MINNEAPOLIS — The long-running Jimmy Butler saga ended Monday when his trade to the Sixers became official.
The weight of controversy generated by Butler’s trade demands finally forced team president and coach Tom Thibodeau to give in and move him with the 4-9 Timberwolves on a five-game losing streak before facing the Nets at Target Center Monday night.
“From a moving-on standpoint, it’s a good thing,” forward Anthony Tolliver said after the morning shootaround. “Guys can get the cloud from over our heads and go out and play basketball. Whenever you’re struggling and you have adversity going on, it doubles the weight. Having the ability to move on from that, whatever it looks like with the new guys, we know what we’ve got and everybody is going to be on the same page.”
In return for Butler and Justin Patton, the Timberwolves received Robert Covington, a first-team all-NBA defensive team player last season, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and a second-round pick in 2022. Covington and Saric both started for the Sixers and are solid three-point shooters who should space the floor around All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns.
None of the new players dressed against the Nets.
Thibodeau defended his decision to trade for Butler only to have him leave. “It’s rare when you have an opportunity to get a top 10 player,” Thibodeau said. “We knew there was risk involved with it. We saw the impact he had last year. Once Jimmy made the request, we knew we had to do what was best for the organization. We waited, and then, when we got a deal that we liked, we executed it.”
Since making his trade demand public a few days before training camp began, Butler had been a disruptive force. Although Butler said his criticism was aimed at the Timberwolves’ organization as a whole, his remarks questioned what he regarded as the passive leadership of Towns and Andrew Wiggins, both of whom are maximum-salary players. Tolliver acknowledged Butler’s criticism was impactful.
“What matters is those guys really understanding the responsibility of being max players, being depended upon every single night to bring a certain level of consistency,” Tolliver said. “Both of them are very young, but it’s up to all of us around them to continue to bring them along on the consistency side and on the responsibility side.”
Tolliver said there’s never been a question of Towns’ leadership as the team’s best player, but he added, “Like I said, there’s a certain responsibility that comes with the contracts you get and also being very talented. It’s a lot of pressure, but that’s a part of it. Whenever you sign those types of contracts and a team is building around you, you’ve got to bring it.”