Jimmy Butler finally joined the Timberwolves for practice yesterday, capping his absence from team activities at three weeks. Since he met head coach Tom Thibodeau and enunciated his desire to be traded last month, he moved — and was granted permission — to stay away. Needless to say, the hope was that a deal could be done soon. With the start of the season just around the corner, however, he had to allow for the possible perpetuation of the status quo.
By all accounts, Butler took no time reasserting his alpha-dog status with the Timberwolves. He was extremely active yesterday, showing all and sundry that he, too, stayed in shape during the time he kept to himself. And if the intensity he displayed is any indication, he’s prepared to be front and center for the blue and black once the 2018-19 campaign gets under way. He was engaged from start to finish, his commitment to his craft evident even to his most critical teammates.
Which is not to say Butler has changed his mind. On the contrary, he made sure everyone knew where he stood, taking to task Thibodeau, general manager Scott Layden, fellow All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns, and 2014 top overall pick Andrew Wiggins throughout the practice session. He minced no words, saw fit to talk trash, and, just to make sure his message got through, reiterated his position during an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols right after.
Whether Butler’s defiant stance makes him more or less desirable as a trade target remains to be seen. The Heat are said to remain interested in acquiring his services, but not to the point of being fleeced. Certainly, the Timberwolves’ bargaining power has been eroded by his publicized intent to test free agency next year. That said, they’re obviously ready to play the long game; they may acknowledge that he’s on the way out, but they want to let it happen on their terms. In other words, the seemingly inevitable is clear, but the when is not.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.