A day after being vocal about his displeasure with the Minnesota Timberwolves, All-Star guard Jimmy Butler reportedly told his teammates today that he would compete with them.
Per The Athletic's Shams Charania, Butler talked at length with his teammates, airing out his feelings about them and the team at large. On Wednesday, Butler reportedly verbally challenged teammates, coaches and the front office during the practice session. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Butler yelled, "you can't [expletive] win without me," at GM Scott Layden during the practice. His actions reportedly left his teammates and coaches "speechless."
Via Twitter, Charania reports the following:
Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler called a players-only meeting today, airing his feelings toward situation and management, per league sources. Butler expressed to players he would compete with them, as signs pointing to him staying with the franchise into the regular season.
Sources on @TheAthleticNBA@WatchStadium: Several players spoke up in players-only meeting, but Butler led it, made known his issues with management. His message was similar to one he displayed Wednesday: I run this. He's far too competitive to sit real games.
Wolves guard Jeff Teague and Wolves player development coach John Lucas III said on Twitter that the players-only meeting didn't happen. Teague went as far as to call talk of the meeting "fake news":
@ShamsCharania it wasn’t no players meeting you just made that up bro y’all gotta relax with this fake news— Jeff Teague (@Teague0) October 11, 2018
The Wolves visit the Bucks tonight (8:30 ET, NBA League Pass) and held shootaround this morning in Milwaukee. The topic of Butler, however, was one Wolves players and coach Tom Thibodeau spoke sparingly on. Thibodeau told reporters Butler is in Minneapolis "working on conditioning" and that the "situation remains fluid" regarding the guard.
Regarding talk of the players-only meeting yesterday and other reports earlier this week, Thibodeau said: "I'm not answering to all the stuff that gets put out there that is garbage."
Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, when asked about Butler during Friday's shootaround, would only respond with: "I'm excited for tonight's game in Milwaukee." Towns was willing to discuss other topics, but did not engage about questions regarding Butler's future.
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."
"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."
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 two steals per game 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 Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Next season, Wiggins will begin playing on his maximum contract in 2018-19. Towns signed an extension with the Wolves shortly after training camp opened.
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.