Minnesota Timberwolves

Blazers, Suns, Celtics Eye Shabazz Muhammad

The Blazers, Suns and Celtics and other teams are “kicking the tires” on Shabazz Muhammad, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter link). The Clippers remain fond of the 23-year-old swingman, Wolfson adds, having first identified the team’s interest in December, though it’s unclear if the Nets and Lakers, two more teams that apparently eyed him earlier this season, still do.

Minnesota was unwilling to trade Muhammad as of December, as Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports reported then, but whether the team has wavered from that stance isn’t known. The 14th overall pick from 2013 has suffered a regression this year, with his minutes down slightly and more significant declines in shooting percentage, shot attempts per game, scoring average and rebounding. He’s seen fewer minutes per game this season than fellow wing players Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Tayshaun Prince and trade candidate Kevin Martin.

Muhammad is making nearly $2.056MM in the third year of his rookie scale contract, with almost $3.047MM coming next season, the last on the deal. He’s eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer, but given his dearth of playing time, he seems unlikely to receive one.

The Suns would appear to provide the best opportunity for him to see more minutes if he’s traded to Phoenix, especially if P.J. Tucker is no longer there after next week’s trade deadline. The Clippers have been starting Luc Mbah a Moute at small forward, so perhaps an opportunity would exist there. The Celtics and Blazers seem relatively set on the wings.


Timberwolves Speak With Tom Thibodeau

Some “cursory contact” has taken place between the Timberwolves and former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, sources tell Brian Windhorst, who made his report in an appearance on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike” show (video link). Wolves owner Glen Taylor told interim Wolves coach Sam Mitchell that he would have this season to work with and that he would evaluate him after that, as Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press said to Hoops Rumors in a recent edition of The Beat, so the team faces a decision about its coaching future this spring. Thibodeau has apparently long wanted the Knicks coaching job, and while that appears unlikely, he’s reportedly of interest to the Lakers and Nets and is linked to just about every coaching vacancy that arises.

Nearly half the Wolves roster has expressed concern about Mitchell’s job performance, Krawczynski reported late last month, though he picked up the endorsement of team leader Kevin Garnett. The Timberwolves won their 17th game of the season Wednesday with an upset of the Raptors, surpassing the 16 they won all of last season, but they still have the league’s fifth-worst record. That sets up Minnesota for another high first-round pick, making the job all the more attractive, as Windhorst discusses.

It doesn’t appear as though talks have become serious at all, though Thibodeau is anxious to return to coaching, Sam Smith of Bulls.com wrote recently, adding that he believes the former Coach of the Year would want personnel control. GM Milt Newton, like Mitchell, has no assurances beyond this season. The 58-year-old Thibodeau went 255-139 in the regular season and 23-28 in the playoffs with Chicago, which fired him this past spring.

Which team would be the best fit for Thibs? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Western Notes: Chalmers, Pekovic, Janning

Wolves big man Nikola Pekovic‘s surgically repaired right Achilles tendon continues to bother him, and he’s frustrated as a result while he plays his way back into shape, Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune writes. “I’m still not pain-free. I’m still feeling pain,” Pekovic told Zgoda. “It’s kind of a little of everything. I’m just learning to play with pain again. That’s the biggest adjustment. And, of course, when you don’t play for 10 months, what do you expect? Come back in two games? It’s not possible.

We appreciate the fact that Pek’s dealing with something I can only imagine,” interim coach Sam Mitchell said regarding the center’s struggles. “He’s doing the best he can to play through it, play as much as he can and get his game back to as close as it was. If he can do that, it’d be a minor miracle and it’d help us out. We just take it day-by-day and whatever Pek can give us, we have to be appreciative of that.

Here’s the latest from out West:

  • The Grizzlies will have a difficult time extracting value out of Jeff Green and his expiring contract if they decide to deal him prior to the trade deadline, Bobby Marks of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports opines in his deadline primer for Memphis. The team should hold onto point guard Mario Chalmers, who has solidified the position off the bench, and would likely come to regret parting ways with him down the stretch considering the lack of quality backup guards available around the league, Marks adds.
  • Nuggets camp cut Matt Janning has signed with the Russian club Lokomotiv Cuban, the team announced (translation by Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). International journalist David Pick notes (on Twitter) that Janning’s deal includes an option for 2016/17, though it is unclear if it is a team or player option.
  • Kobe Bryant acknowledges that the Lakers‘ struggles this season have changed his approach and perspective, in this, his final year in the league, writes Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report. “It’s just us not being as competitive as we used to be has changed my role substantially,” Bryant said, “to be more of a teacher, more of a coach, to a person who understands more and has more patience in dealing with the young guys. It’s much, much different in that aspect.

And-Ones: Gasol, Barnes, Garnett, Horford

Two executives from other teams aren’t sold on the idea that the Bulls are done gauging the trade market for Pau Gasol in the wake of injuries to Joakim Noah and Nikola Mirotic, reports K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, who adds that the Bulls want to re-sign Gasol this summer but at a limited price. Gasol said today that he doesn’t view a trade as likely but wouldn’t be completely shocked if the Bulls dealt him, adding that he wished he had a no-trade clause in his contract, notes Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com (ESPN Now link). Gasol also expressed a desire for a no-trade provision in his next contract, which he could only get if he signs with the Grizzlies or Lakers or re-signs with the Bulls on a one-year deal. Formal no-trade clauses are only available to veterans of eight or more years (Gasol qualifies there) who sign with teams they’ve spent at least four seasons with. Gasol is in just year No. 2 with Chicago, but anyone who re-signs with his team on a one-year deal, or a two-year deal with a player option, can veto trades. See more from around the league:

  • Harrison Barnes has fans within the Timberwolves organization, as Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities says in a podcast, though it’s not entirely certain that Minnesota will pursue the soon-to-be restricted free agent. Barnes engendered an “undercurrent of disenchantment” within the Warriors when he stayed for as long as he did with a sprained ankle that prompted him to miss 16 games this season, as Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com reported earlier. Wolves GM Milt Newton has no guarantee of running the team’s front office beyond this season after inheriting the authority from the late Flip Saunders.
  • Kevin Garnett is “no lock” to play next season, as many people close to him aren’t sure whether or not he intends to do so, Wolfson says in the same podcast. In July, Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune raised the specter of Garnett moving into a front office position with the Timberwolves next season if he’s not healthy enough to play. Garnett, who turns 40 in May, has appeared in 38 of Minnesota’s 50 games this year and is set to make $8MM in 2016/17 on the two-year contract he signed this past summer.
  • Soon-to-be free agent Al Horford said he feels like Atlanta is home and added that he isn’t focused on trade talk as the February 18th deadline looms, observes Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That echoes the mostly glowing remarks Horford made about Atlanta and the Hawks organization to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports, and though the Hawks want to-resign him, it’s unclear whether they’re willing to shell out the max contract he’ll be seeking, according to Spears. Horford also said to Spears that other cities probably offer more business and marketing opportunities than Atlanta does, and the Hawks are expected to listen to offers for Horford out of concern that he might walk in free agency this summer, Spears reports.

Spurs, Clippers, Thunder Eye Adreian Payne

The Spurs, Clippers and Thunder have “fringe” trade interest in Adreian Payne, as Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities says in his latest edition of “The Scoop” podcast. The No. 15 pick from the 2014 draft has seen spotty playing time this season but this week returned earlier than planned from a D-League assignment because of injuries to other Minnesota frontcourt players, Wolfson adds. Wolfson casts doubt on the notion of a trade involving Payne before the February 18th deadline, suggesting instead that the idea might resurface in the summer.

Payne, who turns 25 the day after the trade deadline, is making close to $1.939MM this year in the second season of his rookie scale contract. Minnesota picked up its team option of more than $2.022MM for next season. The former Michigan State stalwart enjoyed significant playing time down the stretch last season on a banged-up Timberwolves team, making 22 starts in 29 games and averaging 7.2 points and 5.4 boards in 24.8 minutes per contest. That came after a February 2015 trade in which Minnesota sent a conditional future first-round pick to Atlanta to free Payne from the Hawks, for whom he saw action in only three games.

The Clippers have a hole at power forward with Blake Griffin out, but they reportedly want a small forward, with Rudy Gay among their targets. The Thunder are also apparently focusing on the wing, lending credence to the notion that the interest in Payne is muted. It’s unclear what the Spurs are looking for, though losses to the Warriors and Cavaliers last week exposed San Antonio’s flaws after a sterling 38-6 beginning to the season.

Western Notes: Garnett, Gay, Kilpatrick

Kevin Garnett gave reporters a pointed endorsement of interim coach Sam Mitchell, as well expressed his approval of the direction that the Timberwolves are headed as a franchise, Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune relays. “I feel real good about the progression of this team since Day 1 and I think it needs to be said and needs to be understood that I’m endorsing Sam Mitchell and our coaching staff and this organization,” Garnett said. “More importantly, I’m excited about our future. I’m excited about our young players. I feel like we’re getting better. These last 10, 15 games, we’ve gotten better. You see it and I think that needs to be said. I think you all need to understand we’re supportive around here.”

The veteran had raised some eyebrows with his previous silence regarding Mitchell, Zgoda notes. “Just because I haven’t done a lot of interviews and voiced my opinion on a lot of things,” Garnett continued, “I want you guys to understand that not only do I endorse Sam Mitchell, but the other players do, too. We believe not only in him, but the system and what we’re trying to do here. I think everybody needs to understand that. The transformation and what we’re trying to do here is build something for the future and these are the first steps of that. I don’t really come to you guys a lot and say two weeks, but I just want you guys to know that needs to be heard and said.

Here’s the latest from out West:

  • The Clippers are looking for a small forward and have interest in Rudy Gay, but their interest isn’t strong enough to obtain him, ESPN’s Chris Broussard says in a video report. Gay has been linked to the Clippers previously, as Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee wrote in January, but it wasn’t clear just how they viewed him. Dana Gauruder of Hoops Rumors profiled the trade candidacy of the Kings combo forward Monday.
  • Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook don’t have any trouble seeing eye-to-eye, sources tell Zach Lowe of ESPN.com as part of a larger piece on the Thunder. The team has been scanning the market for wing players but hasn’t made any serious pursuits, several league sources said to Lowe, who also hears that new coach Billy Donovan has been better at holding the team’s stars accountable during film sessions than predecessor Scott Brooks was.
  • The Nuggets don’t intend to sign Sean Kilpatrick for the remainder of the season, Nate Timmons of BSNDenver.com tweets. Kilpatrick’s second 10-day pact expired on Monday.

D-League Notes: Dunleavy, Dinwiddie, Harrison

The Bulls have assigned veteran small forward Mike Dunleavy to the D-League’s Santa Cruz Warriors as he continues to rehab from a back injury that has kept him out all season, the club announced on Monday. Dunleavy will practice there during the Bulls’ West Coast swing but will not appear in a game, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports tweets. The most prominent player to appear in a D-League game this season was Pistons point guard Brandon Jennings, who played one game with the team’s affiliate in Grand Rapids in December while rehabbing from an Achilles tendon injury.

In more news involving the D-League:

  • Pistons point guard Spencer Dinwiddie has averaged 16.7 points and 6.1 assists in 10 games since he was assigned to Grand Rapids on January 7th. But coach Stan Van Gundy has no plans to bring him back to Detroit in the near future. “Right now, with three healthy point guards, there’s not much reason to bring him back here and sit in street clothes out there,” Van Gundy told the assembled media over the weekend, including Hoops Rumors. “I think it’s better for his development that he gets a chance to play and practice every day.”
  • The Hornets reassigned rookie point guard Aaron Harrison to the D-League’s Oklahoma City Blue on Monday, the NBA club announced on its website. Harrison, who played one game with the Blue in January, has appeared in 13 games for Charlotte. The Hornets do not have their own D-League affiliate.
  • Hawks center Edy Tavares has returned from his D-League stint with the Austin Spurs, Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. Tavares was assigned to Austin on January 27th.
  • The Spurs recalled point guard Ray McCallum from Austin, the team tweets. McCallum has appeared in 20 games with San Antonio this season and seven with its D-League affiliate.
  • The Timberwolves recalled power forward Adreian Payne from the D-League’s Erie BayHawks, according to Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (Twitter link).  The team’s PR department later confirmed the move. Payne has appeared in 30 games with the Timberwolves and three with the BayHawks this season.

Western Notes: Pierce, Martin, Bass, Batum

The Clippers signed Paul Pierce to a three-year deal in the offseason, but the 38-year-old has shown the ravages of age this season, and coach/executive Doc Rivers admits the team’s maintenance plan for him isn’t foolproof, as Dan Woike of the Orange County Register examines. Pierce hasn’t ruled out retirement after the season.

“It has to be [hard for him],” Rivers said. “You could see he didn’t have great rhythm tonight and he didn’t practice and he takes the days off. Again, it’s an imperfect science. I think at the end of the year it will be great for him because now the rhythm will start and he’ll start playing, but I really don’t know. I’m just trying to do the best with him so we can preserve him.”

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Some teams with interest in trading with the Timberwolves for Kevin Martin would prefer that he picks up his player option worth nearly $7.378MM for next season, but a larger and more seriously intrigued bunch of teams wants him to turn down the option, as Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders hears. The same is true among suitors for Lakers power forward Brandon Bass, who has a $3.135MM player option, Kyler adds.
  • Soon-to-be free agent Nicolas Batum said after Friday’s game that he “loved” playing for the Trail Blazers, but Portland’s victory over the Hornets, in which Batum struggled, was in large measure about the Blazers moving past Batum and the other players the team didn’t bring back from last season, as The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman details. The Charlotte swingman was the last of the four former Blazers starters to play a game with his new team in Portland.
  • The Rockets have recalled Donatas Motiejunas and K.J. McDaniels from the D-League, the team announced (Twitter link). Motiejunas, set for restricted free agency at season’s end, gave his consent to the D-League trip as a rehab assignment, and he said he’ll again join Houston’s affiliate later in the week, notes Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston (on Twitter). Motiejunas has three previous years of experience, so the Rockets need his permission as well as the union’s to send him to the D-League.

Western Notes: Gay, Martin, Motiejunas

The Kings are holding out for a “quality young player” or someone whose contract runs beyond this season in return for Rudy Gay as they entertain offers for the combo forward, sources tell Marc Stein of ESPN.com. James Ham of CSNBayArea.com relayed earlier this evening that there is significant interest around the league regarding multiple players on Sacramento’s roster, including Gay and Marco Belinelli. While we await more trade rumblings, here are the latest happenings from out West:

  • The Timberwolves are demanding more in a Kevin Martin trade than a simple offloading of salary, Stein notes in the same piece. The Bucks, Mavericks, Bulls, Grizzlies and Kings have all reportedly expressed interest in Martin to some degree, as Hoops Rumors’ Chuck Myron noted when he examined the shooting guard’s trade candidacy.
  • Rockets power forward Donatas Motiejunas is slated to join the team’s D-League affiliate this weekend to continue rehabbing his injured back, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes. As a fourth-year player, both Motiejunas and the NBPA needed to give their permission for the big man to head to Rio Grande Valley, Feigen notes, something Motiejunas was more than willing to do. “I’m excited,” Motiejunas said about joining the Vipers. “I know that I need to go there. I know that’s what I want. For catching a rhythm, that’s the thing that I will like to go, catch my rhythm back, catch my game flow, get back into shape. I’m happy with it and just to go play, get my confidence back, is a really good decision by me and my agent to go there. I asked them to send me. I know it’s going to be much harder for me if I don’t go there and not get reps. Then I have to work into the rotation somehow and maintain my condition. I really think it’s the best solution for me to go to the D-League, check on my body, get high minutes, get in a rhythm, get in a game shape and be ready to play.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Northwest Notes: Batum, Malone, Singler

Nicolas Batum‘s former Trail Blazers teammates Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have fond memories of the small forward whom Portland traded to the Hornets this past summer, and Batum admits it will be “weird” Friday when Charlotte plays at Portland, The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman observes. Batum is a free agent at season’s end, and the Blazers will have plenty of cap space this summer, but there’s been no talk of a reunion.

“He was a really good teammate,” Lillard said. “I always remember my rookie year and my second year, when it would get to five minutes or less in the game, he would always come tap me on my back and be like, ‘Dame, it’s your time. Take over the game.’ Just being so young and having somebody who’s been a part of this team come to me and have that much confidence, that always meant a lot to me. He was always that type of person. He was unselfish. Just a good dude to play with.”

See more from the Northwest Division:

  • Michael Malone still stings from having been fired from the Kings in 2014, but he’s fully engaged with the Nuggets and he and former Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro, who was Malone’s boss at the time of the firing and is now in the Nuggets front office, don’t feel any “angst or hate” toward one another, Malone tells Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports.
  • Thunder coach Billy Donovan has said repeatedly that he’s a fan of what Kyle Singler can do on defense with his 6’8″ body, and the absence of the injured Andre Roberson will challenge Singler to live up to the five-year, $24.3MM deal he signed this past summer, observes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman.
  • Tyus Jones hasn’t played in 12 consecutive games for the Timberwolves, but he’s not complaining, and he prefers sitting on the bench and getting practice reps with his NBA teammates to playing on D-League assignment, as Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune details. The rookie spent much of December with the Jazz D-League affiliate.

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