The Timberwolves broke their 14-year playoff drought because coach/executive Tom Thibodeau was willing to trade away the future to get better now, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Thibodeau signaled a new direction for the franchise last June when he shipped Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the seventh pick in the draft to Chicago in exchange for Jimmy Butler. He followed that up by signing veteran free agents Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford, Aaron Brooks and more recently, Derrick Rose.
“Look, when you’re trying to erase 14 years of losing, you have to bring in some people who have won before,” Thibodeau explained. “That was a big factor in that. These guys have won in the playoffs, and I knew the hole we had to get out of. When you looked at the number, the numbers said we had to do a lot of improving and I think we’ve done that.”
There’s more from the Northwest Division:
- Rose’s overlooked defensive abilities could be important in the playoff matchup with Houston, Zgoda notes in a separate story. Defense was one of the areas Thibodeau considered when he decided to sign the former MVP in March. Rose, who had a frustrating start to the season in Cleveland before being acquired and then waived by Utah, is happy with where he has landed. “Going through free agency, it’s all about being strategic,” Rose said. “I wanted to go to a contender. I wanted to go somewhere where I was familiar with the coach, and being here was the perfect situation.”
- Carmelo Anthony is preparing for his first playoff appearance in five years, but he’s headed there in a much different role, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. Anthony was an MVP candidate when the Knicks last reached the postseason in 2013. Now he’s a complementary player after an offseason trade to the Thunder. “My approach is not any different,” he said. “My situation is different. My team is different.”
Third-year forward Trey Lyles is focused on earning more playing time after his first full season in Denver. In a video posted on the Nuggets‘ website, Lyles laments his lack of minutes late in the season and vows to work on every part of his game this summer. “I’m not perfect at anything,” he said. “I really want to improve in ways that makes coach keep me on the floor.”