Minnesota Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said Sunday that guard Jimmy Butler practiced with the team and is expected to play in its season opener on Wednesday.

Butler, who has requested a trade, did not play in the Wolves’ final preseason game Friday. Thibodeau said Butler was working on his conditioning.

“They want me to go out here and hoop to the best of my abilities,” Butler said. “Make sure I’m healthy, compete, because that’s what I love to do, and do it for the guys in the same jerseys as me.”

Butler had been away from the team until he made a dramatic return Wednesday. He boldly challenged teammates, coaches and front-office executives during practice, according to sources. Butler then spoke at length with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, discussing his contentious relationship with the team and coaches.

The Timberwolves canceled practice Thursday, though Butler told Nichols he did meet with his teammates. When the Wolves played a preseason game on Friday in Milwaukee, Butler stayed back. The team was off on Saturday.

“I can go out there, and I can play,” Butler said. “It’s all about playing hard. I think I can do that. When I’m gassed and I’m tired, I’ll look down at Thibs and say, ‘Thibs, I need a break.”’

Although Butler stopped short of assuring his presence on the court Wednesday, when the Wolves visit San Antonio, Thibodeau said he expects Butler to play against the Spurs as long as he remains on the roster. The official stance of Thibodeau, who serves as the president of basketball operations, and general manager Scott Layden over the past three weeks has been that the Wolves will deal Butler if it makes sense for the direction of the team.

“Everything’s fluid,” Thibodeau said. “We’ll continue to work through things.”

Sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the Wolves and Heat were on the verge of a Butler trade last weekend, but it fell apart at the 11th hour.

Asked whether his relationship with Wolves management has changed, Butler said no. As for whether he’s still seeking a trade?

“Maybe,” he said. “I’m going to be passive-aggressive like everybody else.”

The Wolves face Cleveland on Friday in their first home game, and the crowd at Target Center that cheered so loudly for Butler in his standout debut season in Minnesota is more than likely to produce the opposite reaction if he plays against the Cavaliers, considering the dysfunction his demand has caused.

“Sure, boo me,” Butler said. “Ain’t going to change the way I play. Probably going to make me smile more. Please, come with it.”

Despite the distraction he has caused, Butler has continually said that he harbors no bad feelings about his teammates.

“I want to help everyone to be better. I want y’all to win games. My name is still attached to this thing,” he said. “I’m still here, so we’d better win.”

Andrew Wiggins, for his part, has never expressed any ill will toward Butler.

“All I know is, when we start playing the real games, Jimmy is someone you want on your team,” he said. “At the end of the day, people can say what they want to say, but he’s a winner.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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