Minnesota Timberwolves

Wolves’ Flip Saunders On Love, Garnett, Bennett

Before the D-League, there was the Continental Basketball Association.  Like the D-League, the CBA gave a platform to some of the less-heralded players out there to show their stuff and earn NBA deals.  In the case of Flip Saunders, the CBA was a springboard to a successful NBA coaching career.  This week, the head coach/president of basketball operations/part owner of the Timberwolves spoke with Zach Lowe of Grantland about Kevin Love, Kevin Garnett, his journey, and much more.  Here’s a look at some of the highlights..

On Kevin Love:

I didn’t have a problem keeping Kevin into the final year of his deal and coaching him. Guys just don’t turn down the extra year and $30MM. Even though he maybe wanted to leave, I thought we still had an opportunity to re-sign him. When you are patient, you can say, ‘This is what we need to get something done, and if we don’t get it, we’re keeping him.’

Then things kind of fell into place, with LeBron going to Cleveland and [Andrew] Wiggins becoming available…People thought it was [bluster when I said I wanted to keep him]. Thoughts might have changed when I announced I would coach. Because what coach wouldn’t want to coach a guy who was All-NBA? Coaches want to win that night. I’m in a unique situation, because as the coach, I live in the present, but as the GM, I look into the future. I try to steer both courses. But people believed I would coach the guy.

On balancing roles and whether he watches college game film to scout draft prospects: 

I do watch a lot, actually. You also have to trust people you hire. I’ve been in the league for 18 years. I have an understanding of players. I have a wide base of college coaches I talk to, so I know a lot about guys before they even come into the league. Look, there are positives and negatives to it. You need checks and balances. You can’t make snap decisions. What helps is, I came up in the CBA, where you did everything. I was president, GM, coach, everything, for seven years there. You get to understand the intermingling of the business and basketball sides, because they both have to be successful. You learn how to deal with agents. Building trust with agents is as important as anything in our league now.

On Kevin Garnett‘s role:

He’s gonna start. That’s who he is. KG is a starter. He’s the best power forward on our team, actually. No one rebounds better. He’s the best help defender. No one communicates better. He knows the offense, and he can pass it. 

On whether he’ll exercise Anthony Bennett‘s fourth-year option:

We’re going to evaluate him over the summer. He played a good Pan American Games. There is no question about his talent. It’s about getting in shape. He’s in shape now. But it’s going to be competitive with all those guys, and also Nemanja Bjelica, who no one talks about.

Wolves Notes: LaVine, Miller, Garnett

The staff at ESPN.com ran down a number of topics for the upcoming NBA season, including a debate on who the top breakthrough player will be, and J.A. Adande chose Wolves youngster Zach LaVine.  LaVine, he feels, will go from a guy known just for his dunks into someone who will be recognized as a legitimate player.  The Wolves made LaVine a full-time starter for the final stretch of is rookie year and he averaged roughly 20 points, 6 assists, and 5 boards in that time.  Here’s more on the Wolves..

  • Former Nets exec Bobby Marks (on Twitter) opined that if he were a young player, he would want to join up with the Wolves to play with Kevin Garnett and Andre Miller.  The Wolves signed Miller on Wednesday, presumably in large part because of his basketball IQ and the wisdom he can impart on the team’s younger players.  Before signing Miller, Marks notes (on Twitter) that the Wolves had the eighth-youngest team in the NBA at an average of about 25 years old.  Nine of those Wolves players are under the age of 25.
  • Wolves coach/exec Flip Saunders may still add another veteran between now and the start of the season, Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press tweets.
  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star-Tribune (on Twitter) also believes that the Wolves could add another vet to their young roster.  Another roster move involving Damjan Rudez or Anthony Bennett could make room for a free agent signing, Zgoda says.
  • Miller “was sold on the direction of the [Wolves] and the veteran leadership he could provide,” agent Andy Miller told Krawczynski (on Twitter).

Wolves To Sign Andre Miller

6:09pm: Miller will receive a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum, according to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter).  He adds that Miller goes back with T’Wolves assistant Ryan Saunders from their time together with the Wizards.

5:55pm: The Wolves have signed guard Andre Miller, according to Shams Charania of RealGM (on Twitter).  The terms of the deal have yet to be reported.

Miller, 39, began the season with the Wizards as a backup for John Wall but a February trade sent him out west to the Kings.  Coach George Karl was known to be fond of Miller and pushed the front office to make the deal.  Shortly after going from the nation’s capital to California’s capital, Miller indicated that he would be interested in re-signing.  Team exec Vlade Divac said recently that the Kings were in touch with Miller, but for one reason or another, that reunion did not take place.

In 81 games last season, Miller averaged 4.4 PPG and 3.5 APG in 15.5 minutes per contest.  The well-traveled Miller is now set to join his eighth team as he enters his 17th season in the league.

Justin Hamilton Signs To Play In Spain

Two-year NBA veteran center Justin Hamilton has signed with Valencia Basket of Spain, the team announced (translation via Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia). The Suns were close to making Hamilton a partially guaranteed offer last week, as Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities heard, but by that point it seemed Valencia was already zeroing in, as Paco Garcia Caridad of the Spanish outlet Marca reported 10 days ago that the team was nearing a deal with the 25-year-old.

Hamilton ended this past season with the Timberwolves, who gave him his first opportunity for significant playing time in the NBA. He averaged 9.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 24.9 minutes per game across 17 appearances for Minnesota, nine of them starts. The Wolves had claimed him off waivers from the Pelicans, who released him a couple of weeks after acquiring him from the Heat in the three-team Goran Dragic trade.

Still, Minnesota elected not to make Hamilton, the 45th overall pick from 2012, a qualifying offer worth only slightly more than $1.147MM. He’ll head back overseas, where he spent the 2012/13 season playing for KK Cibona in Croatia and Latvia’s VEF Riga.

Will Hamilton return to the NBA at some point? Leave a comment to let us know what you think.

Northwest Notes: Marshall, Blazers, Thunder

Coach/executive Flip Saunders said the Wolves have had no conversations with Kendall Marshall, tweets Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press. Minnesota has been rumored to have interest in the free agent guard, whose 2014/15 season was cut short by an ACL tear.

There’s more this evening from the Northwest Division:

  • It wasn’t entirely by choice, but the Blazers are adopting a youth movement this offseason to build for the future, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Faced with the reality that free agent LaMarcus Aldridge might depart, Portland began targeting young talent. The team signed Ed Davis, Al-Farouq Aminu, Phil Pressey and Cliff Alexander, and traded for Maurice Harkless, Mason Plumlee and Noah Vonleh. Add in draftee Pat Connaughton and there are a lot of fresh, young faces on Portland’s roster. “I know for myself and the coaching staff, it’s going to be a fun year,” said coach Terry Stotts. “There’s a lot of young talent and I think it’s really exciting for them. We’ve got a lot of guys who are looking for the opportunity to get more playing time and show what they can do in the league.”
  • Andre Roberson could be cut out of the Thunder’s rotation entirely if he fails to win a starting job, speculates beat writer Anthony Slater in a roundtable for The Oklahoman. Slater’s theory is that if Dion Waiters or Anthony Morrow is the starter, Roberson’s role on the second unit could be seized by Cameron Payne or Kyle Singler. Roberson is slated to earn more than $1.2MM next season, with a team option for nearly $2.2MM in 2016/17.
  • The Thunder didn’t make any flashy offseason player acquisitions, but they shouldn’t be overlooked as contenders, writes Zach Harper of CBSSports.com. Oklahoma City’s major moves were the hiring of coach Billy Donovan and the re-signing of Enes Kanter and Singler, but an injury-free year from Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka would put the Thunder back in the title race.

Timberwolves Eye Kendall Marshall

Chatter is connecting the Timberwolves to former 13th overall pick Kendall Marshall, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter link). It’s unclear whether the team or Marshall’s camp initiated the talk, but Minnesota is nonetheless keeping an eye on the Alex Saratsis client, Wolfson adds.

Marshall tore his right ACL in January while playing for the Bucks, who had taken the unusual step of guaranteeing his non-guaranteed salary before the season, more than two months before they had to. Milwaukee sent him to the Suns via trade after the injury, and Phoenix released him, with his contract set to expire before he would be healthy enough to return to the court. It was a hard-luck year for Marshall, who blossomed in a 54-game stint with the Lakers in 2013/14, when he averaged 8.8 assists per game. The Lakers waived him last summer to make room for their amnesty claim of Carlos Boozer, allowing the Bucks to scoop him up.

Wolves coach/executive Flip Saunders recently signaled a willingness to sign a veteran backup point guard. Marshall would bring the combination of three years of experience and youth, as the 2012 lottery pick turns only 24 next month. Minnesota can use the $2.139MM biannual exception or the nearly $1.514MM left on its mid-level exception to offer Marshall more than the minimum, if necessary.

Do you think Marshall will fulfill his potential, or was his season with the Lakers an outlier? Leave a comment to let us know.

And-Ones: Las Vegas, Motum, Taylor, Lockout

The success of the summer league in Las Vegas has created hopes that the city may one day have its own NBA team, writes Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald. Former commissioner David Stern planted the seed during a 2007 meeting with Mayor Oscar Goodman, and the annual summertime gathering has strengthened the city’s position. The 20,000-seat MGM Grand Garden Arena is large enough to house an NBA franchise, and the NHL has started to break down the Las Vegas barrier, announcing recently that the city is a candidate for a future expansion team, along with Seattle and Quebec City. City officials should be patient, though. Celtics president Rich Gotham pointed out that the league has no immediate plans for expansion and that sentiment remains high to put a team in Seattle.

There’s more from around the world of basketball:

  • The Jazz have offered a partially guaranteed contract to forward Brock Motum, tweets Angus Crawford of NBA.com/Australia. Team officials were impressed by his play in the summer league. Motum is “strongly” considering Utah’s offer, but is also listening to teams in Europe (Twitter link).
  • Former Hornet Jeffery Taylor has turned down an offer from Maccabi of the Israeli Premier League, tweets David Pick of Eurobasket.com. The news was relayed by Taylor’s agent, Todd Ramasar.
  • The new contract that Miroslav Raduljica signed with Panathinaikos in the Greek League includes a $500K escape clause, according to Pick (Twitter link). The Serbian briefly played for the Wolves last season.
  • The NBA is risking its historic success with tough labor talk, writes Tim Bontemps of The New York Post. Both the league and the players’ union issued statements this week, reminding everyone that a potential lockout is just two years away.
  • Sixteen teams still have not used their $2.814MM room exception, tweets former Nets executive Bobby Marks.

Northwest Notes: Lawson, Hanlan, Raduljica

The Nuggets are “firmly behind” point guard Ty Lawson despite his ongoing struggles with alcohol and problems with the law, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. Denver GM Tim Connelly issued a statement of support after Lawson was sentenced Friday to alcohol rehab by a Denver judge on a DUI charge. “When one of our guys goes through some issues we support him as a family, and we’re going to stand behind him,” Connelly said. “I don’t want to comment too much on what’s going on in his personal life, but when any of our guys has an issue we all have an issue. And we want to stand firmly behind him.” It was reported earlier this week that the Rockets, Pistons and Lakers have expressed interest in acquiring Lawson.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Utah’s Olivier Hanlan faces a big decision now that summer league is over, according to Jody Genessy of The Deseret News. Hanlan will probably receive a one-year, non-guaranteed contract offer later this summer, which the Jazz must tender to retain his NBA rights. Hanlan can either sign the offer and compete for a roster spot in training camp or he can leave it unsigned — becoming a “stash” player whose rights are retained by the Jazz — and seek a job with a foreign team or in the D-League. Utah already has four point guards under contract, so heading overseas may be Hanlan’s best option. “My agent knows all of this,” he said of Michael Tellem. “He’s been going back and forth with the Jazz. I’ll sit down with him. I’ll know a bit [more] in the next few days.”
  • Miroslav Raduljica, who played briefly with the Wolves last season, tweeted that he will play for Panathinaikos in the Greek League for the next two seasons. The Serbian signed two 10-day contracts with Minnesota in January and appeared in five games, scoring eight points and grabbing five rebounds.
  • Blazers coach Terry Stotts liked what he saw out of his collection of young players during summer league, according to Mike Richman of The Oregonian. Portland’s summer league standouts were Noah Vonleh, who was acquired in a June 24 trade with Charlotte, and Allen Crabbe, who played 51 games for the Blazers last season.

Western Notes: Durant, Matthews, Hamilton

Executives from around the league seem to think that Kevin Durant will end up re-signing with the Thunder next year, but the Wizards, Mavericks, Lakers, Heat, Knicks and Nets are expected to be among his most dogged suitors, writes Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post. Damion James, a Wizards summer-leaguer whom Castillo describes as Durant’s best friend, says it’ll come down to wins and losses.

“He’ll do whatever it takes to win. Whoever gives him the best chance to win is where he’s going to end up,” James said.

The Thunder certainly seem to have kept themselves in the discussion on that front, having just paid the max to avoid losing Enes Kanter. Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • No contract handed out this summer has seemed to draw as many surprised reactions for its munificence as the one Wesley Matthews ended up with from the Mavericks, observes Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. The shooting guard was going to make $57MM over four years with the Mavs before they bumped his deal up to the maximum of $70,060,025, notes Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com. “A healthy Wesley Matthews at $70MM is insane,” one GM told Bulpett. “But Wesley Matthews coming off Achilles’ surgery at $70MM? What’s a stronger way to say insane?”
  • Justin Hamilton is close to a deal with Valencia of Spain, according to Paco Garcia Caridad of the Spanish outlet Marca (Twitter link; translation via Trapani). Hamilton, who went to the Finals with the Heat in 2013/14, finished this past season as a member of the Timberwolves.
  • Miroslav Raduljica has agreed to sign with Panathinaikos of Greece, reports Sportando’s Enea Trapani. The Kings reportedly had interest in the big man who was briefly with the Wolves this past season. The team was reportedly close to a deal with Nikola Milutinov, whom the Spurs drafted 26th overall, but now the status of negotiations with Milutinov is unclear. Regardless, the Spurs have already filed paperwork with the league saying they won’t sign Milutinov this year, thus clearing his cap hold.

Northwest Notes: Malone, Lillard, Harkless

Nuggets coach Michael Malone didn’t have too much to say about Ty Lawson, other than that he’s been in contact and that he still considers the point guard “part of the Denver Nugget family,” but Malone, in his conversation with Grantland’s Zach Lowe, provided a glimpse into Denver’s draft night war room.

“It’s very rare when you’re picking No. 7 to get the guy you target. I kid you not, when I got the job, [GM] Tim Connelly said, ‘Emmanuel Mudiay. That’s the guy,'” Malone said.

The team’s other target was Duke small forward Justise Winslow, Malone admitted to Lowe with hesitation. Winslow slipped to the Heat at No. 10. The coach also spoke with Lowe about his time hanging around the Timberwolves last season, and Malone “absolutely” had interest in becoming the head-coach-in-waiting under Flip Saunders in Minnesota, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities. He would have considered such an opportunity over the Nuggets gig, Wolfson adds. Here’s more from around the Northwest Division:

  • Damian Lillard is a fan of Portland’s trade acquisition of Maurice Harkless, GM Neil Olshey says, and it’s with Lillard in mind that the Blazers are going after players like the former Magic small forward, as The Oregonian’s Mike Richman chronicles. Lillard signed a five-year max extension this month. “When LaMarcus [Aldridge] warned us he wasn’t coming back we went full bore with guys on the same career arc as Damian Lillard,” Olshey said. “Damian’s our best player right now, he’s a two time All-Star. We’re going to bring in players that compliment his skill set, how we want to play and that can grow with him as he continues to improve.”
  • The Nuggets were reportedly one of three teams interested in signing Sergio Rodriguez, but it doesn’t look like he’ll leave Spain for the NBA again, as Real Madrid wants him to stay, reports David Pick of Eurobasket.com (Twitter links). The contract reportedly contains an NBA buyout clause, but Real Madrid will fight to keep him, Pick says.
  • The precise value of Jameer Nelson‘s three-year contract with the Nuggets is $13,621,575, reports Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link).
  • The cap hits in the four-year deal the Nuggets gave Nikola Jokic come to $5,551,000, and year four is a team option, Pincus also shows (Twitter link).

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