. Those are my guys. I’m just hoping they can get through this rough patch and everybody can get on the same patch and figure it out. It’s a shit storm up there.” Butler has demanded a trade, missed the first two weeks of training camp and the preseason, then returned for an hour-long portion of practice on Wednesday before storming out and airing his grievances in a SportsCenter interview with Rachel Nichols. “What’s really the shit storm is that can’t nobody keep shit in practice,” Garnett said. “What goes on in practice should always stay in practice. And what goes on between two conglomerates as businesses should always stay (private). Everything is so god damn public now.”
Alex Kennedy: Another Wolves player, Darius Johnson-Odom, tweeted (then deleted) that there was no players-only meeting. So far, we have Jeff Teague, Darius Johnson-Odom and player-development coach John Lucas III saying there WASN'T a meeting versus Jimmy Butler saying there WAS a meeting.

http://twitter.com/alexkennedynba/status/1050492542758936576
Jimmy Butler held a players-only meeting with Minnesota Timberwolves players on Thursday, a day after he reported to the team for a first, contentious practice. Butler, who proclaimed Wednesday his sole concern was with winning, said he reiterated to players in the meeting that his issues were with management and not his teammates. Butler confirmed the meeting in a text to ESPN's Rachel Nichols. The news was first reported by The Athletic.

http://twitter.com/DaneMooreNBA/status/1050435900574822402
Dane Moore: Not only would the roster be frail this yr but it would have taken NUMEROUS future assets to have cleared $19M. In this salary cap environment, multiple league execs told me it would have taken "two 1sts" to move Gorgui Dieng's contract (only $16M of $19M needed). Gorgui Dieng: Keep my name out of your mouth. You always talk about me. If you want this money suit up then.
Alex Kennedy: Another Wolves player, Darius Johnson-Odom, tweeted (then deleted) that there was no players-only meeting. So far, we have Jeff Teague, Darius Johnson-Odom and player-development coach John Lucas III saying there WASN'T a meeting versus Jimmy Butler saying there WAS a meeting.

http://twitter.com/AlexKennedyNBA/status/1050492542758936576
Storyline: Minnesota Timberwolves Turmoil
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