Only a year ago did the acquisition of All-Star guard Jimmy Butler have the state of Minnesota buzzing, giving the talented young duo of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins the ideal sidekick.
Butler had a productive season in Minnesota, averaging 22.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. He and the Timberwolves won 47 games as the franchise ended its 14-year playoff drought. Minny was eliminated by the Houston Rockets in the opening round of the playoffs, but Wiggins-Towns-Butler were going to be the next great big three.
But here we are several months after their season ended. Butler wants out of Minnesota after meeting with president and head coach Tom Thibodeau, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Despite rumors of a toxic locker room environment, sources told Wojnarowski that Butler's "downplaying his fractured relationship with Towns as a reason for wanting a trade."
As it turns out, Butler wants to leave Minnesota because "contractual matters,", per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.
I'm told Jimmy Butler's decision had very little if anything to do with Towns and Wiggins. More to do with contractual matters.— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) September 19, 2018
Butler Rejects Extension After Rift Rumors Swirl
Looking to secure Butler long term, the Timberwolves offered Butler a four-year, $110 million contract in July. However, Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News reported that Butler turned it down, knowing he could make more money next offseason,
#Twolves All-Star Jimmy Butler has officially turned down the Wolves' 4-year, $110M range extension offer, per owner Glen Taylor. Full interview posting soon, which includes stuff on KAT extension talks, Thibs, filling out the roster, and #LosLynx.— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) July 13, 2018
(con.) Jimmy/his side expressed gratitude for the #Twolves extending such a nice offer. Logically speaking, it just makes sense to wait, even while betting on maintaining health. He can make a lot more $$ here or elsewhere next July.— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) July 13, 2018
That had to be an early warning sign to Timberwolves fans. Had Butler been interested in staying, perhaps he would have made it clear that the front office had to up the offer. It didn't happen, and Butler has the chance to opt out of his contract next year to test free agency.
The Timberwolves gave up a big package to land Butler at the 2017 NBA draft, sacrificing young players Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and first-round pick Lauri Markkanen. They hoped Butler would take the $110 million while it was on the table.
It wasn't enough to satisfy him. Only in the following weeks did more rumors begin to swirl wasn't happy in Minnesota. Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times had reported earlier in the month that Butler and Kyrie Irving were exploring a way to play together in the Eastern Conference. Cowley also said Butler was "fed up with the nonchalant attitude of his younger teammates," notably Towns.
Thibodeau Meets With Butler
Butler and Thibodeau spent four years together with the Chicago Bulls, which gave Minnesota good incentive to acquire him at the 2017 draft. Butler shined in Thibodeau's system as a top-flight defensive player and excellent all-around shooter.
It was reported last week by both Wojnarowski and Krawczynski that Butler and Thibodeau were meeting in order to try and determine the All-Star's future plans and discuss the "organizational issues."
The hope for Minnesota was that Thibodeau would be able to solve the issues with Butler, given the strong working relationship they had in Chicago. And with Thibodeau in charge of the basketball operations, perhaps he'd be able to make then necessary move(s) to please Butler.
Indeed, Butler and the Timberwolves met to try and see if they could get on the same page. But unfortunately for Minnesota fans, it didn't go as well as they had hoped.
Butler Requests Trade, Provides Short List
The Athletic's Shams Charania and colleague Jon Krawzynski reported on Wednesday that Butler requested a trade and provided the team with a short list of teams he'd sign an extension with.
Later on, Wojnarowski reports that Butler would like to join either the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Clippers or New York Knicks, since all three would have the cap space to give him the maximum extension - and the fact all of them could afford to sign another marquee free agent in 2019.
Wojnarowski states that the Clippers top Butler's wish list, however, as he wants the chance to shine in a big market. Since LeBron James is the new marquee player for the Lakers, Butler doesn't find them appealing as a landing spot.
Butler wants the maximum five-year, $190 million extension from his new team. Sources told Wojnarowski that Butler's "list could expand based upon the Timberwolves' and rival teams' willingness to negotiate a trade for him."
Now, Butler, Timberwolves management and basketball fans wait and see how this saga plays out as the 2018-19 season gets close.