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Clippers vs. Timberwolves Preview: The Jimmy Butler Saga Looms in the Background

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The Clippers take on the Wolves in Los Angeles, with the specter of Jimmy Butler’s trade request out of Minnesota lurking as an interesting subplot.

Sydney Kings v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

Game Information:

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California

When: 7:30 PM PT

How to Watch: NBA TV, Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570

Projected Starting Lineups:

Timberwolves: Jeff Teague, Derrick Rose, Andrew Wiggins, Taj Gibson, Karl-Anthony Towns

Clippers: Pat Beverley, Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Marcin Gortat

Injuries:

Timberwolves: Jimmy Butler Out (Seeking trade), Justin Patton Out (Foot)

Clippers: Milos Teodosic Out (Hamstring), Lou Williams Out (Rest)

The Big Picture:

The Clippers played their first preseason game on Sunday, coming away with a win against an overmatched Sydney Kings squad. Doc Rivers played something approximating his regular season rotations in that game, giving 10 players most of the minutes. He even put his starters back into the game in the 4th quarter when Sydney appeared to be making a run, only allowing the deep bench players to appear in the last minute of the game. This contest promises to be different: Doc has already stated he wants to play his young guys more. Therefore, we should see more of Jerome Robinson, Ty Wallace, Sindarius Thornwell, and the rest of the Clippers’ prospects against the Wolves. After a game where Doc clearly wanted to his how his core rotation looked, this should be a bit more of an experiment.

The Antagonist:

The Timberwolves have really gone through the ringer the last few weeks. After a triumphant season in which the Wolves made the playoffs after sitting in the lottery for 13 years, the summer passed by in quiet discontent which erupted in mid-September. Star wing Jimmy Butler declared he wanted out, for reasons which still remain unclear, but which probably center around his lack of esteem for franchise cornerstones Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. Dual role coach/president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau does not want to trade his old friend Butler, as doing so would hinder the Wolves’ chances of making the playoffs this year. He’s also stuck due to sheer stubbornness, which is matched by Butler’ strong desire to go to another team. Trade rumors around Butler have faded over the last week, as teams derided Thibodeau’s high demands. Butler still hasn’t reported to the Timberwolves, nor does he plan to, leaving the team stuck in limbo.

The team that remains still possess talent. Towns is a once-in-a-generation big man, an insanely gifted scorer with tantalizing tools on the defensive end. Wiggins is an enigma, his physical tools and athleticism stuck on a player who doesn’t seem to want to (or know how to) improve himself as a basketball player. The rest of the roster is mostly veterans, though there are some promising youngsters, notably rookie wing Josh Okogie, who played well in their preseason win against the Warriors on Saturday. Depending on what return the Wolves get for Butler, they could still have a part to play in the Western Conference playoff standings.

Notes:

  • Potential trade partners: Jimmy Butler declared that the Clippers are one of his preferred destinations in a trade. While it was reported early on that the Clippers reached out to the Wolves, talks never seemed to get very far. Rumor has it that the Clippers don’t want to part with either of their rookies or Tobias Harris in a deal for Butler, and that the Wolves can’t get a deal done without any of them. The other sticking point could be that the wolves want to unload Gorgui Dieng’s deal, and the Clippers aversion to taking on any money that goes past the summer of 2019 means they refuse to do so. Nevertheless, having Thibodeau (and possibly other Wolves front office members) in LA for the game could lean to renewed negotiations.
  • Coaching buddies: Thibodeau, of course, was Doc’s lead defensive assistant in his early years in Boston (before Thibs went to Chicago for a head coaching role of his own), and they won a championship together in 2008. Thibs was largely credited for that team’s defensive prowess, though credit must also geo to Doc as well as Hall of Fame defensive anchor Kevin Garnett. Thibs and Doc have seemingly remained close to this day.
  • Other connections: Clippers’ forwards Wes Johnson and Luc Mbah a Moute both spent time in Minnesota. Wes was drafted 4th by the Wolves in 2010, only playing for them for two disappointing seasons before getting traded to Phoenix. Mbah a Moute was traded to the Wolves by the Kings in 2013-2014, spending 55 games with the team. The Wolves, meanwhile, signed former Clippers wing C.J. Williams to a two-way deal a couple months ago.