PORTLAND, Ore. – Jimmy Butler was in the Wolves locker room before Sunday’s game against Portland. His jersey was also in his stall. But by the time the media’s pregame access to the locker room was over, the Wolves equipment staff removed it.
Butler sat out the game against the Trail Blazers, two days after he played against the Warriors and made clear after that game that he was calling the shots on whether he was healthy enough to play. Twice within the past five days that answer has been no.
Coach Tom Thibodeau said the reason behind Butler’s absence is the Wolves’ busy schedule on this West Coast road trip. The Wolves also play the Clippers on Monday and the Lakers on Wednesday in Los Angeles.
“We’re looking at three [games] in four [days],” Thibodeau said. “You just want to be smart with that.”
Butler also sat out Wednesday against the Jazz for what Thibodeau termed “general soreness.” After the Warriors game, Butler, who has made a trade request of the Wolves, held his first media session since reports surfaced questioning the motives behind his choice to sit out games.
During that session, Butler said he was the one making the calls whether to play or sit.
“I let them know,” Butler said. “They don’t know how my body feels.”
Butler also added his absence had nothing to do with forcing the Wolves’ hand to trade him or preserving his trade value.
Thibodeau maintained that Butler’s situation isn’t a distraction for the Wolves.
“You have to focus on who’s here every day and who’s available and who’s playing,” Thibodeau said. “That’s normal in the course of an NBA season. You have a lot of things you’re looking at, whether it’s injury or a guy’s out for precautionary rest.”
Before Sunday, the Wolves had only one healthy point guard available for most of their two previous games. Jeff Teague bruised his left knee against the Lakers, and Tyus Jones was a late scratch Wednesday, meaning Derrick Rose had to handle most of the point guard duties against the Jazz. That led to Rose’s 50 points in 41 minutes of playing time.
Rose injured his left ankle in that game, however, and was able to play only five minutes against the Warriors on Friday, meaning Jones, who came back from his right foot injury, had to play almost 41 minutes.
Jones started again Sunday and played 27 minutes as Rose was a game-time decision but could not play.
As for Teague, Thibodeau couldn’t provide a definitive timetable beyond “day to day” for his return.
“It’s day to day, so it could be a week, could be two weeks,” Thibodeau said. “When he’s ready to go, you have to trust your medical people and you have to trust your players.”