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Could Jimmy Butler open the season playing for the Wolves?

Is Jimmy Butler going to return to the Timberwolves?

During “The Scoop” segment with Darren Wolfson on Wednesday on 1500 ESPN, he mentioned that while the Wolves could fine Jimmy Butler for not practicing with the team they weren’t doing so as a “good faith move with the hope he will rejoin them, even if it’s for a short time.”

Butler has made it clear he wants out of Minnesota after one season and has told the organization that if he isn’t traded he will leave as a free agent next summer. Butler did report to training camp but was excused from the early practice sessions as he recovered from offseason surgery on his right wrist.

The injury served as a convenient excuse for Butler’s absence — he has been seen around town playing in pickup games — and the expectation was that he would be moved. Last week, reports surfaced that Butler wanted to be dealt to Miami and that talks between the Wolves and Heat were ongoing.

But that trade has yet to happen and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday evening that Butler doesn’t plan to miss regular-season games, if his wrist is healthy. It’s no secret that Tom Thibodeau, the Wolves’ president of basketball operations and head coach, wants to keep Butler.

In fact, Wojnarowski reported Thibodeau is expected to push for Butler to begin attending practice when the Timberwolves return from a West Coast preseason trip early Thursday. A source told Wojnarowski that Butler could return as soon as next week but has yet to make a decision and continues to experience soreness in the wrist.

As for the revised Miami offer Wojnarowski referenced in his tweet that has to do with the fact that, as Wolfson told us, the Heat are not willing to move Josh Richardson or Bam Adebayo but would send Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside to Minnesota. Here’s a breakdown on why the Heat are reluctant to give up Richardson in a Butler trade.

The Heat were pushing the Wolves to accept their latest offer for Butler but no trade was close or imminent, according to Wojnarowski. The Wolves’ preferences include Richardson, Adebayo and a protected 2019 first-round pick. NBA sources told Wojnarowski that a trade could take on a “larger construction,” to include more players. The Wolves also want to dump the remaining $48 million left on the contract of Gorgui Dieng in any Butler deal.

Houston also is pursuing Butler because that would give the Rockets his Bird Rights and the chance to keep him as a free agent next summer. Otherwise, the Rockets, like the Heat, wouldn’t have the salary-cap space to pursue Butler. It’s difficult to believe that Thibodeau would trade Butler to a Western Conference rival.

So is Thibodeau trying to convince the Heat that he would keep Butler, and thus drive up the price, or is he really prepared to attempt to make Butler stay in Minnesota and bring him back into what could turn into a poisonous locker room? Remember, part of the issue is that Butler doesn’t get along with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins and it’s unlikely those two would be thrilled to see Butler back on the Wolves.

The Wolves open the season on Oct. 17 in San Antonio.


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