Warriors

NBA Rumors: Jimmy Butler will miss start of T-Wolves camp after trade demand

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NBA Rumors: Jimmy Butler will miss start of T-Wolves camp after trade demand

Around this time a year ago, Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler spoke to the media about the importance of the young team playing defense. Now, he reportedly won't be there to speak at all.

Days after Butler reportedly demanded a trade away from the Twin Cities, The Athletic reported that Butler will skip Monday's media day and the early part of training camp. 

It's the latest step in the crumbling relationship between Butler and the Timberwolves. The 29-year-old can opt out of his contract at the end of the season and become an unrestricted free agent. He reportedly wants to join the Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks, or Brooklyn Nets. 

Timberwolves management has reportedly told interested teams they are not interested in trading Butler. Meanwhile, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor told his colleagues at the NBA's board of governors meeting that he is open to moving the guard, and that teams should contact Taylor directly, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. 

Butler's absence will help him avoid any awkward questions Monday, but his (soon-to-be-ex?) teammates won't have the same luck. After feuding with retired NBA vet Stephen Jackson on Instagram, Andrew Wiggins surely won't, either.  

Kevin Durant explains why Raptors are legit NBA contenders

Kevin Durant explains why Raptors are legit NBA contenders

When the Warriors lost to the Raptors 113-93 on Wednesday, it wasn't because of one thing -- it was a bunch of little things.

Well, maybe not "little." There was nothing minute about how the Raptors performed -- they appeared to have an answer to everything the Warriors presented.

[RELATED: Warriors need to talk long look in the mirror]

Nevertheless, Kevin Durant scored a team-high 30 points and was complimentary toward the team who managed to defeat the Warriors for the second time in less than two weeks.

"They have champions over there," Durant said in an interview with ESPN following the game. "They got a great mix of veteran and young players. They got a new coach, but the leaders of that team have been through some wars."

With those losses, KD made sure it was stressed this was not a fluke.

"I wouldn't call them a young team or say them beating us two times is going to give them extra confidence. They've been ballin' before that, and they're going to be ballin' after they beat us. So they're not an up-and-coming team. They're here."

They're definitely here.

The Raptors sit atop the Eastern Conference (23-7) with the Bucks 3.5 games behind. They continue to be a thorn in the sides of Warriors, and the defense proved that on Wednesday. They held Curry to just 10 points and only went 3-for-12 from the field. 

Curry admittedly lost his rhythm in the loss and while he was unsure "whatever the reason" was behind that, it appears we know the team who could have the Warriors in the palm of its hand. 

Steph Curry goes cold, gets locked up by Raptors' aggressive game plan

Steph Curry goes cold, gets locked up by Raptors' aggressive game plan

OAKLAND – Knocked down by the Raptors last month in Toronto and again Wednesday night in Oakland, the Warriors would like nothing more than to come back for a third chance soon as possible.

That can’t happen before May 30, when Game 1 of the NBA Finals is scheduled.

“I know if that were to happen,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after his team was blown out of Oracle Arena, 113-93, “we would be ready to play.”

Meanwhile, they have to recover and study and analyze the events of Wednesday night. There were several troubling signals, including low defensive intensity and mental errors at both ends, though none was more evident and enlightening than the defense the Raptors threw at Stephen Curry.

After watching Curry dribble, shoot and splash his way through defenses this season, it was striking to see him running into roadblocks and thickets of arms and hands, led by a rugged and redoubtable defender named Fred VanVleet.

Curry entered the game averaging 30.1 points per game, shooting 51.3 percent overall, and 50 percent from beyond the arc. He totaled 10 points, a season-low in games for which he was healthy throughout, on 3-of-12 shooting, 2-of-8 from deep.

“We just tried to make them uncomfortable, make them make plays they’re not used to making,” Van Vleet said. "Every team has their main guys, multiple playmakers, and we try to take it out of the playmakers’ hands and make others make all the plays. That was our game plan going in. We did a great job executing it."

VanVleet, who usually comes off the bench in the role of sixth man, started at point guard due to lineup change necessitated when Kawhi Leonard was ruled out before tipoff. Curry normally gets to cook Kyle Lowry, an All-Star offensive force but a mediocre defender vastly inferior to VanVleet in both pluck and technique.

With VanVleet in junkyard-dog mentality, Curry seemed to spend the evening searching for enough room to move, much less fire an uncontested shot.

“I didn’t really have rhythm,” Curry conceded, “for whatever reason.”

[RELATED: Steph Curry says Warriors would beat Shaq's Lakers that had three-peat]

Though VanVleet was the primary defender, he had help. Even when Curry was coming off screens, there wasn’t much room. He had a couple open looks, but any good defender knows any shooter harassed all night tends to miss even when we he gets some space.

“There are only two ways to guard Stephen,” said Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin, who conducted the postgame news conference because head coach Nick Nurse left immediately for a family matter. “The No. 1 way is to pray that he misses. No. 2 is to get a body on him and do not give him any open looks.”

Curry’s previous success against the Raptors – he was averaging 29.8 points against them for his career, his highest average against any opponent – has been largely a matter of taking advantage of Lowry, with VanVleet getting some spot duty.

The Raptors, however, may have found something with VanVleet in the starting lineup. One game does not a Steph Stopper make, but he clearly is an upgrade over the usual Raptors defenders.

This variation of man-to-man defense is especially effective given the frequent and assertive help from Toronto’s assembly line of lengthy wings.

Asked whether Curry’s poor performance was a result of Raptors defense or simply an off night, Kerr pointed to both.

“It’s always a combination,” Kerr said. “I’m sure we’ll look at the tape and we’ll see some shots that Steph would normally hit and we’ll also see excellent defense. Fred VanVleet picked him up full court and did a good job of getting into him.

“But it’s always a combination.”

[RELATED: Warriors' blowout loss to Raptors deserves long look in the mirror]

The combination worked exceptionally well for the Raptors. They gave Curry something to think about. They gave the Warriors something to think about.

They may have given a few other NBA teams something to consider.

A lot went wrong for the Warriors in this game, particularly their defensive lethargy. But if they see the Raptors again in May, VanVleet will have a nice audition video for the role of defending Curry.

Which doesn’t mean the Raptors would get the same results.