The Utah Jazz continue to face teams that are without their star players as Jimmy Butler will not suit up for Wednesday’s contest in Minnesota.
Since getting off to a less than convincing 1-2 start, the Utah Jazz have managed to rattle off three consecutive victories. All three of those came on the road and two came against daunting playoff foes from a year ago – the Houston Rockets and New Orleans Pelicans.
As good as it was to see the Jazz get victories in both those contests, they each came with a bit of an asterisk. Against Houston, Chris Paul was suspended for his altercation with the Los Angeles Lakers’ Rajon Rondo, and thus did not play. Not only that, but James Harden left the game late in the contest with a hamstring injury. Without their star point guard and missing their MVP late in the game, it was no wonder Houston fell short.
Then in the ensuing contest, the Jazz took on the then-undefeated New Orleans Pelicans. The Pels had looked fantastic to start the year, but when Utah came into town, Anthony Davis was unavailable as he sat out the game due to an elbow injury. As a result, Rudy Gobert and Co. feasted on the undersized Pelican frontcourt, producing a relatively easy victory for the Jazz.
As an interesting side note, Utah’s trend of playing teams without their stars continued in a way on Sunday in Dallas, as Dirk Nowitzki remains sidelined with an ankle injury. Of course, the aging vet is a shell of his former superstar self, but lacking his prolific shot, veteran presence and instinct for killing the Jazz was certainly a negative for the Mavs.
But in Wednesday’s upcoming bout, the trend of star players being unavailable is undoubtedly continuing in full force. It was recently announced on Wednesday morning that Jimmy Butler will be unavailable for the contest against the Utah Jazz. Considering that Butler has essentially carried his team to their three victories, this will be a major blow for the Wolves. Although they still have the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, this team simply isn’t the same without Jimmy.
And life without him is a reality they may very well just have to get used to. Butler won’t be missing Wednesday night’s game due to any sort of injury, instead the drama in Minnesota continues as Butler will reportedly be sitting out in a continued effort to force his way off the Timberwolves roster. Butler made it clear leading up to the regular season that he wanted out, and it’s apparent that the issue hasn’t settled down whatsoever.
According to The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski and Shams Charania, Butler is sitting out against Utah as part of a six-week long process aimed at getting out of Minnesota. This could very well lead to an extended absence, but he could also possibly return to action by Friday (assuming he isn’t traded).
Krawczynski added further insight by noting that the Wolves are terming Butler’s absence as ‘general soreness and precautionary rest’ but it appears quite clear that this is instead a move by Butler to continue to assert his will. Minnesota has been dysfunctional since prior to the start of the season, and that trend is only continuing in full force.
It’s becoming more and more confusing as to how the Wolves front office hasn’t figured out a solution with Jimmy Butler. While it’s tough to give up such an elite talent for less than what he’s worth, and though I hate seeing players take this kind of selfish approach that Jimmy has taken, at the end of the day he’s turned completely into a distraction and a detriment for the team long-term.
Sure, he makes Minnesota better now, but they have no chance of winning a championship this year, and he isn’t going to re-sign at the end of this season anyway. Why not focus on taking the next step and developing the team without him and aim to get the best package possible for him. The longer the Wolves wait, the more leverage they will likely lose, considering that he’ll be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.
There is speculation that October 31st could be a key date that the Wolves have been waiting for. The Houston Rockets have expressed interest in Jimmy Butler, allegedly offering as many as four first-round picks for him. As was brought up by ESPN’s Zach Lowe, October 31st is the two-month anniversary of Houston acquiring Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss from the Phoenix Suns. That means that beginning on October 31, Houston could include one or both of those players into a trade package for Butler.
Time will tell how the Butler saga will ultimately play out, but I’ll be shocked to see him remain in Minnesota much longer. That’s a topic for another day, though. The fact of the matter as far as it concerns the Jazz is that once again they’ll be facing a team sans their star player. Not only will Butler be out of action, but Wolves starting point guard and former All-Star Jeff Teague will also be out of commission with a knee contusion.
That’s good news for the Jazz in that I think it only increases their chances of winning significantly. The Wolves just aren’t the same team without Butler, and their morale, chemistry and cohesion are bound to be at an all-time low given all the drama surrounding them.
However, it’s not great news for Utah’s development and assertion as a dominant force in the West. I love to see them win, but I’d much rather see them get reps against the league’s best players. To be the best, you have to be able to beat the best, and therefore, the Jazz need to get experience playing against the top talent in the game.
Hopefully this recent odd trend of playing against teams without their stars will soon end. Not only will it improve the entertainment value of the games, but it will serve as a better measuring stick and challenge as the Utah Jazz aim to work their way towards the top of the Western Conference and assert themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams.