A + B doesn’t equal championship for the Wolves

Jimmy Butler

Winter is coming, and Miami or Los Angeles sound attractive to everyone who isn’t looking forward to ice fishing.

Timberwolves star forward Jimmy Butler is originally from Tomball, Texas. Coincidentally I spent my grade school years attending Tomball Elementary. Texas mosquitoes kept me from fishing during my time there, but, I can confirm that ice fishing is not a thing in Tomball, Texas.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have a star player that wants out and the team basically must accommodate the request. Wolves fans have heard this storyline before. After leading the Wolves to break a 13-year playoff drought last season, his first year of a five-year contract, Butler wants out.

Teams across the NBA are currently gearing up for the season, which begins Oct. 17 for the Wolves in specific. Teams’ rosters are fairly set at this point of the season. Thus, it’s a bad time to shop a $92 million, ball-dominant forward.

Wolves head coach and president Tom Thibodeau seems to be getting a big dose of the wartime wisdom, “no plan succeeds first contact.” The result of this medicine may be a star player forfeiting money and sitting out games, similar to the NFL drama involving Pittsburgh Steelers running back LeVeon Bell.

Thibodeau is an old school structure-minded coach and leader, in a league that is growing into a new age of fluidity and multi-positional players.

On the surface Thibodeau’s logical thought process coming into the position in 2017 was, A) excellent, young, long, blue-chip talent (Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins), plus, B) stoic veterans with major past success in Thibodeau’s systems and approaches (Butler, Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose) equals C) a championship caliber team.

The 2017-2018 season result was a laudable 47-35 record, an eighth seed in the playoffs, and a mercifully quick first round playoff exit by the sneakers of the Houston Rockets.

While that should be sufficient progress, considering the previous decade of dismal on-court results, and unearthly bad front office performance history, there’s always a back story. Adults and young adults don’t always mix well in the business arena. Professional sports is a business.

Butler suffered a knee injury last season, near the all-star break in February, to go with occasional rest days to protect the middle-aged star; who has had a few stints of injury in his seven year career. During those stints of absence last season, the Wolves produced a .500 record. The absence of Butler’s 22.2 points per game, and gritty awareness in playoff level basketball situations was palpable in those injury stints.

The Wolves traded valuable young talent and a high draft pick to acquire Butler in a draft day trade last year. The hope was to win now. They did. Butler still wants out – likely uncomfortable with the notion of being an overworked star, who must do too much to consistently drive a youthful team that was .500 without him, in an age of multi-star super teams … on occasionally bad knees ... for a coach that statistically uses his starting five players more than any other coach in the league. Bad knees and winter don’t always get along, like overworked sports stars on young teams.

With a potential national media mess on their hands, the solution for the Wolves may be an about face in strategy. Some signs suggest that adjustments to Thibodeau’s strict overall approach may be unfolding. Some signs suggest Wolves owner Glen Taylor might want his team back after his team president brokered what could be a disastrous deal.

Next week we’ll observe the bright side for the Wolves. Winter ain’t all bad. It just calls for resourcefulness. The Wolves just may have the resources to weather a potentially rough season ahead.

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