MINNEAPOLIS — The Timberwolves returned to Minnesota on Sunday following their 0-5 road trip out west that finished with a Friday night loss to the Sacramento Kings. The Wolves are 4-9 on the season, 0-8 away from the Target Center, and now have finally dealt All-Star Jimmy Butler away.
The team said that they found out about the Butler trade on the plane ride home from Sacramento following that loss.
“It’s just business, you know?” forward Taj Gibson said Sunday afternoon. “It was shocking, we were on the plane together. I found out on the plane when I was sitting right across from him. It’s always difficult, but it’s a business and we’ve just got to roll with the punched.”
At very least the Wolves can move on from this two-month long saga that’s been going on ever since Butler’s trade request.
“I think so,” said Gibson when asked if the team needed this type of fresh start. “I just think with this stuff going back and forth, I thought that the locker room was great but this type of management and different things like that is always tough when you’re trying to win games and you’re not winning games. When you lose, in the locker room, it kind of is like a black cloud. Everybody is kind of down on themselves a little bit, but like I said, it’s a new day, new guys coming in. Just gotta push forward.”
There’s no doubting how talented Butler was. He was the type of player able to come into Minnesota and immediately help elevate the Wolves to a playoff team in his only year on the team.
That being said, as it’s been written and talked about extensively, this was a move that needed to be made. The hope for the Wolves is that they’ll be able to focus on strictly basketball now for the time being. Instead of having to worry about what the roster is going to look like on a nightly basis, things are finally set for the team.
The issue, however, is that there’s now quite a hole to dig out of.
It’s also well known that Butler was one of the leaders in that locker room, at least last season he was. The changing of the voice in the locker room is something that the Wolves will have to get used to. Whether it comes from Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, or someone else, this group is going to have to find a new alpha.
“We have a lot of guys. We’ve got KAT, we’ve got me, Teague, D-Rose, Taj is another vet. We’ve got a lot of guys that have been here for a long time and know what it takes to win,” Wiggins said.
“KAT’s a very vocal guy, a very vocal, hands-on guy. I’m more of a ‘lead by example,’ you know, I do what I do.”
One voice that Wiggins mentioned was Rose as a potential leader, and that seemed to be something that veteran guard is up for.
“Coming in, talking to [the rest of the team], letting them know the good and the bad, what I see on the court,” Rose said. “Tough love, that’s all I show, but I don’t mean no harm by it. I’m just trying to do what’s best for the team. By me talking to them and communicating to them it shows that I’m for the team. I don’t have a selfish bone in my body, I don’t care about stats, I’m here solely for the team.
“I ain’t start yet, but you’ll see it when things start up, you’ll see if for sure,” Rose said when asked how everyone on the roster responds to tough love.
The best thing for this organization would be the team coming together and either Towns or Wiggins grasping that leadership role. But with Rose experiencing tremendous amounts of success on the floor currently and having more time in the NBA than everyone on the roster other than Luol Deng, his voice will be listened to, as well.
Acquiring both Dario Saric and Robert Covington gives the Wolves two guys that will be able to contribute right away. Jerryd Bayless may be able to contribute, but he hasn’t appeared in a game yet this season due to a knee sprain and it’s unknown when he’ll be available for the Wolves.
The departure of Butler opens up a spot in the starting group for the Wolves. It would make sense for Covington to slip in to Butler’s old spot, but Saric may be able to start as well, bumping Gibson to the bench.
“I don’t really care, I’m not really into that. I can play off the bench, starting. I knew that question was going to happen, this is the only time I’m going to answer that question. I can come off the bench or I can start, it doesn’t matter,” Gibson said. “I just want to win games and compete. That’s my ultimate goal.”
Wiggins also added in that they had not yet talked about a new group of starters moving forward.
The trade has not yet been finalized and will not be final until Monday morning at the earliest. The NBA doesn’t complete trade calls over the weekend, which is a bit odd considering that this is a multi-billion-dollar entity. Therefore, Tom Thibodeau was unable to comment on the trade, because in the eyes of the NBA it has not yet happened. The players are allowed to speak on it, but the coach/president of basketball operations is not.
The call not happening until Monday also means that Covington and Saric may not be available to play on Monday night when the Wolves play host to the Nets. That will be figured out before inactive players are due prior to tip-off.