Tom Thibodeau Coy on Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns Relationship Amid Rumors

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistJuly 10, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 11: Jimmy Butler #23 and Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves celebrate after winning the game against the Denver Nuggets on April 11, 2018 at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Timberwolves defeated the Nuggets 112-106. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Jimmy Butler's long-term future with the Minnesota Timberwolves has come into question this summer as the result of his reported frustration with some inside the organization, but head coach Tom Thibodeau won't address the matter publicly.

When asked about the relationship between Butler and center Karl-Anthony Towns, Thibodeau sidestepped the matter, per ESPN.com's Nick Friedell, saying, "We know how important both guys are to our team, so we're just getting ready for next year."

Earlier this month, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times reported Butler has no intentions of signing an extension in Minnesota because he "has been frustrated with the nonchalant attitudes of younger teammates—specifically Karl-Anthony Towns."

The 28-year-old Butler has one more year remaining on his contract, at $18.7 million, before he can opt into free agency. A potential Butler contract extension was among the things the coach was not going to discuss with the media.

"We know how important Jimmy is to the team," Thibodeau said, per Friedell. "But we don't talk about contract negotiations or anything like that, so just get ready for the season."

Thibodeau and Butler's relationship dates back to their days with the Chicago Bulls, with whom they spent four years together. The coach knows what kind of player Butler is, and he won't say anything publicly that could risk fracturing the team's relationship with the four-time All-Star.

In his first season in Minnesota, Butler averaged 22.2 points on a career-high 47.4 percent shooting from floor, 5.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.0 steals per game. Despite his strong season, the Timberwolves had to fight for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, and the Houston Rockets eliminated them in the first round in five games.

Butler has never made it past the second round of the playoffs, and knowing he's starting to run out of chances, he may opt to go somewhere where he believes he has a better chance of winning. Regardless of who he signs with, he'll get paid, so maxing out on money may not be his top priority.

Thibodeau and the Timberwolves are in a tough position. Towns was the No. 1 overall pick in 2015 and has been viewed as the face of the franchise, but Butler has star power as well.

If the sides cannot reach an agreement on an extension before the season, the Timberwolves may have to consider trading Butler or risk losing him for nothing next summer.

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