Jimmy Butler returned to Minnesota on Wednesday, bringing plenty of passion to the Timberwolves‘ practice. In his first appearance on the court with his teammates since their season-ending loss in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against the Rockets, Butler made his presence felt. So much so that the team has canceled practice and all media availability on Thursday. 

Not only did he repeatedly challenge everyone from coach Tom Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden to teammates Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, he reportedly took the third-stringers and wiped the floor with the starters during a scrimmage. Butler followed up this crazy scene with a sit-down interview with ESPN where he explained the reason for his tirade

While Butler’s performance at practice seemed at least part an orchestrated show, he also returned because the season starts in less than a week, and he’s always been clear that he doesn’t plan to miss regular-season games. And now, according to Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, Butler has reportedly “lost faith” a deal will get done. The Wolves apparently feel that way as well, as they’re planning on starting the season with him on the roster. Via The Athletic:

It’s been a marathon drama, filled with ugly twists and turns and several deals that came close but were never completed. *The Wolves are preparing to start the season with Butler on the roster, and there was growing skepticism around the league that Thibodeau was truly interested in making a deal. With nothing imminent just one week before the season opener in San Antonio, Butler had lost faith that anything was going to happen.

So it was time to practice.

Additionally, according to Charania and Krawczynski’s report, Butler had told all members of the Timberwolves brass that while he would reluctantly return, he’d make life difficult for everyone involved. 

In a meeting on Monday, Butler told Thibodeau this is how it would go, sources said. He wasn’t going to sit by and be quiet and have his desires ignored. Butler had also made clear that he wanted to sit down to discuss several issues with Towns, including the timing of his contract signing, as a means to challenge the young center about being up front and honest, league sources said. It is unclear if that meeting has taken place.

In several conversations over the previous few weeks, Butler had told owner Glen Taylor of similar plans to make life difficult for the Wolves should he return, only to cool down each time and finish the call professing to be a professional if it ever got to that point.

It remains to be seen if Butler’s actions during Wednesday’s practice will be enough to finally force the Wolves to complete a deal — likely with the Heat, who as of Wednesday were the only team having serious discussions. Or if perhaps Butler’s intensity will backfire, and convince Tom Thibodeau — who reportedly thought it was the “best practice of the season” — to keep his star regardless of the consequences, both short and long-term. 

One thing that is for certain, though, is all eyes will be on Butler and the Timberwolves for as long as this saga continues. 


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