The star player demands a trade. The coach gets booed at home in a preseason game. The rest of the team looks either distracted or uninspired. And the entire operation remains in limbo eight days before the opener.
Imagine, some poor soul has to market this.
A guy selling sand in the desert would have better luck than those charged with drumming up excitement for the Timberwolves season under current conditions.
Seriously, what is their sales pitch at this point? “Timberwolves basketball … at least David Kahn is gone!”
Butler has flipped the organization upside down with his trade demand. More reports surfaced over the weekend indicating talks with the Miami Heat broke down amid fresh claims that teams aren’t convinced Tom Thibodeau is willing to part ways with his favorite player.
Nobody is budging in this staredown. Not Butler. Not Thibodeau. Not teams engaged in trade talks. Yet.
That will happen eventually. It has to, for all parties.
Thibodeau is right to balk at bad offers because Butler is too good a player to just give away, even if teams know the Wolves situation is untenable.
At some point, a firm deadline has to be set, and kept, and maybe the Wolves privately already have that date in mind.
For sanity’s sake, everyone needs to move on.
Thibodeau is kidding himself if he thinks this mess isn’t having a negative effect on his team. Players are not only wondering whether Butler is going to be traded or come walking back into the locker room in a huff, but some are probably wondering if they will be part of a trade package.
Preseason results should be viewed with measured reaction, but based on accounts, the Wolves have looked listless. In any context, that’s a concern, and it produced a jarring quote from Thibodeau after Friday’s home loss to Oklahoma City.
“When you play like we’re playing right now, no one looks good,” he said. “You get into things together, you get out of things together. We have to sort of circle the wagons, and we’ve got to get it going.”
Circle the wagons? After the third preseason game?
Without Butler, the Wolves have the NBA’s second-worst defensive rating through four preseason games. For some reason, league statistics also include international teams that participate in these exhibitions, so the Wolves are technically tied for 32nd in defensive rating.
Tied with Melbourne United and the Perth Wildcats.
On the bright side, they are ahead of Flamengo and the Beijing Ducks.
“You can tell the teams who got together in the summer,” point guard Jeff Teague said after Sunday’s loss to Milwaukee in Ames, Iowa. “I think [the Bucks] spent a lot of time together in the summer and you can tell. We didn’t see each other until the season started. We have a little more time to try and get right. But we got to hurry up.”
Credit Teague for his honesty, but that quote is illuminating, and not in a good way. The Wolves finally earned a playoff berth after a 13-year absence last season. They made a significant leap in their win total. The desire to build on that progress should have motivated everyone inside the locker room.
Yet nobody organized a workout, or a peace summit, or a bonding session to talk about goals this summer? None of that is mandatory, but one would think a team with obvious chemistry issues would do whatever necessary to resolve them. Avoiding each other doesn’t seem like the best strategy.
One of the first things Kirk Cousins did after signing with the Vikings was to invite Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs to Atlanta to get to know them on a personal level before offseason workouts began. That’s called leadership.
Maybe the Wolves were already fractured beyond repair. Now it’s clear. A divorce is unavoidable.
This would be a time of excitement and anticipation under different circumstances. Instead, it’s been nothing but a buzzkill.
Chip Scoggins • firstname.lastname@example.org