Uneasy player-coach relationships in the NBA are nothing new. And though some of them prove untenable in the long run, that certainly isn’t a hard and fast rule. Plenty of these less-than-ideal pairings have been able to overcome their differences and find success.
But the NBA is a star-driven league. And head coaches — even the most decorated and respected among them — don’t enjoy the same cache as they once did. Star players are a commodity, while head coaches are essentially replaceable.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise if the Minnesota Timberwolves — which have been the subject of rumors this week regarding Karl-Anthony Towns — would prefer to make a coaching and/or management change before they deal away their franchise center. At least that’s what ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski believes would be the more likely outcome in this scenario, via The Russillo Show.
“I think their owner would trade management/the coach before he would trade Karl-Anthony Towns,” Wojnarowski said. “I don’t think they would allow that. I just don’t believe they’d allow that kind of decision. And I don’t know that they’d want to trade him. To answer this first, Minnesota’s bigger issue is not…he’s Karl-Anthony Towns, they’re not moving him, Towns is eligible for his extension this summer. You know Jimmy Butler…it’s more of a question of Andrew Wiggins. That to me would be, if someone was going to get moved — and I’m not saying anyone’s going to get moved — I think Andrew Wiggins is the one you’re going to look at first. Because…you don’t have to make a decision on Towns and Jimmy Butler and one of those guys having to take less on an extension, because you can’t have three [max] guys.”
NBA insiders Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst alluded to this situation on The Lowe Post podcast on Friday, and there seems to be a pervading feeling that Towns, along with teammate Andrew Wiggins, aren’t crazy about the idea of playing second and third fiddle to Jimmy Butler.
That, combined with Towns’ high-profile struggles in his inaugural postseason appearance, have made for a tense relationship. It’s a situation that’s threatening to undermine all the goodwill and cultural capital they amassed by putting together their most successful season of the past 15 years and making a long-awaited return to the playoffs.
Regardless, the expectations are high for a team boasting a dynamic young core and a head coach with championship pedigree. They have a lot of work ahead of them if they hope to repair the relationship or else face the prospect of shaking things up this summer and going in a different direction. Either way, it’s shaping up to be an offseason fraught with intrigue for the fledgling Wolves.