Josh got it exactly right in last night’s recap when he wrote about the win feeling hollow because so much of it was driven by a player who doesn’t want to be here and is likely not long for a Wolves uniform.
While it was nice to see the team fight for a win, even against a mediocre squad at home, and especially nice to see Karl-Anthony Towns have a good game and Josh Okogie continue to make an impact, the truth is we remain in a holding pattern as we await the resolution of Jimmy Butler’s Timberwolf tenure.
In my view, we really remain in a holding pattern as long as Tom Thibodeau holds the reins in Minnesota. It’s clear that he will hang on to Butler for as long as he can, though ultimately I expect Glen Taylor to force a trade. Even after Butler is gone, however, there is no reason to believe that Thibs will change his approach and refocus the team around Towns (and perhaps to a lesser extent, Andrew Wiggins.) There is no reason to believe he will pivot to giving Tyus Jones the (promised!) more minutes.
Towns showed some of what he’s capable of last night at both ends of the floor, and while it’s incumbent on him to be more consistent defensively, it’s also incumbent on the organization to create the best atmosphere for him to succeed. It obviously doesn’t exist currently, and won’t, I believe, until Thibs is no longer part of it.
As the season drifts along with uninspired performances mixed in with the occasional gem, one wonders what the purpose of this year is. Taylor spoke bravely before the start of improving on last season’s 47 eighth seed, but even he must realize that’s a massive long shot at this point, given the broken nature of the squad. It’s time to figure out what the Wolves are going to be going forward, and given the problematic relationships throughout the organization, that means not only trading Butler but moving on from Thibs as well.
The counter-argument is that whoever replaces him now would merely be interim, so the team might as well keep him around until the summer. I would buy that argument if I didn’t think he was actively damaging by contributing to a toxic work environment. That said, I don’t expect Taylor to make that particular change.
One thing last night reminded us, and hopefully a few key people around the league: Jimmy Butler is a great, great ball player. A guy who can change a game and a team. It makes it all the more disappointing that it couldn’t work here, and that’s largely on him for various reasons.
But if we aren’t going to have him long term, things need to get resolved as quickly as possible so that everyone can move on. It’s time.
A Few League Notes:
- Our Milwaukee Bucks improved to 7-0 last night by beating Toronto. Neither team had it’s big star (Giannis and Kawhi Leonard both missed the game.) The Bucks look absolutely great.
- Klay Thompson broke Steph Curry’s record for threes in a game with 14 against the Bulls. The Warriors put 92 on the Bulls...in the first half.
- Poor Zach LaVine was on the other end of that Warriors beat down (and was a brutal -35 on the night,) but continued to score, with 21 points. Is now averaging 28 per.
- Hey, look at the Kings! 4-3 and won in Miami last night. Nemanja Bjelica continues to play terrific ball for the Kings. 19-5-5 with a couple of steals last night.