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Kings Enter the Fray as Butler-Wolves Standoff Intensifies

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Confusion surrounding the relationship between Jimmy Butler and Minnesota doesn’t appear to be clearing, with rival teams still uncertain about the star wing’s trade status. 

NBA: Playoffs-Houston Rockets at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The standoff between Jimmy Butler and the Minnesota Timberwolves has reached new levels with the All Star refusing to join the team for training camp, reinforcing his demands for a trade.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Wolves President and Coach Tom Thibodeau has tried to coerce Butler back to the Wolves, however the star wing appears to be unwavering in his goal of leaving the twin cities.

“Butler is uninterested in practicing or playing with the Timberwolves again, and has implored owner Glen Taylor and Thibodeau to trade him soon, because the team will lose him next summer in free agency regardless.”

“The front office’s strategy on the trade discussions could park Butler on the sidelines far longer than he had hoped this season.”

“Still, one league source told ESPN on Monday night that Thibodeau isn’t giving up.”

The confusion has led to interested trade partners - one of which could be Portland, according to Wojnarowski - being unsure of where they stand.

“Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden continue to leave rival executives and owners unclear about both the specific players and broader kinds of assets that the Wolves value in a deal.”

“Even more doubt exists about whether there’s even yet alignment between Taylor and Thibodeau on a structure and a timetable for a deal.”

“Some have heard separately from Taylor and the Layden/Thibodeau management team, with little apparent coordination between the two levels of Minnesota’s organization.

“From starting the week insisting to other teams that Minnesota wouldn’t trade Butler to slow-playing return phone calls and failing to share guidelines for the kind of deal that Minnesota wants to execute, Layden has graduated to the next phase of negotiations with teams: Asking for stars, starters, draft picks and salary cap relief for the chance to acquire Butler.”

It also appears that the Sacramento Kings have entered the discussion, stepping in as a third trade partner, offering its cap space as leverage to collect draft picks while taking back burdensome contracts.

This may come in handy for the Wolves who could be trying unload centre Gorgui Dieng and the three years and $48 million remaining on his contract.

The Kings also have expiring contracts to offer, including Zach Randolph, Iman Shumpert and Kosta Koufos in order to help salaries match.

In recent days, Sacramento has been aggressive in courting Minnesota and several of Butler’s trade suitors -- offering to use its space as a landing spot for bloated contracts.

The Kings are without their first-round draft pick in 2019, and uniquely positioned to leverage that cap space into, at a minimum, a future first-round pick and maybe more as part of a Butler blockbuster.