After a relatively light practice Tuesday — one that ended early — Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said he expects Jimmy Butler to play in Wednesday’s season opener in San Antonio. As to how many minutes he will play, and how the team will move forward in terms of working on trading its star player? That isn’t so clear.
“We’re planning on playing him,” Thibodeau said. “If he feels good, he’ll be ready to go.”
Butler, who was away from the team when training camp started, has practiced only four times with his Wolves teammates this preseason and did not appear in a preseason game. Butler doesn’t necessarily have a minutes limit on him. But Thibodeau said he wants to see how Butler looks before making that sort of decision.
“It’s more conditioning,” Thibodeau said. “There is a different level to each step. There are summer workouts and fall workouts. And there is a preseason level. And that changes when you get to the regular season. So, once he’s out there, and it’s a lot more physical? You want to see how he responds to that.”
Butler’s return to practice last Wednesday was, by all accounts, rather raucous. But, to a man, his teammates have talked about how the intensity of practices ratcheted up with Butler on the floor with them.
Thibodeau said he wasn’t worried about the relative lack of practice time for the starting unit, noting that the starting five is unchanged from last season.
But going forward?
A source said Butler and team owner Glen Taylor talked Sunday, with Taylor promising to continue to work to trade Butler and Butler agreeing to continue to work and play with the team.
Asked Tuesday if he was certain the Wolves would get Butler’s best, Thibodeau said he was.
Teammate Anthony Tolliver agreed. “It’s not in his DNA to slack,” Tolliver said. “He only knows one way. No matter what’s going on off the court, whatever, once he’s between the lines and has our jersey on, he’s going to play and everything is going to be about winning and that’s it.”
So how long will he be wearing this jersey? That’s unclear.
“Everything is fluid,” Thibodeau said, echoing a familiar refrain.