Latest posts by Sam Amico (see all)
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You’re the Minnesota Timberwolves. Your top veteran, an All-Star swingman, has told you he wants out. He has given you a list of teams he wants to play for. You’re not on it.
His name is Jimmy Butler and he turned down a contract extension during the offseason. He has a year left on his deal. The season is about to start.
You’re the Minnesota Timberwolves. What do you do?
“I don’t trade him,” an opposing general manager told Amico Hoops. “I tell him to stop whining, honor his contract and report to work. I tell him to be a man. He’s what? Almost 30 years old? Time to grow up.”
When Butler first entered the league, he drove a pickup truck and listened to country music. The Chicago Bulls drafted him with the final pick in the first round in 2011. Back then, no one expected him to become a star. Most wondered if he could even cut it as a pro.
That’s all changed.
“He was a humble country kid who was happy to be in the NBA,” one league source told Amico Hoops. “Now, he drinks $4,000 bottles of wine and thinks he is LeBron or D-Wade.
“It’s really sad because he was the best kid ever.”
No one but perhaps Butler and his representatives are really sure why he wants to be traded. Even the Timberwolves are supposedly perplexed. They acquired him a little more than year ago, reuniting Butler with former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, the two sharing a mutual respect. That bond is still strong, as Thibodeau has tried to convince Butler to stay.
So why does Butler want out?
“Immaturity, selfishness, basically all the things that are wrong with basketball,” the opposing GM said. “It’s not even an NBA problem; it’s a basketball problem. The current system is teaching great players that they are entitled at a very young age. Is it any surprise they’re acting entitled as adults?
“Jimmy is just the product of a flawed basketball system that’s poisoning the NBA.”
The GM continued, saying the media plays a role, too.
“Part of the role of journalism is to sort of act like a watchdog, no?” the GM said. “But so many of today’s writers are so source-driven, so scoop-oriented, that they don’t want to tick off their sources by holding anyone accountable. In situations like (the one involving Butler), they side with the player every time, because they’re almost always getting their scoops from the player’s agent. They don’t want to cross the guy who’s putting food on their table.”
A DIFFERENT NBA
Butler is regarded as one of the top two or three two-way players in the game. On the court, he has gotten to where he is with lots of hard work, lots of extra minutes in the gym and weight room, lots of time studying film.
No one around the league, even the opposing GM, is questioning his desire to get better and remain an All-Star.
He averaged 22.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists in his first season with the Timberwolves. On some nights, he was simply amazing, even erupting for 38 points in his return to Chicago.
Butler was selected as an All-Star reserve, but skipped the game because he was all about the Timberwolves — or so it seemed. He preferred rest over the sizzle of All-Star Weekend. The Wolves were, after all, in a rare chase for a playoff spot.
Then Butler injured his knee in the first game after the break. He didn’t return until April. The Timberwolves finished 47-35 and made the playoffs anyway. Butler was good in the postseason, but wasn’t the same. His knee was still bothering him. Still, he wanted to play.
There were whispers that Butler didn’t have a good relationship with fellow Timberwolves Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. There was talk that one of them would likely have to go.
Thibodeau and the players remained mostly silent about the rumors. Team owner Glen Taylor more or less shrugged them off.
“Funny thing is, I assumed Wiggins was behind all that when I heard about it,” the opposing GM said. “I wasn’t really sure why Taylor treated (Wiggins) like a star. He’s not a star. He’s a good player but I’m not sure how hard he works. Taylor is way too involved there if you ask me. They made the playoffs last year in spite of him.”
Now, though, the GM blames Butler and the aforementioned basketball system for the Minnesota drama that exists today.
“LeBron James is the best player in the league and he’s switched teams, what, three times now?” the GM said. “Kevin Durant switched teams. DeMarcus Cousins joined the Warriors. Kyrie Irving demanded a trade. This is the way of the league now, and all the best players are doing it. Why? Definitely not for the right reasons.”
The GM concluded by saying the Timberwolves can help put an end to this trend, perhaps, by handling the situation differently than others before them.
“Jimmy isn’t in the same class as the guys I just named, and (the Timberwolves) already proved they’re OK without him,” the GM said. “But now he’s going through this routine, too. So I’d start by not caving to his trade request. Let him sit out. Let him come back in the middle of the season when he sees no trade is coming. Let him start paying you back for not showing up for work.
“Someone needs to take a stand on this eventually. Agents and players are watering down the overall product. Maybe the Timberwolves can take the first step in bringing an end to this nonsense.”