By Larry Fitzgerald
What’s done is done. The Minnesota Timberwolves traded All-Star Jimmy Butler and center Justin Patton to the Philadelphia 76ers, ending the latest chapter of the drama that has played out since October when Butler demanded to be sent elsewhere.
Last year when the marriage was happy, the Timberwolves, starring Butler and Karl Anthony Towns, both named All-Stars, ended a woeful 13-year playoff drought by going 47-35 and grabbing the eighth spot in the West. The team signed 22-year-old forward Andrew Wiggins to a five-year $140 million max deal.
In the summer, the Timberwolves offered Butler a four-year $100 million contract extension. Butler was offended; he wanted a five-year $125 million deal. The Timberwolves then witnessed Butler trashing teammates Towns and Wiggins publicly as not being as valuable as he was and highlighting the flaws in their games. In October, Towns, 22, signed a five-year $190 million extension.
Butler’s demand hurt the team. They became disjointed and distracted and started losing. Case in point: The Wolves slipped to 4-9, including five consecutive losses and being 0-8 on the road.
The biggest questions are who got the best of whom with this deal? Was Butler’s exit strategy effective? We’ll see — it takes time. Butler, 29, is one of the top 20 NBA players. But he had knee surgery last year. He missed 25 games, so the Timberwolves are no longer being held hostage. Good riddance! He had become a cancer in the locker room.
In exchange for Butler, the Timberwolves received 6’10” forwards Robert Covington and Dario Saric, guard Jerry Bayless, and a 2022 second-round pick.
Covington on a 50-win team led the 76ers and the NBA last year in made three-pointers, 189, and the Timberwolves clearly needed to improve their long-range shooting potential. Also, both Covington and Saric are big, and the Timberwolves are last in the league in defensive rebounding. Guard Derrick Rose is now a starter. He’s had 50-point and 31-point games this year.
With 69 games remaining, can the Timberwolves win on the road and salvage what has become a nightmare?
This article originally appeared in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.