Tom Thibodeau’s patience is said to be wearing so thin with his young and inexperienced Minnesota Timberwolves the veteran coach and rookie GM is rumored to be on the verge of dealing one of his young stars for a veteran player he knows and feels he can trust.
It’s been more than a decade since the stubborn coach last worked for a losing organization, and rumors are at least one from among the rising trio of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins or Kris Dunn could soon be used as a pawn in his growing push to land someone who can serve as sort of a coach on the floor in executing all his many demands.
At 5-foot, 11-inches, the Wolves have now dropped four of their last five, with three of those defeats coming by at least 13 points.
Among the veterans fitting the profile of who Thibodeau views as a possible solution and rumored to be on his radar are Bulls’ star Jimmy Butler and his teammate Taj Gibson and the Lakers’ Luol Deng.
After being heralded as one of the league’s top, young, up-and-coming squads entering the season, the Wolves haven’t come anywhere close to resembling the kind of hard-nosed, fine-tuned squad Thibodeau has built his reputation on fielding.
While Wiggins (24 points, four rebounds, three assists), Towns (21 points, nine rebounds, three assists) and even third-year, high-flyer Zach Lavine (19 points, three rebounds) have all provided their share of highlights, none of it has been nearly enough to give Minnesota much of an identity, resulting in the Wolves ranking no higher than the middle of the pack across the league in both points scored and allowed.
For Butler, hearing all the talk of Thibodeau longing for a reunion comes as nothing new. Around draft time, he was widely rumored to be at the center of talks between the two teams about the No. 5 pick that the Wolves ultimately used to snare Dunn.
Over the early part of the season, Butler has showed no signs of having been affected by all the madness, leading the Bulls to a 10-6 mark while averaging 26 points, seven rebounds and four assists. He was recently tabbed as the Eastern Conference’s Player of the Week.
As for Deng, chances are the versatile vet might be all in on the idea of reuniting with Thibodeau, under whom he had his best seasons in Chicago, averaging 17 points, six rebounds and three assists over his last five seasons there.
Things haven’t gone quite that smoothly in L.A., where Deng is averaging just six points and six rebounds after inking a four-year, $72 million deal over the summer.
Playing in a rotation where four of the top seven players (D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randall) are an average age of just 21, Deng has struggled to find his rhythm, shooting a career-low 33 percent.
Earlier this season, Thibodeau lamented how his team lacks the kind of discipline and toughness Butler, Deng and Gibson are all noted for.
“Everything, mental toughness, physical toughness, emotional toughness, all aspects of it,” said Thibodeau after watching the Wolves squander 18 and 17 point leads that ended in losses over the first week of the season. “Every team has two or three primary scorers, and they’re going to put pressure on you and you have to respond. It’s not any one person’s responsibility. It’s the entire team’s. We have to get tied together and have discipline.”
Things don’t figure to get any easier for the Wolves in the short-term as they face the Warriors, Spurs, Raptors, Hornets, Bulls and Knicks in early December.
[Featured Image by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images]