The only thing missing from Timberwolves practice Wednesday was introduction music, as Jimmy Butler showed up like a surprise WWE Royal Rumble entrant ready to cause chaos.
After a late arrival, he reportedly called out and cursed at teammates, coaches and executives during the non-public session, while teaming with the third-stringers and beating the starters. His inaugural participation in this offseason’s training camp, and the subsequent drama, was obviously premeditated as ESPN and Rachel Nichols were in Minnesota to get an interview from the disgruntled star almost immediately after.
What’s not as obvious is whether Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau was an accomplice to the ruckus – in on it from the start. The coach failed to confront his star player during the outburst, and Butler even suggested during his sit down with Nichols that Thibodeau secretly enjoyed it.
Some in local media believe Thibs’ job should be at stake for letting this fly, whether or not he was aware beforehand. I think the bigger problem is that Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins didn’t respond how you would want the building blocks of your franchise to respond. Both max-contract players, they were apparently victims of the verbal onslaught in practice and rather than confronting Butler, accepting the challenge and beating him on the court, they lost to a group of third-stringers led by Butler.
This outcome proves every point Butler has been trying to make since we learned of his trade request. You would think the outcome also lights a fire under everyone in the organization – which would be the reason Thibodeau possibly enjoyed what transpired. It forces his entire team to look at themselves and see what it is that Butler has in his competitive makeup that they’re lacking, and it forces the owner to see why Thibodeau never wanted to trade Butler in the first place.
Even if those moments of reflection occur, however, what has already transpired can’t be reversed, of course. So as Butler alluded to, everything is not fixed. Things may never get fixed with him on this roster. But the two people who should be better for this situation are the two being paid like stars, even though they’ve never led a team to the playoffs (2017-18 doesn’t count. Butler led that team).