Storyline: Jimmy Butler Trade?

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Nichols said she spoke with Butler during training camp about when he might want to talk publicly. “Honestly, at one point when it looked like things were going a certain way with Minnesota, Jimmy was in Los Angeles for a week and we thought he was going to come and be on the show,” she said. “That was the original plan, to come to the studio and be on the show and we had the beginnings of that setup. Then the trade conversations with Miami heated up and he and his agent —and this was smart on their part — thought Jimmy randomly going on TV and talking about stuff might not be the smartest thing.”

“As those days went by there was the casual, ‘Hey, are you going to go back to practice? Are you going to do media? What are you going to do?’” Nichols said. “The day before (his first practice), at 7 p.m. at night was one of those conversations. We learned that he’s ready to go back, he’s going to go to practice, he wants to talk. But as a lot of these guys do, if they want to say something complicated …. doing it in a scrum environment where you are leaning up against a wall and there are 10 cameras in your face and people are asking you questions where one question does not necessarily follow another question in terms of topic, or you start an answer and get interrupted or sidetracked, maybe you don’t say the whole thing that you wanted to say. I think a lot of athletes feel that sitting down and having an interview is the way they want to get that stuff out first.”

On the issue of whether she felt at all used by Butler’s camp as part of a media strategy, Nichols said, “When is it bad to have somebody get out what they think and what is going on with them? I think within the interview if people are not held accountable, that is when you have a problem, if the interview becomes fluffy. I have done a bunch of interviews lately including one with Anthony Davis where he came out in the opening answer and said, ‘I think I am the best player in the league,’ and he gives his general answer about why he thinks he is the best player in the NBA. I could have just let that pass. Instead, I said, ‘You want to tell me why you think you are better than LeBron James or Kevin Durant?’ If within the interview you don’t hold people accountable, that is where you can ask is someone using you to get their message (out).”

“It calms you down, for sure, a little bit,” point guard Goran Dragic said of the meeting. “Of course, everybody is talking, including me. I just want to focus on my job. But deep down, it affects you a little bit. I want to stay here. I like it, really. So when Pat came after practice and sat us down and we had a small meeting, he told us that and you can feel a little bit of relief. But that doesn’t mean, in the near future it can’t happen. So we still need to do our job. We still need to be professionals.”

For now, Minnesota’s talks with teams around the NBA are mostly dormant, league sources told The Athletic. The Miami Heat have long been the most aggressive team pursuing Butler, having advantages with a young, promising wing in Josh Richardson, being a team not in Minnesota’s conference and holding other assets to add in a package. Yet days before their own season opener Wednesday, Miami president Pat Riley had informed his locker room that the team would stick with the current roster to start the season and the loyalty the organization has for their current players, league sources said.

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.”

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.

5 days ago via ESPN

But the Warriors won’t have four in-their-prime stars forever. Chris Paul is 33. Towns has a chance to be the most versatile scoring big man in history. You’re gonna leave that dude to go to Miami and play with … who? You’re gonna move to Brooklyn, even though Irving scuttled the dream of teaming up there? Philly would be a different story, and Butler has eyes for them, sources familiar with the matter say. The Sixers have expressed almost no interest in trading for him, sources say. There is some theoretical road map to a Clippers team-up with Leonard.

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.

“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.”

“So they finally relented on Josh Richardson, they were giving them Josh Richardson. Then Dion Waiters was going to be the cap filler, and then a protected first-round pick. The medicals were exchanged, which, really, generally in the NBA means this is a done deal. And then, Thibs called back and wanted more picks. And Pat Riley literally — I was told — called him a motherbleeper and hung up the phone.” A NBA source familiar with the Heat’s dealings with the Timberwolves said Riley insists he did not offer such a reaction.

The Heat do not publicly comment on trade negotiations and numerous times since Butler’s trade request became public three weeks ago have, through their media-relations department, stressed that players, coaches and team officials would not be made available to comment on the matter. The Heat, according to a source familiar with the dealings, “are not trying to re-engage” in the talks. The process, however, seemingly remains fluid in light of Butler’s recent behavior and comments.

Here’s the audio from Sedano’s ESPN Los Angeles radio show today, in which he describes the almost-trade between the Heat and the Wolves: Here it is transcribed: There’s been a couple of different incarnations of this deal. The first one, the Heat didn’t want to take back Gorgui Dieng. Then, the next incarnation of the deal was ‘OK forget it, let’s just do it straight up, just for Jimmy on your end.’ They finally relented on Josh Richardson, they were giving them Josh Richardson, then Dion Waiters was going to be the cap filler, and then a protected first-round pick. The medicals were exchanged, which generally in the NBA means this is a done deal. And then, Thibs called back and wanted more picks. And Pat Riley literally—I was told—called him a motherbleeper and hung up the phone.

While teams trying to deal with the Timberwolves as the Jimmy Butler saga drags have expressed frustration with the asking price — Miami’s offer was centered around solid, young two-way guard Josh Richardson and a draft pick, but the Wolves sought to add deadweight salary into the mix — there’s also a good deal of trepidation about acquiring Butler, league executives told Sporting News. “As good as Jimmy is, I think you have to be concerned about the impact he is going to have in the locker room, on your younger guys, on your coaching staff, all of that,” one general manager said. “He has gotten the benefit of the doubt, but if you look at his history, he’s had trouble getting along in Chicago and now in Minnesota.

The Clippers have been in contact with the Wolves, too, but LA won’t include forward Tobias Harris in a deal. Instead, the Clippers have juggled offers that include Danilo Gallinari as the centerpiece, or some combination including guards Patrick Beverley, Milos Teodosic and others. “The Wolves want to get fair value on Jimmy, but that is not going to happen,” one executive told Sporting News. “It’s not just that. If you’re the Nets or Clippers, you know you could sign the guy next summer without giving up anything. It’s also, is this the right fit with what we are doing? The Nets have been trying to build up a certain culture, but you add Butler and that dynamic changes.

Players have tired of the constant questions about Butler’s status. The cloud has hung over the franchise for three weeks now, and it’s clear that they have enough to worry about with their performances in the preseason. “It’s tough but you have to just circle the wagons like Thibs said,” Gibson said. “I’m just focusing right now on whoever is here because you have to understand we have a strong group of guys that come in here, put a lot of time and work in.

That the talks collapsed twice in such a short span should be surprising to no one who has followed the Wolves throughout Taylor’s quarter-century of ownership. The same Taylor who held onto Kevin Garnett and then-General Manager Kevin McHale for too long. Who allowed himself to be talked into hiring the thoroughly ill-prepared David Kahn as McHale’s replacement. Who could have escaped his Butler nightmare by accepting a package from Miami that would have been headlined by the promising Heat swingman Josh Richardson and a protected first-round pick.

Numerous teams have complained in recent days that Thibodeau and Layden are acting like two men who really don’t want to make a deal. But that hasn’t stopped the Heat from engaging in numerous rounds of talks with the Wolves and presenting them with what appears to be a pretty palatable offer given Minnesota’s distinct lack of leverage. Miami, Brooklyn and the Los Angeles Clippers are the teams known to most interest Butler in the long-term. The fact that one of those three is willing to furnish a young player as highly rated as Richardson, along with a potential first-round pick, would enable the Wolves to recoup a good bit of what they gave up (Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the draft pick that became Lauri Markkanen) to acquire Butler.

As lifeless and distracted as the Wolves have looked during the exhibition season, can you imagine Butler, Towns and Wiggins trying to co-exist long enough for Taylor to find a trade he’s willing to sanction? Toronto, Houston, Boston, San Antonio, Philadelphia and, of course, LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers — there are so many teams, for so many intriguing reasons, we should be obsessing over as opening night draws near. There’s also the small matter of the Golden State Warriors preparing to work in the mercurial DeMarcus Cousins as they chase a fourth championship in five seasons.

Multiple reports have the Rockets eliminated from contention, despite offering a package rumored to be as big as Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, and several draft picks. The reasoning for Houston being ruled out isn’t because of the deal, but because, reportedly, Minnesota doesn’t want the Rockets to become the kind of juggernaut the Western Conference already has in Golden State. “We already are at [that level],” Feritta says in a phone call. “We’re an improved team over last year based on who we’ve acquired this offseason. And last year, obviously, we’re a game away from the Finals. “We would love to see Jimmy come home to Houston. It’s not a financial decision, it’s an assets decision on our part. We’ve got a great basketball team. We think we’re as good as anybody in the league. We’re not going to give up unreasonable assets, to break up this team, to get Jimmy Butler. But we would love to have him.”

While Houston continues to explore its options in the Jimmy Butler saga and has significant interest in landing the disgruntled Minnesota star, strong skepticism remains that the Timberwolves are seriously dedicated to finding a deal. So long as that remains the case, with so many executives convinced that president of basketball operations/coach Tom Thibodeau still wants Butler to stay despite the uncomfortable nature of it all, then these Rockets will have to prepare as if there is no more help on the way. Translation: The prospect of Anthony playing like a legitimate star again would be welcomed. He has plenty of personal incentive, too, as he’ll be a free agent again next summer after signing a one-year, $2.4 million deal with Houston (Anthony was traded by the Thunder to Atlanta in a three-team deal with Philadelphia, then bought out by the Hawks; he’s still slated to earn the $27.9 million he was owed for next season between the buyout and his Rockets deal).

Although the Butler drama has seemingly put the organization in a bind, Thibodeau warned against letting it become more of a distraction than it already is. “Focus on the people that are here and get ready to play. That’s it,” Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said before the game. “We’ve got a long season, and if you look you can get distracted very easily, so focus is very important. This team has been through a lot in the last year. I think they’re ready to handle whatever is thrown our way.”
2 weeks ago via ESPN

Talks between the two teams could restart again, but it appears there would need to be a resetting process between Miami and Minnesota, league sources said. Minnesota has been engaged with no serious talks elsewhere on Butler, with teams believing that a Miami deal was inevitable and the Timberwolves steep asking price often remaining a non-starter in talks, league sources said. Butler is a four-time All-Star who has told Minnesota that he’ll leave in free agency in July — and wants a trade now.

While Houston continues to explore its options in the Jimmy Butler saga and has significant interest in landing the disgruntled Minnesota star, strong skepticism remains that the Timberwolves are seriously dedicated to finding a deal. So long as that remains the case, with so many executives convinced that president of basketball operations/coach Tom Thibodeau still wants Butler to stay despite the uncomfortable nature of it all, then these Rockets will have to prepare as if there is no more help on the way.

In any deal with the Clippers, Minnesota would prefer to acquire forward Tobias Harris, sources said. Various trade packages have been proposed on both sides, but the Clippers do not intend to trade Harris, sources said. The Timberwolves’ brass hasn’t fully engaged the Clippers’ pitches, sources said, because it is believed that president of basketball operations/head coach Tom Thibodeau is holding out hope that he can persuade Butler to rescind his trade request.
2 weeks ago via ESPN

Timberwolves executives told other interested teams in the past 24 hours that they didn’t have any offers that met the franchise’s criteria to honor Butler’s trade request and planned to hold on to him until a deal met their requirements, league sources said. Miami is one of the preferred destinations of Butler’s, league sources said. He has told the Wolves that he’ll leave the team in July free agency, and has expressed interest in several teams with max salary space, including the LA Clippers, Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks.

During “The Scoop” segment with Darren Wolfson on Wednesday on 1500 ESPN, he mentioned that while the Wolves could fine Jimmy Butler for not practicing with the team they weren’t doing so as a “good faith move with the hope he will rejoin them, even if it’s for a short time.” Butler has made it clear he wants out of Minnesota after one season and has told the organization that if he isn’t traded he will leave as a free agent next summer. Butler did report to training camp but was excused from the early practice sessions as he recovered from offseason surgery on his right wrist.

Darren Wolfson: It’s also why the #Twolves aren’t fining Butler, which they could. Good faith move with the hope that he will rejoin them, even if it’s for a short time. Sort of comparable to ‘Melo in Denver in 2010. Asked for a trade in late August, was moved months later at the deadline.

Darren Wolfson: “My understanding is, from talking to numerous league officials – league sources, front-office folks, a coach, actually, a couple of coaching sources – that the Timberwolves have all the parameters of the deals that they can make. So it’s on the Wolves at some point here to say yes. Now, do they wait a little bit longer just to see if some team adds some player in, like Miami? Miami is not willing to move Josh Richardson. But in the end, do they offer Josh Richardson? I talked about that on a recent podcast, that some league people thought yeah, at the end, Pat Riley would make him available when you have the chance to acquire a star like Jimmy Butler. But so far, as of Oct. 2nd, no sense whatsoever that Miami is making Josh Richardson available. Same goes for Bam Adebayo.”
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