Welcome to the latest escalation of in an ugly situation for the Timberwolves. Or, if you prefer, the dumpster fire in Minnesota just got a little hotter.
What had been reported as something that could happen — Jimmy Butler missing the start of training camp — has come to reality. Butler has been given permission to miss media day and will not participate on the court to start camp, reports Jon Krawczynski and Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Skipping media day is an effort to make that less of a circus… good luck with that.
Not participating to start the camp is Butler’s way of exerting pressure and trying to get traded sooner rather than later.
In a meeting last Tuesday in Los Angeles, Butler asked for a trade, specifically to the Clippers/Nets/Knicks. That started a week where things devolved quickly in Minnesota, including social media drama with Andrew Wiggins and rumors about Towns’ girlfriend being at the heart of the problem. And those are just the side shows.
Thibodeau has forcefully shot down any other team that even tried to start a trade discussion, and would rather quit than move Butler for a rebuilding package of picks. Part of that is good negotiation tactics, right now offers are not going to be that good, however, the other part of it is Thibodeau realizes his job on the line and this team is not as good without Butler.
With Thibodeau wanting no part of trading Butler, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor — who has a rocky relationship with Thibodeau — is telling teams to make offers, then had a meeting with Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden and told them to get a deal done. That’s a bad sign for Thibodeau.
Looming over all of this is the future of the franchise — Karl-Anthony Towns has a $158 million contract extension sitting on the table, but told management he can’t coexist with Butler and reportedly will not sign the new deal until the Butler situation is resolved.
Sources around the league think Butler will get moved, but the demand for him is not as strong as the Timberwolves would hope (and ideally Minnesota would like to dump Gorgui Dieng and his contract in the deal). Teams that want him believe they can get him as a free agent and are not offering much, while others will not throw in much for a potential rental. Beyond that, teams are worried that if they sign or re-sign Butler next summer to a max contract (the team with his Bird rights can offer five-years, $190 million, others can offer four years at $139 million) they will regret the finals year or two of the contract, because while Butler is just 29 he has Thibodeau miles on him and has battled some injuries, including last season.
This drama is far from over, though if ownership is pushing to get this dealt with sooner rather than later it will.