Timberwolves visit Trail Blazers -- with or without Butler
PORTLAND, Oregon -- When the Minnesota Timberwolves invade Moda Center on Sunday night to face the Portland Trail Blazers, it's anybody's guess if Jimmy Butler will be in their lineup.
The All-Star guard sat out Wednesday's 128-125 victory over Utah at the Target Center as a "precaution" for what Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau called "general soreness" in Butler's body.
Perhaps the real issue is that Butler seeks a trade from the Timberwolves, and he evidently intends to sit out games from time to time until a deal is made. Was he trying to preserve his body to avoid jeopardizing a potential trade Minnesota may make?
"I'm not worried about no deal," Butler told reporters. "Injured or not, I have to take care of myself. I realize they have a job to do as an organization. I have one to do as a player. But if I'm not in the right with my body to go out there and do it, I don't want to get hurt. I've been hurt almost every year now. We're going to take this thing with caution."
Butler was back in action Friday night, scoring 21 points -- though going 0 for 8 from 3-point range -- in the Timberwolves' 116-99 loss at Golden State.
Minnesota (4-5) is struggling to find a rhythm, in part due to Butler's uneven status. Against Utah, Derrick Rose rekindled the form that earned him the NBA's Most Valuable Player Award in 2010-11, scoring a career-high 50 points. Two nights later at Oakland, Rose scored three points in five minutes.
The Timberwolves' backcourt situation is muddled. Tyus Jones (foot) returned Friday after missing the Golden State game, but Jeff Teague (knee) will miss Sunday's contest in Portland.
The Timberwolves also rested Butler the first week of the season against Dallas when they were playing the second of back-to-back games, so it's possible -- perhaps probable -- that Butler will sit the Portland game or Monday night against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Trail Blazers (6-3) are coming off a 114-110 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in which Portland rallied from a 20-point deficit early in the fourth quarter, but ran out of time. The Blazers were 6 for 35 from 3-point range.
"It was a good comeback, but it was one of those nights shooting the '3'," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "We had a lot of good looks that didn't drop. But I was pleased how we came back and got within striking distance. We had our chances at the end."
The Trail Blazers entered the gamed ranked ninth in the NBA in defensive efficiency, but allowed the Lakers to shoot 52.3 percent from the field, a season high for an opponent.
"Our defense has been solid, but it was spotty tonight," Portland guard Damian Lillard said. "Sometimes we think our offense is going to carry us. We have to be more sharp (defensively) and do it for longer periods of time."