Tom Thibodeau’s summer from hell started in the back of a gym in Las Vegas. Long before Jimmy Butler demanded a trade from the Timberwolves, Thibodeau stood in a corner of the Cox Pavilion at the Vegas Summer League in mid-July answering questions from a small group of reporters.
As a mariachi band played behind him, the basketball lifer faced the uncomfortable questions he figured were coming. After brushing off one regarding Butler’s potential contract extension that he didn’t intend to sign, Thibodeau listened as the next query started about Butler and young star Karl-Anthony Towns’ precarious relationship. Before Towns’ name could even be dropped, Thibodeau’s answer was ready.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal
“We know how important both guys are to our team, so we’re just getting ready for next year,” he said.
The problem for Thibodeau is that, for one of the first times in his head coaching tenure, he couldn’t keep all the issues going on inside his locker room from leaking out.
It was an open secret throughout the league last season that Towns, and fellow max player Andrew Wiggins, didn’t show the type of consistent work ethic that Butler respects. There were far too many lapses from both players, especially Wiggins, that left Butler and others within the Timberwolves organization shaking their collective heads. As usual, Thibodeau figured he could get through the summer, get the players into camp, and put in more work so that his team could improve together. After all, one of the veteran coach’s favorite mantras is that “the magic is in the work.”nfl nike jerseys cheap china
Only this time, Thibodeau didn’t take into account just how fed up Butler was with the situation.
For a man who thrives on order and control, Butler’s declaration for wanting a trade sent the tranquility that training camp annually brings Thibodeau into a tailspin. As hard as he tries to stick to the familiar script of staying focused on the task at hand, even trusted veterans like Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose acknowledge that Butler’s request caught them off guard.
It was almost a year to the day the Timberwolves took the floor against the same Golden State Warriors on Saturday night. It was the 2017 preseason opener in Shenzhen, China and Thibodeau, who serves as both coach and president of basketball operations, beamed with confidence after constructing a roster he felt could contend in the rugged Western Conference. Having just acquired Butler from the Chicago Bulls and then signing Gibson, Thibodeau was certain his team would not only qualify for the postseason for the first time in 14 years but would make some noise once it got there. Towns and Wiggins were expected to take the next step in their development led by the leadership of Butler and guidance of Gibson.