Butler was vociferous and intense throughout scrimmage sessions, targeting president of basketball operations and coach Tom Thibodeau, general manager Scott Layden and teammates, including Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, league sources said.
As the GM watched on the sidelines during a scrimmage, sources said that Butler yelled to Layden: “You f—ing need me, Scott. You can’t win without me.”
It was Butler’s first practice with the team since requesting a trade three weeks ago.
Butler participated in multiple intrasquad scrimmages, where he joined the bench units against the starters and went out of his way to challenge the team’s two young stars, Towns and Wiggins, league sources said. Coaches and players were largely speechless at Butler’s tour de force throughout the workout, league sources said.
It is unclear if Butler made his full-time return to the Timberwolves season or just proved a point of some kind in the practice.
A couple of Butler’s teammates were particularly vague when asked about Butler’s level of participation in practice on Wednesday.
Anthony Tolliver, who’s been on nine teams in 10 seasons, said that he’s never witnessed anything quite like the Butler situation during his time in the league, but he insisted that it’s not a distraction for him.
“If he’s around, then he’ll play. If he’s not, then he won’t. I think that we have guys here that if he’s not here, we can play with. And we have enough talent to go win some games,” Tolliver said.
After a proposed Butler trade fell apart over the weekend, the Miami Heat remain interested in restarting talks with Minnesota to acquire Butler, league sources told ESPN earlier on Wednesday. Minnesota and Miami advanced to the brink of a blockbuster trade for Butler over the weekend — only for the deal to fracture before completion, sources told ESPN.
Minnesota had shared Butler’s medical information with Miami late last week, sources said, a typical last step before finalizing a trade. Minnesota moved to amend the framework of the trade and talks collapsed on Saturday, league sources said.
Information from ESPN’s Chris Herring was used in this report.