Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau

Brad Rempel/USA Today Sports

Bernstein: Thibodeau/Butler Silliness Better Elsewhere

Jimmy Butler has requested a trade out of Minnesota.

Dan Bernstein
September 20, 2018 - 2:34 pm
Categories: 

(670 The Score) Tom Thibodeau's work is much like that of Claude Monet, in that it's best appreciated from a certain distance. The closer to it you get, the more difficult it is to determine what it's actually supposed to be.

Those panoramic water lilies on the walls of the Musee de l'Orangerie are worth a trip to Paris in and of themselves, but any magic spell they cast is broken if one's nose is right up against the canvas. This is what happens when admiration for Thibodeau's work when opposing him is cause for hiring him as coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves and handing over full personnel power, bringing his relentless grimness and interpersonal brusqueness to everything until basketball is no fun anymore.

The same goes for Jimmy Butler, but he's more Vincent van Gogh, the tortured artist always chasing greatness and legitimacy among his peers. His Paul Gauguin seems to be Kyrie Irving, as Butler pines for a collaborative friendship that he believes will keep his demons at bay.

Pedantic and overly precious French impressionism analogies notwithstanding, this is a predictable series of events that are unfolding for the Minnesota Timberwolves, and it's nice that they're occurring elsewhere.

Butler told Thibodeau on Wednesday that he wants to be traded, ideally to a team of his choice where he and Irving can presumably pursue their idea of a championship venture. Butler is said to be clashing with both Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, the latter of whom has yet to sign his maximum-contract extension off his rookie deal and might instead choose to become a restricted free agent after the season.

Thibodeau the coach always wants to win right now, every possession of every game and every rep of every practice. That's why he needed Taj Gibson and now Luol Deng along with him, veteran sloggers inured enough to his methods to tolerate him in a way expected to set an example for the mercurial youngsters. That feeling informed the trade with the Bulls for Butler, in June 2017, an attempt to make the Wolves matter immediately even as they developed talent.

And now it might all blow up.

Butler bent on leaving -- and accepting less than the mega-max available to him if he stays -- means they could have to deal him for pennies on the dollar. There's also no guarantee Towns then signs and commits. Already, multiple outlets are reporting the possibility that Thibodeau would rather bail on the job than coach a clear non-contender to nowhere, and he seems to have managed himself into an untenable position.

He can keep Butler and risk losing him for nothing, hoping he instead opts for the extra $50 million in Minneapolis incentivized by the current CBA. But that would mean Thibodeau bets on his own ability to manage personalities in a way he's never cared to do or even recognized as mattering. This might make Towns unhappy enough to go for an offer sheet elsewhere and could already poison the current season before it starts.

Butler thinks he's better than he is and presumes a significance in the NBA that he doesn't actually have, misconceptions that explain why so much drama seems to follow him. The Bulls knew this when they chose to flip him for potential foundational pieces instead of pay him themselves after developing him.

The Bulls may now be in a healthier organizational position without their successful head coach and former star player, with the team that jumped at both of them in complete turmoil.

Better there than here.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.​​​​