In standoff with Timberwolves, Jimmy Butler’s latest antics give him leverage

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“But you’ve got to think, I haven’t played basketball in so long and I’m so passionate,” Butler told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols following practice. “I love the game, and I don’t do it for any other reason except to compete and go up against the best and try to prove I can hang. All my emotion came out at one time.

“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.

“I was honest. Was I brutally honest? Yes. But that’s the problem. Everyone is so scared to be honest with one another.”

If that’s how Butler is going to be, the Timberwolves have no choice to trade him soon. Or do they?

So far, the Timberwolves have resisted. Thibodeau wants to win and keeping Butler is his best chance. But at what cost to the franchise that is invested in Towns and Wiggins.

It seemed Butler had leverage at first, dropping the trade request just before camp opened. But then, the Timberwolves front office rebuffed trade talks, forcing owner Glen Taylor to step in and order the front office to listen to trade proposals and seek them out.

Even then, rival executives were unsure how serious the Timberwolves were about trading Butler, and the closer the regular season got, the greater the possibility that Butler might indeed start the season with Minnesota.

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