Jimmy Butler Trade Update, Dominant Practice Appearance and Reaction From Other Timberwolves
Jimmy Butler has taken the NBA world by storm recently. From his trade request, or demand rather, to his confrontational, alpha male takeover of the first day of practice with the Minnesota Timberwolves. I’m sure anyone with a twitter has seen the quotes and stories from practice, but Butler has talked with various reporters since. The hope of this post is for everyone reading to hear from people actually in the situation and the different perspectives they have. If you read to the end you will be fully updated on the situation and feel like an NBA insider yourself.
Quick Situation Explanation
The locker room situation before the incident has been covered extensively, but I can summarize it quickly to catch up those who aren’t aware. Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times had reported that Butler is “All fed up with the nonchalant attitudes of the younger players.” This quote summarized Butler’s overall attitude towards the team, this is the reason for the trade demand and the outburst in practice.
Details On "The Practice"
Butler arrived at the practice and was “dominating the court in every way” as one media member put it. Butler took players from the end of the bench, basically the worst players in the gym and scrimmaged against the rest of the Timberwolves’ starters. Butler’s scrub squad whooped the starters up and down the court every game. At one point, while Butler and the bench squad were winning, Karl Anthony-Towns exclaimed “Anybody can get this work.” Jimmy then responded with “Me, do it to me” and the continued “every time I’m switched on to you, you pass it out.” Anthony-Towns averaged over 20 a game last year, I’m sure the majority of people in the league can “come get this work” from KAT, but not Butler and definitely not today. It was also reported that a lot of Butler’s trash talk revolved around his teammates being “soft.” This practice would already be a story, but then Butler saw some team executives in the gym watching. Butler looked straight out General Manager Scott Layden and said “You fu----- need me, you can’t win without me.” This is the icing on the cake. Obviously this seems crazy, but what will be the effects of this day going forward?
Butler has denied any claim that this whole issue is about contracts or money. Butler remains adamant that his teammates do not work as hard as he does. In the interview with Rachel Nichols, Butler labeled KAT as the most talented on the team, Wiggins as the most god-gifted and himself as the hardest worker (full quote below). Butler also emphasized how “winning has to be the number one priority.” This statement may be directed towards Wiggins, who has commonly been labeled as a “for the money player,” and/or KAT, who has been labeled as a guy who cares more about his personal stats than the win.
Butler has worked harder than almost anybody in the NBA and he holds his teammates to the same expectation. This can result in a lot of conflicts, I think this quote from Jimmy below expresses the situation fairly accurately.
I'm a competitor, I'm in here talking, come at me. If you score on me, I'm gonna tap you on your butt. You got the best of me -- but you got to do it every time. Am I being tough on him? Yeah! Yeah, that's who I am. I'm not the most talented player. Who's the most talented player on our team? KAT. Who's the most god-gifted player on our team? Wigs. Wigs got the longest arms, the biggest hands, can jump the highest, can run the fastest. But like who plays the hardest? Me. I play hard. I play real— Jimmy Butler
Reaction Around The Timberwolves Organization
It is important to mention both Wiggins and Thibodeau have expressed their thoughts on the situation fairly objectively. Wiggins said “When the real games start, he’s a guy you want on your team” in reference to Butler. Yes Mr. Wiggins I agree, you should want to play with the guy who repeatedly beat your starting lineup with “all third stringers.” That is a positive as it shows there may be some possibility of a compromise in Minnesota. Thibodeau also explained that whether Jimmy remains in Minnesota or gets shipped somewhere else he will give the game everything he has, which is exactly what happened in practice. Jeff Teague also expressed to the media that the events did not distract him and that he “loves Jimmy.”
Jimmy Butler Trade Timeline
Unfortunately, I do not think this “event” we’ll say, will speed up the timeline for a Butler trade. Minnesota is adamant on their stiff demands for Butler’s talents. This makes sense because, if this talented of a team plays poorly for another year, head coach Tom Thibodeau is likely out the door. Trading 4-time All-Star Jimmy Butler for young players and/or draft picks will not help their ability to win this year. So we know coach Thibs wants Butler to stay around because, without Butler, Thibs will most likely be looking for a new job at the end of the season. And who makes the decisions on personnel (including trades)? Oh yeah that’s right, Tom Thibodeau. Thibodeau isn’t worried about Butler leaving as a free agent next season he is one-hundred percent focused on winning this year because his job relies on it. If Butler is traded, the Timberwolves will have a terrible record this year and Thibs will be fired. If Butler is kept, Thibs will still probably lose his job after he leaves in free agency, but if they can make a respectable playoff run he may be able to keep his job.
How This May Affect Wiggins and Anthony-Towns
Whether Butler stays with the Timberwolves or not, this may prove to be a positive for both Wiggins and Anthony-Towns. Wiggins’ work ethic has been questioned since he got into the league and criticized even further since the Butler situation arose. I’m sure Wiggins enjoys, but if anything can convince Wiggins to embrace the work and the grind of becoming great this might be it. Wiggins’ natural gifts have placed him above his peers, he isn’t used to being showed up, especially by a teammate. Being ran off the court by Butler and four other guys whose lifetime earnings won’t even come close to Wiggins’ last contract may be the call to action he needs. Having a challenger in his own locker room may push Wiggins to put in the work that can transform him from an above average player to an all-star.
Karl Anthony-Towns has proven his worth in the last two seasons and been rewarded with a max extension. While I don’t think KAT needs as big as a wake-up call as Wiggins, someone needs to stir the pot. KAT has been the best player on a sub-par Minnesota team since he was drafted. This may lead to the complacency Butler has implied. I think KAT will be fine either way, but I think a confrontational environment can harden his outer shell and prepare him to compete at the intensity level needed in the NBA Playoffs.
Jimmy The Alpha
Overall this was a power move by Jimmy Butler. Going into practice and dominating at the level reported is a Jordan/Kobe type moment. This is how Kobe dealt with nonchalant play, he beat you and embarrassed you until you either worked hard enough to compete or left. I honestly believe Minnesota may be able to keep Butler because of this practice. The payroll may not reflect it, but Jimmy has asserted himself as the man on this team and if Wiggins and KAT follow him, how he works and how he plays the sky is the limit for this team.