Whoopsie-daisey. We’ve been down this road before, Timberwolves fans.
Instead of recognizing Jimmy Butler for being the franchise-overhaul enforcer that the Minnesota Timberwolves so desperately needed and traded for back in June of 2017, we all were enamored with enabling youthful potential that accompanied Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Bear with me here, as I know the initial reaction to these truths is to blame Jimbo for burning this franchise to the ground. Whether we want to admit it or not, there was a lot of brutal honesty in what Butler got off his chest as he orchestrated his exit out of Minneapolis.
But before we dive into that can of worms, I’m going to start this piece off by apologizing to one of my childhood sports heroes, Allen Iverson. Because today, we’re going to talk about a few practices that took place roughly 22 years apart from each other.
As we are constantly being reminded by Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson and Mike Breen throughout Butler and the Miami Heat’s historic run to the 2020 NBA Finals, most of us are pretty well versed in what transpired in THAT particular practice involving Butler and the Timberwolves back in the fall of 2018.
Instead of wasting everyone’s time rehashing the events of that day, I’m going to bring it back to Wolves training camp for the 2004-05 season, when 2020 NBA First Ballot Hall of Famer and 2008 NBA Champion Kevin Garnett shared the practice floor with longtime One Of Us Brigade’s favorite sons, Rick Rickert.
Specifics from this practice have avoided the light of day, but the fact of the matter is that the practice immediately came to a wrap when Garnett punched out Rickert.
Could you imagine the Woj/Shams Bombs and the immediate aftermath had Butler taken a swing at another One Of Us favorites, Tyus Jones?
Instead of telling Garnett that he wasn’t worth all that money, treating him as a blood-thirsty outcast for allowing his competitive edge to get the best of him and handing the keys of the franchise over to promising future NBA superstar Wally Szczerbiak (kidding, of course), the Timberwolves understood that for in order for this franchise to have any semblance of a chance at competing in this league, this had to come with the territory for KG and his junkyard dog ways.
This was the price that the Wolves had to pay in order to compete. And they were more than okay with paying that price. Both literally and figuratively.
That was until Garnett, like Butler, realized that the Timberwolves were no longer capable of holding up their end of the bargain and demanded a trade because he had winning to do. And like Butler, Garnett won the Eastern Conference and reached the NBA Finals in his first season as far away from the Twin Cities as possible.
So, what’s changed since then, Minnesota?
Oh, by the way, KG wasn’t the only player who punched out teammates. Like most of you, I watched ESPN’s The Last Dance documentary that aired in early June. Remember when The GOAT (sorry fellow LeBron truthers, but we’re having an honest conversation) and Steve Kerr shared their respective recollections of when Michael Jordan cold cocked Kerr in Chicago Bulls training camp prior to the 1995-96 season?
After revisiting this history of KG and Jordan, telling a pair of early 20-somethings and their front office that they effing need him and can’t win without him (facts only) is absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things for Butler.
Do you think anyone who currently resides on the Miami Heat roster has any difficulties coming to grips with the many truths that coincide with playing winning basketball on the world’s biggest stage?
I think not.
Now that we’ve accepted the fact that Jimmy Butler is cut from the same cloth as Kevin Garnett and Michael Jordan, let’s be honest about proper expectations for Karl-Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Being that we’ve been down this road before, we know how this story goes.
Towns, like Kevin Love during his time in Minnesota from 2008-14, does a tremendous job of piling up statistics that put him near the top of the league. But when it comes to playing winning basketball, the former Kentucky Wildcat leaves a lot to be desired.
Now, that’s not to say that Towns could go link up with a few current superstars and play a supporting role for a contender like Love did when he forced his way out of Minnesota in order to play with LeBron and Kyrie Irving in Cleveland. But while Towns is the best player that the Wolves have on their roster, it’s more than fair to say that expectations should be properly set at watching roughly 82 games worth of empty box score stuffing while the Timberwolves compete for ping pong balls. Meanwhile actual competitors like LeBron, AD, Kawhi Leonard and Butler duke it out for the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Oh, what could’ve been had the Timberwolves just simply given Butler the max contract that Miami had no problem providing for undoubtedly the most accomplished mercenary that the league has ever seen. Instead, that money went to Andrew Wiggins.