Boy, oh boy. We went about two or three weeks without a rumor ripping the Timberwolves organization to shreds. But, don’t worry, we aren’t starving for a new rumor any longer. Tuesday morning, the Chicago Sun-Times came out with a report that Jimmy Butler is “fed up” with Karl-Anthony Towns. In addition, the article states that Butler has “no intentions of signing an extension with Minnesota.” Now, it has been known that Jimmy was still adjusting to fitting in with the Timberwolves late in the season last year. His injury didn’t help, making him miss a crucial stretch in the late part of the season. However, what should Wolves fans make of this report? Let’s take a look.
First off, people have been tweeting and posting all day about who wrote the report: Joe Cowley. Cowley is reportedly known for creating “clickbait” articles. He recently wrote about Kris Dunn’s not so great work ethic, saying the Bulls were disappointed with their point guard. Well, the Bulls came out and publicly denied that report within a week, saying they have no problem with Dunn’s work ethic. Second, people don’t trust Cowley. As I went through Twitter and Reddit today, many Chicago fans were saying the same thing: “You can never trust this guy. He doesn’t state the facts.” While that may be true, it’s also true that he does have some insight with the Thibodeau camp and the Butler camp.
Before the report gets into talking about Butler’s discontent with the Wolves’ young guns, especially Towns, the story states that Buckets would like to team up with Kyrie Irving. That is not news. It has been known for at least a year now that Jimmy and Irving are very close. In fact, the two are so close that the Minnesota Timberwolves were on Irving’s list of preferred trade destinations last summer. Getting beyond the Butler and Irving relationship, there is one question on the mind of Minnesotans: Can the Wolves keep Butler past this season?
Jimmy Butler is entering the final year of his contract this season before he can opt out and become an unrestricted free agent next summer. The Timberwolves have the ability to extend Butler this offseason, but Butler would leave over $70 million on the table if he agrees to an extension now. That means, the Wolves will have to play next season not knowing whether or not Buckets will be around long-term.
Butler’s concern with the Wolves defensive effort and mindset is well-known. Butler frequently commented on the lack of focus on the defensive end of the ball numerous times throughout the season. However, Jimmy seemed to ease up on that towards the end of the season, and he seemed ready to make more leaps next year. After losing to Houston in five games in last year’s playoffs, Butler had this to say about the Timberwolves team: “How proud I am of everybody. Just to go through what we went through this year and give ourselves a fighting chance to win.” Butler continues on by saying: “…that doesn’t take away from what we’ve accomplished this year and we’ll continue to build and we’ll be better next season.”
Butler seemed happy with the way the season went, even though the team only won one playoff game. He knew that it was a big step for Minnesota to get back into the playoffs, and he sounded ready to get back to work and improve next year. Another big teller in Butler’s postgame interview after Game Five was his satisfaction with the improvement on the defensive side of the ball in terms of effort. When talking about locking in on defense and doing what it takes in practice and preparing to shut opposing team’s down, Butler says: “I’m happy we got that figured out.”
Butler was obviously frustrated throughout the season with the team’s defensive focus, but in the postseason, he seemed satisfied with the potential the team has on that end of the floor. Now, it’s a matter of continuing to grow and keep adding players that help the Wolves in that matter.
Adding Josh Okogie, Keita Bates-Diop, and Anthony Tolliver so far this summer helps the Wolves do just that. All players are known to not only be great locker room guys, but also be great competitors, exactly what Minnesota needs. The Wolves should find these additions as great advancements in terms of winning a playoff series.
While it has became no secret that Butler is worried about the young player’s mindsets and focus, there is reason to believe that today’s report could be over exaggerated. Butler is on the record saying that he has liked the improvement of the team throughout the season and that he’s ready to run it back. Another point that can’t be understated is Butler’s relationship with Thibodeau. Those two are very tight.
The main selling factor in keeping the former Bull in Minnesota is how the Wolves perform next season. If the Wolves can get back into the playoffs and win a series, Butler would be more inclined to stay. In addition, if the young guys take these reports to heart and start focusing all their energy on winning, and not worrying about their individual accolades, that will help too. Finally, the Thibs and Butler relationship will be a big one. Thibs will know how to recruit Butler to stay and Butler will definitely listen, that’s why the Thibs component is so important.
While this report is certainly frightening for Wolves fans, it’s not time to panic just yet. There is enough of a reason to believe this report is a bit over exaggerated. Are some parts of the report true? Absolutely. However, Jimmy’s shifting comments throughout the season, and the young guns’ maturity could keep Buckets where he belongs: The Land of 10,000 Lakes.
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