Why did Jimmy Butler wait until just before training camp to request a trade?
That question has loomed over this entire saga. Butler is reportedly frustrated the Timberwolves have yet to trade him, but if he wanted to begin the upcoming season elsewhere, he could have given them more warning. It’s difficult to complete a deal of this magnitude so quickly.
But Butler reportedly told Tom Thibodeau in August he wouldn’t re-sign with Minnesota in 2019 free agency. And maybe Butler went even further than that.
According to a source, the two men who spent four seasons together in Chicago had breakfast in Los Angeles shortly after Butler underwent a minor surgery on his right shooting hand in early August. Yet after the meeting, the source said, their recollections about what had been said couldn’t have been more different.
Butler, who takes great pride in his willingness to be brutally honest even when the truth might hurt, believed he had made it clear that he wanted out. But Thibodeau, whose stubbornness is nothing short of legendary, swears he didn’t see it that way and continued hoping that the situation could be rectified.
Using Paul George as the model, George said he would have played out the final year of his contract with the Pacers if they wanted. He just informed them he’d leave afterward, so they traded him first. He obviously knew a trade was the likely outcome of telling Indiana his plan.
So, Butler telling Thibodeau he wouldn’t re-sign is not the same as a trade request, even if that was the implicit hope behind the message. Thibodeau should have solicited trade offers at that point, but if none were satisfactory, keeping Butler and getting another season of production from him while hoping to change his mind wasn’t necessarily the wrong course.
That said, we don’t know precisely what Butler said. Maybe he directly requested a trade.
Mostly, this is just another indicator of the Timberwolves’ poor communication and connectivity under Thibodeau. These conversations shouldn’t leave each side with opposite conclusions of what was said.
It’s hard enough to determine how to proceed when everyone knows where everyone stands. Progressing when everyone is on different pages about about how everyone feels is far more difficult.