When word first came out on Wednesday that Jimmy Butler was at practice with the Timberwolves for the first time since his trade request, everyone’s ears perked up. There was plenty of anticipation about how it went and whether it was the beginning of Tom Thibodeau’s plan working, or if it would be a disaster for the organization.
Hours later, after Butler’s interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols aired on SportsCenter and the salacious details of his “vociferous and emotional” practice had come out from multiple reporters, it was clear it was more the latter than the former. Thibodeau apparently loved it, as Stan Van Gundy spoke with members of the staff who said it was the “best practice” they’ve had this offseason. It was clear, however, this was a well-orchestrated effort from Butler to accelerate the trade process and ensure the Timberwolves honored his request in short order by applying pressure to owner Glen Taylor.
Butler’s interview with Rachel Nichols, who asked every question you’d hope from an interviewer, was a master class in how a player can take control of a situation and narrative in such a position.
Butler didn’t deny anything that was reported about his outbursts at practice, but characterized them as simply his passion and emotion overflowing after finally getting to play basketball for the first time in months. He said some might see it as the wrong way to go about it, but insists he was just being “brutally honest” with his teammates. He said that Karl-Anthony Towns was actually the one that challenged him, not the other way around, and he simply stepped up to the challenge — though multiple reports have insisted Butler came after Towns from the start, including a recent column from The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski.
Butler also addressed his issues with Towns and Andrew Wiggins, calling them the best player and most “god-gifted” player respectively, before explaining that his frustration lies in how they don’t always give full effort and he can tell when that’s happening. He claimed Thibs loved his passion at practice and once again stated his love for the coach before explaining that just because that’s true doesn’t mean playing for him is the best thing for his career. He said things theoretically could be fixed, but that he doesn’t think they will because not everyone in Minnesota is willing to be honest with him, the way he believes he’s being honest (brutally so by his own admission) with them.