Jimmy Butler was vocal about his displeasure with his team when he returned to practice with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, according to reports from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.
Butler reportedly verbally challenged teammates, coaches and the front office during the practice session. According to Wojnarowski, Butler yelled, "you can't win without me," at GM Scott Layden during the practice. His actions reportedly left his teammates and coaches "speechless."
All-Star Jimmy Butler participated in Minnesota's practice, a session that included him verbally challenging teammates, coaches and front office, league sources told ESPN. Butler was vociferous and emotional at times, targeting Thibodeau/Layden/Towns/Wiggins. Story soon on ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 10, 2018
At one point in a scrimmage, sources said, Butler turned to GM Scott Layden and screamed, "You (bleeping) need me. You can't win without me." Butler left teammates and coaches largely speechless. He dominated the gym in every way. Jimmy's back.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 10, 2018
Here's more from Wojnarowski on the practice:
Butler participated in multiple intrasquad scrimmages, where he joined the bench units against the starters and went out of his way to challenge the team's two young stars, Towns and Wiggins, league sources said. Coaches and players were largely speechless at Butler's tour de force throughout the workout, league sources said.
It is unclear if Butler made a full-time return to the Timberwolves season or just proved a point of some kind in the practice.
A couple of Butler's teammates were particularly vague when asked about Butler's level of participation in practice on Wednesday.
Butler spoke with ESPN's Rachel Nichols on Wednesday afternoon to explain his actions during practice.
"A lot of it is true. You have to think ... I haven't played played basketball in so long," Butler told Nichols. "And I'm so passionate. And I love the game. And I don't do it for any other reason except to compete and go up against the best to try to prove that I can hang."
"So all of my emotion came out at one time. Was it the right way to do it? No. But I can't control that when I'm out there competing. That's my love of the game. That's raw me. Me at my finest, my purest. That's what you're going to get inside the lines."
A lot of Minnesota players left Timberwolves practice today energized by Butler's performance, mesmerized with him taking end-of-the-bench players and running the table on the regulars, sources said. At the end, he marched out like if a mic drop. Butler delivered a tour de force.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 10, 2018
"I was honest," Butler continued. "Was I brutally honest? Yes. But I think that's the problem. Everybody is so scared to be honest with one another. If you didn't like the way I handled myself in practice, one of the players come up to me. Somebody say something. Anybody. I'm not going to take offense. It's not personal."
Krawczynski reported via Twitter that Wolves forward Anthony Tolliver said the following about Butler: "He was ... around. That's really all I gotta say about that."
Anthony Tolliver on Butler practicing: "He was ... around. That's really all I gotta say about that."— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) October 10, 2018
Days ago, multiple news outlets reported that a trade between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Miami Heat for Jimmy Butler had fallen apart. However, that apparently hasn't kept the Heat from showing interest in rekindling trade talks with the Wolves for their disgruntled All-Star guard.
Wojnarowski reports that the Heat remain interested in restarting trade talks with the Wolves after the deal that seemed close to happening collapsed on Saturday. Yesterday, Butler reportedly informed Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau that he still wants to be traded, per The Athletic's Shams Charania and Krawczynski. Butler had been away from the team while the Wolves were in California for a preseason bonding trip.
Proposed changes from Minnesota created a breakdown in earlier trade negotiations just as the teams were close to finalizing a deal. The teams reportedly advanced to the point of exchanging player medical information, which is typically the last step of NBA trade negotiations.
Except for this trade, the Timberwolves responded with an amendment to the framework of the deal, according to Wojnarowski, which caused the trade talks to "fracture".
Butler, a four-time All-Star, averaged 22.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.0 steals in 59 games for the Timberwolves last season. He had a minor procedure done on his right hand in July after meniscus surgery on his right knee in February, an injury that kept him out for 21 games in 2017-18.
Still, it seems the Heat are perhaps the only serious contender for Butler at this point, writes Wojnarowski:
Outside of the Heat, the Timberwolves have had no serious, active talks ongoing with any other team recently, league sources said. Butler has told Minnesota that he'll leave in free agency in July -- and wants a trade now.
Owner Glen Taylor has pushing president of basketball operations and coach Tom Thibodeau and general manager Scott Layden to find a deal sooner rather than later for Butler, league sources said.
Reports circulated in the offseason that Butler was frustrated with the nonchalant attitudes of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Next season, Wiggins will begin playing on his maximum contract in 2018-19, with a $25 million-plus salary that will account for more than 20 percent of the team’s cap and push the Timberwolves close to the luxury tax threshold. Towns signed an extension with the Wolves shortly after training camp opened, securing his place in Minnesota for years to come.
The Timberwolves acquired Butler from Chicago in exchange for Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen during the 2017 offseason. The former 30th overall pick helped propel the young Timberwolves to a 47-35 season while earning his fourth consecutive All-Star berth. The Wolves made the playoffs, ending a 14-year drought for the franchise, but they lost 4-1 to the top-seeded Houston Rockets in the first round.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.