MINNEAPOLIS (BVM) – It’s been four years since Jimmy Butler took the basketball world by storm, parading up and down the Minnesota Timberwolves’ morning practice as the team prepared for its final preseason game. With months of speculation about Butler’s future with the organization, the all-star shooting guard took out his frustrations with both the front office and his teammates by leading many of the team’s end-of-bench players to wins over the Timberwolves’ regulars during scrimmages.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 11, 2018
The much-popularized storyline seemed to put the nail in the coffin of Tom Thibodeau’s final year with the organization after trading away a package that included Zach LaVine to the Chicago Bulls for Butler. The deal for the two-way star made sense for Thibodeau who had just recently spent four years coaching Butler in Chicago.
After one season with the team, Butler made it through just 10 games in year two with the Timberwolves before being shipped away for a combination of Jerryd Bayless, Robert Covington, Dario Šarić and a 2022 second-round draft pick.
Although the infamous practice may have been blown out of proportion, Butler’s bold move to go at his teammates, specifically Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins, created a breaking point for an organization that was latching onto the idea that the two stars could still play together.
Since the Oct. 10 practice, both parties have gone in drastically different directions. Butler would go on to play just one season for the Philadelphia 76ers before being taken out one game shy of an Eastern Conference Finals appearance, thanks to a last second buzzer-beater by Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard. His move to the Miami Heat the following year has been more than fruitful, but the four-time All-NBA guard is still seeking his first NBA title.
“Everything is phenomenal now,” Butler told NBC Sports Chicago in his first season with the Heat. “Like I tell everybody, I’m happy, man. We’re winning. We’re competing at a high level. Organization is great — people around it, teammates … This place fits for me.”
The Timberwolves on the other hand, seemed to have finally moved past the experience, enjoying only their second playoff berth since 2004 last season. In hindsight, Butler’s departure may have been a blessing as the team benefited off its two underwhelming seasons with Ryan Saunders at the helm, selecting Anthony Edwards with the first pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. A trade with the Golden State Warriors for Andrew Wiggins finally supplanted Towns atop the team’s roster hierarchy, allowing for the addition of D’Angelo Russell to a budding roster.
With the offseason acquisition of Rudy Gobert, and both Anthony Edwards and Towns signed for the foreseeable future, Minnesota is entering its most anticipated season in nearly two decades. Butler’s time with the Timberwolves created a necessary spark but without long-term commitment to the team, his status always remained up in the air.
With a bright future now ahead of them, the practice, and the tumultuous 2018 season, seems to be a thing of the past. Four years later, both sides are hitting their stride.