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In a break from the mold for the Miami Heat, team president Pat Riley issued a statement Friday night, denying he used profanity during trade negotiations with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Riley rarely acknowledges trade talks even take place, so the fact he issued a statement as the Heat and Timberwolves attempt to get a deal done for All-Star Jimmy Butler speaks volumes.
After reports broke that had Riley calling Minnesota president/coach Tom Thibodeau a vulgarity, Riley, through the Miami media-relations department, issued the statement just after Heat coach Erik Spoelstra spoke with the media before a preseason game against the visiting Atlanta Hawks at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“As to what has been reported in the past 24 hours, I have too much respect for Tom Thibodeau and all that he’s accomplished in this league,” Riley said in the statement. “Our conversations have been nothing but cordial and I have never used that kind of language in negotiations, but I do admit to telling Danny Ainge to… ”
The reference to Ainge, the president of basketball operations of the Boston Celtics, speaks to the longtime rivalry between Riley and Ainge, which dates back to Riley’s coaching days of the Showtime Lakers and Ainge playing for the archrival Celtics.
Former Heat broadcaster Jorge Sedano, now of ESPN Radio in Los Angeles, had Riley lashing out at Thibodeau during trade talks regarding the disgruntled Butler.
“Here’s what’s happening. There’s been a couple of different incarnations of this deal,” Sedano said. “The first one, the Heat didn’t want to take back Gorgui Dieng. Then, the next incarnation of the deal was ‘OK forget it, let’s just do it straight up, just for Jimmy on your end.’
“So they finally relented on Josh Richardson, they were giving them Josh Richardson. Then Dion Waiters was going to be the cap filler, and then a protected first-round pick. The medicals were exchanged, which, really, generally in the NBA means this is a done deal. And then, Thibs called back and wanted more picks. And Pat Riley literally — I was told — called him a motherbleeper and hung up the phone.”
Butler was not with the Timberwolves for their preseason game Friday night against the Milwaukee Bucks. Asked is he is expecting Butler to play in Minnesota’s regular-season opener, Thibodeau told reporters, “The situation remains fluid.
“The important thing is we have to do what we think is best for our team and we always will do that. We’re always going to put the team first.”
While not mentioning the report on Riley or Butler, specifically, Thibodeau did speak of the seemingly never-ending drama surrounding the situation with the 29-year-old Butler, in his final season of his contract before hitting unrestricted free agency in July.
“You guys, your job is the drama,” he told reporters. “Our job is to get ready to play. So I understand you have a job to do. We have a job to do.
“We’re not going to get into daily behavior and stuff like that.”
Former Timberwolves and Celtics great Kevin Garnett weighed in on the Butler saga.
“I think both sides are a little delusional,” he told The Athletic. “I think Jimmy thinks his worth is a little more than what it is. He’s a very good player. I don’t see him on the [Kevin Durant] and LeBron [James] level. But if they are A-plus, he’s definitely A, A-minus.
“I don’t know if he had the power to come out and force a trade like this. He can be disruptive, but I don’t know if he actually had the clout to come out and do that. I don’t know if Jimmy has enough juice to be that.”