Butler talk persists as Nets open training camp
Brooklyn gets to work in Sunset Park as trade rumors continue
Jimmy Butler is still in Minnesota, which is just fine with the Brooklyn Nets, who officially opened training camp Tuesday with an eye on self-improvement rather than upgrading via a blockbuster trade for the Timberwolves star.
But that hasn’t prevented Brooklyn players from having to answer questions regarding the disgruntled shooting guard.
“Jimmy Butler is a phenomenal player. Who wouldn’t want to add him to their roster?” Nets forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson pondered after head coach Kenny Atkinson worked out his roster Tuesday afternoon at the HSS Training Center in Sunset Park.
“I feel like we have a lot of good pieces, a lot of good assets here,” added Hollis-Jefferson, one of several Nets players rumored to be in a potential deal for the shooting guard extraordinaire.
“[It’s] not a knock on Jimmy if he comes. We’d love to have him.”
Yes, they certainly would, and they have the salary cap space to attain and sign him prior to his pending free agency next summer.
But for Brooklyn, which is still in the process of rebuilding following a league-worst 20-62 showing in Atkinson’s first year at the helm and an eight-game improvement on that mark a season ago, worrying about who might be here isn’t going to help it get ready for the upcoming campaign.
“At the end of the day you have to know that it’s a business, you have to know decisions have to be made for the betterment of the organization,” Hollis-Jefferson said.
General manager Sean Marks has shown a great acumen for the business of basketball thus far, acquiring otherwise underappreciated talent and watching it blossom under the guidance of Atkinson over these past two seasons.
Players like Spencer Dinwiddie, a finalist for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award last season, Caris LeVert, Jefferson himself and still-blooming second-year center Jarrett Allen have all made giant strides here in Downtown Brooklyn.
But they are also valuable as assets in a potential deal for Butler, one that still hasn’t come close to materializing despite the 29-year-old four-time All-Star’s insistence that he be shipped out of Minnesota as soon as possible.
Butler initially tabbed Brooklyn, the archrival New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Clippers as his primary trade destinations, adding in the Miami Heat on Wednesday, as per a New York Times report.
While his wish list expands, the Nets’ chances of grabbing Butler from the T-Wolves diminishes, at least until next summer when Marks will have between $70-80 million of cap space to play with and a long list of high-profile free agents to woo.
But Minnesota is listening to offers and could jettison the Houston native elsewhere anytime between now and the season opener next month.
Nets players have ears as well, leaving them to ponder how quickly their addresses can change if, or when, Marks pulls the trigger on a deal that could reshape the rebuild in a single day.
“Being in trade rumors all summer I guess is two pieces: I want to be here. I love being here. I’m happy that they didn’t [trade me]. On the flip side, the spectrum of teams calling me [meant] obviously I played well,” Dinwiddie told the Associated Press on Tuesday.
“I’ve been on the other side of the situation where obviously nobody really cared what I was doing,” added the reigning NBA All-Star Skills Challenge champion. “It’s cool in that respect. I guess mildly stressful, but at the same time, I can’t control it, so it doesn’t [matter too much].”
The Nets are in desperate need of playing games that matter as they have not presented a serious challenge for an Eastern Conference playoff spot since eking their way in to the 2015 postseason as the No. 8 seed despite a 38-44 record.
For now, Marks is likely to stand pat on Butler in the hopes that he may still be available to him next summer, along with a list of free agents that includes reigning NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant, fellow Golden State star Klay Thompson, Boston’s Kyrie Irving, Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard and Charlotte’s Kemba Walker.
“Knowing how the rebuild process goes, we’re going to have to slowly get back,” noted Allen. “It’s just small steps we’re taking.”
Those small steps can turn into a giant leap for the Nets next summer if Marks can stick with the foundation until the cement is ready to be poured.
As for the Nets players, especially those thrust into the rumor mill regarding a potential trade for Butler, getting their work in and preparing for the Oct. 17 regular-season opener in Detroit remains the primary focus.
“In terms of the culture and everything that we’re doing, we’re doing all the right things,” said Spencer Dinwiddie.
“Spending time together on and off, putting in the work, all those things. But in terms of putting a hard, fast timeline to it, it’s hard. We’ve got a lot of young guys and we’ve all got to continue to improve, both individually and collectively.”
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