The Minnesota Timberwovles will be without two of their key players tonight, with one player’s absence reportedly coming because he asked to sit out.
Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said after practice today that swingman Jimmy Butler would miss tonight’s home game against the Utah Jazz (8 ET, NBA League Pass). The team and Butler said the absence was because of “general soreness and precautionary rest,” but Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic report otherwise.
Jimmy Butler is not playing in the Timberwolves’ game on Wednesday night against Utah, the latest step in a six-week standoff between the disgruntled All-Star and the team that has not yet granted his wish to be traded, league sources told The Athletic.
Butler showed up to the team’s shootaround on Wednesday morning, but did not participate, sources said. After the session was over, he had a brief conversation with coach and president Tom Thibodeau about his decision and declined interview requests.
Thibodeau said he would sit out for “precautionary rest and general soreness.” But the Timberwolves had Tuesday off and also have an off day on Thursday before beginning a West Coast trip. Thibodeau denied that the absence was related to the trade request that has engulfed this team since before training camp started.
“He missed all of training camp, basically, so he has general soreness,” Thibodeau said.
However, ESPN’s Rachel Nichols spoke with Butler, who “strongly pushed back on any idea he is sitting out tonight as a protest.” Butler told her he plans to be in the arena for tonight’s game.
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) October 31, 2018
Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Butler has also expressed interest in accompanying the team on its trip to face the Golden State Warriors on Friday (10:30 ET, ESPN). The Houston Rockets, Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers remain among the teams interested in trading for Butler, but there’s a belief, Wojnarowski writes, that Thibodeau isn’t ready to seriously negotiate a trade.
Thibodeau discussed with Butler and the team’s medical staff his absence for Wednesday’s game. However, Butler has told associates that he plans to play against the Warriors on Friday night, sources told ESPN.
Butler and his representative continue to express frustration in what they believe is Minnesota’s inaction in honoring his trade request, and they have been pushing owner Glen Taylor to speed up the process, sources said.
ESPN’s Rachel Nichols corroborated the report from Wojnarowski
Butler’s name has been in trade rumors since the outset of training camp. After tonight’s game vs. Utah, the Wolves have a five-game road trip ahead and Thibodeau wouldn’t say for sure that Butler would be on that upcoming trip.
Thibodeau did say Butler’s absence tonight is not related to any impending trades.
— Chris Hine (@ChristopherHine) October 31, 2018
Thibs wouldn’t say, absolutely, that Butler would be on the upcoming trip
— Kent Youngblood (@BloodStrib) October 31, 2018
Point guard Jeff Teague will also miss tonight’s game because of a knee contusion. There is some good news on the horizon for the Wolves, though, as forward Andrew Wiggins (right quad contusion) is expected to play. Thibodeau told reporters the team will wait to see how Wiggins fares in pregame warm-ups before deciding on his status tonight. Wiggins suffered his injury on Oct. 22 against the Indiana Pacers and has missed the Wolves’ last three games.
Wiggins is averaging 15.8 points, three rebounds and two assists per game this season. Teague is averaging 12.7 ppg and 6.9 rpg, but is shooting 35.9 percent this season. Butler leads the Wolves in scoring (22.5 ppg) and had 32 points in the team’s last game, a Monday home win against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Houston Rockets reportedly made a push recently to restart trade talks to acquire Butler, offering a reported four first-round picks to Minnesota.
A key date to circle on the calendar in terms of Houston’s pursuit of Butler is Oct. 31, reports ESPN’s Zach Lowe. That is the two-month anniversary of Houston acquiring Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss from the Phoenix Suns (for veteran Ryan Anderson). At that point, Houston could include one or both of their salaries into a trade package.
After all the disruption caused by Butler’s trade request that became public a week before training camp began, no deal has been made.
According to multiple reports, Butler and Wolves owner Glen Taylor reached an an agreement that boils down to the Wolves continuing to seek a trade for Butler and Butler agreeing to play up to par. Taylor confirmed as much in a recent interview with the Star Tribune‘s Sid Hartman.
Per Wojnarowski, Taylor may have more interest in future Draft picks than Thibodeau does. However, those picks could become important trade assets for the Wolves to use in other deals or may provide incentives to additional teams to take on the hefty contract of big man Gorgui Dieng in a trade.