Two key veteran players on the Minnesota Timberwolves -- Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose -- admit they were caught off-guard by the trade demands of teammate Jimmy Butler.
"At the end of the day, you've got to look at it from a player's standpoint and a business standpoint," Gibson told ESPN on Friday. "He's trying to do what he got to do but everybody's calling him. It's more of a [situation where] I've got to go see him kind of thing. But I worked out with him all summer so when I said what I meant, it was like a right hook, I didn't see it coming. I didn't know.
"I thought -- it looked like from everything things were going good. But sometimes it's a money aspect and fans and different players got to understand that."
Gibson and Rose each played with Butler on the Chicago Bulls, with Gibson in particular close with the 29-year-old star forward.
"That's my brother, man," Gibson said. "I love Jimmy to death. We don't even talk about basketball."
The drama surrounding Butler and the Timberwolves has certainly become a distraction, no matter how much coach Tom Thibodeau tries to get his team focused on the upcoming season. Rose admitted as much on Friday.
"Now in the NBA, everybody has a little bit of freedom to do a little more of what they want," he told ESPN. "And he's expressing that he don't want to be here and he want to go somewhere else. I mean Kawhi did it last year [with the San Antonio Spurs], didn't he? Like he just didn't play. Jimmy just came out and said he didn't want to play here.
"I had so much going on I couldn't even focus on what was really going on with the team. I signed early and I left everything up to Thibs. [The trade demand] was just a surprise, not only to me, I think to everyone that he wanted to leave. ... I didn't know what the situation is. I just didn't know it was that bad. Even being here, I didn't know it was that bad."
Thibodeau addressed the distraction after practice while not mentioning Butler by name.
"It's the NBA, and that's part of everyone's job is don't allow yourself to be distracted," said Thibodeau, who also coached Butler in Chicago. "You got to be focused on what your job is. My job is to do what's best for the Timberwolves, and so that's what we're going to do. Every day we look at how we can improve our team, how can we acquire talent? Once we acquire talent, then we're going to coach them as hard and as well as we can and then we have to get everyone ready to compete. That's why it's important for me and for everyone on the team not to lose focus of what is important. So that's how we're dealing with everything."
With the outcome still in doubt as the season draws closer, Rose and Gibson still offered their support to Butler.
"He knows I'm there for him no matter what. Right or wrong, I'm on his side." Gibson said.
Added Rose, who is entering his first full season with the Timberwolves and has dealt with knee injuries after a productive career with the Bulls, "I wish nothing but the best because you never know what someone's going through. I've been in the same position where you're just misunderstood so you never know what someone's going through."
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