UPDATE: Jimmy Butler Full Participant in Practice; Defends Thibodeau
UPDATE (4/3/18 3:00 PM CST): Jimmy Butler May Play Thursday vs. Nuggets.
I know you’re not supposed to count your chickens before they hatch, but damn. When it comes to Tuesday’s Jimmy Butler developments, it’s hard not to begin picturing the return of the Wolves’ grit-filled superstar.
Thibs said Butler did “everything” in practice today. “we’ll see how he feels tomorrow and go day by day.”
— Jerry Zgoda (@JerryZgoda) April 3, 2018
Jimmy Butler: “I’m this close to playing.” Said not sure when but likes how his body is responding.
— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) April 3, 2018
As for if that means he’ll play Thursday, “don’t ask.”
“I don’t know when I’m playing. Don’t ask.” pic.twitter.com/Gu690XUzgU
— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) April 3, 2018
In many circumstances, that type of response may have rubbed fans the wrong way. However, when it comes from Butler, it’s pure poetry. There’s no doubt in my mind the Marquette alum is dying to get back on the court. When considering how bad (real f*cken bad) I want to see Jimmy Butler return, my desire has to be nothing compared to how bad he’s chomping at the bit.
He was also chomping at the bit to stand up for his coach, who’s been taken throught the ringer on social media of late:
Butler also went to bat for Thibs: “Ain’t no coach in the world that can make somebody play hard. Ain’t no coach in the world that can make anybody want it.”
— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) April 3, 2018
Now that we’ve addressed the breaking Butler news for Tuesday:
Where do the Wolves currently stand in the Western Conference?
Outside of the upcoming Nuggets game, what does the rest of the schedule look like?
All of that information is available (and still relevant) in my original article below.
ORIGINAL (4/3/18 11:00 AM CST): What Separates the Timberwolves from the Playoffs and a Top-6 Seed?
If success really is the best revenge, Ricky Rubio might still be recovering from a vengeance-induced hangover. In case you missed it, on Sunday, during Minnesota’s disappointing loss, the ex-Wolf absolutely torched his former employer:
Ricky Rubio’s night is over: 23 pts, 9-14, 5-6 3s, 7 rebs, 3 assists.
— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) April 2, 2018
Good thing it isn’t April Fool’s Day any longer because those stats are no joke. The 27 year-old, who is notorious for his shooting woes, legitimately went 5-6 from deep. As if that’s not unpleasant enough, the significant implications the Rubio-lead win had on the Western Conference’s playoff picture made Utah’s beatdown of the Timberwolves that much more painful.
Speaking of painful: It’s important to note that; on top of Butler’s absence, Jeff Teague (sore right knee) and Derrick Rose (sprained right ankle) sat this ass-kicking out. Rose dressed this time, but didn’t play for the sixth consecutive game. Although I appreciated the Justin Patton sighting and Aaron Brooks nostalgia, being short-handed took its toll. With the beloved Tyus Jones drawing the start, Rubio had himself a whale of a time:
— Ricky Rubio (@rickyrubio9) April 2, 2018
*Apparently, Ricky and I have different definitions of fun.
As of early Tuesday morning, Teague and Rose remain uncertain for Thursday’s upcoming contest but Kyle Ratke, who runs the Timberwolves website and covers the team for NBA.com, told our own Eric and Brandon Strack that he expects Rose to hit the floor Thursday, when he appeared on “No Shirts Just Skins” last weekend.
(Chapter 4 – Wolves with Ratke)
To touch on the one optimistic side of the injury arena, Jimmy Butler (right knee) is “this close to playing.” Hopefully (fingers crossed, knock-on-wood), the 4x All-Star will return on Thursday. In the meantime, even though he hasn’t played since February 23rd, Mr. Buckets keeps balling:
Jimmy Butler is wearing a green throwback Kevin Garnett jersey under his sport coat.
— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) April 1, 2018
Rather than go on an emotional rant about how much I love that move, it’s probably best if we stick to actual basketball.
With the entire NBA taking Monday off, Tuesday features a jam-packed 13 game slate. In regards to Minnesota, they get a little extended rest:
Sidebar: That is the “Final Four” everyone has been talking about, correct?
Surprisingly, there is only a three-game difference separating the West’s 4-9 seeds. Clearly, the standings over this final stretch are sure to vary, like Minnesota’s weather this spring.
If the NBA postseason started today, the Nuggets would be the odd
man team out. However, with two remaining games against Tom Thibodeau’s squad, Denver controls their own playoff destiny. Upon parlaying that information with the Pelicans and Timberwolves recent struggles, the way I view it, Nikola Jokic and company could easily finish as high as the seven seed.
And the Jazz? They’re rolling more than a pair of dice. Unfortunately for the Wolves, I don’t know why Utah’s upward trend wouldn’t continue, especially after what we saw the other night. But, unlike Utah, Oklahoma City has an aggressive remaining schedule. The Thunder, who still have to play the likes of Golden State, Houston, and Miami, could easily close the regular season with a worse win/loss than Minnesota.
One thing that is extremely important to keep in mind throughout this anxiety-ridden process, is the injury of Stephen Curry. With The Chef set to miss the playoffs’ opening round, Golden State just became beatable. The majority of NBA fans (including myself) want to see a bloodbath series between former teammates Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant jawing at each other. Russell Westbrook: “I’m coming.” ?
— NBA SKITS (@NBA_Skits) February 12, 2017
In a perfect world, Minnesota finishes no lower than the sixth seed, and we get to witness that heated showdown from the sidelines. While watching all the hatred between last year’s MVP and last year’s Final’s MVP would be euphoric, it’s not even close to euphoric enough, if it means the Wolves finish with the 8th seed, and have to face Houston in the first round. All indications point to the Rockets dusting their first round opponent, even if that opponent has a rocking-and-rolling Jimmy Butler.
To close, while we try to #staywoke on the potential outcomes, the A-1 priority remains: