Jimmy Butler apparently decided that if you are being forced to join them, beat them. The disgruntled Timberwolves star showed up Wednesday at the team’s facility for the first time since demanding to be traded last month and, per reports, made it his mission to humiliate management — and a pair of high-profile teammates.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Butler more than succeeded, teaming up with several of the Timberwolves' lesser players in scrimmage games and repeatedly defeating those set to figure heavily in the regular rotation. Most significantly, the latter group included the team’s two young franchise centerpieces, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, who were on the receiving end of a steady stream of taunts.
Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that sources said Butler was yelling, among other things, “They ain’t [expletive]!” and “They soft!” Towns and Wiggins were said to not have exhibited a strong reaction, but other Minnesota players were described as alternately “energized,” “mesmerized” and “distraught” at what they were witnessing.
“I ain’t never seen some [expletive] like that. Jimbo showed out,” an unidentified Minnesota player told Yahoo Sports.
Butler also reportedly shouted at the Timberwolves' general manager, Scott Layden, “You [expletive] need me, Scott. You can’t win without me.” After abruptly leaving the gym following his dominant display, the four-time all-star made clear what was already well-known: He doesn’t think Towns and Wiggins share his passion for the game and for winning.
“I’m not the most talented player on the team. Who is the most talented player on our team? KAT,” Butler, 29, said Wednesday (via ESPN), referring to Towns. “Who is the most god-gifted player on our team? Wiggs.
"Who plays the hardest? Me! I play hard. I put my body [on the line] every day in practice, every day in games. That’s my passion. Everybody leads in different ways. That’s how I show I’m here for you.”
Butler told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that after not having played basketball in a long spell, “All my emotion came out at one time.” He acknowledged that it might not have been “the right way to do it,” but he added, “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, me at my purest, that’s what you’re going to get inside the lines.”
What Butler has not been able to get thus far is a trade out of Minnesota. Amid reports that Tom Thibodeau, the Timberwolves' head coach and president of basketball operations, and other members of the front office are having disagreements about how to proceed, the team has been said to be asking for a king’s ransom in exchange for a player in the final year of his contract.
Wojnarowski reported Wednesday that the Timberwolves and Heat came close to completing a “blockbuster trade” for Butler over the weekend, and that Miami remains “interested” in acquiring the eighth-year veteran, who came to Minnesota last year in a draft-day deal with the Chicago Bulls. As long as he stays with Minnesota, though, Butler seems almost certain to stage more displays such as what unfolded Wednesday, if only to try to show up other members of the organization he feels aren’t giving their all.
“I’m going to be honest, if your number one priority isn’t winning, people can tell,” he said (via ESPN). “That’s the battle. Now there is a problem between people. That’s where the disconnect is.”
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