One of the more interesting and, frankly, amusing story lines to emerge late Saturday after the Wolves agreed to trade Jimmy Butler to the 76ers was the notion that Butler was going to get along great with his young new Philadelphia teammates.
ESPN’s Tim MacMahon tweeted: “Joel Embiid talked with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins about Jimmy Butler. ‘They thought that we were definitely going to get along,’ Embiid told ESPN. ‘He wants to win. Wiggs told me that he thought that we were going to win the East for sure.’ ”
Do these guys really want us to forget everything that happened in the past 16 months (or at least the six since the 2017-18 season ended) and believe A) Butler is going to be a great mentor with the 76ers and B) the Wolves players he left behind admired him?
Sorry, but I’m old enough to remember Andrew Wiggins’ brother Nick tweeting, “Hallelujah” the day Butler requested a trade (that was less than eight weeks ago, if you’ll recall).
Here’s the thing: Towns and Wiggins should view this as a huge relief. If they’re talking up Butler to Philadelphia players, the behavior is akin to someone trying to sell a problematic car to an unsuspecting buyer.
But they also should view this as a slap in the face. Butler doesn’t want to be here with two young cornerstones, but he does want to be in Philadelphia with two different cornerstones (Embiid and Ben Simmons)?
Maybe it was all about the money, after all? The fit might be better if the personalities are different in Philadelphia, but make no mistake: This is a big gamble by the 76ers that this will work out differently than it did in Minnesota.
• There’s a chance for the Wolves, by the way, to frame this trade as an immediate success and change the narrative of the season.
The Wolves went 0-5 on a recent road trip, are 4-9 overall and have been booed at home — both Thibodeau and Butler — where they have played to two crowds barely topping 10,000.
Starting Monday against the Nets, however, 10 of the Wolves’ next 12 games are at Target Center — where the Wolves are 4-1 this year. The Wolves can clear the air with new players and perhaps create the impression that the trade has paid immediate dividends.
• Speaking of changing the perception of a season in a hurry, a 41-10 win over Purdue just days after replacing the defensive coordinator has a chance to do that for the Gophers football team.
If Minnesota could deliver one more win — over Big Ten West-leading Northwestern or Wisconsin, a pair of quality opponents who are nonetheless flawed — it would be bowl-eligible and top last year’s five-win total in P.J. Fleck’s debut. Even two competitive showings, particularly on defense, would lend credence to the idea that better times are ahead.
• I’d feel better about the Hall of Fame candidacy of Twins legend Joe Mauer, whose retirement will be the subject of a news conference Monday, if he had a better postseason résumé. His defining playoff moment might be Phil Cuzzi botching a fair/foul call in 2009.
The postseason is in many ways an unfair small sample size, but it leaves an impression. Mauer had a career .641 OPS in 44 playoff plate appearances with just one RBI. The Twins were 0-10 in those games.
• The Gophers volleyball team improved to 16-0 in the Big Ten by sweeping Indiana and Purdue over the weekend. Perhaps even more impressive than that undefeated run: The Gophers have dropped only five sets in those 16 wins.
There’s still work to be done, though: Four Big Ten road matches to end the season, then a postseason that could lead them to the Final Four in Minneapolis.