A new soap opera: ‘As the Timberwolves Turn’

(l-r) James Harden and Jimmy Butler Steve Floyd/MSR News

Stay tuned — the 30th season of Timberwolves basketball could be dramatic, and it starts this week when the Timberwolves travel to San Antonio. Over the last 14 years, the Timberwolves have reached the playoffs just once. On the final day of last season, the team beat Denver in overtime to clinch the eighth and final spot. Then Houston beat them in the playoffs in five games.

At the All-Star break last year, the Timberwolves were in the fourth spot in the West. The injury that required surgery on All-Star Jimmy Butler’s knee, causing him to miss 25 games, hurt the Wolves and the team slipped.

They still finished 47-35 and were outstanding at home, going 30-11. The Timberwolves fans got a taste of good basketball; the team shattered several single-season scoring marks. They were fourth in the NBA in scoring at 109.5 points per game and shot 47.6 percent. There was a buzz in Minnesota.

The team had two All-Star players, Karl Anthony Towns and Butler. In the offseason, Butler turned down a multi-year $100 million extension and just three weeks ago told the team ownership he wanted to be traded.

The team struggled in the pre-season, finishing 1-4. Butler, after being excused by the team from training camp because of a procedure on his right hand, missed all of the preseason.

Butler has told all that he wants to be traded, and the Timberwolves apparently are taking his demands seriously. He has practiced with the team the last few days, and he says he’ll start the season with the team. He and team owner Glen Taylor have talked and apparently have come to an agreement on how to proceed.

With LeBron James now with Los Angeles, the Western Conference has gotten even more competitive. It’s going to be a battle every night in the rugged Western Conference. The back-to-back NBA Champion Golden State Warriors are the gold standard.

If Butler were to be traded this season, he would be playing for his third team in three years. It appears the team and Butler have agreed to allow the process of potentially trading him to play itself out. Butler said three weeks ago he can’t play with Towns and Andrew Wiggins for whatever reasons. There has been off-the-court speculation also, so over the last three weeks this organization has become a huge social media soap opera with different stories circulating each day.

The Timberwolves gave up a bundle to acquire Butler from Chicago two years ago, including guards Zach LeVine and Kris Dunn, as well as a first pick. President and Head Coach Tom Thibodeau really pushed for the trade, and so his situation for five years at $10 million a year has been jeopardized. Because Taylor wants results and is now a consistent winner, he is growing impatient with his franchise suddenly again being in the eye of controversy and rumors.

I’ve been told Taylor has even gone to the extreme of putting in a contingency plan that includes a new coach and general manager if he and Thibodeau and Butler can’t come to a solution that works to Taylor’s approval. This is going to be interesting if these men can’t come together and play for and with each other.

Who knows how much damage and lasting scars may have been inflicted. Stay tuned to NBA season number 30 featuring As the Timberwolves Turn.