OAKLAND, Calif. – Jimmy Butler might play in both of the Timberwolves’ back-to-back road games Sunday in Portland and Monday against the Clippers. Or he might play in one. Or perhaps none.
According to Butler, whether he plays for the Wolves is dependent upon how his body feels, and the only one deciding whether he plays is him. Butler made that much clear after Friday’s 116-99 loss to the Warriors when he held his first media session since sitting out Wednesday’s win over the Jazz with what coach Tom Thibodeau termed “general soreness.”
It was an absence that set in motion a lot of speculation as to Butler’s motives behind sitting out. Was he trying to send the Wolves a message? Was he trying to preserve his body to not jeopardize a potential trade the Wolves may make? Butler denied that after Friday’s game.
There doesn’t seem to be a predetermined schedule of rest for him; it’s all dependent on how Butler feels. When asked who ultimately decides when Butler skips a game, he said, “I let them know.”
Butler was the last Wolves player in the locker room as the rest of the team prepared to head to Portland for Sunday’s game. Butler’s other absence for “precautionary rest” came against Dallas on Oct. 20, when he remained in Minnesota as the Wolves played the tail end of a back-to-back set of games on the road.
Toward the end of his Friday session, most of which focused on the issue of his absences, Butler questioned the line of questioning.
“Why are you so worried about my injury?” he asked, then with irritation in his voice criticized the media’s role in the reporting of this story, which is about to enter the eighth week since Butler notified Thibodeau of his demands in a meeting in Los Angeles.
Since then, Butler and his trade request have been the dominant story lines early in this Wolves season and promise to be until there is a resolution. When offered a chance on multiple occasions to clarify what specifically the media is getting wrong with the story, Butler has declined.
“If all of this talk wasn’t going on or not and I sat out because my body was sore, you would not be asking me this like that,” Butler said Friday. “I know it’s true.
“So stop asking me questions whether I’m going to sit out or not. If I’m going to sit out, you probably won’t talk to me on the day I sit out, but if I do then I do and you can create a story around it with a lot of made-up stuff like y’all normally do.”
The Wolves did not practice Saturday, opting for a day of rest before their set of back-to-back games. If Butler opts not to play, he said it doesn’t have to do with trying to force the Wolves’ hand. According to Butler, it has everything to do with maintaining his health after he has been injured in previous seasons.
“I’m not worried about no deal,” Butler said. “Injured or not, I have to take care of myself. I realize they have a job to do as an organization. I have one to do as a player. But if I’m not in the right with my body to go out there and do it, I don’t want to get hurt. I’ve been hurt almost every year now. We’re going to take this thing with caution.”
Butler had surgery last season to repair the meniscus in his right knee, and he had surgery on his right hand in the offseason. Butler made it clear that the one calling the shots on whether he sits out is him.
“They don’t know how my body feels,” Butler said. “If I’m nicked up, then you can count on that. I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes.”
It went fine for Butler in his return to the floor on Friday night, as he logged 35 minute and scored 21 points on 10-for-23 shooting — though he missed all eight attempts from three-point range. The Wolves were also missing guard Jeff Teague on Friday, while Derrick Rose played just five minutes because of a left ankle issue.
The Wolves this year are 1-1 when Butler sits and 3-4 when he plays.