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Another View on Wolves’ Butler-Towns

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July 12, 2018

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Media reports that Timberwolves leader and best player Jimmy Butler is “fed up” with the alleged nonchalant attitude of teammate Karl-Anthony Towns are prevalent, but are those rumors true?

I asked Timberwolves point guard Tyus Jones if he is aware of a rift between Butler and Towns? “No,” he answered.

So Butler and Towns get along?

“They do,” Jones told Sports Headliners on Monday. “As you can see, we won a lot of games this year so I think everyone got along just fine.”

Jones said there were “no chemistry issues” on last season’s team that won 16 games more than the 2016-17 club. Butler, a guard-forward, joined the Wolves last offseason through a trade with the Bulls. As one of the NBA’s best two-way players, he made a major impact on and off the court. The Wolves earned their way into the playoffs for the first time since 2004. In the locker room the intense veteran made his presence known.

Before last season NBA general managers named Towns the player they would want most to start a franchise with. During the 2017-2018 season, his third in the NBA, the Wolves’ 22-year-old center averaged 21.3 points and 12.3 rebounds. However, there have been reports that Butler, the team’s leading scorer at 22.2 points per game, is not only critical of Towns’ lack of intensity, but that he also has the same feelings about another young Wolves player with high potential, forward-guard Andrew Wiggins.

Tyus Jones

All of this leaves Wolves fans uneasy because Butler becomes a free agent after the 2018-19 season. If Butler doesn’t want to be here, that’s certainly not true of Jones who also will be a free agent next year.

Jones expects his agent to begin talks about a new contract this summer and the Minnesota native admitted it would be difficult to leave Minneapolis. “It would be hard,” he said. “I’ve said since the beginning, when I was drafted here, this is a dream come true. I grew up a big Timberwolves fan.”

Jones has been a reserve in his first three seasons with the Timberwolves, who acquired him from the Cavs on draft night in 2015. Last season he played in all 82 regular season games but his minutes were limited and he averaged 5.1 points per game. He has career averages of 4.4 points and 2.8 assists, but has earned praise from coach Tom Thibodeau.

The 6-foot-2 Jones, who entered the NBA at about 185 pounds, looks more muscular this summer. “Put on some weight,” he said. “Just trying to focus on making good weight (muscle).”

The 22-year-old former Apple Valley star and prep All-American weighs about 190 pounds now. He is working on a summer development program with intentions to not only become stronger but quicker, and “improve all aspects of my game.”

His gym time included an appearance Monday evening in the Twin Cities Pro Am league at DeLaSalle High School. He played for Team Tyus, the team he sponsors in the summer time league that has players of varying ages and abilities.

Wolves fans might have concerns about next season’s team but Jones is upbeat. “(I) feel good about it,” he said. “We took a big leap this year. We’re going to continue to try to do that. Each year you want to improve individually and as a whole (team). So making the playoffs and ending that drought was our goal. Now this year it’s try and take it a step further.”

Crandall, Travis, Talked U Transfer

It’s not that well-known but the Golden Gophers might have started next season with high profile grad transfers and Minneapolis natives Geno Crandall and Reid Travis in their starting lineup. Crandall’s decision to choose Gonzaga over Minnesota is a national story this summer and the former North Dakota guard told Sports Headliners about the background to his process in choosing a school that included communications with Travis who is leaving Stanford to play his final season of college basketball at Kentucky.

Crandall describes Travis as his “best friend,” and the two have played basketball together since they were five years old. They played on state championship teams in high school at DeLaSalle. Earlier this year the two texted about playing for the Gophers in their hometown. “We talked…about it and gave it some thought,” Crandall said.

Crandall averaged 16.2 points per game last season for the Fighting Hawks, leading the team in scoring. The 6-foot-3 Crandall was second-team All-Big Sky for the second consecutive season. Travis averaged 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds for Stanford. The 6-foot-8 forward was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection.

The Gophers have a roster talented enough to prompt speculation they could earn their way into the NCAA Tournament next season. But with Crandall and Travis they could have been a Big Ten title favorite. “Oh, yeah, no doubt,” Crandall said.

Crandall believes Travis was influenced in choosing Kentucky because of the program’s national exposure and reputation for sending players on to the NBA. Those were factors that resonated with Crandall, too, in choosing Gonzaga.

The Zags are expected to be a top 10 team nationally. Crandall’s goal is to help the Bulldogs earn their way through the 2019 NCAA Tournament to the Final Four in Minneapolis. He knows how special it could feel playing for a national title in his home city.

Gonzaga has an opening for playing time in its starting backcourt. The path to playing time appeared more direct to him than at Minnesota where the Gophers have experienced players at both point and shooting guard. Those players include grad transfer Brock Stull from Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The decision to choose Gonzaga wasn’t easy. He thought a lot about both Minnesota and Xavier where former Gopher assistant coach and DeLaSalle player Ben Johnson now works.

“Honestly, it was probably the toughest decision I ever had to make in my life,” Crandall said. “The first time around, coming out of high school, it wasn’t such a hard decision because I didn’t have too many offers, or too many programs that I really loved.

“But it was an extremely tough decision to say no to the hometown team that I grew up watching. (Minnesota) coach (Richard) Pitino, I think he’s really building something special. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem in the cards for me for what I was looking for my last year…”

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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