The Minnesota Timberwolves aggressively pursued a trade for Chicago Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler on Thursday night after drafting Kris Dunn, but the talks fizzled after some initial optimism that a deal could be struck, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Timberwolves drafted Dunn, after the Providence guard unexpectedly lasted until the fifth pick, then pushed hard to see whether they could hammer out a trade with the Bulls, who are also known to be big fans of Dunn.
But the Bulls, sources say, ultimately decided not to go ahead with a deal in which they'd be forced to surrender Butler just one day after completing a trade with New York that sent Derrick Rose to the Knicks.
Butler was spotted at the Bulls' facility Thursday evening, a source told ESPN.com, but Bulls general manager Gar Forman said after the draft that he didn't even know Butler was in the building and tried to cool off trade speculation regarding the two-time All-Star.
"Jimmy's in and out of the building all the time when he's in town," Forman said, "During the draft, we started getting some texts and saw something on TV that we were in heated talks with somebody. I don't know what it was saying. We were in no talks with anybody. There was no discussion during the entire draft this evening as far as Jimmy Butler was concerned."
Butler rubbed teammates and front-office personnel the wrong way last season when he tried to take a more vocal leadership role within the locker room. But Forman, in a display of semantic gymnastics, held to the fact that the Bulls weren't actively shopping Butler.
"We have never made a call in regards to Jimmy Butler," Forman said. "We've talked about, we value Jimmy Butler, we're very happy to have Jimmy Butler. We've got a phenomenal basketball player who was an All-Star and All-NBA defender, is still young. Obviously we've got him under contract long-term, those are all positive. He, again, is what we want to be. We've said this all along. We like Jimmy Butler, we did not shop Jimmy Butler. Did we receive calls? Of course we did, and that's our job to listen to calls. We get calls on a lot of our players, and that's stuff that happens all throughout the league.
At 26, Butler is the unquestioned best player on the Bulls' roster, but Forman has repeatedly stopped short of declaring Butler the new face of the franchise and the player the organization wants to build around.
"You've got to keep an open mind," Forman said in regard to a potential future Butler deal. "I think [Bulls executive vice president] John Paxson said it best when we met [with the media] in [April]. He was only around one guy in an 11-year career that was untradable, and that was Michael Jordan. I mean, you're always going to listen, but we value -- and I've said this -- we value Jimmy. We appreciate Jimmy. We think Jimmy is a heck of a basketball player. We love his work ethic. And for us to ever consider anything, it would have to be something that just absolutely knocked our socks off."
ESPN.com reported earlier this month that Tom Thibodeau, the Wolves' new coach and president of basketball operations, was prepared to surrender the No. 5 overall pick in the draft for a chance to reunite with Butler, whom he previously coached in Chicago. And Minnesota's chances initially seemed enhanced by the fact that Dunn -- widely projected to be drafted No. 3 overall by Boston -- didn't go to the Celtics.
But as the evening progressed, sources said, it became apparent that Chicago would not be willing to surrender Butler on Thursday night despite suggestions that the Wolves would be willing to trade anyone on their roster apart from Karl-Anthony Towns or Andrew Wiggins.
In a post-draft interview with ESPN 1000, Forman acknowledged that he hasn't spoken to Thibodeau since the former Bulls coach took the Timberwolves job. Forman also said his fractured relationship with Thibodeau wouldn't be a detriment in any potential future deal with the Timberwolves.
"I never talked to Tom during this whole process," Forman said.
Forman also said that he still hasn't connected with Rose since trading him to the Knicks on Wednesday but was hopeful the pair would touch base at some point in the future.
ESPN's Bulls reporter Nick Friedell contributed to this report.