There’s an alternate universe where Fred Hoiberg is the coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves. That alternate universe team has three All-Stars on it and they are ready to challenge the Golden State Warriors of the world for the Western Conference title. Karl-Anthony Towns is even more MVP-like in that universe, Andrew Wiggins actually plays defense and Zach LaVine is throwing down monstrous dunks in Timberwolves bright-as-hell safety-vest green.
That, of course, is not reality. Sadly, most alternate universes are not reality.
In reality, the Timberwovles are living through a nightmare that keeps sports teams executives up at night. One of the current studs on the team has requested a trade and that is just over a year after his joining the team. Welcome to Jimmy Butler’s world, we are truly living in it now.
Butler pretty much forced his way out of Chicago two off-seasons ago because he couldn’t get along with anyone. It looks like that has come to fruition in Minnesota, too. Most thought that the Tom Thibodeau and Butler reunion was going to be a nice marriage that would result in deep playoff runs for the franchise. The theory was that Butler would be a middle man between the barky coach and the young players. It appears that Butler has just become his own version of Thibodeau and there’s not enough room in the Timberwolves locker room for that much stubbornness.
We don’t know who Butler is truly mad at or non-compatible with. It could be Towns or Wiggins or owner Glenn Taylor or maybe it has all turned upside down and Thibodeau is the reason? Either way something isn’t clicking and Butler’s ticket out of town should have been punched long before the week prior to training camp.
In typical Timberwolves fashion, this whole situation has been butchered, sautéed and dipped in Cherry Berry. Taylor should have never given Thibodeau the keys to the whole franchise. Taylor then should have then made Thibodeau either trade Butler or fire him very early in the off-season. It is becoming clearer and clearer that this whole Butler mess is the reason Towns hasn’t signed his max contract extension. Towns isn’t holding out for money, because the Timberwolves have offered as much as they possibly can. Towns isn’t happy because Butler is still here. If you, Taylor and Thibodeau, aren’t doing everything humanly possible to make Towns happy, you’re doing your franchise and it’s fans a disservice.
Towns is the future of the franchise and, frankly, one of the bright futures of the NBA. Towns is super talented on the court and seems to be the nicest guy off the court, too. Towns is someone you need to build around. Sure, if Butler wanted to come along for the ride, well, that would have been great, but that isn’t happening.
Now here the Timberwolves sit with multiple issues on their plate. Their best player, Towns, hasn’t signed an obvious extension and is, to at some level, unhappy. Your basketball czar, Thibodeau, has rebuilt his Chicago Bulls rosters with the best player that he coached there, Butler, requesting a trade out of Minnesota.
Nothing has gone right for this franchise, I was going to say this offseason, but in reality, not many things have fully meshed since Flip Saunders was fired in the middle of the 2004-05 season.
Training Camp starts next week. Media Day is on Tuesday. It’ll be awkward. All of Timberwolves history is awkward. Nothing will be as awkward as the Thibodeau having to trade his pride and joy away and he better do it quick.
Maybe, one thing could be more awkward. If Thibodeau refuses to trade Butler. That should force Taylor to fire Thibodeau or trade away Butler himself during training camp or maybe even both.
We are in a universe where Thibodeau will have to trade Jimmy Butler or lose his job. That seemed like it would have to be an alternate universe just a few months ago, but now is a harsh, harsh reality.