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."
June 25, 2021 | 9:21 am EDT Update
So, why does this matter now? Because sources say the Atlanta Hawks are not happy that the league is continuing to look the other way on the matter in the Eastern Conference Finals. In the Hawks’ Game 1 116-113 win over the Bucks on Wednesday, Antetokounmpo — by the Hawks’ internal count — ranged between 11.5 seconds and 13.3 seconds on his eight attempts but wasn’t whistled once.
The Australian Federation announced that guard/forward Ryan Broekhoff and forward/center Isaac Humphries have withdrawn from the national team ahead of the Olympic Games. Broekhoff mentioned mental health issues as the reason he’ll skip playing with the Boomers this summer. “My mental health is something I have struggled with for a long time and I think it’s important for me to put my hand up and admit when things aren’t ok and that it is time to seek help.”
All it took was a phone call with current president Kevin Pritchard and an agreement materialized quickly. “Familiarity with the organization is the a plus for me,” Carlisle, who signed a four-year, $29 million deal, told IndyStar late Thursday night in a phone conversation. “When you’re asked to come back to the same place a third time, that’s a special.”
Carlisle has talked with most of his players already. He didn’t speak with Sabonis, who is with the Lithuanian national team. “I had relevant, constructive conversations about the situation,” he said. “I like the tone. I like the way these guys are talking. It sounds like a group that’s ready to make some sacrifices.”
Brad Townsend: As Jason Kidd begins to assemble his coaching staff, with his formal hiring as Mavericks head coach apparently imminent, 2011 title-team teammates JJ Barea and Jason Terry certainly appear to be strong candidates to rejoin the organization. “I hope,” Barea says.
June 25, 2021 | 9:00 am EDT Update
The candidacy of Jacque Vaughn as head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans is “gaining traction”, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. Vaughn was previously head coach of the Orlando Magic and has been an assistant coach with the Brooklyn Nets since 2016.
“I’m not saying he’s going to get his job because Charles Lee on the Bucks’ staff is also going to be a strong candidate. The word coming out of Chicago at the draft combine is that Jacque Vaughn, who is close to Trajan Langdon… Jacque Vaughn is going to get a real serious look and has interviewed I believe with the Pelicans.”
According to several sources, tension arose between both coaches and Griffin when management tried to incorporate its preferences into player evaluations, rotations and general strategy. The strain led to a recognition of differing philosophies between the coaching staff and front office, pulling the Pelicans away from the “shared vision” Griffin so commonly refers to when addressing franchise goals.