Storyline: Jimmy Butler Trade?

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3 months ago via ESPN

The Miami Heat completed a four-team trade that allows them to sign All-Star guard Jimmy Butler to a four-year, $142 million contract, league sources told ESPN on Monday. The Heat are sending center Hassan Whiteside to the Portland Trail Blazers, guard Josh Richardson to the Philadelphia 76ers and a protected 2023 first-round pick to the Los Angeles Clippers to secure the salary cap flexibility to complete the sign-and-trade deal with the 76ers, league sources tell ESPN.

If they can’t add any substantial pieces by Thursday, are the Sixers good enough as currently constituted to overcome those obstacles and reach the Finals? They’d certainly have a shot, but simply having a chance feels inadequate when measured against the “our time is now” declaration. The question of what to do at the trade deadline is tethered to another pressing issue: Butler’s upcoming free agency. People in and around the organization have expressed concern to me that Butler could bolt this offseason.

That microscope doesn’t just come from the media, but also opposing front offices. An opposing team has already called to ask if this latest blowup means Butler might be on the market, according to league sources. This, as rumors swirl around NBA circles that the Sixers, spooked that Butler will bolt when he becomes a free agent this summer, are contemplating dealing Butler before the trade deadline. The team has never considered dealing Butler, according to league sources. But it’s worth noting that the vultures around the NBA, often willing and eager to sow discord, have emerged.

In his first comments since trading Jimmy Butler, Minnesota Timberwolves coach and president Tom Thibodeau was surgical in describing the deal that sent the All-Star guard to Philadelphia. “I said from the beginning, you always have to put the organization first,” Thibodeau said. “So you set the parameters for what you are looking for and once we felt we got to that point where the offers met some of the things we were looking for, then we said, ‘OK, now it’s time.'”

Butler decided he would play on Friday night, but he viewed it as the fork in the road. If the Timberwolves didn’t find a deal to fulfill his long-simmering trade request after that, he would begin to sit indefinitely, league sources told The Athletic. The Kings defeated Minnesota 121-110 to push the Timberwolves to 4-9 and a winless road trip; Butler had 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in 41 minutes. He had played almost 124 minutes in the last three games, all losses, and at halftime of the final one, the Wolves were informed that this was it for Butler, sources said.

After Butler plays 39 minutes in a loss to the Clippers that dropped the Wolves to 0-3 on the trip, the Wolves have conversations with the Heat about a possible trade. But the Heat inform the Wolves that Richardson is no longer on the table after his stellar start to the season, and the Wolves move on. Minnesota begins to engage seriously with Philadelphia, New Orleans and Houston. New Orleans’ package is headlined by Nikola Mirotic and an unprotected first-round draft pick and the Rockets’ proposal has Eric Gordon, Nene and two first-round picks, sources said. The 76ers come with their proposal around Robert Covington and Dario Saric, leaving the Timberwolves to deliberate.

They are not teammates anymore. Both Covington and Saric are bound for Minnesota, the headliners in a package that netted the Sixers an elusive third star-level talent in Jimmy Butler. “I think someone was searching on Twitter,” McConnell said. “I don’t have it on my phone, so I wasn’t looking at it. I didn’t think it was true until more reports started coming out. Kind of that feeling in your stomach of just like, you can’t really explain it.”

It​ was​ nearly​ midnight​ inside the Citizen Hotel in downtown​ Sacramento on​ Friday,​ and Minnesota Timberwolves​ general​ manager​​ Scott Layden was the only one in the crowded room still working. … It was time to put the Jimmy Butler saga out to pasture. I had no clue at the time that the Timberwolves had reached their breaking point. Layden was clearly focused on his conversation, and so I waved from a distance and offered a thumbs up as a way of saying hello in the most placid way possible. To my surprise, Layden — who had spent these past two months giving thumbs downs to every trade offer that came their way — offered a thumbs up in return. Little did I know: The T-Wolves were finally going to say yes.

According to a league source, the talks with Philadelphia were rekindled on Wednesday. The Sixers, who had announced Elton Brand as their new general manager on the same Sept. 18 day that Butler’s trade demand went public, put forth a take-it-or-leave-it style offer and waited for an answer. According to our Jon Krawczynski, Minnesota was deliberating between three offers. Houston was known to be among the most aggressive suitors, but sources say the Rockets would ultimately be convinced that Minnesota had been hell-bent on sending Butler to the Eastern Conference all along. It’s unclear if Miami was still in play or if there was another team involved at the end.

Shortly after that meeting, Butler had a conversation with Taylor to get the ball rolling on an exit strategy. Taylor was more open to the idea than Thibodeau was initially and promised to pursue all avenues to grant his request, sources said. The owner told Thibodeau and Layden on Sept. 22 to be proactive in seeking out possibilities to bring to his desk, but what followed was a mind-numbing process filled with mixed messages. Thibodeau and Layden took hard-line stances in negotiations, according to team sources who entered into the talks. Several owners reached out to Taylor directly, and while those conversations felt more productive, Taylor resisted calls to make a unilateral move.
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