The Jimmy Butler saga reached what appeared to be a stage-managed flash point Wednesday when the disgruntled NBA star stormed into a Minnesota Timberwolves practice for the first time since demanding a trade last month, forced his way into a few scrimmages, taunted teammates Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins over their alleged lack of desire, and then reportedly took aim at General Manager Scott Layden, telling him: “You [expletive] need me, Scott. You can’t win without me.” From there, he walked straight into a planned-in-advance interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, where he admitted that “all my emotion came out at one time” and acknowledged that his outburst might not have been “the right way to do it."
According to ESPN NBA-knower Adrian Wojnarowski, Butler’s discontent with the T-Wolves “appears to be his belief that not all of his teammates are committed to winning.” But Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star Tribune has a different theory, and naturally it involves actor Mark Wahlberg.
As told by Reusse, Butler and Wahlberg became friendly in 2013, when Butler was still playing for the Bulls and Wahlberg was filming “Transformers: Age of Extinction” in Chicago. The actor would spend his time between takes playing pickup basketball at the Bulls' practice facility, a friendship was born, and an ego allegedly started to swell:
There was insight sought from a Chicago media person who had watched Butler from the start of his career. The suggestion was that Jimmy came into the league driven by his underdog status, and that changed a few years later when he started hanging out with Wahlberg and seeing himself as a star.
The feeling in Chicago was that Butler’s game stopped growing three, four years ago, as his head grew ever larger.
Patrick Reusse, Minneapolis Star Tribune
Initially, Butler and Wahlberg kept their public-facing friendship confined to the court:
But soon Butler’s #tbt Instagram posts were reminiscing about wine-filled trips to Paris.
And Wahlberg was stumping for all-star votes:
It got to the point where the noted Boston sports zealot was publicly lobbying the Celtics to trade for Butler.
“The Celtics are looking good, but I think we don’t take the draft pick,” Wahlberg told TMZ ahead of the 2017 draft. “I think we trade it for a great player. We need a star. We need Jimmy Butler, we need Paul George, we need somebody.” But he added that he only wanted what’s best for his pal.
“I respect Jimmy. I’d rather he goes wherever is good for him. Just like KD,” Wahlberg said, referring to Kevin Durant’s then-recent move to the Golden State Warriors.
Alas, it was not to be: In a draft-night deal, the Bulls traded Butler to the Timberwolves in June 2017, a move that apparently has not been “good for him.”
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