September 19, 2018, 6:48 pm
You could feel this one coming. Last week it was reported that Jimmy Butler requested a meeting with Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden, the two decision makers on the operations side, to discuss the player’s future. For those who may not have followed the Timberwolves too closely this past year, that may have come as a moderate surprise. For the rest of us, those who have picked up every comment, seen every argument and felt the tension brewing, this is almost liberating.
Constant whispers of a bad locker room and chemistry issues have been present since last December and they have continued throughout the year. The center of it has always been a two-sided battle, Butler and Thibs versus Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. The tension never quite got out of hand, but nor did it subside. It apparently just continued to simmer throughout the season. The playoff appearance and short run may have even made the situation worse because it seemed like the two sides just seemed content with the outcome, while refusing to communicate and work things out. Had the Wolves missed the playoffs, perhaps this situation blows up sooner.
Yet here we are one week before training camp begins and now the tensions are beginning to boil.
When Butler asked to meet, it was a sign that this may finally play out and the two sides can reach an inevitable conclusion. For better or worse, that decision was made. Butler wants out and the sooner the better. The writing was on the wall and now this is the only way things could play out. It was either going to be Butler or Towns and Wiggins. For Butler, he doesn’t care about the money, he cares about getting a ring and feeling wanted.
His path to a ring in Minnesota was unclear. If he locked himself into a long-term contract, the team would have no flexibility to bring on another star veteran player over the life of his contract. He would be ‘stuck’ with Towns and Wiggins, a prospect that clearly didn’t sit well in his mind. So he’s looking for greener pastures and a team that can meet his needs.
What about feeling wanted, though? It certainly seems like Butler was a welcome addition to this franchise the moment he arrived, and he had the biggest backer possible in Thibodeau. He was going to be taken care of on the court by Coach Thibs and taken care of off the court by President Thibs. He was also the focal point for a fanbase that hadn’t seen a playoff chase in 13 years. Why didn’t he feel wanted? Perhaps things weren’t as tight between Butler and Thibs as we initially thought.
Last February, Butler and David Aldridge of NBA.com had a conversation that ranged many things from the current state of the team, their playoff chase and his upcoming summer. Aldridge asked Butler specifically about a potential extension and if he didn’t want that to be a problem going into 2019. Here is Butler’s response:
“Oh, I’m not worried about it. I mean, in the most humble way possible, if they don’t take care of me this summer, I think the summer after that, I’m’a end up playing somewhere. Let’s not worry about that. Look, money’s never the issue for me. If you win, that takes care of everything. That’s what I’m trying to do right now. When that presents itself, we’ll think about it and talk about it.”
On the surface, nothing is quite alarming there. Thibs was going to take care of Butler, end of story. Yet here we are in September, and now were talking about it. So where did they fail? The Wolves offered Butler the max extension the CBA allowed them to in July, four-years, $110 million. Butler declined, which wasn’t surprising because he could earn up to $189 million and another year if he waited until 2019.
However the Wolves could have offered him more if they cleared out salary and flew under the cap line (specifically they could renegotiate the contract under the CBA terms). It would have taken a trade of someone like… Andrew Wiggins.
So it appears as if the Wolves’ lack of action, and indirectly taking the side of Wiggins, was enough for Butler to feel unwanted and look elsewhere. Instead of supporting him by trading Wiggins, and perhaps Gorgui Dieng, renegotiating his salary and then signing him to a larger extension, they stood pat and tried to work things out for one more season. That sheds a bit more light on why Butler took so much time this offseason instead of requesting a trade back in July, at the very least. Butler gave them time to take care of him, but the clock hit zero.
So now here we are past the point of no return. Butler is gone one way or another, whether he’s traded before February or walks in July. So what’s next?
Thibs likely follows Butler out the door, no matter which impossibly tough decision he makes. It’s a lose-lose for him. Trade Jimmy for picks and young players only to miss the playoffs and get fired? Trade Jimmy for veterans and try to sneak into the eighth-seed again only to get fired when the team decides to go in a different direction? Keep Jimmy and lose him for nothing? Thibs is backed into a corner. Butler provided a list of three teams he prefers, three big markets that have the ability to sign him to the max extension next July, but for now Thibodeau is hesitant.
As Minnesota's Jimmy Butler prefers a deal to destinations including the Clippers, Knicks and Nets, Tom Thibodeau has no interest in trading him — for now. ESPN story: https://t.co/krC560ZX6d
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 19, 2018
There’s also the added layer of complexity at this point in the offseason because many teams are tied up financially until December. Butler clearly did his homework here. The three teams he lists, Clippers, Knicks and Nets, can all outright trade for him immediately. Other teams that may be interesting, like the Lakers, can’t make a trade that will work financially until December (when free agents signed this offseason are eligible to be traded). Then other teams like the Heat won’t be able to sign him to the money he seeks in July.
The list of three teams work for Butler to be traded to right now, which is clearly his intention. To get any deal done so soon will be tough, and may require a third team. You keep adding layers and layers to the trade, though, and the longer it drags out. Despite finally getting some resolution to the elephant in the room, a cloud of uncertainly still surrounds Thibodeau and what his next move will be.
One thing is certain, no one comes out of this situation ahead. Butler’s reputation takes a hit and he possibly loses some money in the process. Thibodeau will probably lose his job, likely never control basketball operations ever again and may very well have a long hiatus from coaching anywhere in the NBA. The franchise will have lost a young core of Towns, Wiggins, Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen for 64 games of Butler and a young big man with two broken feet.
This is a no-win scenario for everyone involved in what initially looked like a slam-dunk just 15 months ago. Now we wait to see how quick this unfolds.
August 18, 2019, 7:26 pmDwight HowardC, Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies are allowing the Lakers to speak with Dwight Howard.
The news came out yesterday that the Lakers would seek permission and the fact that they were granted it suggests that Howard will not be on the Grizzlies for long. The aftermath of DeMarcus Cousins tearing his ACL left them in need of another center if they want to remain true to playing Anthony Davis exclusively at power forward. Joakim Noah is the other option on the Lakers' radar and has been a facilitator and role player in the past.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
August 18, 2019, 7:18 pmMoritz WagnerPF, Washington Wizards
Moritz Wagner has been cut from Germany's FIBA World Cup team.
The move seems somewhat surprising given Wagner's youth and notoriety, but Germany still have four NBA players on their roster despite cutting Wagner. The Wizards have plenty of depth in the frontcourt and Wagner is probably lower on the totem poll when it comes to receiving minutes.
Source: Dario Skerletic of Sportnado
August 18, 2019, 9:33 amJonah BoldenPF, Philadelphia Sixers
Jonah Bolden has opted to withdraw from Team Australia in the FIBA World Cup.
Bolden becomes the fifth NBA player to skip out on playing for Australia in the World Cup, a trend that seems to be prevalent for several country's national teams. Bodlen could be looking at an increased role as a backup center for Philly's thin bench this upcoming season. He is not expected to be a relevant fantasy option though.
Source: Fox Sports Australia
August 18, 2019, 9:25 amJeremy LinPG, Toronto Raptors
Jeremy Lin is in advanced discussions with the Bejing Ducks according to a report from Chinese journalist Sonx Xiang.
Lin previosuly turned down a deal to play for CSKA Moscow, and has also discussed his openness to playing in China. The nine year guard still hopes to resmue his NBA career at some point, but a move to China may be the best career option for him at this juncture.
August 18, 2019, 9:18 amDwight HowardC, Memphis Grizzlies
The Lakers will soon ask Memphis permission to speak with Dwight Howard according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Shams goes on to mention that there is mutual interest here and that Joakim Noah could be another veteran of interest for LA. The realistic options for free agents at the five really don't go much further than these two for the Lakers. Stay tuned for more updates on this developing story.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
August 18, 2019, 8:37 amDwight HowardC, Memphis Grizzlies
In the wake of the DeMarcus Cousins injury, one name the Lakers are considering is Dwight Howard, according to Rohan Nadkarni of Sports Illustrated.
Howard is still a member of the Memphis Grizzlies, but it is widely assumed that he will be waived before the season starts. A reunion in LA would certainly be pretty surprising for the Lakers after Howard famously did not resign with them after a miserable season playing with Kobe Bryant. Still, the Lakers need depth at the five and there really aren't any options on the market who compare to Howard's level of productivty, even at this stage of his career. Other center options the Lakers could pursue include Joakim Noah, Kenneth Faried and Zaza Pachulia.
Source: Rohan Nadkarni on Twitter
August 17, 2019, 9:40 pmMalachi RichardsonSG, International
Malachi Richardson has signed with Hapoel Holon in Israel.
Richardson played 22 games for the Raptors last season and averaged 1.4 points. At 23 years old, he still has time to develop and possibly return to the NBA in the future.
August 17, 2019, 9:16 pmRudy GobertC, Utah Jazz
Rudy Gobert scored 14 points along with nine rebounds, two assists and a block in France's 86-72 win vs. Brazil in the World Cup exhibition games.
Gobert led the team in scoring across 22 minutes of playing time. With the new additions of Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic on the Jazz, Gobert may take a slight hit in scoring however you can still expect excellent field goal percentage, rebounds and blocks. Evan Fournier chipped in 13 points with five rebounds, three assists and a steal for France. Brazil's Bruno Cabloclo scored nine points, seven rebounds and a steal.
August 17, 2019, 8:35 pmDennis SchroderPG, Oklahoma City Thunder
Dennis Schroder scored 19 points to lead Germany to a 83-62 win vs. Hungary as the teams prepare for the Wold Cup.
Schroder filled the box score tonight by adding three rebounds, seven assists, one steal, one block and four treys. He will come off the bench again next season behind Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Anyone who drafts the often-injured Chris Paul may want to handcuff him with Schroder. Fellow countryman Daniel Theis scored 11 points with six rebounds, two assists and one steal.
August 17, 2019, 2:10 pmTyler DorseySG, International
Tyler Dorsey has signed with Maccabi Tel Aviv B.C. of Israel.
Dorsey played 21 games for the Grizzlies last year after being acquired midseason from the Hawks via trade. He played well over that span with 9.8 points in 21.3 minutes but will take his talents overseas where, "He'll have a chance to showcase what great things he can do," according to his new head coach. Maccabi has signed several former NBA players this offseason as Dorsey will be joining Omri Casspi, Nate Wolters, Quincy Acy and Tarik Black.
Source: Macabi Tel Aviv on Twitter