SAN FRANCISCO -- As Jimmy Butler's trade demand continues to hover over the Minnesota Timberwolves' organization, longtime teammates Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose acknowledge that they were surprised the declaration came as quickly as it did.
"At the end of the day, you've got to look at it from a player's standpoint and a business standpoint," Gibson told ESPN after Friday's practice. "He's trying to do what he got to do, but everybody's calling him. It's more of a [situation where] I've got to go see him kind of thing. But I worked out with him all summer, so when I said what I meant, it was like a right hook. I didn't see it coming. I didn't know. I thought -- it looked like from everything things were going good. But sometimes it's a money aspect, and fans and different players got to understand that. I understand that with being in the league for so many years, but got to try to just see what we can do.
"... One thing about everybody who's here, from the coaching staff, players, everybody's familiar with each other, we've been through a lot together, so we just got to keep trying."
Gibson, who has a close relationship with Butler dating to their time with the Chicago Bulls, said he has tried to give Butler space to make his decisions over the past couple of weeks. Despite Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau's best efforts to keep his team focused on the present, the Butler saga remains at the forefront of the minds of players and coaches.
"Now in the NBA, everybody has a little bit of freedom to do a little more of what they want," Rose told ESPN. "And he's expressing that he don't want to be here and he want to go somewhere else. I mean, Kawhi [Leonard] did it last year, didn't he? Like he just didn't play. Jimmy just came out and said he didn't want to play here. I had so much [stuff] going on, I couldn't even focus on what was really going on with the team. I signed early, and I left everything up to Thibs. [Butler's trade demand] was just a surprise, not only to me, I think to everyone that he wanted to leave. ... I didn't know what the situation is. I just didn't know it was that bad. Even being here, I didn't know it was that bad."
Thibodeau did not mention Butler by name during his post-practice media session, trying to keep the focus on the players in training camp. Still, given how many years Thibodeau and Butler shared together in Chicago and Minneapolis, it will be difficult for Thibodeau's group to get back to regular business until a resolution is reached.
"It's the NBA, and that's part of everyone's job, is don't allow yourself to be distracted," Thibodeau said. "You got to be focused on what your job is. My job is to do what's best for the Timberwolves, and so that's what we're going to do. Every day we look at how we can improve our team, how can we acquire talent? Once we acquire talent, then we're going to coach them as hard and as well as we can, and then we have to get everyone ready to compete. That's why it's important for me and for everyone on the team not to lose focus of what is important. So that's how we're dealing with everything."
Asked whether a reconciliation between Butler and the Timberwolves was still possible, Thibodeau did not sound optimistic.
"I just deal with reality," he said. "Every day. Just get ready, do what's best for the Timberwolves. That's it."
Gibson was still hopeful that his good friend and team could find a middle ground before a deal was struck.
"I think so," Gibson said. "You never know in this league. We have to wait and see. Until management and staff figure out what they're going to do, we have to just wait and see. But until then, just chime in from time to time and see what's going on with them. But right now, I'm just trying to focus on who's here. I know we have a lot of stuff going on. I'm trying to help guys that are here. Without [Butler], we're trying to get some pieces and things going, just trying to figure out what if he doesn't come back. Just trying to be positive on that aspect."
No matter what happens, both Gibson and Rose will support Butler moving forward.
"I wish him nothing but the best," Rose said, "because you never know what someone's going through. I've been in the same position where you're just misunderstood, so you never know what someone's going through."
"That's my brother, man," Gibson added. "That's my brother. I love Jimmy to death. We don't even talk about basketball. Every time I see him, he knows when I smile ... he knows I love him. He knows I'm there for him no matter what. Right or wrong, I'm on his side."
After all the years of being in the spotlight for a variety of reasons on and off the floor, Rose watches the Butler situation with more empathy than most.
"I'm happy it's not me, to tell you the truth," Rose said. "I've been through all that. Walked away [from basketball], rape case, all that. I'm just trying to stay out of -- out of sight, out of mind. That's why I haven't been saying nothing too crazy in the media because I'm trying to focus on what I need to focus on, and that's to have a productive year, have a healthy year and really help these young guys to push them and see how good they can become."
As Gibson prepares for the grind of another NBA season, he is holding out hope the All-Star swingman will return to camp.
"It's tough because you look at the Western Conference, everybody's gotten so much better," Gibson said. "And you think, 'All right, this is what we've got going on, this is what we're going to do coming into the season,' and [the trade speculation] just happens right away. It's tough, it's confusing, but at the end of the day, you've got to be a professional. We got to take the good with the bad and just keep pushing. But for right now, fingers are crossed, hopefully some positive happens."