Miami Heat president Pat Riley issued a statement Friday to dispute a report that negotiations with the Minnesota Timberwolves on a Jimmy Butler trade reached a point of hostility.
“As to what has been reported in the past 24 hours, I have too much respect for Tom Thibodeau and all that he’s accomplished in this league. Our conversations have been nothing but cordial and I have never used that kind of language in negotiations, but I do admit to telling Danny Ainge to …,” Riley said in a statement through a team spokesman, acknowledging trade talks with Minnesota.
The report Riley is referencing is from former Heat broadcaster Jorge Sedano, who on ESPN Radio in Los Angeles claimed Riley used profanity to address Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau during trade negotiations.
Sedano said: “Here’s what’s happening. There’s been a couple of different incarnations of this deal. The first one, the Heat didn’t want to take back Gorgui Dieng. Then, the next incarnation of the deal was ‘OK forget it, let’s just do it straight up, just for Jimmy on your end.’
“So they finally relented on Josh Richardson, they were giving them Josh Richardson. Then Dion Waiters was going to be the cap filler, and then a protected first-round pick. The medicals were exchanged, which, really, generally in the NBA means this is a done deal. And then, Thibs called back and wanted more picks. And Pat Riley literally -- I was told -- called him a motherbleeper and hung up the phone.”
The final few words in Riley’s statement are connected to a comment he made toward Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge in March 2013.
“Danny Ainge needs to shut the f--- up and manage his own team,” Riley said in a statement released through a Heat spokesman, when Ainge criticized then-Heat forward LeBron James. “He was the biggest whiner going when he was playing and I know that because I coached against him.”
The Heat is not pushing to resume discussions with the Timberwolves on a Butler trade, as the Miami Herald reported Thursday.
A Heat source indicated Thursday the organization is ready to move on if need be after the Timberwolves rejected its offer. But the source also declined to rule out the possibility of a deal still happening with Minnesota, only making it clear Miami would not be the one initiating trade talks.
The Timberwolves are believed to be asking for several of the Heat’s most valuable assets: Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic, Kelly Olynyk, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow and a first-round pick.
Butler’s request to be traded from the Timberwolves was made public three weeks ago. Heat players, coaches and team officials have not been made available to comment on the subject since then, but Riley’s statement on Friday ended the silence.
Butler is set to earn $20.4 million this season and has a player option worth $19.8 million in 2019-20. He’s expected to decline the option and become a free agent, giving him the leverage to demand a trade to a team he would re-sign with next summer.
In free agency next offseason, Butler could be eligible to sign a five-year, $190 million contract extension with the Timberwolves or any team he’s traded to. He can sign a four-year, $141 million deal with a new team in free agency.
Although the Heat isn’t projected to have cap space until the 2020 offseason, any team that trades for Butler will also acquire his Bird rights. Bird rights allow for a team to exceed the salary cap to re-sign a player.
Butler did not travel with the Timberwolves for their Friday road exhibition game against the Milwaukee Bucks, with Thibodeau telling reporters the four-time All-Star remained in Minneapolis for conditioning.