But the Bulls traded Butler to the Timberwolves, and the Cavaliers traded Irving to the Celtics.
Could the stars join forces next summer?
Both hold player options. Irving won’t sign an extension with Boston. Butler can’t get a max extension from Minnesota (which will still offer as much as it can now) and has problems with teammates Andrew Wiggins and apparently Karl-Anthony Towns.
A league source close to the situation told the Sun-Times on Tuesday that Kyrie Irving and former Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler are still trying to figure out a way to play together.
As for Butler, a league source said that he also has no intentions of signing an extension with Minnesota, all but fed up with the nonchalant attitude of his younger teammates, specifically Karl-Anthony Towns.
Stars talk about teaming up far more often than they actual team up. But the ramifications are significant enough to take even the possibility seriously – especially with both Irving and Butler both headed toward 2019 unrestricted free agency.
I understand friction between Butler and Wiggins/Towns. Butler is on a higher competitive level than those two, and it sometimes seems to drive Butler mad those younger players don’t match his intensity. For now, Butler’s approach appears to be putting the Timberwolves on his back and dragging them as far as he can. But once he hits free agency, he might relieve himself of that burden.
Of course, Towns (22) and Wiggins (23) are young and still developing. They might improve their competitiveness next season to the point Butler enjoys Minnesota more.
And teammates aren’t the only factor in where players sign. If Minnesota offers the most money next summer, Butler might not turn that down to play with Irving.
Don’t even get started on Minnesota trading Towns for Irving. The Timberwolves wouldn’t without a pledge from Irving to re-sign and probably not even then. I doubt Irving is longing to spend the rest of his career in Minnesota.
But maybe, just maybe, there’s a way for Butler and Irving to unite with the Timberwolves or another team.