In a twist, the Western Conference playoff game preceded the Eastern Conference tilt on today's schedule. The Grizzlies beat the Thunder to claim a 2-1 series lead, while the Knicks and Pacers are under way in Indiana. The Eastern matchup prompted rare non-Sunday coverage from ABC, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of intriguing storylines out west, where the latest Kings developments are threatening to steal the show. Here's more from the conference that won this year's All-Star Game:
Luke Adams contributed to this post.
The "Battle of the Boroughs" was all anyone wanted to talk about just a few short weeks ago, but the Nets' recent slide has taken much of the juice out of their renewed rivalry with the Knicks. Here's a glimpse around the league as the Knicks have padded their lead in the Atlantic Division..
FRIDAY, 10:29am: Howard has officially signed with the T-Wolves and is expected to be in uniform tonight vs. the Warriors, according to the team's PR Twitter account.
THURSDAY, 9:25am: The Timberwolves have reached an agreement with Josh Howard on a one-year deal, reports ESPN.com's Chris Broussard (via Twitter). According to Broussard, the contract will be worth the minimum salary.
Having suffered a rash of early-season injuries, the T-Wolves had been eyeing reinforcements, particularly at the wing, where the team will be without Chase Budinger for three months. Mickael Pietrus and Raja Bell were among the other possible options, though as I suggested earlier this week, Howard made the most sense, since Pietrus wanted more than the veteran's minimum and Bell's contract made him an undesirable trade target. As Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities tweets, it was always a matter of getting a player to accept the minimum, which is all Minnesota could offer.
Howard, 32, isn't the player he once was, but could be a useful piece for the Timberwolves as a bench player. In 43 games for the Jazz in 2011/12, the Wake Forest product averaged 8.7 PPG and 3.7 RPG in 23.0 minutes per contest.
With a full 15-man roster, the Wolves will have to make a corresponding roster move to clear a spot for Howard. Will Conroy is the most likely candidate to be cut, as he's the only Minnesota player without a fully guaranteed contract.
12:46pm: The Wolves have officially released Conroy, according to the team (Twitter link). The club also confirmed it will sign Howard, pending a physical.
12:16pm: In order to clear a spot on the roster for Josh Howard, the Timberwolves will release Will Conroy, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities. Wolfson tweets that the team has informed Conroy he'll be let go.
With 15 players on the roster, the Wolves needed to release a player in order to make room for Howard, with whom they agreed to a one-year deal earlier today. As I wrote at the time, Conroy was the most logical candidate to go, since he's the only T-Wolves player without a fully guaranteed contract. If and when they officially cut Conroy, the Wolves will take a small cap hit of $100K, the amount of the 29-year-old's contract that was guaranteed.
As Ray Richardson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press noted yesterday, the Timberwolves could have signed a 16th man without releasing a player in the event of a hardship. However, four players would need to be sidelined for two or more weeks to constitute a hardship. Minnesota only has three players, in Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, and Chase Budinger, that meet those criteria.
The James Harden trade continues to make news, as Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman weighs in with a lengthy list of observations while Ken Berger of CBSSports.com deems the trade a success for the Thunder, the Rockets and Harden. Berger holds it up as an illustration of the bold, proactive moves that small-market teams must make to stay competitive. As the rest of the NBA digests what the move means, here's more news on the Thunder and their Northwest Division rivals.
While starting the season without Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love, who are both recovering from injuries, will be a challenge for the Timberwolves, the early-season schedule may help keep the team afloat. Nine of the T-Wolves' 15 November games are against clubs that played sub-.500 ball last season, while three more come against the Magic, Bulls, and Mavericks, teams whose '11/12 stars have either been traded away or injured. As the Wolves prepare for the regular season to get underway, let's check out a few updates out of Minnesota....
Brandon Roy's knee appears to be holding up so far for the Timberwolves, an early sign that his $10.4MM contract might prove a shrewd gamble by GM David Kahn. We've heard about the influence Roy's friend and current teammate Will Conroy had on channeling him to the Wolves, but that's not the only push Conroy gave him.
The Timberwolves formally announced today that they have signed six players to fill out their roster for training camp. Besides Will Conroy and Seth Tarver, whose signings had been previously reported, Minnesota has also added Jermaine Taylor, Mike Harris, Chris Johnson, and Phil Jones, according to the team (Twitter link).
Of the four additions that we're hearing about for the first time, Taylor, Harris, and Johnson all have previous NBA experience, though only Johnson logged NBA minutes in 2011/12. Taylor, the 32nd overall pick in 2009 appeared in 65 games for the Rockets and Kings, while the undrafted Harris played for the Rockets and Wizards in parts of three seasons. Jones, meanwhile, played his college ball for the Charlotte 49ers, where his senior year was cut short in 2011 after he was ruled academically ineligible for the second half.
Conroy has a small guarantee on his contract, which should give him a slight advantage over the other five players for the T-Wolves' 15th and final roster spot. However, I expect the team would be happy to eat the $100K owed to Conroy if one of the other non-guaranteed players excels in training camp and preseason action.
With Minnesota's roster now at 20 players, it appears the T-Wolves are officially out of the running for Sean Williams, Hassan Whiteside, and various other big men that have been linked to the team in recent weeks.
Guard Will Conroy hinted at a deal with the Timberwolves earlier tonight on Twitter, and it appears that's exactly what's happening, as Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News reports that he'll receive a partially guaranteed contract from the team (Twitter link). It will likely be a minimum-salary deal for the former University of Washington teammate and close friend of Brandon Roy.
The 6'2" Conroy has had stints with the Grizzlies, Clippers and Rockets, the last of which came in 2009/10. He's totaled just six points and 16 assists in 12 NBA games, but has played extensively in the D-League since going undrafted in 2005. He averaged 12.6 points and 9.0 assists with a 14.7 PER in 23 games for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers last year.
The Wolves have been focusing their attention on big men of late, so the move may be largely a favor to Roy, much as the Knicks' signing of Chris Smith was seen as a favor to his brother, J.R. Smith. Roy used Conroy's Twitter account back in June to announce his intention to come back from retirement.