Did you hear that Jimmy Butler returned to Timberwolves practice on Wednesday? It was … interesting. Amid a very public, very contentious and ongoing trade demand, Butler says he warned Tom Thibodeau that putting him back on the court, in a competitive environment, could result in some, shall we say, fireworks. 

Uh, that would be one way of putting it. 

From the sounds of Adrian Wojnarowski’s initial report — the most explosive details of which were subsequently confirmed by Butler in a (very convenient) sit-down interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols — Butler went straight nuclear on anyone and everyone while leading a group a third-stringers to a scrimmage victory over a team of regulars that included stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Not even Wolves GM Scott Layden was safe from the fury. 

OK, so this is a good place to start a little breakdown of Butler’s pretty contradictory rant. First, this is some kind of logic for Butler to reiterate his desire to be traded from the Wolves by emphatically reminding them that they can’t, in fact, win without him. Seems like this reminder would lessen the chances of them dealing him, or am I reading that wrong?

It is, of course, true. Last year the Wolves were a top-four team in the West before Butler went down for a prolonged second-half stretch. By the time he got back, they were clinging to the No. 8 seed — which they held onto only because Butler returned to lead them to three straight wins to close out the regular season, the final one being a 112-106 win over Denver in an effective one-game playoff for the final spot. Butler had 31 points in that one. 

So, yes, the Wolves need Butler to be anything close to relevant in the West. Take that as an indictment on Towns and/or Wiggins. Take it however you want. It’s just the truth. They’re probably a lottery team without him. 

Speaking of the truth, Butler says that’s what this whole trade demand is about. That nobody in the Wolves organization will tell the truth. That nobody wants to be honest. Which is interesting, because if you really break down what Butler told Nichols, there would appear to be a few holes in his own version of the truth. 

“I was honest,” Butler explained to Nichols when she asked him about his practice tirade. “Everybody’s so scared to be honest with one another … Nobody wants to tell the truth. That’s what it is. Nobody wants to be honest. When somebody makes a mistake, you look the other way … If you didn’t like the way I handled myself in practice, one of the players come up to me. Somebody say something. Anybody.”

The implication here, in essence, is that nobody was man enough to stand up to Butler. This has been a commonly reported thread in the fraying fabric of this relationship: That Butler is tough, the other Wolves (namely Towns and Wiggins) aren’t, and he’s tired of playing with basketball babies. So he wants out. And that’s fine. Nobody is questioning Butler’s toughness. Dude is a pit bull on the court. And Towns and Wiggins, for all their talent, have done little, if anything at all, to warrant similar competitive praise. 

Still, later in the interview, Butler said that Towns did, in fact, challenge Butler. 

“This is the truth,” Butler said. “I didn’t go at those two (Wiggins and Towns). One of them came at me.” 

“Which one?” Nichols asked. 

“KAT (Towns),” Butler said. “KAT came at me.”

So first nobody was man enough to come at Butler, but then it turns out, Towns did just that. As Butler’s story went, as Butler and his cast of third-stringers were putting it on Towns’ squad, Towns started chirping that: “Anybody can get this work.” In basketball speak, that’s basically Towns saying what Butler was doing in cooking everyone on the court wasn’t that impressive. That he could do it, too. So Butler challenged him to do so.

“Do it to me,” Butler says he told Towns. “That’s all I said. I said every time I get switched out onto you, you pass it.”

OK, so now we’re getting to the heart of all this. If Butler wants to be honest, then let’s be honest: He thinks Towns is a basketball wimp who, in a microcosm of his whole basketball existence in Butler’s eyes, doesn’t want any part of Butler in a one-on-one, man-on-man setting. There is nothing else you can extract from that statement. Just as there is nothing else you can extract from what Butler went on to say about the heart, or lack thereof, that both Towns and Wiggins play with. 

“Who’s the most talented player on our team? KAT,” Butler said. “Who’s the most God-gifted player on our team? Wigs (Wiggins). Wigs got the longest arms, the biggest hands, can jump the highest, run the fastest. But who plays the hardest? Me. I play hard. Really hard. I put my body on the line every day in practice. Every day in the games. That’s my passion. That’s how I give to the game. That’s how I give to you guys.”

Again, this is a bunch of words that all say the same thing: Towns and Wiggins don’t play with the kind of heart Butler expects. And that’s a perfectly fair statement — at least when it comes to Wiggins, who, frankly, borders on disrespectful to his own talent with the way he loafs around at times and fails to improve on his weaknesses, effectively settling for something far short of his potential because getting themes out of himself would be, well, hard. 

Jimmy is all about the hard. This is a guy who was the last pick of the first round in 2011, a guy nobody expected to be more than a rotation player in the league, who has turned himself into a superstar on what he would describe as average NBA talent and sheer grit. It’s understandable that it would drive him crazy to suit up every night alongside talents like Wiggins and Towns who don’t get as much out of themselves, and consequently, keep the Timberwolves from becoming a real championship threat. But if you’re Butler, and you want to rest on this throne of honesty, then be honest. Just come out and say that. Don’t poke at it with little jabs only to turn around and say this to Nichols:

“Let’s not get this misunderstood, I love the team that I’m on,” Butler said. “This has nothing to do with the players that I play with. I know what I’m going to get from Jeff. I know what I’m going to get from Wigs, I know what I’m going to get from KAT, I know what I’m gonna get, and I can get the best out of each one of those guys.”

So you love the team that you’re on, but you want to be traded. This has nothing to do with the players that you play with, but you are openly calling out those same players. Rightly confused by these contradictions, Nichols asked Butler what, then, was the point of his actions Wednesday. What message was he trying to get across?

“To play for one another,” Butler said. “The only reason you play this game is for these guys that you suit up with … Do it because you know, if you get knocked down, count on 23 to pick you up.”

If Butler thinks what he did on Wednesday qualifies as picking his teammates up, he’s got a different definition of honesty than most people do. He wasn’t trying to pick anyone up. He was trying to beat them down in every possible way. And he did it. He made his point. He wants the hell out. He doesn’t like his teammates as basketball players. The Wolves can’t win without him. That’s the truth. Instead of trying to mince a bunch of words in an effort to say his piece without fully, actually saying it, Butler ought to just leave it at that. 


Source link