Jimmy Butler’s Minnesota adventure is finally over. On Saturday, the Timberwolves traded the prickly All-Star forward to the Philadelphia 76ers for a package that includes Dario Saric and Robert Covington.
Minnesota will not be building a Jimmy Butler statue to commemorate his 1.2 seasons with the organization. After leading the Timberwolves to their first playoff appearance since 2005, Butler demanded to be traded to a new team in the offseason. Reports indicated that he didn’t get along with Minnesota’s two young stars, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. Butler’s behavior also indicated this fact, and last month he spent a preseason practice berating his teammates and ridiculing team brass. “You can’t win without me!” Butler reportedly shouted at general manager Scott Layden during the tense scrimmage. Both parties now get to find out if he was right.
The 2018–19 NBA season is still in its infancy, and a move like this raises plenty of questions about where it’s heading.
Will Butler get along with Philadelphia’s own young stars?
The Sixers turned themselves into the losingest team on earth for the opportunity to draft Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, only to now bring in a guy with a gift for antagonizing youngsters. Unlike Towns or Wiggins, however, Embiid is a brash, swaggering character who loves butting heads, as evidenced by his recent tiff with the Pistons’ Andre Drummond. How will he react if Butler calls him soft for dogging it in practice?
And what about Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 pick from last year’s NBA draft who missed much of his rookie season after allegedly forgetting how to shoot? Butler would rather wear a mitten filled with fire ants than put on kid gloves, but Fultz’s situation is unique and delicate. Does Butler have the patience to deal with the 20-year-old? How will Fultz respond to an acerbic veteran telling him what to do? What if there are fire ants everywhere? That wouldn’t be good.
Does Mark Wahlberg have anything to do with this?
Butler is close friends with the actor/hamburger franchiser/Chevrolet dealer, and their bond is so strong that it led some observers to question whether Wahlberg had turned the forward “Hollywood.” Could Wahlberg have engineered this trade in order to be closer to his buddy? This conspiracy theory only makes sense if he’s shooting a movie in the Philadelphia area (and even then it doesn’t really track, but bear with me). Wahlberg’s IMDb page doesn’t have any smoking guns, but there is the mysteriously named “Untitled Basketball Project.” Information is sparse, but the project could be even more nefarious than originally feared. According to the trivia section, “Justin Bieber and Mark Wahlberg have been talking about doing this project since 2011.” Butler entered the NBA in 2011. The plot thickens.
Where does this leave Minnesota?
Between Wisconsin and the Dakotas.
Will Butler play back-to-backs?
Butler only played in 10 of Minnesota’s 13 games this season, and he told reporters that it was he and not the team who was deciding when to rest. “I let them know,” Butler said last week. “They don’t know how my body feels.” Was he simply highlighting his frayed relationship with the Timberwolves, or is he really on a self-instituted schedule for his health? Can NBA players work from home?
The Sixers have 69 games left in the regular season. Butler’s attendance is TBD.
Will the 76ers make the finals?
Lost in all the relationship counseling and Myers-Briggs testing is the fact that Butler is a very good player. He’d make almost any team better, and Philadelphia only strengthened its case as one of the Eastern Conference’s premier squads with this trade. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that the Sixers will definitely make the finals should they get into the postseason and win 12 playoff games. Book it.