The Jimmy Butler tirade during a one-hour practice session with his Minnesota Timberwolves teammates produced mixed side effects, one that can make or break his potential trade to another team before the start of the regular season.
The All-Star forward took center stage in a daring, profanity-laced practice on Wednesday, teaming up with the third-stringers to thoroughly embarrass the starters, especially young guns like Andrew Wiggins and the newly-extended Karl-Anthony Towns.
His stunt didn’t go unnoticed, quickly making the rounds through the media — enough to be addressed during his live, yet pre-planned interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, explaining the strange situation taking place in the Twin Cities.
Understanding the ramifications of his recent practice outburst takes seeing it from multiple sides — Butler’s, the Timberwolves’, and through the inquiring teams hoping to score his services. It’s about the nuance and fallout from a a series of events.
How this looks in the eyes of Butler
Butler was merely delivering on a promise made to president/head coach Tom Thibodeau, after his repeated requests to get traded were met with counterproposals of remaining in Minnesota and playing the season out.
According to his interview with Nichols, Butler had told Thibodeau how he felt about this team, their commitment to him and the shape of the roster coming into next season only four days after they were bounced out of the playoffs by the Houston Rockets.
The Texas native has been communicating his desire to part ways for not weeks, but months, a desire that has been largely ignored by Thibodeau’s choice to play dumb and not acquiesce to his desires.
How this looks in the eyes of the Timberwolves
Thibodeau was likely loving every bit of it, always the fan of a good competitive spirit, hoping that fire for competition would awaken Butler’s desire to give this roster another go once he scolded his fellow teammates and berated him and general manager Scott Layden.
Owner Glen Taylor likely isn’t fond of how this reflects on his team, but likely has flashbacks to another fiery superstar in Kevin Garnett, who would MF his way through practices, hoping to take part in every scrimmage and compete with every chance coming his way.
Surely a sign of organizational chaos, as this isn’t something often seen by NBA teams, which caused quite the uproar once the media got wind of Butler’s one-hour reign of terror at the Mayo Clinic Square.
Hows this looks in the eyes of inquiring teams
To allow a player, no matter the caliber, to single-handedly run a practice, and… excuse my French… b***h his teammates around in the manner in which he did, shows a clear lack of organizational control and clear authority in Minnesota — a perception which is now very clear to other teams.
Butler’s distaste for his current situation is now abundantly clear, giving the Timberwolves no shade of leverage when it comes to the possibility of keeping him, as other teams are now conscious of how Minnesota can easily implode with Butler in the roster.
Prospect for the Miami Heat
If I am Pat Riley, nothing makes my itch stronger than seeing an ultra-competitive player with Jordan-esque leadership to channel his raw emotions into a one-hour onslaught to prove to his teammates and front office what a huge asset he really is.
Butler would undoubtedly take over Dwyane Wade’s mantle as the team’s next franchise player, the right type of leader the Heat’s president of basketball operations wants at the forefront of his team.
Miami has the right coaching staff to keep Butler from erupting in the way that he did Wednesday, and most importantly, the right culture to make him feel right at home — boasting an incredibly rigorous diet and exercise regimen along with the commitment to great standards.
Prospect for the Houston Rockets
The Rockets are big believers in amassing talent and finding ways to make it work, but realistically speaking, they would have to give up more than they’re willing to in order to garner his services.
Minnesota reportedly sought out a trade involving sharpshooter Eric Gordon and defensive ace P.J. Tucker, but the latter is off the table in negotiations, giving his integral value to the team as the perennial three-and-D artist.
Furthermore, the Rockets would have to be willing to take in Gorgui Dieng’s bloated three-year, $48 million contract, which could mean giving up a draft pick or a young asset as thanks for a third team willing to facilitate the deal. Houston has no cap space to take on Dieng’s contract as it is, and won’t in the future either, after signing Chris Paul and Clint Capela to long-term max deals.
Prospect for the L.A. Clippers
The biggest obstacle in this trade taking place is the inclusion of forward Tobias Harris, who turned down a four-year, $80 million extension this summer to bet on himself, bound to make substantially more as a free agent in 2019.
While the Clips could be trading one small forward for another, L.A. seems hellbent in Harris’ seamless fit with the team as a much-improved 3-point shooter and a strong rebounder, capable of playing either forward position.
The Clippers also feel they could get a shot at Butler as a free agent in 2019, which could have them save a whopping $50 million if he’s not acquired via trade, no longer having to pay the price for his Bird Rights. L.A. was one of Butler’s original preferred destinations before the Heat made a hard push to trade for him shortly after his trade request went public.
Does this scandalous practice change the scope of his trade?
In short, no — but it does put the Timberwolves on public notice about the hell that could possibly await them if they choose to hold on to Butler against his wishes, as he can ruffle more than just a few feathers for as long as he stays with the team.
Jimmy Butler hasn’t been shy about being his usual blunt-self, but fortunately, inquiring teams are completely aware of his personality and willing to take him in as he comes, knowing this latest explosion is the result of a clear fissure with coach Tom Thibodeau and a stubborn front office.
What to expect?
The Timberwolves canceled their Thursday practice, despite the recent outburst from Butler, likely strategizing a way to address this latest antic from their estranged star. The media will have to wait until the next practice to see if Butler will keep practicing or be held out until a trade is worked out.
So far the Heat are the strongest proponents for Butler, and the ones at the forefront of the race, having already put the main cog on the table in Josh Richardson. If the Timberwolves stop playing hard ball in the near future, Miami is offering the best package in return for their All-Star.