Jimmy Butler made it clear that he wanted to be traded, and he got his wish Saturday.
The Eastern Conference landscape was altered when the Timberwolves traded Butler and oft-injured forward Justin Patton to the 76ers for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick.
“Well, I think it’s a really good fit for Philly,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “You’ve got three of the best players at their position on the team with [Joel] Embiid and with [Ben] Simmons and with Jimmy, and he brings a toughness, he brings a guy that is a great player in the clutch. He brings a player that is going to guard every time he goes out there and steps on the floor. So I think it’s really good for Philly.”
So while the Sixers took a big step in enhancing their chances in the East, the Bulls’ front office also is happy about the deal. Why? Because now Bulls general manager Gar Forman can feel even better about his decision to move Butler to the Timberwolves and cement the idea that he got the better of coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau.
For Forman, it’s all about winning the trade, which brought the Bulls Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and a draft pick that turned out to be Lauri Markkanen. The Timberwolves got Butler and a pick that became Patton.
“It’s a business,’’ LaVine said about the Butler trade. “I think that’s the main thing. You can’t dwell on it. It’s not my team. I think Jimmy is definitely going to help Philly out. They’re looking a little scary. Minnesota, they got that team. I think Karl[-Anthony Towns] and Wig [Andrew Wiggins] got more responsibility on their shoes again. But I think they were looking for that. That’s just the business of basketball.’’
LaVine still is close with many of the young players in Minnesota and had been keeping track of all the drama, including when Butler questioned the heart (or lack thereof) that Wiggins and Towns display on the court.
“I talked to Tyus [Jones] a lot,’’ LaVine said. “It seemed like once everything died down, it was getting regular. But I don’t know the conversations between Jimmy and Thibs. But I think that’s what the motive was, to get it done sooner than later.’’
The Bulls won’t see Butler until March 6, and who knows what other pieces the 76ers might add to make a run in the East.
Butler was a good first step, though.
“They’re pretty deep,’’ LaVine said. “Just like any other team, you got to go up and compete against them. But you can’t take away from how good Jimmy Butler is. The dude is good, really good.’’
David Nwaba signing with the Cavaliers in the offseason was a small ripple in the free-agent pool. But it wasn’t to Hoiberg, who offered up compliments before the Bulls’ 99-98 victory Saturday at the United Center.
“Listen, I loved coaching Dave,” Hoiberg said. “When he was out early last year, we really missed him, and when he came back, he was very important. You look at what he did from an analytics standpoint, he was as important as anybody on our roster.”
Nwaba scored five points in 17 minutes.