The Timberwolves are 17-14 since the 4-9 start that preceded the Jimmy Butler trade to Philadelphia, so in a broad sense they have proved they can win without him.
But in that 14th loss, a 149-107 embarrassment Tuesday in Philadelphia in the first meeting between the teams since the trade, Minnesota — and particularly its young core players — seemed intent on proving Butler right: That they can't win without him.
A variation of that sentiment was part of Butler's profanity-laced shout upon returning to practice during a tense seven-week stretch.
Winning 17 of 30 games since the trade was a nice counterpoint, but Tuesday offered a chance for Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins to deliver their sharpest refutation of Butler's assertion.
Instead, their actions and body language suggested they were either trembling at the mere sight of their former teammate or just weren't up to the challenge.
Read Michael Rand's blog at startribune.com/randball. firstname.lastname@example.org.