The situation that's developed between Jimmy Butler and the Minnesota Timberwolves over the past few months is one of the strangest we've seen. Sure, players have demanded trades before, but it's rare to see a situation devolve as quickly as Butler's did in Minnesota after being reunited with his former Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.
It appears that Butler is prepared to suit up for the Wolves if they can't get a deal done before the regular season starts, which makes things incredibly awkward for everyone involved. So how did we get here?
From the glory days with the Bulls to Butler's profanity-laced practice tirade, here's the sequence of events that led to Butler's fractured relationship with the Timberwolves.
June 23, 2011
Butler is drafted by the Chicago Bulls, where he will play under Thibodeau for the next four seasons. Thibodeau compiles a 193-119 record during those years, and Butler makes his first All-Star team in 2014-15.
May 28, 2015
Amid growing tensions with Chicago's front office, Thibodeau is fired by the Bulls following the 2014-15 season.
Dec. 19, 2015
Butler publicly criticizes new Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg following a 107-91 loss to the New York Knicks, saying the team needs to be "coached a lot harder at times."
April 20, 2016
Jan. 25, 2017
"We don't play hard enough," Butler said. "This is your job. I want to play with guys who care."
June 22, 2017
On the night of the 2017 NBA Draft, Butler is traded, along with the draft rights to Justin Patton, to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen. Butler is reportedly blindsided by the news while vacationing in Paris with other NBA stars. Thibodeau and Butler are reunited in Minnesota.
Nov. 28, 2017
Butler gets animated with his Wolves teammates on a flight to New Orleans, challenging them to raise their effort, work ethic and defensive approach, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.
Feb. 24 - April 5
Butler misses 17 games with a knee injury, during which the Timberwolves go 8-9. Butler returns to help win the team's final three regular season games, including a winner-goes-to-the-playoffs overtime thriller against the Denver Nuggets on the last day of the regular season.
Between Game 4 and Game 5 of the Timberwolves' opening-round playoff series against the No. 1 seed Rockets, a story in the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Butler appearing to question the commitment of some of his teammates.
"I put so much into this game and I only play to win. I don't play for any individual stats or accolades. And at times I get lost in how everybody is not built the way that I'm built," Butler said. "... Sometimes I just look around, and I don't understand how or why you all don't love to get better the way that I do."
After being eliminated by the Rockets in Game 5 of the first round, Butler does not fly back to Minnesota with his teammates. Instead, he takes a flight to Los Angeles and refuses to participate in the medical exam all players go through as part of their exit interviews, according to Krawczynski.
A Karl-Anthony Towns" and has no intention of signing an extension with Minnesota.says that Butler is "fed up with the nonchalant attitude of his younger teammates, specifically
Butler rejects the Timberwolves' four-year, $110 million contract extension offer. It's the maximum offer the Wolves can give under league rules, but Butler was reportedly hoping that the team would make the necessary roster moves to restructure his contract and offer more money. As a free agent in the summer of 2019, Butler could be offered a five-year, $188 million contract from the Wolves or a four-year, $139 million contract from another team.
After staying away from Minnesota for the entire summer, Butler meets with Thibodeau in Los Angeles a week before media day and formally requests a trade from the Timberwolves. Butler reportedly gives the Wolves a list of three preferred destinations: The New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers. Thibodeau reportedly has no interest in trading Butler.
According to Krawczynski, this was not the first time Butler expressed his unhappiness and unwillingness to commit to the Wolves long-term. Butler reportedly talked about it with Thibodeau shortly after the season and reiterated his feelings several times over the course of the summer.
The trade request sets off a social media firestorm, beginning with Nick Wiggins, brother of Timberwolves wing Andrew Wiggins, tweeting "Hallelujah" in response to Butler's trade request. Butler responded with his own "Hallelujah" social media post.
With Thibodeau and Wolves general manager Scott Layden reportedly rebuffing other teams' trade offers, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor tells fellow owners at the board of governors meetings in New York that he is open to trading Butler, and to deal with him if they have trouble working with Thibodeau and Layden, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
Still on the Timberwolves roster a week before the start of the regular season, Butler returns to Wolves practice and reportedly leads the third-stringers to a win over the starters. Reports indicate that Butler was, directing expletives in Layden's direction.
At one point in a scrimmage, sources said, Butler turned to GM Scott Layden and screamed, "You (bleeping) need me. You can't win without me." Butler left teammates and coaches largely speechless. He dominated the gym in every way. Jimmy's back.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 10, 2018
In a sit-down with ESPN's Rachel Nichols after the controversial practice, Butler says most of the reports are true, and stresses that, even though he is back with the team.
The Timberwolves cancel practice and media availability the day after Butler's tirade, and Butler holds a players-only meeting to air his grievances about management. He reportedly tells his teammates that he will compete with them, as the chances of Butler remaining on the roster into the regular season continue to grow.
Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler called a players-only meeting today, airing his feelings toward situation and management, per league sources. Butler expressed to players he would compete with them, as signs pointing to him staying with the franchise into the regular season.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 11, 2018