By Anthony L. Cuaycong
Considering the Timberwolves’ insistence on getting back for the buck, their intent to move four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler has not surprisingly hit a snag. Even as they were close to getting a deal done, going so far as to share medical records with the Heat, their 11th-hour demand “to amend the framework of the trade,” per ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski, led their otherwise-willing partner to back off.
That the Timberwolves actually “advanced to the brink of a blockbuster trade” was no small feat. True, Butler wanted out and made his plan to explore free agency next year public, effectively sealing his fate; one way or another, he was going, going, gone. On the other hand, his insistence on playing for employers with the wherewithal to offer him a maximum five-year, $190-million contract has severely limited options.
It also hasn’t helped that head coach Tom Thibodeau continues to hold out hope for Butler suiting up in blue and white anew. With his job on the line, he’s reluctant to part with the single biggest reason for the Timberwolves’ first playoff appearance in 14 years. The incongruity with owner Glen Taylor’s pronouncements has effectively shooed away potential suitors.
Taken in this light, the Heat’s offer prior to backing out may well be hard to top. Even as Butler’s the National Basketball Association’s finest two-way workhorse not named Kawhi Leonard, the miles on his odometer and notable predilection for injury discount his overall effectiveness. That he will be an aging financial albatross on the tail end of the contract he seeks likewise gives interested parties pause.
That said, the Timberwolves clearly believe they can get better. Forget that the little leverage they have is eroded by the day. Never mind that Butler isn’t planning on hitting the court unless and until he sports a new address. As far as they’re concerned, he’s worth more than what they’ve seen so far. It’s a gamble, but evidently one they’re willing to take. Too bad for fans; no matter what happens, they lose.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.