The Jimmy Butler saga in Minnesota is reaching epic proportions, and a great deal of it is centered around former Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns.
To give you the Cliff Notes version of the situation, Butler demanded a trade from the Timberwolves three weeks ago, but the franchise has been trying to smooth things over with the star shooting guard before settling on a trade. Butler believes his passion to win and overall work ethic far exceeds both Towns and former Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins, and he wants to be placed in an environment where players’ mindsets align with his. Oh, and he wants money. Lots and lots of money.
After sitting out the first several weeks of training camp and preseason play, Butler begrudgingly returned to practice this afternoon with one goal in mind: make the Timberwolves understand his value to the team. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports Butler showed up late, subbed himself in with the third-string, and went out of his way to single-handedly defeat the starters. More specifically, he wanted to go out and attack Towns and Wiggins.
According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports, Butler taunted both Towns and Wiggins in practice, screaming expletives directed at each of them at the top of his lungs.
“Butler uttered taunts at his teammates, including “They ain’t [expletive]!” and “They soft!”, said Haynes, via league sources.
As for Towns specifically, Haynes reports Butler called the former Wildcat out when the two were matched up in the post.
“At one point, Butler found himself guarding Towns in the post,” said Haynes. “After Towns received the entry pass, Butler yelled, “He can’t do [expletive] against me!” Towns ended up passing the ball out, sources said.”
In an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, Butler said Towns actually came at him with the trash talk first. He just responded with that same fire.
— ESPN (@espn) October 10, 2018
Butler elaborated on his situation with Towns, saying he understands the fourth-year center is the most talented player on the team, but he wants him to match his intensity.
“It depends on how you look at it,” Butler said. “Am I being tough on him? Yeah. Yeah. That’s who I am. I’m not the most talented player on the team. Who’s the most talented player on the team? KAT. Who’s the most god-gifted player on the team? (Wiggins). (Wiggins) got the longest arms, biggest hands, can jump the highest, can run the fastest. But like, who plays the hardest? Me. I play hard. I play really hard. I put my body on the line every day in practice. Every day in the games.”
And according to Wojnarowski, he let Minnesota’s general manager know just how hard he works and what he means to the team in practice.
“At one point, the All-Star guard turned to GM Scott Layden and screamed, “You (bleeping) need me. You can’t win without me,” he said.
Yahoo! Sports reports neither Towns nor Wiggins confronted Butler at any point during practice. In fact, Towns was reportedly “distraught” and “speechless” about the whole situation.
The former Kentucky star then tried to bring his teammates together as practice concluded in an attempt to rekindle the team chemistry. According to Haynes, the message didn’t come across the way Towns hoped.
“Towns then gathered the players in a huddle and gave a message centered on everyone keeping their emotions in check, league sources said. According to some of the players, the message felt empty,” he said.
In his interview with Nichols, Butler just said he wants to play somewhere where the players care about winning a championship just as much as he does, another slight toward Towns, Wiggins, and the Minnesota franchise.
“I want to be happy,” he said. “I want to win. I hate losing. If I don’t win a championship, what’s the point in making the playoffs.”