Storyline: Minnesota Timberwolves Turmoil

163 rumors in this storyline

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.”

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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.”
4 days ago via ESPN

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.

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.
1 week ago via ESPN

“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.”

“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.”

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.

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.

There are people close to this situation who strongly believe that Thibs’ time in Minnesota is already unofficially over. That being said, two key factors will be taken into consideration: Money, and timing. While the $24 million he’s still owed obviously pales in comparison to what the T-Wolves’ young cornerstones are hauling in, it’s still … $24 million. Thibodeau’s arrival in April of 2016 was a big moment for this franchise that had been in the dark for quite some time, and let’s not forget that — dysfunction be darned — it was his team that broke the 14-year playoff drought.

Butler showed up to practice late and just subbed himself into the scrimmage on the third team to go against the starting group, league sources said. Throughout the practice, Butler verbally bashed Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, president of basketball operations/coach Tom Thibodeau and general manager Scott Layden, league sources said. Screaming from the top of his lungs, Butler uttered taunts at his teammates such as “They ain’t [expletive]!” and “They soft!”, league sources said. Most of the players knew the invectives were directed at Towns and Wiggins, league sources said.

Sports Center: “All my emotion came out at one time.” Jimmy Butler sat down with @Rachel__Nichols to talk about today’s practice and what led to it. See more on SportsCenter at 6 ET and NBA Countdown at 7 ET

2 weeks ago via ESPN

Jimmy Butler sounds off at practice

All-Star Jimmy Butler participated in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ practice on Wednesday, a session that included him verbally challenging teammates, coaches and front office executives, league sources told ESPN. Butler was vociferous and emotional at times, targeting president/coach Tom Thibodeau, general manager Scott Layden and teammates Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, league sources said. He had not practiced with the team so far this season after requesting a trade three weeks ago.

The Bucks took control of this game in no small part due to errors and miscommunication from the Timberwolves on offense — usually one of their saving graces. Andrew Wiggins and Tyus Jones both had four turnovers and Anthony Tolliver and Jeff Teague had three each as a part of 21 total turnovers. “You can tell the teams who got together over the summer,” Teague said afterward. “I think those guys spent a lot of time together over the summer, you can tell. We didn’t see each other until the season started, so we got a little more time to get right, but we’ve got to hurry up.”
3 weeks ago via ESPN

It was an open secret throughout the league last season that Towns, and fellow max player Andrew Wiggins, didn’t show the type of consistent work ethic that Butler respects. There were far too many lapses from both players, especially Wiggins, that left Butler and others within the Timberwolves organization shaking their collective heads. As usual, Thibodeau figured he could get through the summer, get the players into camp, and put in more work so that his team could improve together. After all, one of the veteran coach’s favorite mantras is that “the magic is in the work.”

While Thibodeau said on Monday that last week was the first time Butler made a trade request, the warning signs of discontent were there much earlier. After the Rockets eliminated the Timberwolves in the first round of the playoffs in May, Butler did not fly with the team back to Minnesota, sources said. He took a flight to Los Angeles shortly after the game was over and refused to do the standard medical exam all players go through as part of their exit interviews.

Right now, there’s no reason for any of the places Butler reportedly wants to go to give up picks or young players as part of a package for him. (Sources indicated over the weekend that the Knicks, supposedly one of those teams, haven’t made any inquiries about the 29 year old.) The Nets and Clippers, the two other teams reportedly on his short list, will have room for at least one — and, most likely, two — max free agents in the Summer of 2019. Each can just wait for Butler to opt out of his final year and become an unrestricted free agent, at which they can offer him a four-year max deal.

Butler had his own double standard. Privately and publicly he occasionally roasted both Wiggins and Towns for their shoddy defensive effort and acumen. But the most consequentially bad defender on the Wolves, by far, last season was Jamal Crawford, the sixth man who played 42 percent of his team’s minutes and compiled a defensive rating of 112.9 points allowed per 100 possessions. Phoenix finished last in team defensive efficiency allowing 110.6 points per 100 possessions. Towns and Wiggins both had a defensive rating of 107.7 points allowed per 100 possessions. But Butler never felt the need to criticize Crawford, who also had a higher usage rate on offense than anyone on the Wolves but Butler and another ex-Bull, Derrick Rose.

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.
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October 21, 2018 | 12:17 pm EDT Update
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52 mins ago via ESPN
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52 mins ago via ESPN
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