Butler expected to play in season opener with Timberwolves

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jimmy Butler practiced with the team on Sunday and is expected to play in the Timberwolves’ season opener on Wednesday, according to coach Tom Thibodeau.

Butler had been absent for most of training camp and the preseason after he requested a trade from the team in September. Despite weeks of trade rumors and speculation, it appears Butler will begin the regular season on the Timberwolves.

Butler spoke to the media after practice on Sunday. According to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, Butler was asked if he expects to be booed by the Timberwolves fans during the team’s home opener on Friday.

“Sure. Go ahead, boo me,” Butler said. “It ain’t going to change the way I play. That’s going to make me smile more. So please, come on with it.”

Butler returned to the team last week for a contentious practice where he reportedly called out his coaches, teammates and the front office. After the practice, Butler spoke with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols to explain his actions.

“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.”

The Timberwolves reportedly were close to trading Butler to the Miami Heat last week, but the talks reportedly broke down at the last minute. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the trade negotiations between the Timberwolves and Heat “have been dead”.

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.

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.

The Timberwolves will play the Spurs in San Antonio for their season opener on Wednesday (8:30 ET, NBA League Pass).

UPDATE: The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski reported later on Sunday that team owner Glen Taylor met personally with Butler, reaching an understanding that the Timberwolves will continue to seek a trade while Butler will give a professional effort.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.