Minneapolis — Jimmy Butler is back with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and his first practice of the season had a lot of fireworks.
He caused them — with his words and his play.
Butler, who asked for a trade more than three weeks ago, practiced with the Timberwolves for the first time this season Wednesday.
ESPN reported that Butler verbally challenged players, coaches and even general manager Scott Layden in the practice, during which Butler dominated the team’s scrimmages even when going up against stars like Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
In an interview taped with ESPN after practice, Butler acknowledged that “a lot” of the network’s report was true and that the scene in practice was him just showing passion and being “brutally honest.”
“All my emotion came out at one time,” Butler said in the interview.
“Was it the right way to do it? No. But I can’t control that when I’m out there competing. That’s my love of the game. That’s raw me. Me at my finest, me at my purest. That’s what you’re going to get inside the lines.”
The four-time NBA All-Star said he warned coach Tom Thibodeau before practice that he would let his emotions out if he played, and that’s apparently what happened.
“I haven’t played basketball in so long,” Butler said during the interview.
“And I’m so passionate and I love the game and I don’t do it for any other reason except for to compete and go up against the best to try to prove that I can hang.”
This saga started in mid-September, when it became known that Butler told Thibodeau that he wanted a trade.
Thibodeau said the team will try to make Butler happy, but has cautioned throughout the process that Minnesota will only do a deal that it deems is good for Minnesota.
“We’re always going to do what’s best for the team,” Thibodeau said. “That’s the important thing for everyone to understand, and if that means he’s here, then he’ll be here.”
Thibodeau lauded Butler’s fire after practice Wednesday.
“If he’s here, or he’s somewhere else, once he gets there or he’s here, he’s going to give you everything he has,” Thibodeau said. “He’s a competitor.”
Butler is a four-time All-Star who was Minnesota’s leading scorer last season and helped the Wolves snap a 14-year playoff drought. He can exercise his right to become a free agent after this season and command a deal that might be worth up to $190 million.
So as if a trade involving someone as talented as Butler wasn’t enough of a challenge, there’s also his looming contract situation for potential suitors to consider.