Welcome to the Tuesday edition of The Cooler, where sometimes doing the right thing isn’t easy. Let’s get to it:
At an eventful Timberwolves media day on Monday, head coach/basketball president Tom Thibodeau, GM Scott Layden and every player on the roster except Jimmy Butler, there was plenty of substance, plenty of posturing and the occasional injections of pure truth. Let’s break it down:
*Thibodeau and Layden spent the vast majority of their 25-minute session fielding questions about Butler’s trade request, and the only thing Thibodeau really wouldn’t answer was exactly what the Wolves would like in exchange for Butler and exactly what was said in the meeting between he and the Wolves’ star a week ago.
In listening back to the recording last night after being there in person during the day, the talking points were strikingly clear.
Four different times, Thibodeau mentioned the Wolves winning 47 games last season. And four different times, Thibodeau or Layden mentioned Butler is a top-10 player.
The former could be interpreted as a sales pitch to Butler — especially when added to Thibodeau’s assertion that he won’t trade Butler unless the Wolves get the right deal and with ESPN’s reporting that Thibodeau tried again Monday to lobby Butler to stay in Minnesota — while the latter is clearly aimed at trying to set the parameters for a Butler trade market.
When you wade through the posturing (and there’s clearly plenty of it coming from both ends, since rival executives cited anonymously in ESPN’s report have an incentive to paint a picture of disarray in an attempt to drive down the market and influence a quicker deal), you’re left with a plain truth that our Chip Scoggins laid out: A trade is inevitable, and Thibodeau’s job status is in question as a result.
*The next big hitter on the stage was Karl-Anthony Towns, fresh off agreeing to a $190 million contract extension last week mere hours after it became clear the Wolves were moving forward with attempts to trade Butler. He tried to paint the timing as one big coincidence not related to any perceived conflicts with Butler.
“That situation never had anything to do with Jimmy. It was a me and Glen Taylor situation,” Towns said. “It’s just two sides had to have great conversations and we had great conversations all summer. … We finally found common ground at an awkward time.”
Towns seemed sincere, and it’s also possible this deal has been done for a while and was announced at a point that it could deflect from the negativity of the Butler news. It’s probably not important if we ever really know. It’s just interesting.
*Andrew Wiggins, too, downplayed any strained relationship with Butler — including social media battles that played out last week. “That whole situation is dead now,” Wiggins said.
*The moment of unfiltered truth came from Taj Gibson — Butler’s friend, Thibs’ guy and current teammate of KAT, Wiggins and the rest of the Wolves on the roster. He said this absolutely is a distraction and that he was “in shock” when he heard the news.
“You get hit with a right hook right before training camp,” Gibson said of his reaction to Butler’s trade request.
*And the best moment of reading between the lines came when I told Gorgui Dieng that from the outside looking in it seemed like last year wasn’t very enjoyable despite the winning. I asked him what it was like inside the locker room.
“That’s why there’s a locker room,” he said.