Despite being less than a week into the 2018-19 season, the NBA is already back like it never left.
For basketball reasons and otherwise, the Association has maintained its prominent position in the sports world, even while MLB enters the World Series and both pro and college football sprint through the heart of their schedules.
The NBA seemingly operates under the premise that there should never be a dull moment, and it has its seemingly always active rumor mill to thank for much of the excitement. We'll examine the latest happenings below.
Heat Offer for Jimmy Butler Uncovered?
That side of the story hasn't changed.
But as long as Butler remains employed in the Gopher State, this situation will be worth watching for his inevitable exit.
While Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau won't want to hear this, it seems the only certainty regarding Butler's future is that it won't be with Minnesota. He can select his own squad in unrestricted free agency next summer, and the Timberwolves would be risking a ton by not relocating him beforehand.
A trade is probably coming sooner rather than later, and we've just caught a glimpse of the standard it will need to surpass. Sources told Gery Woelfel of Woelfelspressbox.com that Minnesota declined an offer from the Miami Heat of Josh Richardson, Kelly Olynyk and a protected first-round pick.
Heat president Pat Riley recently told his locker room that he was "pulling the plug" on a Butler pursuit, per The Athletic's Shandel Richardson, although that would hardly prevent talks from rekindling if either side budge on whatever roadblocks they've encountered.
Butler, 29, is a four-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA selection. He's on a short list of the league's best defenders and was one of only six players to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and four assists each of the last three seasons.
Clippers Scouting Kawhi Leonard's Games?
With all due respect to Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari and whatever the future holds for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Los Angeles Clippers need a superstar.
And somehow they might have one fall in their lap. Possibly two.
In September, ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Butler was "most interested" in the Clippers, and they were "emerging as a front-runner" for Kawhi Leonard's free agency. It sounds like both doors remain wide open.
If the Clippers play their cards right, they could be looking at a fortune-changing offseason in 2019. So, naturally, they're leaving nothing to chance.
"The L.A. Clippers are already rotating scouts through Raptor games like Leonard is a college prospect and they have the No. 1 pick," ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst wrote.
Truth be told, the stakes are even higher here.
A healthy Leonard is an obvious max-contract candidate, but those pacts can be crippling when mismanaged. If handled correctly, though, this might be a path to Leonard, twice a top-three finisher in MVP voting, and a second front-page star.
Then again, if Leonard likes what he's seeing north of the border, it's more than possible that he stays put and no one gives L.A. a long look.
In other words, you'd be hard-pressed to find many clubs with more riding on next summer than the Clippers.
Brooklyn Backup is New York's Free-Agent Fallback Option?
Speaking of grandiose visions for 2019 free agency, the New York Knicks will be dreaming as big as anyone.
Of course, there's also a chance the stars never properly align for Gotham, and the Knicks might have a plan for that, too. As a bonus, they wouldn't even need to exit the Big Apple to execute it.
"The Knicks could go after [Spencer] Dinwiddie," Marc Berman of the New York Post. "They inquired about the point guard at last February's deadline but found the cost too high, according to a source."
Dinwiddie has salvaged his career since landing with the Brooklyn Nets in December 2016.
The former second-round pick had been discarded by two different NBA clubs at that point, but he found the perfect storm of patience, playing time and an emphasis on player development in Brooklyn. He averaged 7.3 points and 3.1 assists in 22.6 minutes that first season, but it was only the beginning. He bumped those marks to 12.6 and 6.6, respectively, last year, and he's at 15.3 and 5.3 this season.
Those aren't elite numbers, but they're certainly intriguing—especially for a 25-year-old entering just his third season as a rotation member.
It makes sense for the Knicks to be interested. With Frank Ntilikina having vacated the point guard spot, New York needs to find a long-term solution there. It's hard to imagine the organization views Trey Burke, Emmanuel Mudiay or Ron Baker as that player.