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The Writing is on the Wall: Tom Thibodeau Must go

There is only one way to rebuild this franchise, Thibs must be shown the door

NBA: Preseason-Minnesota Timberwolves at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

After two and a half years as the Minnesota Timberwolves’ head coach and president of basketball operations, Tom Thibodeau’s reign of terror needs to come to an immediate end.

Through an off-season that has painted his team in one of the most despicable lights imaginable, the 60-year-old simply cannot be trusted or supported in a leadership role. That was made abundantly clear when the Wolves squad completely threw in the towel against the Milwaukee Bucks in Friday night’s final preseason game. Through four quarters of absolute misery, the evening ended in a 143-121 annihilation in the Bucks’ favor.

Thibs’ was hired as a defensive mastermind in 2016, but those once revolutionary schemes looked utterly outdated as they have since the moment he stepped foot in Target Center. Combine that with his isolation-heavy, 3-point deficient offense and the former Coach of the Year’s job was already on the hot seat.

Not to mention he traded franchise favorite Ricky Rubio, signed Jeff Teague to a ridiculously-exorbitant deal, and reacquired as many former Chicago Bulls as possible instead of searching for other free agents that would benefit the Wolves.

The most high-profile of those ex-Bulls was Jimmy Butler, who played just 59 games in a Timberwolves jersey before calling it quits. According to the four-time All-Star, he made it perfectly clear that he wanted out just four days after Minnesota was eliminated from the playoffs, yet Thibodeau, in his classically stubborn way, chose to completely ignore the request and let the animosity fester away like a spreading disease.

Butler had every intention of leaving Minnesota at the first chance he got. If he didn’t get his way, he would continue to bully franchise pillars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, both of whom had already signed long-term, big-money contracts to keep them in the Twin Cities.

Instead of trying to cure the ailment over the course of a long summer break, Thibs chose to simply ignore it. Now it has predictably come back to bite him, yet he still refuses to take any action to help steer this sinking franchise back on track.

He allegedly met with Butler multiple times throughout the debacle, begging him to rejoin the squad at every turn. Every time Butler told him no, and insisted he trade him at the first chance he got. So what did Thibs do? He sabotaged trade offers by asking for ridiculous returns, acted like everything was fine, and allowed his disgruntled star to return to practice and crush his teammates confidence into a fine powder, all in the public eye.

Surely that would be enough to force the mulish coach/president to finally move him, right? Wrong. Stunningly, Thibodeau stood behind Butler and alienated the rest of his squad, choosing to back his teacher’s pet and disown the rest of the class. This kind of horrible player management has been a staple of Thibs’ public persona since Butler arrived in Minnesota, he has become known for praising Butler’s strengths and flaws while simultaneously failing to stick up for Towns and Wiggins.

When Butler staged an ESPN sit-down and ripped his current teammates, Thibs still stood up for him. Claiming that he doesn’t have an issue with his guys doing interviews. Apparently even interviews that actively damage his whole team’s reputation.

Even when he was quizzed about Butler’s violent and emotional training outburst by media members, Thibodeau continued to act like nothing significant even happened. Regurgitating the same tiresome “we always put the team first” quotes that he has spewed throughout the whole saga, even when he himself clearly puts his affinity with Butler well ahead of the team.

Now, after a string of disastrous preseason efforts, the team seems to have finally given up on him. They have shown little-to-no effort in executing their coach’s archaic system in the preseason, leaving the organization as a steaming pile of turmoil merely five days before meaningful regular season games begin.

Karl-Anthony Towns is indisputably the future of this franchise, and he reportedly refused to sign his max extension without assurance that he wouldn’t have to put up with nonsense like this. Yet here we are. Butler is still on the team and if Thibodeau has it his way, he will remain until he walks for nothing at seasons end.

After the calamitous showing that was the Milwaukee game, the 22-year-old All-Star seemed completely fed up with the situation.

“We don’t got no more time,” he told reporters in the locker room. “This momentum we riding right now, it’s not good. And it’s not good at all.”

Thibodeau looks intent on driving his young star out the door in pursuit of one more year of Butler and his chemistry-destroying antics. A mind-boggling move that has even the biggest Thibs apologists pulling their hair out in frustration.

For the time being, Timberwolves faithful are stuck in a depressing loop. Watching Tom Thibodeau give the publicly unhappy and unstable Jimmy Butler free reign over the franchise, riding it six feet deep into the ground in the process.

The onus is now squarely on team owner Glen Taylor to can Thibodeau and move Butler, the only remaining move that makes a shred of sense for the Wolves. However, Taylor is notorious for sitting on his hands and letting things take care of themselves, a stance that simply won’t work with Thibodeau at the helm.

If the 77-year-old doesn’t cut his losses soon, the franchise that he fought tooth and nail to keep in Minnesota will crumble at his feet. It is not even a stretch to imagine Towns asking to be traded, too, along with multiple other fed-up pieces of the puzzle.

Act now, Glen. Tom Thibodeau is taking the Minnesota Timberwolves on a power-drunken joy ride, while you remain a passenger seat captive that pretends nothing is wrong. Do what needs to be done. Do it for your team’s loyal-but-tired fans.

If the players’ body language and effort are anything to go by, the Thibs era is already done in Minneapolis. The writing is on the wall. Tom Thibodeau must go.