After sitting out while
awaiting a trade rehabbing after injuring his wrist, Jimmy Butler practiced with the Timberwolves for the first time last week. He reportedly showed up late, talked a ton of trash and led third-stringers to a win over the starters then left early.
Amidst widespread speculation they had to trade Butler after that, the Tom Thibodeau-run Timberwolves put out word they considered it their best practice of the year.
Maybe Thibodeau is that insanely competitive. Maybe he was just trying to preserve leverage.
If it were the latter, he sure stuck to his story.
Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN:
Teams who talked to Minnesota after his first practice, literally the day after his practice, Minnesota was asking for more then than they were before the day. Which tells you this: Minnesota is not trading him. They’re asking for packages that know teams aren’t going to agree to.
The Timberwolves are in a though spot. Butler is an excellent player, but everyone knows he wants out. I don’t blame them for trying to maximize their limited leverage.
How will Butler react to this revelation, though? Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said he told Butler the team would seek a trade. Butler pledged to play hard in the meantime.
But if Butler playing hard just makes it less likely Minnesota will trade him, will he feel as if the team isn’t holding up its end of the bargain? Then what?
It has long seemed Taylor and Thibodeau are on different pages on several issues. Though Taylor just backed Thibodeau, Butler could drive a wedge even deeper between the owner and president-coach.
DETROIT – Yesterday – yesterday! – J.R. Smith explained why he didn’t leave the Cavaliers when, a few weeks ago, they pulled him from the rotation and gave him the offer to step away.
“I can’t do that to the city and the fans,” Smith said. “A lot of people have been backing me since I’ve been here. I feel like it’s been a new start since I came here. The way the fans embraced me, the way that I’ve embraced the city, my teammates, I can’t do that to them.”
But Smith also said Cleveland is tanking and reaffirmed his desire to be traded. That probably set wheels in motion.
Joe Vardon of The Athletic:
Smith – who’s guaranteed $18.59 million on a contract that will surely end after this season – carries negative trade value. The Cavs shouldn’t attach the sweetener necessary to dump him. They’re better off just paying him for now.
Because just $3.87 million of his $15.68 million salary for next season is guaranteed, Smith’s contract could prove useful in a trade.
If Smith would reduce his guarantee with a buyout, let him go. But Smith probably shouldn’t do that without a new job lined up.
So, the stalemate continues.
If everyone is happier apart, all the better. Smith wasn’t making a difference on the court for a team he correctly identified as tanking.
Markelle Fultz said his shooting problems were due to injury, and just a couple weeks ago, he insisted he was generally healthy.
But something is clearly amiss.
The 76ers guard finally appears to be acknowledging it.
David Aldridge of The Athletic:
Should we read into Brothers – usually identified as Fultz’s agent – being referred to as Fultz’s attorney? That sounds ominous.
There has been back-and-forth between Fultz’s and the 76ers about who deserves blame for his struggles.
J.R. Smith said he wants the Cavaliers to trade him.
But that was right after they told Smith he’d be shut down. He has been playing regularly lately.
Still, Smith isn’t pleased with Cleveland.
J.R. Smith, via Jason Lloyd of The Athletic:
“I don’t think the goal is to win. The goal isn’t to go out there and try to get as many wins as you can,” Smith said. “I think the goal is to develop and lose to get lottery picks. I think that was always the plan.”
And as long as the Cavs are operating this way, Smith is not interested in being part of it.
“Not if the goal isn’t to compete, to win,” he said.
If that’s what the Cavaliers are doing, that’s smart. They need premier young talent, and a high draft pick is the best way to acquire it. Because they owe the Hawks a top-10-protected first-rounder, the Cavs need to tank hard rather taking half-measures.
But I also understand why Smith wants no part of it. He’s 33 years old, and he doesn’t have time to wait around for a rebuild. He wants to win now.
Smith should shame the Cavaliers for tanking. That should be a consequence of their plan, even if it’s the right one. He is a casualty of it. If he shames Cleveland into trading or buying him out, all the better.
Kevin Durant once said he appreciated hecklers.
That didn’t appear to be the case during the Warriors’ loss to the Mavericks on Saturday.
Durant – who’s been sour after his highly public argument with Draymond Green – confronted Dallas fans and told them to “watch the f—ing game and shut the f— up.”
One witness who was sitting in spitting distance from the incident tells us … the heckler was just saying the typical NBA fan trash talk — calling KD names like, “Cupcake” and other insults.
Another witness tells TMZ Sports … the hecklers had been bombarding KD with the “cupcake” insults to the point where it became unbearable.
That witness tells us KD complained to the refs at one point but the fans were not removed or disciplined in any way.
We’re told the group laughed off the incident because they knew they got to him and ramped up the trash talk even more for the rest of the game.
Durant obviously has a history of confronting critics. But that’s usually online, not in person.
The NBA generally fines players for getting caught on video talking to fans this way. The league doesn’t seem to have a problem with players responding to fans when it’s not on video. Hecklers’ days are made when players respond, but the league doesn’t seem to account for that.
It’s an unfair system, but it’s the one Durant is in.
He and Golden State are also in a three-game losing streak. Snap that, and Durant will probably become more friendly.