Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves

Did Tom Thibodeau sabotage Jimmy Butler trade to Miami?

Jimmy Butler wants out and Tom Thibodeau thinks he can change that, and so far the naive side is winning.

Amid reports of his discontent with young teammates and his rejection of a long-term contract extension, Jimmy Butler has asked for a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Head coach/president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau has come off like the jilted ex that thinks the relationship can be fixed, with questions from all around about a genuine effort to trade Butler.

It’s all but a guarantee Butler will opt out of his contract and become a free agent next summer. The Miami Heat have been added to his preferred trade destinations, with trade talks reportedly advancing pretty far.

Marc Stein of the New York Times reported a few days ago the Wolves and Heat had made “significant progress” on a deal involving Butler, before a “breakdown” after high demands from Minnesota’s end.

Now there’s this from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The earlier demands from the Timberwolves, reported to include Josh Richardson, Bam Adebayo and a protected 2019 first-round pick, apparently weren’t enough to push Miami away completely. Wojnarowski added the Heat had been given Butler’s medical information, which is a typical final step to a trade being done.

After last season’s knee injury, and offseason wrist surgery, it’s possible a physical from Miami’s doctors wouldn’t have cleared Butler and a deal would have fallen through at an even later stage.

Trade talks with Miami could always be rekindled, as the Heat have apparently softened on the inclusion of Richardson in a deal for Butler. But it’s possible (if not likely) that Thibodeau has willfully burned that bridge. According to Wojnaroski, the mandate to trade Butler from Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor remains.

In search of a veteran to serve as the primary extension of himself, Thibodeau gave up a lot to get Butler on draft night in 2017. So he’s firmly committed to making it work with “his guy”, but the feeling is not mutual with Butler as he’s looking for an exit just one season in.

Any concerns about Thibodeau as a lead front office executive when he was hired to the dual role are now out in the open for the whole league to see. As ESPN’s Jorge Sedano told it this past week, Heat president Pat Riley may have called Thibodeau out for all the drama coming out of Minnesota.

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Thibodeau doesn’t want to trade Butler, that much is clear. But when things have gotten to this level it’s at a point of no return, and the stubbornness Thibodeau shows as a coach has bled into his work as president of basketball operations. Sabotage is a big word. But if a trade got close before falling apart at the 11th hour, Thibodeau is inviting that description of any and all efforts to move Butler.

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