AMES, IOWA – It has been nearly three weeks since Jimmy Butler requested a trade from the Timberwolves, and although they were close to a trade this weekend, Butler remains on the team and uncertainty still clouds his immediate future.
Three weeks of posturing. Three weeks of speculation, but three weeks that have ultimately resulted in nothing, despite the Wolves nearly making a deal.
The Wolves and Heat were close to an agreement involving Butler on Friday, but talks broke down late in the process, a source told the Star Tribune. This represents the first time the Wolves were close to deal with another team since Butler made the request of Tom Thibodeau at a meeting in Los Angeles on Sept. 18.
The Heat has been aggressive in pursuing Butler and Miami is one of his preferred destinations in a trade, but despite progress on talks this week, the teams couldn't get to the finish line. The talks could restart, but the breakdown likely means it will take more time for the Wolves to deal Butler and his status could remain uncertain going into the regular season. The Wolves carried on without him again Sunday in a 125-107 preseason loss to the Bucks at Hilton Coliseum on the Iowa State campus.
ESPN reported the trade progressed to the point where the Wolves shared Butler's medical information with the Heat and the owners for each team were consulted until the Wolves made 11th-hour demands and talks broke down. The report also said the Rockets have been aggressive in trying to acquire Butler while Yahoo reported the Clippers have interest in him. ESPN reported Miami softened its stance to include guard Josh Richardson in a deal.
Thibodeau, the Wolves coach and president of basketball operations, has said Butler's situation is "fluid" and has repeated many times over the past few weeks that he will make a trade as long as a good deal materializes. Butler remains away from the team as he rehabilitates his surgically repaired right hand.
The Wolves fell to 1-3 in the preseason without him as rookie Josh Okogie got the start for a resting Derrick Rose on Sunday. The Wolves continued their trend of falling behind in the first quarter, something they were looking to address. They have allowed 30 or more points in the first quarter of each preseason game.
"We have to be on the same page as a team defensively," Karl-Anthony Towns said. "We gave up too many threes to a team that shoots threes."
The Bucks were 13-for-36 (36 percent) from three-point range, and Thibodeau was concerned that the Wolves fouled a lot of jump shooters.
"That's a problem," Thibodeau said.
Towns kept the Wolves in the game through the second quarter as he scored 23 of his 33 points in the first half. He seemed to relish his toe-to-big toe matchup with another of the league's pre-eminent big men, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Antetokounmpo flashed his athleticism with a thunderous jam while Towns didn't back down when Antetokounmpo bodied him up on the other end.
"He's a great player, a great human as well," Towns said. "With his length and everything it's always a fun matchup. I've always loved playing against the best of the best."
The Wolves defense prevented a comeback while playing without forward Taj Gibson, who injured his left ankle in the first half. Thibodeau said Gibson could have returned, and Gibson said he was fine.