I’ve been trying to write this piece for the last three months. And bear with me, it’s going to be a bit all over the place. Namely because I’m still a little all over the place with my feelings about how the Jimmy Butler saga came to and shook out.
To get started, let’s rewind to June of 2017. Thrilled is an understatement when I found out the Wolves had landed Jimmy Butler in a blockbuster trade with the Chicago Bulls. I was ecstatic. I’d been lobbying for Butler to friends and family for the past three years, certain he would lead my hometown team to glory (read: playoffs for the first time in over a decade).
And ultimately he did. Butler led the Wolves with 31 points in the overtime thriller against the Denver Nuggets securing the 8th seed in the West. The Wolves snapped the most pitiful of streaks in the NBA, making an appearance in the 2017-2018 playoffs, albeit short-lived.
Butler showed a young Wolves team what it meant to work hard. Like, actually work hard. To play defense. To play 48 minutes of gritty, two-way basketball. He showed the young Wolves what it looks like to really, truly love the game.
I was enamored. So enamored that I missed a lot of the signs. I ignored my friends who told me Jimmy was a jerk. I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted him to be the cure to an almost always dysfunctional Wolves squad.
He wasn’t. He was part of the dysfunction. But what I struggle with is deciding for my own sake if his dysfunction ends up erasing the leaps he helped the Wolves make last season.
You see, I wish he would’ve handled himself and the situation differently. Handled his discontent in a way that allows me to celebrate his time with the Wolves with a lighter heart. It’s like how I wish Mariah Carey would’ve stopped making albums after Rainbow (with the exception of The Emancipation of Mimi), so that I could idolize and remember her for her greatness, not her determination to stay relevant even though it meant sacrificing her esteem and craft.
It’s hard. Because it boils down to a handful of should'ves, would’ves and could’ves. The biggest being that the issue should’ve been handled when Jimmy first expressed his unhappiness with the Wolves in April.
It also boils down to character. So while I think Jimmy Butler is an absolute asshole, I also think Karl-Anthony Towns needs to be more focused, I think Tom Thibodeau is detrimentally stubborn and dated in his approach and methods, and I think Glen Taylor is inept as an owner.
It’s funny, “Do for Love” by Tupac just came on my shuffle. If you’re not familiar, give it a spin. If you are, still give it a spin. The opening lyric of the song goes, “I shoulda seen you was trouble right from the start.” And I think I knew that. I think deep down I knew it wasn’t going to pan out. But I’ve always been an optimist. I wanted it to work. It just didn’t.
And now we’re left with the question: was it worth it? I guess I still haven’t decided. But I don’t think so. Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, Justin Patton, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, and potentially Lauri Markkanen aside, I’m just not sold that a first-round playoff appearance was worth mentally breaking down our young, franchise player over the course of three months and doing that on national television.
I wish Jimmy all the best with the 76ers. Or not. I guess he’s exposed a trait in me I wish I didn’t hold, and that’s apathy. I wish that trading Jimmy solved the woes of the Wolves, but it doesn’t. And I wish so desperately we could’ve included Glen Taylor and Tom Thibodeau in that trade. It would have made it easier to hope.
Editor’s Note: Please welcome Jennifer Universe to the Canis Hoopus writing staff. We’re thrilled to have her.