Jimmy Butler was expected to meet with Timberwolves officials in Minneapolis.
Instead — and there is no reason to be concerned about this — Butler graciously invited the Wolves to visit him in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
There are no indications that Butler is employing a power play.
Nor is there any reason to worry that Magic Johnson and LeBron James parked in Butler’s garage so the Wolves could make use of the driveway, which provides easy access to the servants’ entrance.
If the informed speculation is accurate, Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns aren’t happy, Andrew Wiggins is tired of being made a scapegoat and Tom Thibodeau is on notice. That was the emotional landscape that prompted the meeting.
In the next five months, the Wolves will decide to trade or keep Butler. The latter strategy might lead to Butler’s departure next summer as a free agent, which would return the Wolves to their previous condition — a struggling young team dependent on the development and happiness of Towns and Wiggins.
You could view the Wolves’ predicament as the latest franchise disaster. Or you can take the global view, which is:
This is what the modern NBA is like for contenders. You are at the mercy of players who can alter the league’s hierarchy with one mood swing and a couple of texts.
With the exception of Steph Curry, virtually every NBA superstar changes his mind and team as often as he changes high tops.
LeBron James saved the Cavaliers, left them, returned to win them a championship, then left again for a mediocre team in LA.
Kyrie Irving won a title in Cleveland, forced his way to Boston and now, reportedly, is conspiring to play with Butler somewhere in the future.
Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City in a snit after James Harden went to Houston, where Harden got Kevin McHale fired by failing to even pretend to play defense, then became an MVP because he felt like it.
Paul George left Indiana, played with Oklahoma City for one year on his way to the Lakers, then decided to stay in OKC.
Kawhi Leonard destroyed the notion that at least one winning franchise could rely on loyalty when he forced a trade from San Antonio.
Chris Paul decided to play in Houston with his buddy Harden, then recruited his buddy Carmelo Anthony.
From afar, player movement is entertaining. Up close, it can be excruciating.
As a player, Butler did what he was brought to Minnesota to do. He pushed them into the playoffs. When he was healthy, the Wolves had a chance to earn the third seed in a daunting conference.
As a personality, Butler has taken public shots at Towns and Wiggins, and is threatening to destroy the Wolves’ plan so he can play at home or, perhaps, with Irving.
The Wolves have three options:
• Trade Butler now, try to land a quality player who will be more complementary and complimentary to Towns and Wiggins, and hope the pieces fit.
• Defer the decision until the trade deadline, to get a better feel for the team’s chances of winning big this year and whether Butler is willing to fit into the team’s long-term plans.
• Keep Butler all year and try to win enough to persuade Butler and Towns to harmonize on “Kumbaya.”
Not that the Wolves’ choices are simple or easy. If they explored a Butler trade, word would leak, he would be offended and the Wolves would have to follow through. If they don’t explore a Butler trade, they’re signaling Towns and Wiggins that they’d better get used to public rebukes.
It’s hard to know what the Wolves should do until we know more about the meeting. Did Butler serve single malt or tap water? Did he play Prince or “I Love L.A.”?
Downtrodden Wolves fans should think of it this way: The least attractive option for their franchise might be keeping an All-Star on the roster and trying to win 50-plus games. Beats watching Jonny Flynn pass to Darko Milicic.