I expect the Timberwolves to trade Jimmy Butler soon. Most people expect the Timberwolves to trade Jimmy Butler soon.
But they’ve thrown enough uncertainty into the process that nothing should be taken for granted. Tom Thibodeau said he expects Butler to report to training camp if not traded within a week, and as of yesterday, the president-coach was reportedly still trying to convince Butler to stay in Minnesota.
What happens if the Timberwolves don’t trade Butler and he refuses to report?
If he withholds playing services for 30 days after training camp begins, he won’t accrue a year of service and can’t become a free agent next offseason. He couldn’t sign with another professional basketball team unless Minnesota agreed.
That 30-day clock seemingly isn’t ticking, as Butler is excused while recovering from offseason hand surgery. But if the Timberwolves want to get serious about keeping Butler, they could press the issue.
But Butler would have options, too. He could – a la Mo Williams with the Cavaliers – undergo surgery and claim he’s not healthy enough to report. Players, especially ones as damaged as Butler, often have medical issues to clean up. That could mean embellishing the effect of the hand surgery or undergoing a new surgery altogether. An elective surgery could legitimately sideline Butler. Claiming Butler is actually healthy enough to report when he says he isn’t could get quite messy if the team objects.
Again, I don’t expect it to get that far. I doubt the Timberwolves, particularly owner Glen Taylor, desire to hold Butler hostage like that. Even if they do, Butler could just report and play. He can become an unrestricted free agent after the season and leave then.
But these are the extreme options on the table if this situation devolves further.