After missing all but two practices and not appearing in any preseason games, after publicly requesting a trade and blasting the team in an ESPN interview, Jimmy Butler will play for the Timberwolves on opening night Wednesday in San Antonio.
This absolutely amazing turn of events was confirmed yesterday in an article in The Athletic, in which Jon Krawczynski reports that Glen Taylor made a rare appearance at practice yesterday, and “came to an understanding” with Butler that they would try to find a deal for him, and in the meantime he would play for the team.
The piece implies that Taylor still wasn’t clear on how toxic things were, and came to town to see for himself. As Nate has pointed out on several occasions, Taylor is having difficulty wrapping his head around how quickly and completely things have collapsed.
In all honesty, I’m not sure where to start. Whenever I suggest that Taylor “must” know this, or “must” do that, he proves me wrong.
So I write this with some trepidation: Taylor must know that if they are going to trade Butler, it’s going to be up to him to manage the process. Tom Thibodeau is clearly satisfied with the status quo, and currently has what he wants: Butler in a Wolves uniform. He’ll avoid making a change to that status quo as long as he possibly can.
Furthermore, it gets more difficult to make a trade as the season starts, and the last month of “trade negotiations” has not helped the Wolves’ reputation around the league for working in good faith.
Meanwhile, RUMINT has it that none of this is going over well in KAT territory. They wanted (and want) both Butler and Thibs out, and are, I believe, furious that Thibs essentially threw the team under the bus by backing Butler after his performance last week. KAT’s refusal to answer questions relating to Butler at his media availability in Milwaukee was telling.
Of course KAT should not be the decision-maker for the franchise, but the problem is there appears to be nobody qualified for that role currently in the organization. Rebuilding trust and faith with KAT has to be the biggest priority, but as far as I can tell, nobody is taking that seriously. Hopefully they will if and when it leaks that he wants out.
Further RUMINT has it that some of the minority partners in the franchise are extremely unhappy with how Taylor has handled this situation, and have made their feelings known, though they don’t have a lot of say in things.
Meanwhile, this is a win for Butler, who has controlled the narrative throughout. If the Wolves play well and win early in the season, it’s because he’s the “leader” and “lit a fire” under the team. If they don’t, it’s because KAT et. al. are “soft” and don’t know how to compete.
Here’s one thing I know: It’s not going to be a cheerful, supportive, happy crowd at Target Center on Friday night. Things could get ugly.