Minnesota Timberwolves held hostage: Day 47.
And just like that it was finally over.
Dealing with former Bull Jimmy Butler and his trade demands gone public since the start of training camp, the Eastern Conference landscape was altered on Saturday, as Butler and often-injured forward Justin Patton were traded to Philadelphia for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and Jerryd Bayless, as well as a 2022 second-round pick.
“Well I think it’s a really good fit for Philly,’’ Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “You’ve got three of the best players at their position on the team with [Joel] Embiid and with [Ben] Simmons and with Jimmy, and he brings a toughness, he brings a guy that is a great player in the clutch. He brings a player that is going to guard every time he goes out there and steps on the floor. So I think it’s really good for Philly.’’
Toughening up the East was how it directly affected the Bulls. Indirectly? Well, it puts an even bigger smile on the faces of the Bulls front office.
When the Bulls made the decision to blow-up the roster in 2017 and go young, they sent Butler to Minnesota, getting back Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, as well as a swapping of draft picks. That meant the Bulls got Lauri Markkanen, and former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau used his pick to land Patton.
So what Thibodeau really ended up with for LaVine, Dunn and Markkanen as of Saturday, was Covington, Saric, Bayless and a draft pick in 2022.
“It’s a business,’’ LaVine said, when discussing the Butler trade to Philadelphia. “I think that’s the main thing. You can’t dwell on it. It’s not my team. I think Jimmy is definitely going to help Philly out. They’re looking a little scary. Minnesota, they got that team. I think Karl [Anthony Towns] and Wig [Andrew Wiggins] got more responsibility on their shoes again. But I think they were looking for that. That’s just the business of basketball.’’
LaVine is still close with many of the young players with Minnesota, and had been keeping track of all the drama with Butler and the questions the All-Star had about the heart that Wiggins and Towns display on the court. Specifically for Butler, the lack of, as the Sun-Times reported back in July.
“I talked to Tyus a lot,’’ LaVine said. “It seemed like once everything died down, it was getting regular. But I don’t know the conversations between Jimmy and Thibs. But I think that’s what the motive was, to get it done sooner than later.’’
The Bulls won’t see Butler until Mar. 6 now, and who knows what other pieces the 76ers might add between now and then to make a run in the East.
Butler was a heck of a first step, though.
“They’re pretty deep,’’ LaVine said of the 76ers. “Just like any other team, you gotta go up and compete against them. But you can’t take away from how good Jimmy Butler is. The dude is good, really good.’’
Losing David Nwaba last offseason was a small ripple in the free agent pool, but not to Hoiberg.
Seeing Nwaba with Cleveland on Saturday for the first time since he left the Bulls, his former coach had some high praise for the athletic wing.
“Listen, I loved coaching Dave,’’ Hoiberg said. “When he was out early last year we really missed him, and when he came back he was very important. You look at what he did from an analytics standpoint, he was as important as anybody on our roster.’’