Last night Jimmy Butler did what Jimmy Butler usually does and that is make a clutch shot for his team to seal the game. The only difference being the jersey he did it in.
Sixers fans got a good look of what the four time all star is capable of as he single-handedly spoiled Kemba Walker’s 60 point outburst last night in Charlotte.
Now, that Butler is back in the east talk has turned to the elevated expectations for Philly as they battle the Raptors and Celtics for eastern conference supremacy. One cannot help but see the uncanny similarities between the situation Butler is in now and where he was a year ago today.
This time last year Butler was embarking on one of the most intriguing stories of the year. Fans and pundits alike were curious to see what a team composed of Butler and fellow teammates Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins could do.
Minnesota was a franchise mired in lottery pick purgatory since Kevin Garnett was traded away to Boston back in 2007.
Year after year they seemed to have one head scratching draft after another whether it was the infamous 2009 NBA draft in which the Wolves opted to take two guards in that draft none of which were Stephen Curry. The following year they drafted Syracuse standout Wesley Johnson one spot ahead of Demarcus Cousins. The year after that they took former Arizona Wildcat All-American Derrick Williams number two overall ahead of guys like Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson and Enes Kanter.
Yet, in a span of four years their fortunes were soon to change for the better as Minnesota was able to snag the number one overall pick of both the 2014 and 2015 drafts. The were able to get Andrew Wiggins via trade from the Cavs in exchange for Kevin Love. They followed that up by drafting Karl-Anthony Towns with the number one overall pick in 2015.
Things were starting to look bright for the Wolves especially after Wiggins and Towns ended both their rookie campaigns with Rookie of the Year honors.
In the spring of 2016 Minnesota made the decision to bring in former Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau as head coach as well as the president of basketball operations. This move was applauded by many around the league as many saw it as a sign that Minnesota was moving in the right direction.
Then in 2017 Thibodeau saw an opportunity to snag a player who was both disgruntled in their current situation and even more importantly familiar with his style.
That player of course was Jimmy Butler who was traded from the Chicago Bulls on the night of the 2017 NBA draft. Butler had just ended his long and tumultuous tenure with the Bulls that ended with a disappoint season after the Bulls acquired Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo.
The Wolves of course were not done making roster additions as they would go on to add all star point guard Jeff Teague to the fray along with perennial sixth man of the year candidate Jamal Crawford. Former Chicago Bull and Thibodeau disciple Taj Gibson was also added to the mix.
The moves seemed to pay dividends right away as Minnesota was a top five western conference team for the first half of the season. The Wolves had a 25-16 record while also being at the top of the Northwest division.
Yet, things were not as rosy as it seemed. Reports date all the way back to November of 2017 of Butler being disappointed with his teammates effort and work ethic.
Things seem to get even more contentious while Butler was out with a knee injury which sidelined him for 17 games. During which Butler saw the Wolves fall almost out of playoff contention only to return for the final three games of the season and help lead the Wolves to their first playoff appearance since 2004.
The playoff berth did not seem to brighten the situation as Butler began to speak out about his frustrations with the team something he had done in Chicago as well.
Minnesota would go on to lose to the Houston Rockets in five games with Butler opting not to fly back with the team after the loss.
Things heated up in the summer between Butler, who was looking to get paid in the offseason, and Wolves management. Butler would go on to turn down Minnesota’s offer of four years for $110 million.
Butler also became very candid about his attitude toward his younger teammates most notably Towns and Wiggins. This had many speculating that the root of the problem being their attitudes and heart of lack thereof.
This would culminate in Butler demanding a trade back in september after a meeting with Thibodeau a week before NBA media day.
As most probably know the Wolves remained steadfast in their decision to not trade Butler culminating in what would probably go down in NBA lore as Butler would go on to show up to practice and proceed to lead a profanity laced tirade against the Wolves starters and management.
This was no doubt the final nail in the coffin and after a brief awkward first month of the season Butler was finally dealt to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Dario Saric, Robert Covington and Jerryd Bayless.
What once started off as a happy reunion finally came to a bizarre and abrupt end. After that Butler game winner last night Wolves fans can only wonder what if and ponder how everything went so wrong so fast.