MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Timberwolves had just lost by their largest margin in more than a year, and yet Jimmy Butler seemed to exist in a parallel basketball universe. The All-Star wing seemed unfazed by the chaos that had just unfolded on his home court, and loudly asked whether Taj Gibson wanted to come over to hang out.
With Butler pushing ownership to honor his trade demand and boos raining down from the home crowd, the Timberwolves seemed to reach a breaking point Friday, an apathetic cloud hanging over the locker room after a 125-95 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Butler seemed amused by reporters’ questions about the loss, which was the largest during coach Tom Thibodeau’s three-season tenure. He labeled the performance as a “bad one” and “horrendous,” but the words felt hollow. No, he was not worried about this. Nope, according to Butler, the team hasn’t lost focus due to the off-court drama. In fact, there was no drama to see here.
“I don’t consider anything drama,” said Butler, after scoring a season-low four points in 24 minutes. “I consider it business.”
A few lockers away, Karl-Anthony Towns mumbled with a teammate about a chicken spot while getting dressed. He answered questions from reporters, curtly, just long enough for him to tie his black shoes.
“We just dropped an egg tonight,” Towns said.
Towns and Butler, whose relationship has been strained in recent months, agree on at least one thing after the game: The Timberwolves haven’t lost focus. Whether or not they truly believe that is hard to say, especially after Milwaukee dismantled them, leading 63-38 at halftime and shooting 53.3 percent from the field. Towns had just two points in the first half on 1-of-8 shooting before finishing with 16.
As both the architect of Minnesota’s roster and the coach charged with pulling together his team after Butler’s preseason holdout, Thibodeau must understand that vocal portions of the fan base have clearly soured on the Timberwolves after multiple listless performances.
“Things change quickly in this league,” Thibodeau said. “They can change from good to bad real quick, and they can go from bad to good real quick. So we have to make that happen. We have to have a will and a determination.”
Thibodeau’s hopes were that he could incorporate Butler back into the rotation smoothly; they could stay in playoff contention and work through the dysfunction — perhaps even all the way to the trade deadline. That looks like an increasingly less viable option for the unraveling Timberwolves.
Owner Glen Taylor has assured Butler that the team is continuing to seek out a trade for him, and there has been a belief that the organization would seriously revisit trade talks 10 to 15 games into the season, league sources said.
Houston has offered four future first-round picks to Minnesota, but that package doesn’t include guard Eric Gordon, who’d be mandatory for Minnesota in any proposed deal, league sources said. Thibodeau wants a maximum return on players able to help Minnesota get back to the playoffs.
Taylor has tasked general manager Scott Layden with the focus of finding a trade, as Thibodeau concentrates on coaching the team. Miami and Philadelphia remain teams interested in potential deals for Butler, and Taylor has hoped that those teams would become more aggressive in their offers to pry Butler, league sources said.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski contributed to this report.