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Cole Aldrich

Thibodeau Discusses Fresh Start In Minnesota

After a year away from the game, Tom Thibodeau is back as coach and president of basketball operations with the Timberwolves, who have one of the most intriguing collections of young talent in the NBA. Minnesota added point guard Kris Dunn through the draft this summer and improved its bench by signing free agents Jordan Hill, Cole Aldrich and Brandon Rush.

Kent Youngblood of The Star-Tribune talked with Thibodeau about his return to the game, his reputation as a defensive coach, his expectations for the young Wolves and Ricky Rubio‘s role now that Dunn is in town. Here are some highlights of the interview:

On Rubio’s role in Thibodeau’s offense:

“I think he’ll fit in very well. He’s a good player. He practices hard. He can really pass the ball. Passing and defense are two things that help build your team, brings the best out of people. I think Ricky has the ability to make other people better.”

On Rubio and Dunn as a possible starting backcourt:

“We’re going to get a lot of those questions answered in the preseason as we go forward. You want to go step by step. You don’t want to skip over things. I like guys who can play multiple positions, I like different combinations. There are times when you play two point guards together. I did that a lot in Chicago, just the speed of the game changes.”

On possible improvement from Nemanja Bjelica:

“I’m excited about him. He’s had a great summer. He’s in really good shape. He has a very unique skill set: He can shoot the three, he can put it on the floor. The one thing that is probably overlooked is his playmaking ability. You can run pick-and-roll with him. He’s got great vision, he can pass over people.”

On the additions of Aldrich and Hill:

“The way Cole played the second half of last year, I think he’s figured out who he is. The last two years have been very good for him. He fits in well, plays to his strengths, covers up his weaknesses, makes the team function well. And Jordan has been a very good player in this league. That gives us quality depth up front.”

On playoff expectations:

“I don’t want to put a lid on what we can do, but I want us doing the right things. Concentrate on that improvement and how fast we get there, I don’t know. We’re young and we’re going to improve. I think we’ll be a different team at the end of the year than what we were at the beginning of the year.”

Timberwolves Sign Cole Aldrich

March 13, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers center Cole Aldrich (45) moves the ball against Cleveland Cavaliers forward Channing Frye (9) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Images

JULY 13: The Wolves have formally signed Aldrich, the team announced today (via Twitter).

JULY 3: Veteran center Cole Aldrich will sign a three-year, $22MM deal with the Timberwolves, tweets Marc Stein of ESPN.com. The 27-year-old center spent the 2015/16 season with the Clippers and averaged 5.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in 60 games.

Aldrich decided last month to opt out of his contract with L.A., which would have paid him the league minimum, approximately $1.23MM. The Clippers had hoped to keep the unrestricted free agent, but he chose to accept the offer from Minnesota.

The Bloomington, Minn., native will serve as a backup to Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns. The Timberwolves will be his sixth NBA franchise.

Free Agent Rumors: Hornets, Blazers, Pachulia

Having tried to move Spencer Hawes‘ contract in a trade prior to the draft, the Hornets continue to explore a possible deal involving Hawes, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical (Twitter links). According to Wojnarowski, Charlotte would like to create the cap room to add a center in free agency. Roy Hibbert and Zaza Pachulia are at the top of the Hornets’ wish list, with Festus Ezeli and Jordan Hill among the other players the team is eyeing, says Wojnarowski.

Here are several more free agent rumors and updates from around the NBA:

  • The Trail Blazers kicked the tires on Ezeli and Nene, but won’t pursue those players, instead focusing their attention on Pachulia, reports Jason Quick of CSNNW.com (Twitter links). According to Quick, the Blazers were concerned they’d have to renounce one or two of their restricted free agents to go after Ezeli, and they aren’t willing to do that for Allen Crabbe, Meyers Leonard, or Maurice Harkless at this point.
  • Quick also has an update on veteran free agent Gerald Henderson, tweeting that the Trail Blazers are one of “seven to eight teams” to show interest in Henderson so far.
  • A reunion between Lance Stephenson and the Pacers isn’t out of the question, according to Nate Taylor of The Indianapolis Star, who reports that Stephenson has discussed the possibility of agreeing to a multiyear contract with Indiana. The veteran free agent is considering a few teams, but a source tells Taylor that Stephenson “absolutely loves the town and the [Pacers] organization.”
  • Before Cole Aldrich agreed to sign with the Timberwolves, he was receiving interest from the Magic and the Suns, according to Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (via Twitter). Orlando struck a deal with Bismack Biyombo, but Phoenix could still be in the market for a free agent big man.
  • Portland reportedly offered Pau Gasol a higher salary than he ultimately accepted from the Spurs, and it sounds like the Timberwolves did too. Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press reports (via Twitter) that Minnesota’s first offer was $36MM for two years, and the team may have increased that offer within the last day or so.

Free Agent Notes: Crawford, Howard, Dudley

With free agency set to begin on Friday, here’s the latest news, notes and updates from around the league:

  • Unrestricted free agent Jamal Crawford has meetings set with the Clippers, Knicks, Magic, Mavericks and Heat for when the free agent signing period kicks off, Brad Turner of The Los Angels Times reports (via Twitter).
  • The Trail Blazers are potentially interested in signing unrestricted free agent center Dwight Howard to a short-term deal, Sam Amick of USA Today relays.
  • The Wizards want to re-sign unrestricted free agent Jared Dudley, but the Jazz are expected to make a run at the forward this summer as well, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets.
  • Unrestricted free agent forward Solomon Hill has four meetings scheduled for when the free agent signing period commences, though his former squad, the Pacers, are not among the franchises on the agenda, Nate Taylor of The Indianapolis Star tweets.
  • The Blazers are expected to be very active in free agency this offseason, but one player who isn’t on the team’s radar is power forward Ryan Anderson, Jason Quick of CSNNW.com relays (on Twitter). Anderson is expected to be in high-demand around the league this summer.
  • On team that is indeed interested in Anderson are the Jazz, who plan to be aggressive this offseason in recruiting free agents, Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune writes. However, Utah is unlikely to land the stretch-four, Jones adds, classifying Luol Deng and Hill as more realistic targets.
  • The Clippers are interested in re-signing unrestricted free agent center Cole Aldrich, but will face competition from the Suns and Magic for the big man’s services, Turner tweets.
  • Restricted free agent Donatas Motiejunas is open to returning to Houston and noted that the Rockets would be the first team he will meet with once the free agent period opens this Friday, Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com relays (ESPN Now link). The big man earned $2,288,205 for his work this past season.

Cole Aldrich To Opt Out Of Contract

On Wednesday, reports indicated that both Wesley Johnson and Austin Rivers would turn down their player options, opting out of their contracts with the Clippers. That left one Clipper, Cole Aldrich, with an option decision to make, and according to Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times, Aldrich has elected to opt out of his deal as well.

Aldrich, 27, only averaged 13.3 minutes per game in 60 contests for the Clippers last season, but was a decent depth piece for the club, averaging 5.5 PPG and 4.8 RPG with a career-best .596 FG%. Aldrich signed a two-year, minimum-salary deal with Los Angeles a year ago, with a player option on the second year of that contract.

Since that 2016/17 option is worth the minimum (approximately $1.23MM), there’s little to no downside for Aldrich in declining it. Even if he’s unable to find a team offering him a raise, he should certainly be able to land another minimum-salary contract, perhaps one that’s structured in a similar way to his last deal, giving him some flexibility to opt in or out again in 2017. With the NBA salary cap on the rise, it’s also possible Aldrich will find a team willing to pay him a little more than the minimum.

With Johnson, Rivers, and Aldrich all planning to opt out, the Clippers won’t have to carry those player options on their books when free agency begins in July. However, the team will continue to have cap holds for all three players until they’re renounced or re-signed. For his part, Aldrich has interest in re-signing in L.A., according to Turner.

Clippers Rumors: Griffin, Paul, Jordan, Crawford

Doc Rivers hinted before the season that he would consider breaking up the team’s core if it fell short in the playoffs again, and trade speculation has surrounded Griffin for much of the year, but Rivers seems to maintain belief in what Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan can do, writes Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com. The coach/executive said today that he doesn’t think the team’s window for title contention is closed, Markazi tweets.

“I like our team,” Rivers said after Friday’s season-ending loss to Portland. “Our bench was fantastic this year. The problem is we have a lot of free agents on our team and I think a lot of them are going to be attractive, and so we have to fight to keep our own first and then try to build from that point. We’re going to have a difficult time. It’s going to be tough.”

See more on the Clippers:

  • Rivers can’t envision any player in the league picking up his player option for next season, given the sharp escalation of the salary cap that’s poised to create a player-friendly market this summer, notes Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter link). Rivers confirmed that means he expects Cole Aldrich, Wesley Johnson and son Austin Rivers to opt out from the Clippers this summer, and the coach/executive also believes Paul and Griffin will opt out in the summer of 2017, Bolch relays (Twitter links).
  • Doc Rivers said today that he wants to re-sign as many of the team’s free soon-to-be free agents as possible this summer, according to Bolch (Twitter links). “They all want to come back, but they’ve all played well and so they’ve all made it more difficult,” Rivers said. Jeff Green, Jamal Crawford, Luc Mbah a Moute, Pablo Prigioni and Jeff Ayres are the Clippers on expiring contracts, and presumably the same sentiment applies to the trio with player options.
  • Crawford said after Friday’s game that he’d like to re-sign with the Clippers, tweets Jen Beyrle of The Oregonian. The 36-year-old Crawford and J.J. Redick, who turns 32 next month, both said on Redick’s podcast for The Vertical that they’d like to play five more years, and Redick would like to sign a four-year deal when his existing contract expires in the summer of 2017, as Markazi relays via Twitter.
  • Paul Pierce has one more year left in him, Rivers believes, according to Bolch (Twitter link). Pierce, 38, is signed through the 2017/18 season but is 50-50 on whether to retire this summer.
  • The creation of a Clippers D-League affiliate will be a matter of discussion this summer, Rivers said, cautioning that it remains uncertain whether a team will be in place in time for next season, tweets Rowan Kavner of Clippers.com. The Clips are reportedly exploring the idea of starting a D-League team in Bakersfield, California.

Western Notes: Grizzlies, Arthur, KG, Aldrich

GM Chris Wallace says the Grizzlies have skewed toward youth with the players they’ve signed to compensate for injury this season, given the cushion they’d already built for a playoff spot and the opportunity to “catch lightning in a bottle” with a prospect who pans out, as he tells Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal. Memphis has had success in this regard in the past with JaMychal Green, and Wallace is optimistic that Xavier Munford, who recently signed a two-year deal, will follow in his footsteps. “I’m very proud of both of those guys,” Wallace said. “They were given a golden opportunity to make the case that they’re NBA players. [Green]’s played more games than anybody has for us this year. JaMychal has proven he’s an NBA rotation player. Xavier came from further off the beaten path than JaMychal. Xavier had never been in an NBA training camp. Xavier had never had a call-up. But he’s got good size and is very long and rangy. He’s got good potential defensively. When he’s out there, it looks like he belongs and he does well. The coaching staff and his teammates are getting more and more confidence in him. You always have to be projective with younger players. He’s a major upward curve that’s very intriguing for us in the future.”

See more from the Western Conference:

  • Darrell Arthur wants to remain with the Nuggets, and he would like to do so with a new three or four-year deal, as he tells Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. Still, the 28-year-old power forward is undecided about whether to turn down a player option worth more than $2.94MM for next season, as he also said to Dempsey. He’d have to opt out to get that long-term deal he wants, since he’s ineligible to sign an extension on the two-year deal he signed with the team last summer. In any case, he fielded strong interest from other teams at the trade deadline, according to Dempsey.
  • Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is optimistic that Kevin Garnett will return for next season, the last on his contract, but coach Sam Mitchell, a teammate of Garnett’s from 1995-2002, isn’t so sure the 39-year-old won’t retire this summer, as Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune relays. “There’s one person who knows his future, and that’s him,” Mitchell said of Garnett. “You know how he is. He’s just not going to tip his hand one way or the other. He has earned the right to do that.”
  • Doc Rivers believes the insertion of Cole Aldrich into the rotation in December sparked the Clippers‘ second unit, and he’s thrived in even more playing time of late, as Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times examines. Aldrich has a minimum-salary player option for next season.

Pacific Notes: Rivers, McDonough, Ranadive

Clippers coach/executive Doc Rivers insisted the team didn’t listen when it fielded trade calls about Blake Griffin from other clubs, as Rivers told Marc J. Spears of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports, reiterating his faith in the power forward he contends was having an MVP-caliber season before his two-month absence. Rivers also defended the job he’s done as team’s player personnel chief.

“I don’t know. I don’t evaluate. I have too many people evaluating for me,” Rivers said. “I let them do it and I keep doing my job. I don’t care about the evaluations. I care about the team. We’re a team that doesn’t have a lot of leverage. We don’t have a lot of assets. But to me, we keep ending up with the Jeff Greens of the world, Cole Aldrich is terrific, Wes Johnson. … We’re getting these guys at minimum contracts. Even Josh [Smith] was a good gamble. It didn’t work out for us. But when you are in that minimum contract deal, you’re going to have some hits and misses and we’re fine with it and you keep doing.”

See more from the Pacific Division:

  • Suns owner Robert Sarver issued a vote of confidence to GM Ryan McDonough in an open letter to fans posted on the team’s website, acknowledging that some of the risks the team has taken lately haven’t panned out but pointing to the Warriors as reason to continue making bold moves. “Not every decision will be the right one, but [McDonough] will continue to build our team around the young, talented players acquired through the draft and opportunistically in free agency,” Sarver wrote in part. “The best team in the NBA right now is a perfect example of that model.”
  • Kings owner Vivek Ranadive may have encountered trouble running the team so far, but his success in other venues shows he’s no fool, writes Andy Furillo of The Sacramento Bee. Ranadive told Furillo he’d buy out the stake of any minority-share owner who wants out, responding to reports that many of his partners are upset with him“If somebody’s unhappy, I’ll write them a check today,” Ranadive said.
  • The Kings could use some more defense in the backcourt and coach George Karl has praised Seth Curry‘s performance on that end, but Curry has remained largely tied to the pine, much to his frustration, as The Bee’s Jason Jones examines. Curry has a minimum-salary player option for next season.

Clippers Notes: Griffin, Rivers, Smith, Tskitishvili

Clippers forward Blake Griffin will be out of action for at least two weeks after suffering a partially torn left quadriceps, according to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports. That means Griffin will miss at least six games before being re-evaluated two weeks from now. The team is hoping that rest and physical therapy will be enough to treat the injury, a source told Dan Woike of The Orange County Register (Twitter link). A source close to Griffin tells Ken Berger of CBS Sports that the Clippers are confident two to three weeks of that treatment will be sufficient for Griffin to recover (Twitter link). “Tough break,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers“Blake was playing so well. We just have to keep pushing forward until his return.” The five-time All-Star is averaging 23.2 points and 8.7 rebounds through 30 games.

There’s more Clipper-related news out of Los Angeles:

  • Rivers is taking a calm approach to the team’s 17-13 start, Woike writes in a separate story. The Clippers are fourth in the Western Conference standings but have been disappointing against the league’s best clubs, compiling just a 5-11 record against teams that currently hold playoff spots. Still, the coach said immediate changes aren’t needed. “I’ve had some teams where I would be panicked now,” Rivers said. “I’d have some teams where I’d go to sleep right now, they’ll be fine. So I think it depends on your team. This is a team that is just a team in motion. We made a lot of changes. It takes time.”
  • The Christmas Day win over the Lakers marked the second straight game in which Josh Smith was left out of the rotation, Woike notes in the same article. Smith signed a veteran’s minimum deal with the Clippers in July, but he’s struggled to find a role with the team. He is averaging just 5.9 points and 14.6 minutes of playing time this season. Rivers gave Smith’s normal minutes to Cole Aldrich Friday night.
  • Nikoloz Tskitishvili, who spent part of training camp with the Clippers, will soon be joining Champville in Lebanon, tweets international journalist David Pick. Tskitishvili has spent parts of this season in China and Japan after L.A. waived him in early October.

Clippers Sign Cole Aldrich

3:20pm: The deal is official, the team announced via press release.

MONDAY, 2:23pm: It’ll indeed be for the minimum, tweets Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times.

11:59am: Aldrich and the Clippers are still talking, but the expectation is that he’ll indeed sign soon, tweets Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com. A league source tells Dan Woike of the Orange County Register that the sides are close to agreement (Twitter link).

FRIDAY, 11:11am: The Clippers will sign Cole Aldrich to a two-year deal that includes a player option, reports Derek Wetmore of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (on Twitter; hat tip to 1500 ESPN Twin Cities colleague Darren Wolfson). Aldrich, a Minnesota native, departs the Knicks, with whom he spent 2014/15. He’ll give the Clippers the true backup center they’ve lacked. The contract, once he signs it, will almost certainly be for the minimum salary, since the Clips have no cap room and committed their taxpayer’s mid-level exception to Paul Pierce.

The team had been discussing the idea of adding the big man, as Dan Woike of the Orange County Register reported earlier this week, and apparently the return of DeAndre Jordan didn’t dissuade them from the idea. Amar’e Stoudemire has been another big man the team has eyed, but he’s reportedly close to a deal with the Heat.

New York had reportedly remained in contact with Aldrich’s reps, and the Jeff Schwartz client had expressed his affection for the triangle offense. Aldrich, who turns 27 in October, saw more playing time this past season than in any other during his five-year NBA career, making 16 starts and averaging 16.0 minutes per game.

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