Minnesota Timberwolves Rumors

Minnesota Timberwolves trade, free agent, and draft rumors, updated constantly by the NBA experts at HoopsRumors.com.

Northwest Notes: Shaw, Neal, Billups

March 4 at 4:11pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders continues to assert that Gary Neal is a part of the franchise’s future, Kent Youngblood of The Star Tribune writes. “We traded for him and everybody — all the experts — thought we were going to buy him out,” Saunders said. “And I said we weren’t. We traded for him. We thought he was a good player and we thought he might have a future. We thought we’d bring him in, let him play with our guys and see how he would blend in.”  Neal will become an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

Here’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Now that the deadline has passed for players to reach buyout arrangements and still be eligible to appear in the playoffs for a new team, Neal is staying positive about his situation in Minnesota, Youngblood adds. “I’m a basketball player and Flip has given me an opportunity to come in here and play,” said Neal. “I don’t have any complaints. The way the team is set up, with K-Mart [Kevin Martin] being out tonight, your role can change from day to day. All you ask for is an opportunity to come in and play, and Flip has been fair with me on that.
  • Brian Shaw is better off no longer coaching a petulant group of Nuggets, opines Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post. The problem extends to the front office, as Kiszla argues in a separate column, suggesting it would be difficult for any coach to succeed in Denver.
  • The Nuggets should consider hiring former NBA player Chauncey Billups as their next coach, Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post opines. Billups, who has expressed some level of interest in a front office position now that his playing career has ended, is not as old school a personality as Shaw was, which would be a more ideal fit with Denver’s current group of players, Hochman adds.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

And-Ones: Griffin, McGee, Dragic, Garnett

March 2 at 10:11pm CST By Charlie Adams

Clippers forward Blake Griffin could return as early as Sunday’s game against Golden State, Arash Markazi of ESPN.com tweets. Clippers coach Doc Rivers said Griffin is running “full tilt” and participating in shooting drills, Markazi adds. Griffin has been sidelined since early February with a staph infection in his right elbow and was expected to miss four-to-six weeks. We’ll round up more from the league below..

  • Waiving JaVale McGee, who has one year and $12MM remaining on his contract, is a good indicator the Sixers will not pursue any top free agents next season, Tom Moore of Calkin Media tweets. McGee was released by Philadelphia on Monday, meaning he’ll still have the opportunity to sign with a playoff contender.
  • Suns management believes that Goran Dragic‘s representatives spent part of the All-Star break convincing the point guard to push Phoenix into trading him, according to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. The BDA Sports client nonetheless insists his motives were his own, as Coro notes.
  • Doc Rivers called Kevin Garnett‘s allegiance to the Timberwolves “almost nutty loyalty,” recalling that KG twice held up being traded to Boston during his first stint playing in Minnesota since he didn’t want it to appear he was “bailing” on the Wolves. Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press has the full story.
  • The 2014/15 season has been a memorable one for the Knicks, but not for the right reasons. Still, Derek Fisher is confident that New York will have a chance to lure quality free agents this summer, as Fred Kerber of the New York Post details.

Dana Gauruder contributed to this post.

Financial Impact Of Deadline Trades: Northwest

March 2 at 10:05am CST By Chuck Myron

Last week’s trade deadline was a dizzying affair, with 39 players and 17 teams involved in a dozen trades, including a trio of three-team transactions. The day had wide-ranging effects on the salary structures of those 17 teams, and we’ll examine the aftermath for each of them in this multipart series.

We’ll conclude the series today with a look at the Northwest Division, the busiest division on deadline day, with all five teams making at least one swap. The salary figures listed below denote this season’s salaries, though we’ll also discuss salary for future seasons.

Denver Nuggets

In: ($5,963,603)

Out: ($19,665,243)

The specter of the Sixers allowing an opposing team to offload a player with an eight-figure salary into their cap space loomed all season long, but it wasn’t until deadline day that it happened. The Nuggets not only reaped salary relief, for this season and next, from trading JaVale McGee to Philadelphia. They were able to create a powerful trade exception worth McGee’s $11.25MM salary that they can use anytime between the end of the regular season and next year’s trade deadline to find a player, or players, more productive than McGee proved during his time in Denver.

Trade exceptions can also be used to create other trade exceptions, an act of essentially rolling them over from one year to the next. That appears to be what the Nuggets did to allow themselves to create a new, $7.5MM exception equivalent to Arron Afflalo‘s salary, as Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders estimates (Twitter link) and shows on his Nuggets salary page. They took Thomas Robinson‘s salary into the $4.65MM trade exception they created in January for Timofey Mozgov, reducing its value to $971,640, Pincus tweets. That took care of the largest incoming salary, and Denver took advantage of its last chance to use two other exceptions for the rest of the salary it took on from Portland. Victor Claver‘s salary fit neatly into the $1,659,080 Andre Miller trade exception, as Pincus notes on Twitter. Will Barton is making the minimum salary but couldn’t fit into the minimum-salary exception since he’s on a three-year pact. However, he was a fit for the $1,169,880 Jordan Hamilton exception. That allows the Nuggets to create a trade exception for Gee’s $915,243 salary, as Pincus shows. Thus, Denver used two expiring exceptions to create two new exceptions for Afflalo and Gee that won’t expire until next year’s deadline.

Of course, whether any of the McGee, Afflalo or Gee exceptions still exist at next year’s deadline depends in part on whether the Nuggets remain an over-the-cap team in the offseason, a proposition that seems less likely after Thursday’s trades. The excising of McGee left a $12MM hole in Denver’s 2015/16 commitments, and the team no longer has Afflalo’s $7.5MM player option to contend with. Robinson and Claver, both of whom have since been waived, were on expiring contracts, and the same is true of Barton. The Nuggets have about $48MM in commitments for next season, about $20MM beneath the projected salary cap. That doesn’t count Jameer Nelson‘s nearly $2.855MM player option, the team’s likely lottery pick, and more than $2MM in roster charges, since the team only has seven fully guaranteed contracts, so the Nuggets would have trouble offering the max to anyone but restricted free agents. Still, there are enough tempting 2015 free agents to make it a strong possibility that GM Tim Connelly renounces his exceptions and uses cap space for a significant signing or two.

For now, those exceptions are all that keep the Nuggets from having immediate cap space. Their team salary dipped below the $56.759MM minimum team salary when Philadelphia claimed Robinson off waivers and wiped his salary figure from Denver’s cap. Normally, a team in Denver’s position would cheer such a move, since it saves the Nuggets from paying out the remainder of Robinson’s salary. But the final two months of paychecks due Robinson would have been a cheaper cost than having to pay the difference between their team salary and the minimum salary line to the players on their roster at season’s end, which is the penalty for failing to meet the salary floor. The Nuggets have already paid most of Robinson’s $3,678,360, but those payments no longer count toward their team salary, since Robinson’s full number instead applies to the Sixers, pushing them over that same minimum salary line. Denver could claim another player off waivers just as Philadelphia did, but the Nuggets are operating over the cap because of the value of their exceptions, so they’d either have to renounce them or use one of them to accommodate the waiver claim, neither of which they’re likely to do.

Minnesota Timberwolves

In: ($12,000,000)

Out: ($9,410,869)

The Timberwolves made a pair of trades about a week before the deadline, but the one they made on deadline day was far more about intangibles than salary. They took on salary for this year, to be sure, but the more than $2.5MM gap between the salaries for Kevin Garnett and Thaddeus Young isn’t quite so pronounced, since each only has a few more paychecks to go. The Nets already paid the lion’s share of Garnett’s salary, as the Wolves did with Young’s. Minnesota swallows Garnett’s entire cap figure, but that matters little, since the team was over the cap but nowhere near the luxury tax threshold, and that’s still the case post-trade with a team salary of about $67.5MM.

Minnesota reportedly wants to sign Garnett to a two-year deal this summer, and he’s expected to fulfill that request, so that mitigates the potential savings the team reaped when it unloaded Young and his nearly $9.972MM player option. However, it’s uncertain just what sort of salary Garnett would end up with. It’s quite conceivable that he’d give the Timberwolves a break and allow them to pay him significantly less than Young would have made on his option. It’s just as conceivable that he’d insist on a salary similar to his $12MM pay from this season, and that the Wolves would give it to him.

So, it’s unclear whether the trade will end up a net gain or loss of salary flexibility for the Wolves, who have about $51MM committed for 2015/16, not counting Chase Budinger‘s $5MM player option and what will almost certainly be a high lottery pick. The team probably wouldn’t have had a chance to open enough cap space to be a major player on the free agent market even if it hadn’t traded Young and he’d opted out, so the deal to bring in Garnett makes financial sense. Young could have left Minnesota without the cap flexibility to adequately replace him if he’d opted out, but Garnett seems more willing to commit to the team that Young had been. There’s a decent chance the real financial after-effects of the deal won’t be felt until 2016, when Garnett’s would-be two-year deal stands to take up space just when rival teams are clearing the decks for when the league’s TV deal drives the salary cap up to a projected $90MM.

Oklahoma City Thunder

In: ($13,230,621)

Out: ($13,536,598)

A divorce between the Thunder and Reggie Jackson seemed inevitable. The same was probably true of Enes Kanter and the Jazz, so Oklahoma City swapped one discontented soon-to-be free agent for another. The Thunder nonetheless paid a price. They took on $6.75MM in guaranteed salary for 2015/16 to Steve Novak and D.J. Augustin for next season and gave up only $947,276, Grant Jerrett‘s salary for next season. Oklahoma City emerges with more than $78.3MM already committed for next season against a projected $81MM tax line, and that doesn’t include a new deal for Kanter.

The Thunder’s willingness to use trade exceptions to bring on any significant additional salary from here forward is questionable, but it nonetheless appears the team was able to create a new trade exception equivalent to Reggie Jackson‘s $2,204,369 salary. One of its existing trade exceptions facilitates this, though Oklahoma City narrowly missed out on an opportunity to reap a new Jackson exception without using one it already had on the books. The outgoing salaries of Kendrick Perkins and Jerrett come to $10,470,824, meaning that the Thunder, a taxpaying team, could absorb 125% plus $100K of that amount in incoming salary. That comes to $13,188,530, agonizingly close to the $13,230,621 worth of incoming salary involved in the deal.

Still, the use of either the $1.25MM Hasheem Thabeet exception or the $915,243 Lance Thomas exception to absorb Kyle Singler‘s salary would fit the bill. No reports have indicated which one the Thunder used, but the assumption here is that they would use the Thabeet exception, since it expires much sooner and there’s only a negligible difference between its value and the that of the Thomas exception. In either case, hiding Singler’s salary in an existing trade exception lowers the rest of Oklahoma City’s incoming salary within the 125% plus $100K range of Perkins’ and Jerrett’s salaries, so Jackson’s salary can go out by itself. Thus, the Thunder could create that Jackson trade exception if they so desired.

The Thunder’s other trade was quite simple, with Ish Smith the only currently rostered player involved. Offloading him allows the Thunder to create a small trade exception for his $861,405 prorated minimum salary. More significantly, the deal allows Oklahoma City to save close to $1.225MM in taxes on Smith in addition to his salary, and it gives the Thunder a net savings instead of a net cost from their deadline-day activity, at least in terms of this season. Of course, the true cost lies ahead.

Portland Trail Blazers

In: ($8,665,243)

Out: ($5,963,603)

Your eyes don’t deceive you, and that’s not a typo. Arron Afflalo‘s incoming salary for the Blazers is different from the outgoing salary listed for him in the Nuggets ledger above. That’s because the $250K in bonus money that he gets if his team makes the playoffs went from an unlikely incentive to a likely one, as Pincus pointed out. Likely incentives are a part of a player’s cap figure while unlikely ones are not, and so from Portland’s perspective, he’s a slightly more expensive player, while the Nuggets were able to create a trade exception only for the cap figure he represented to them.

This bit of accounting costs the Blazers a chance to create a trade exception, assuming the deal would have been constructed the same way in a world where Afflalo doesn’t have a playoff bonus. Portland is over the cap but under the tax, so it can absorb as much as 150% plus $100K of what it gives up. Afflalo’s Denver salary would fit within 150% plus $100K of the salaries of Thomas Robinson and Victor Claver, but his bonus-inclusive Portland salary would not. So, Portland had to add Will Barton‘s salary to the equation rather than send it out by itself. If Barton hadn’t been needed for matching purposes, the Blazers could have slipped Gee’s salary into the minimum-salary exception and created a $915,243 trade exception equivalent to Barton’s salary. Of course, it seems just as logical to suspect that neither Barton nor Gee would be involved in the trade if Afflalo didn’t have a bonus, since the deal would work without them in that case, so it’s quite possible Portland wouldn’t have ended up with a trade exception either way.

Blazers GM Neil Olshey probably isn’t losing sleep over that would-be element, and there probably isn’t too much for him to fear regarding Afflalo’s player option. The Nuggets reportedly expected that Afflalo would command $9-10MM annually in his next deal, figures that would no doubt entice the shooting guard to turn down that $7.75MM option for next season. Even if he opts in, the Blazers would still have only about $30.8MM committed for 2015/16, giving them flexibility to pivot should they lose any of the three members of their starting five who are due for free agency this summer.

Utah Jazz

In: ($10,470,824)

Out ($9,140,621)

Salary seemed to factor little into the Jazz’s thinking in their deal, which among other assets gave the team a protected 2017 first-rounder and the rights to 7’2″ draft-and-stash center Tibor Pleiss, whom Utah appeared close to signing shortly after the trade. Those Pleiss talks hit a snag, but the Jazz are clearly focused on the future, and it seems likely the sides will discuss a contract again, and perhaps this summer, when the Jazz only have about $47MM earmarked for 2015/16. The Jazz arrived at that figure having offloaded Steve Novak‘s $3.75MM guaranteed 2015/16 salary in exchange for Grant Jerrett‘s $947,276 guarantee for next season, a net savings of nearly $2.803MM.

Kendrick Perkins, whom the Jazz have already waived in a buyout deal, and Kanter both had expiring contracts, but the continued presence of Kanter would have complicated Utah’s flexibility even if he was destined to play elsewhere, since, unless Utah renounced his rights and gave up leverage to make a sign-and-trade, Kanter’s cap hold would have been stuck on the books. Perkins’ cap hold, like his contract itself, is already gone, and while the Jazz could have made the same happen with Kanter, GM Dennis Lindsey and company surely would have held out to try to find some way of recouping at least a modicum of value for the former No. 3 overall pick.

The Jazz instead found an palatable return for Kanter at the deadline, and they saved money for next season while doing so. Plus, it didn’t cost the team much in salary for this season, if anything at all, depending on how much Perkins gave up in his buyout.

The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

Northwest Notes: Garnett, Neal, Nuggets, Burks

March 1 at 10:49am CST By Arthur Hill

Kevin Garnett has a future with the Timberwolves as a player if he wants it, but probably not as an owner, writes Sid Hartman of The Star Tribune. Owner Glen Taylor stressed that the team is not for sale, although there is speculation that he and other owners are waiting to see what price the Hawks fetch before going forward with sale plans. The Wolves were valued at $625MM in a recent list by Forbes Magazine. Taylor said he hopes Garnett’s playing career doesn’t end this season. “I feel like if he feels healthy and strong and wants to, I would like to have him come back next year and play with this team,” the owner said. “I just think he would be a great asset.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The arrival of March 1 means no playoffs for Gary Neal, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities. Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders has rejected all buyout attempts by Neal’s representatives, Wolfson reports. Players must be waived by today in order to sign with another team and be eligible for this year’s playoffs. Neal was traded from the Hornets to the Wolves last month in exchange for Mo Williams and Troy Daniels.
  • Keeping the Nuggets focused through the remainder of a lost season is the biggest challenge facing coach Brian Shaw, according to Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. Shaw was searching for answers after Friday’s 22-point loss to the Jazz“I’m frustrated in myself because I feel that I need to figure out a way to do a better job at trying to get that out of us, get that hustle and those kinds of plays and to play with more of a sense of urgency, play with more tenacity,” he said.
  • Alec Burks can’t play or practice with the Jazz, but that hasn’t prevented him from staying part of the team, reports Jody Genessy of The Deseret News. Burks, sidelined with a shoulder injury, accompanied the Jazz on a recent trip to Denver and is helping the team prepare for games. “It’s really good that he’s here, that he’s with us,”  coach Quin Snyder said. “He wants to be with us. He’s in the film sessions.”

Western Notes: Rondo, Lakers, Harden

February 26 at 8:14pm CST By Dana Gauruder

Rick Carlisle and Rajon Rondo have begun to take steps to repair their relationship, according to Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. The Mavs coach and veteran point guard held a lengthy meeting to iron out their differences, most of which involved play-calling responsibilities, Sefko continues. Rondo, an unrestricted free agent following the season, was benched after a heated exchange with Carlisle in Tuesday’s win over Toronto and was suspended for Wednesday’s loss to Atlanta. Even if their relationship improves, Rondo’s stay with the Mavs is extremely unlikely to extend past this season, Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com opines.

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • Kobe Bryant, in a one-on-one interview with Sam Amick of USA Today, said that superstar players are unwilling to leave millions of dollars on the table to sign with the Lakers. Bryant added that it was unrealistic to believe All-Stars like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony would sign with the Lakers last summer at less than the maximum salary at this stage of their careers and the franchise would run into the same problem with other free agents in the future, Amick notes.
  • The Rockets have become over-reliant on James Harden because of their failure to acquire a top-notch point guard, Fran Blinebury of NBA.com contends. Harden might wear down by the postseason and the Rockets could have eased the burden on him by acquiring a player like ex-Rocket Goran Dragic before the trade deadline, Blinebury adds.
  • Kevin Gar­nett could remain with the Timber­wolves organization as a team executive even if he does not become part owner of the franchise after his playing career is over, according to Sid Hartman of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Garnett was traded by the Nets to his original team last week and though Garnett has not made any commitment beyond this season, Garnett says in the story that he plans on being there beyond the next year or two.

Northwest Notes: Garnett, Barton, Nelson

February 25 at 1:31pm CST By Chuck Myron

Kevin Garnett called the Timberwolves the only team for which he would have waived his no-trade clause this year, as Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune writes amid his story on Garnett’s welcome-home press conference Tuesday. The 20th-year veteran also indicated his belief that he can overcome any hard feelings toward Wolves owner Glen Taylor that stem from Garnett’s parting with the franchise in 2007.

“You know what, throughout time, I’ve understood that you have to forgive and forget,” Garnett said. “I obviously won’t forget certain things, but it’s time to move on. … Glen and I always had an understanding. I wouldn’t have come back if the relationship was to the point where it’s not reachable. I’m looking forward to this opportunity and I’m embracing this change.

Taylor was absent from the press conference, but it was a simple scheduling conflict, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter link). Here’s more on a few Northwest Division players who recently relocated:

  • Will Barton relishes his increased minutes since the deadline trade that sent him from Portland to Denver, and Brian Shaw is impressed with the shooting guard who reminds the Nuggets coach of Corey Brewer, as Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post relays. Barton is poised for restricted free agency this summer.
  • Jameer Nelson likes being in Denver and playing for a Nuggets team that he believes wants him around after he was part of two trades in less than a month, as he tells Jessica Camerato of Basketball Insiders. Several teams had reportedly hoped that he and Denver would do a buyout deal, but Denver would apparently like to keep him not just for this season but for next year, too. Nelson has a player option worth nearly $2.855MM.
  • Arron Afflalo‘s relationship with Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey predates last week’s trade that sent Afflalo to Portland, and the shooting guard already had ties to some of his new Blazer teammates, too, as fellow Basketball Insiders scribe Alex Kennedy points out. Afflalo also has a player option for next season, worth $7.75MM.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Clark, Garnett

February 24 at 8:13pm CST By Eddie Scarito

The Sixers waiver claim of Thomas Robinson will drop the Nuggets to approximately $2.6MM beneath the NBA’s salary floor, Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com reports (Twitter link). This means that Denver would have to pay its players the difference between their team salary and the league’s minimum amount if the team doesn’t raise its payroll above the salary floor prior to the end of the season.

Here’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Jazz have assigned Ian Clark to the Idaho Stampede, their D-League affiliate, the team has announced. This will be Clark’s first trek of the season to Idaho.
  • At the press conference welcoming Kevin Garnett back to the Wolves, Garnett discussed what led him to waive his no trade clause so that he could return to Minnesota, David Aldridge of NBA.com tweets. Garnett said, “I figured if LeBron James can go home, [expletive], why can’t I?
  • Garnett relayed that he had no desire to become a coach when his playing career was over, Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun tweets. “Heeeeell no. A coach is what I won’t be … you can’t pay me enough to coach,” Garnett said.
  • The veteran big man says that he is in it for the long haul with the Wolves, Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press relays (Twitter link). Garnett says he wants to become part of Minnesota’s ownership and help the team claim an NBA title.
  • Garnett declined to commit to playing beyond this season, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders notes (Twitter link). KG said that he would listen to what his body tells him and seek his family’s input before deciding his future, Kyler adds.
  • The BlazersSteve Blake said that he plans to exercise his player option for 2015/16 worth $2,170,465, and that he is hoping to play another “year or two” after that, Jabari Young of CSNNW.com writes. “I’ve thought about it for sure,” said Blake of retirement. “I know I’m in the back stretch, that’s why it’s so important for us to be so good. I want a championship really bad and I’m hoping we can get to that level. I only have a few years left to try and get it.”

Northwest Notes: Garnett, Mitchell, Claver, Kanter

February 23 at 11:03pm CST By Arthur Hill

The Rockets’ Jason Terry believes Kevin Garnett will make an immediate impact with the Wolves, reports Jenny Dial Creech of The Houston Chronicle. Garnett, a star with Minnesota for more than a decade, was reacquired Thursday in a trade deadline deal. He may not see much playing time, but he is expected to have a strong influence over the Wolves’ young players. “He will infuse discipline right away,” said Terry, who teamed with Garnett with both the Celtics and Nets. “Guys will come in and they are going to be expected to be professional at all times and I think learning from KG the last two seasons in Brooklyn and in Boston, I learned how to be a better leader myself, even in my 16th year in the league.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Some expect that Timberwolves assistant coach Sam Mitchell will succeed Flip Saunders as Minnesota’s head coach, according to Sam Smith of Bulls.com. Mitchell reportedly interviewed for the head job last summer.
  • After a week that saw him get both traded and waived, Victor Claver got some advice from a former teammate on the Spanish national team, the Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol, writes Jabari Young of CSNNW.com. Claver was part of a five-player deal on Thursday that sent him from the Blazers to the Nuggets, but on Sunday he was waived by Denver. “He needed a change from [Portland]” Gasol said. “I don’t think he expected to get waived from Denver, but that’s part of the game.” Gasol’s advice was to stay aggressive and look for an opening where he can fit in. One possibility for Claver is a return to the Euroleague, where he played before coming to Portland.
  • Enes Kanter gives the Thunder the inside scoring presence they’ve needed for years, writes Dave Leonardis of Bleacher Report. Kanter came to Oklahoma City from the Jazz in a three-team deal just before last Thursday’s deadline. Kanter was inserted into the starting lineup and delivered two straight double-doubles in wins over the Hornets and Nuggets.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Northwest Notes: Garnett, Wolves, Blazers

February 22 at 5:55pm CST By Chris Crouse

Kevin Garnett is expected to sign a two-year deal with the Wolves this offseason and during his new contract, Garnett and Wolves President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders are expected to try and form a group to buy the team from owner Glen Taylor, writes Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press. During his 20 seasons in the NBA, Garnett has amassed more than $325MM in salaries alone while Saunders has made an estimated $40MM during his 17 seasons as an NBA coach.

Here’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Garnett will have his greatest impact on the Wolves during practices, writes Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune. Anthony Bennett and Adreian Payne seem likely to benefit the most from having the veteran around. “Those two, they’ll be able to take more on the court from KG,” assistant coach Ryan Saunders said. “The things he does, the little nuances he knows, they’ll see the ultimate professional.”
  • New addition Arron Afflalo was ecstatic about the trade that sent him to Blazers, writes Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. The shooting guard believes the Blazers have a real chance to “contend for a championship.” The team believes both Afflalo and Alonzo Gee can help boost its bench unit. “Both guys have been in the league long enough that they know what teams do, it’s just a matter of understanding how we do things,” coach Terry Stotts said. “There will be some time to find a comfort zone, but … I  think I have a good feel for who they are as players and what they can do. There’ll be a learning curve for all of us, but hopefully the system that we play fits what they do and they’ll flourish in it.”
  • Alonzo Gee hopes to make his impact on defense with the Blazers, writes Jabari Young of CSNNW.com. Gee, who has a reputation of being one of the more underrated defenders in the league, admits he will be move motivated playing for a team that has championship goals. “It does change how you look at every game,” Gee said. “Every game counts. You got to go out and try you best to help the team out as well.”

Gary Neal To Push For Buyout

February 21 at 6:37pm CST By Chuck Myron

FEBRUARY 21ST, 6:37pm: The Timberwolves have no plans for a buyout with Neal, sources tell Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The season-ending injury to Shabazz Muhammad has no bearing on Minnesota’s thinking, Wojnarowski adds.

FEBRUARY 20TH, 9:35am: Saunders indicated that he remains disinclined to do a buyout, as Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune relays. “I’m not into buyouts,” Saunders said. “I’m not into paying a guy to play for someone else. It has to make sense for the team, not just the player.” To be clear, Neal would by definition be the party relinquishing money in a buyout, though Minnesota would still have to pay whatever remains on his contract, even if he hooks up with a new team.

5:42pm: The Wizards would have interest in Neal if he were to become a free agent, J. Michael of CSNWashington.com reports (Twitter link). Washington has an open roster spot it could use to add Neal, Michael adds.

4:21pm: The Bulls also have interest in Neal should he reach a buyout deal, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link).

FEBRUARY 19TH, 11:38am: Neal wants a trade to a playoff team, and the Hawks remain one of four or five postseason-bound clubs with interest in trading for him, reports Ken Berger of CBSSports.com (Twitter links). He will indeed push for a buyout if there’s no trade, Berger adds (Twitter link).

6:38pm: The Wolves are trying to include Chase Budinger in any trade involving Neal, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports (Twitter link).

FEBRUARY 18TH, 4:09pm: Neal continues to prefer either a trade or a buyout rather than remaining in Minnesota, Chris Mannix Of SI.com reports (Twitter link). Atlanta remains interested in Neal, Mannix adds.

FEBRUARY 13TH, 1:08pm: There’s a significant level of interest in Neal around the league, and the Hawks are among the teams that would like to sign him, but substantive buyout talks between the Relativity Sports client and the Wolves have yet to take place, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.

9:12pm: Neal and his representatives will make a push to reach a buyout deal with the Wolves, in spite of Minnesota’s preference he remain on the roster for the remainder of the season, Wolfson tweets.

3:38pm: The Wolves have no plans to arrange a buyout with Neal, Wolves coach/executive Flip Saunders told reporters, including Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune (Twitter link). Instead, Saunders said he insisted on receiving a shooter in the deal with the Hornets, Zgoda notes, though Neal has slumped from behind the arc this year, as I noted (below).

12:40pm: Minnesota is looking at either a buyout or another trade involving Neal, Charania now says (on Twitter).

FEBRUARY 10TH, 12:22pm: The Wolves plan to explore a buyout with Gary Neal after having acquired him from the Hornets this afternoon, reports Shams Charania of RealGM (Twitter link) Charania previously reported that the team would look for ways to flip the guard (Twitter link), but his latest dispatch indicates that Minnesota won’t do that. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities first raised the possibility that Neal would push for a buyout (on Twitter). In any case, the Wolves have plans for the roster spot that today’s trade opened up, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press, adding that he’s heard that spot should be filled by day’s end.

Neal, 30, is making $3.25MM in the final season of a two-year contract that he signed in 2013 with the Bucks, who shipped him to the Hornets a year ago. He’s a client of Dan Fegan’s Relativity Sports, an agency with multiple Timberwolves clients, as Wolfson points out (Twitter link).

The fifth-year veteran is experiencing his worst three-point shooting season so far, nailing just 29.3%. He was a 39.4% three-point shooter during his first four seasons of action, and that skill led Charlotte to acquire him at last year’s deadline. Neal has averaged 9.6 points in 21.7 minutes per game across 43 appearances this season.