Jimmy Butler said he was ready to practice again Thursday, a day after he memorably returned to the Timberwolves and confronted teammates and the front office.
Except there was no practice.
The Wolves canceled their practice and media availability on Thursday in advance of Friday’s preseason finale at Milwaukee, allowing Butler’s eventful Wednesday to simmer without anyone from the organization trying to comment on what happened or cast it in a positive light.
It was a curious move considering coach Tom Thibodeau and some Wolves players have said in recent days they still have a lot to work on ahead of Wednesday’s opener in San Antonio.
Instead, Butler reportedly held a players-only meeting Thursday in which he aired “his feelings toward [the] situation and management,” per a tweet from the Athletic. The same tweet said Butler “expressed to players he would compete with them, as signs pointing to him staying with the franchise into the regular season.”
Adding to the confusion, Wolves guard Jeff Teague, in only his second tweet in more than a year, responded to The Athletic’s tweet by saying the report of a players-only meeting was “fake news.” Wolves reserve Darius Johnson-Odom tweeted, “What meeting lol smh,” before later deleting it. But around the same time, Butler reportedly told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that the meeting did, in fact, happen.
Confused yet about what happened and if a Butler trade is imminent or he’s going to be here a while? We’re just getting started.
ESPN released the full transcript of its Wednesday interview with Butler and in it he confirmed what the Star Tribune and others reported about his meeting with coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau — that this meeting wasn’t the first time Butler told Thibodeau he wanted out of Minnesota.
“It wasn’t a week before [training camp opened],” Butler said. “We’ve been talking all summer long, everybody knew the truth throughout the organization because I’m going to tell you the truth. Like it or not, anybody, fans, whatever. Like it or not, it wasn’t just then, so we can put that to rest. It was not just then.”
The Wolves had offered Butler a four-year, $110 million extension over the summer, but Butler turned it down, insisting that he wanted the Wolves to renegotiate his current contract (which is allowed under the collective bargaining agreement) for five years, $177.2 million.
The Wolves didn’t do that, because it would have necessitated burdensome salary-cap maneuvering to accommodate the deal.
But Butler insisted to ESPN his issue with the Wolves was “not about money.”
“It’s about saying: ‘We need you. We want you here. We can’t do this without you,’ ” Butler said. “And that was the disconnect all along. You’re saying one thing and … I mean I’ve learned enough times in life that saying something is completely different from acting upon it. Actions speak louder than words, whatever quote you want to use. And when it came to that point, it was like I let you all know what the deal was as soon as you traded for me.”
In practice Wednesday, Butler reportedly directed his frustration at Wolves General Manager Scott Layden, delivering an expletive-laced message about how the team can’t win without him.
He also had a confrontation with Karl-Anthony Towns, whom Butler has criticized, along with teammate Andrew Wiggins, for not working hard enough to fulfill his potential. That relationship is one of the reasons Butler would like to play elsewhere, a point he reaffirmed with ESPN when he said his relationship with the team likely could not be “fixed.”
The Wolves were slated to travel Thursday to Milwaukee ahead of their final preseason game. The Bucks defeated the Wolves 125-107 on Sunday in Ames, Iowa. Multiple players and Thibodeau have said the Wolves could use more practice time to work on their defense.
“It’s all about talking, communication and having that strong communication level so we know when to do and not to do certain things,” forward Taj Gibson said.
But the Wolves decided not to practice, which meant no players nor Thibodeau had to address the media. Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, declined to comment when reached Thursday.
It’s unclear if Butler will travel and play Friday. The Wolves did announce Thursday that Wiggins did not travel to Milwaukee as he awaits the birth of his first child.