Alex Rodriguez

Timberwolves Notes: Nuggets Rivalry, Lore, A-Rod, Lloyd, Jovic

The comments that Nuggets governor Josh Kroenke‘s made to the press last week about the Timberwolves‘ pursuit of longtime Denver executive Tim Connelly will fuel a rivalry between the two division rivals going forward, opines Michael Rand of The Star Tribune. Kroenke spoke about Minnesota coming through the “side door” to land Connelly and suggested that it was a “desperate” move.

“Ultimately when you go to a stratosphere that some clubs, you say some desperate clubs, are willing to go to, there’s a tier out there that just kind of doesn’t make sense,” Kroenke said of the Nuggets’ decision not to match Connelly’s offer from the Wolves, per Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

Rand notes that Denver has now decided to let its lead decision-maker walk twice in the last decade, first with Masai Ujiri, who left for the Raptors in 2013 and won a title with the team in 2019, and now with Connelly.

There’s more out of Minnesota:

  • Incoming Timberwolves owners Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore seem intent on using their money to improve the Minnesota front office, a ploy that Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune applauds. In addition to luring Connelly away from Denver, Minnesota has added Matt Lloyd and retained Sachin Gupta to the team’s decision-making brain trust.
  • The widely-respected Lloyd learned under a variety of scouting styles while with the Bulls and Magic, write Jon Krawczynski and Josh Robbins of The Athletic. He worked with Chicago from 1999-2012, and started with the Magic as an assistant GM in 2012 before becoming the team’s VP of basketball operations for the 2021/22 season.
  • 18-year-old NBA prospect Nikola Jovic, currently playing for Mega Mozzart of the ABA League, recently worked out for the Timberwolves, according to Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link). Wolfson is skeptical that the 6’10” wing will still be on the board in time for Minnesota to draft him with the No. 19 pick in the 2022 draft. He is currently listed as the No. 24 top prospect on the latest ESPN big board.

Wolves Notes: Connelly, Towns, Russell, A-Rod, Lore

New Timberwolves president of basketball operations Tim Connelly will make some additions to the team’s front office, starting with longtime Magic executive Matt Lloyd.

However, Connelly made it clear during his introductory press conference on Tuesday that he’s certainly not looking to clean house or make any major, immediate changes to the way the franchise is run, joking that his plan is to “get out of the way (and) hope I don’t mess it up too much,” according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic and Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.

“I’m not joining a team that’s broken,” Connelly said. “This is a team that’s trending in the right direction. It’s made a ton of really, really smart decisions, most recently extending (head coach) Chris (Finch) and getting Pat Beverley on the additional one-year (contract). So I’m not here to impede progress, I’m here to promote it, and I’m hopeful that I can learn a ton from the people in the building, and hopefully I can add a little bit of my knowledge to what’s already a very strong core of people.”

Connelly acknowledged that it was a difficult decision to leave Denver for Minnesota, suggesting there were “a lot of sleepless nights” as he weighed the decision. But he believes the Timberwolves have a have a chance to “do something special,” which helped sell him on the move.

Of course, the financial aspect of the Wolves’ offer was also a major selling point, though sources confirmed to The Athletic that Connelly doesn’t technically have a stake in the team’s ownership. His deal calls for him to “benefit financially” if the value of the franchise increases over the life of his contract, per Krawczynski.

“Basically he’s on a bonus program, just like a lot of people are,” majority owner Glen Taylor said when asked about the equity aspect of Connelly’s contract. “If the team does well, he does better.”

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • Giving Karl-Anthony Towns a super-max extension this offseason should be a no-brainer decision for Connelly, but determining what to do with D’Angelo Russell will be a trickier call, Chip Scoggins of The Star Tribune contends. Russell is also extension-eligible as he enters the final year of his current contract, and looks like a possible trade candidate. “I don’t know how or what our roster is going to look like on draft night or into free agency, but certainly this team doesn’t win 46 games without the contributions of them both,” Connelly said during his first media session, per Hine. “It’ll be fun to get to know both guys.”
  • Hiring Connelly away from Denver is part of a push by incoming Timberwolves owners Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore to make the club a “world-class” organization, writes La Velle E. Neal III of The Star Tribune. “We want to be first in class in every category,” Rodriguez said this week. “From an arena, to personnel to players, to medical staff, to physical therapy and everything in between. The Minnesota people deserve that. They are starving for a winner and we are going to bring them that.”
  • Michael Rand of The Star Tribune takes a look at three paths Connelly could take with the Timberwolves’ roster this offseason and beyond.

Northwest Notes: Taylor, Lore, A-Rod, Kroenke, Jazz

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor has forged a sound working relationship with minority owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez, proven by their successful recruitment of Denver’s Tim Connelly to head up their front office, The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski writes. Taylor, who allowed the duo to design an offer that would be very difficult for the Nuggets to match, enjoys the ambition and energy of Lore and A-Rod and has gained confidence in their ability to complete a major transaction.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The press conference involving Nuggets president/governor Josh Kroenke has been postponed after he recently tested positive for COVID-19. He is one of several members of the organization to test positive this week, according to the team. The press conference, scheduled for today, has been tentatively moved to Tuesday, according to the Denver Post’s Mike Singer (Twitter links).
  • What are the Jazz seeking to upgrade their roster? A long, rangy wing player who is solid offensively and can defend on the perimeter and switch 1-to-5, Tony Jones of The Athletic writes. However, those players are in high demand throughout the league, which makes the Jazz’s task of finding such a player quite difficult.
  • The Jazz’s draft workout on Thursday included R.J. Cole (UConn), Tyson Etienne (Wichita State), Johnny Juzang (UCLA), Jared Rhoden (Seton Hall), Akoldah Gak (Australia) and Trevion Williams (Purdue), Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets. Williams (No. 50 on ESPN’s Best Available list) is the highest-rated among that group of second-round prospects.

Nuggets’ Connelly To Meet This Weekend With Wolves Owner

Nuggets president Tim Connelly will meet with Timberwolves majority owner Glen Taylor regarding the top executive position within Minnesota’s organization, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Connelly has already discussed the position extensively with minority owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez and an in-person meeting with Taylor is next in the process, Wojnarowski adds (Twitter links).

As Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune tweets, Lore and Rodriguez have significant influence over the process, but Taylor has to sign off on any deal.

Reports regarding Minnesota’s interest in Connelly surfaced on Wednesday. He has been the head of Denver’s basketball operations since 2013, when he was named vice president of basketball operations and general manager. He was promoted to president in 2017.

Connelly is the first external candidate to be officially linked to the lead basketball job in Minnesota’s front office. Executive vice president of basketball operations Sachin Gupta, who has been serving as the head of the basketball operations department on an interim basis following the dismissal of Gersson Rosas in September, remains a candidate for the position.

Lore and Rodriguez have pushed to have a proven, prominent exec take over the basketball operations, regardless of the cost. The Nuggets have been aware of Minnesota’s interest in Connelly for some time and don’t appear poised to make a major counter-offer, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets.

Northwest Notes: Forrest, Jazz Offseason, A-Rod, Wolves

Sarah Todd of The Deseret News wonders what’s next for Jazz guard Trent Forrest. The 23-year-old spent the past two seasons on a two-way deal with Utah after going undrafted out of Florida State, but his contract was converted to a standard deal on the last day of the regular season.

Although that technically made him eligible for the playoffs, Forrest was dealing with a left midfoot sprain, so the conversion was mostly ceremonial. The front office deferred to coach Quin Snyder‘s preference for the 15th roster spot, and Forrest was rewarded after earning the trust of Snyder, sources tell Todd.

As of last week, Forrest was still experiencing pain while rehabbing the injury and had yet to resume on-court work, but it’s not a long-term concern, Todd writes. Forrest will be a restricted free agent this summer if the team tenders him a qualifying offer worth just over $2MM.

Although he’s considered a strong defender, he knows he needs to work on his shot to have lasting success in the NBA.

This summer is going to be a lot of the same thing,” Forrest said. “I don’t need much pick-and-roll or things like that. A lot of (my work) is just gonna be a lot of left hand finishing and working on my shot.”

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • In a mailbag column about how the Jazz should approach their offseason, Tony Jones of The Athletic says he believes Utah should keep both Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert and surround them with “bigger, longer, more athletic” players who are significantly better defensively. Juancho Hernangomez and Danuel House — two players who were on the verge of being out of the league — both made a big impact on the club due to their length, athleticism and competitive defense, and Jones thinks the Jazz need several more players in that mold. If he were part of the front office, he says he’d try to trade for a second-round pick in the draft and use the taxpayer mid-level exception (projected to be $6.4MM) to acquire players who meet that criteria. Utah does not own a pick at the moment.
  • After recent rumors that Timberwolves minority owner Alex Rodriguez might be interested in purchasing the Miami Marlins, his PR representative denied the claim. “Alex Rodriguez is 100 percent focused on owning the Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx. Any report of him having interest in also buying the Miami Marlins or any other MLB team is entirely false,” said Ron Berkowitz of Berk Communications (via Twitter). A-Rod and co-owner Marc Lore are set to become majority shareholders of the Wolves in 2023/24.
  • Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News reports that the Timberwolves worked out several draft prospects on Thursday and Friday, including UCLA’s Johnny Juzang, Maryland’s Fatts Russell, Alabama’s Keon Ellis, North Carolina’s Kerwin Walton, and Richmond’s Jacob Gilyard (all Twitter links here).

Wolves Notes: Cauley-Stein, Edwards, Beverley, Ownership

In an appearance on Darren Wolfson’s The Scoop podcast at SKOR North, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said that Minnesota is considering adding a free agent who could help improve the team’s rebounding numbers.

Asked specifically if the Wolves could bring back veteran center Greg Monroe, who was on a 10-day deal with the club earlier this season, Taylor responded, “We’re looking at a number of possibilities.”

According to Wolfson, one possible target the Wolves have discussed internally is Willie Cauley-Stein, who recently spent time in Philadelphia on a 10-day deal. Cody Zeller, who was waived last month while recovering from a procedure on his knee, isn’t currently considered an option, Wolfson adds.

Here’s more out of Minnesota:

  • Anthony Edwards has missed the Timberwolves’ last four games due to knee soreness, but Taylor is confident the injury is not a major issue. “We’re dealing with some swelling and some pain,” Taylor told Wolfson. “We just want to buy a little time, but it’s nothing major or anything that will keep him from being out there soon.”
  • Taylor doesn’t anticipate a significant offseason roster shakeup in Minnesota. “Most players are already signed for next year, so there won’t be major changes,” he told Wolfson.
  • One player who had been on track for unrestricted free agency this summer was guard Patrick Beverley, but he signed a one-year, $13MM extension with the Wolves in February. Taylor said that was a fairly straightforward negotiation, since both sides had interest in continuing the relationship, and that the main issue was deciding on the length of the contract. Beverley “preferred to add something longer,” according to Taylor, who said the team wanted to maintain some flexibility beyond 2022/23.
  • Asked by Wolfson if the plan is still for Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore to assume majority control of the Timberwolves in December 2023, Taylor replied, “Probably.” Pressed on whether it could happen sooner than next December or later than that, Taylor said that both scenarios are possible, indicating that nothing is set in stone yet.

Northwest Notes: Edwards, A-Rod, Daigneault, Covington

Anthony Edwards led the Timberwolves to a victory over Jimmy Butler and the Heat on Wednesday, putting up 33 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists in a game-high 43 minutes. Edwards was a plus-19 in the 12-point win and his performance earned rave reviews from a pair of his teammates with All-Star appearances on their résumés, as Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes.

“I think we’re watching him grow in front of us, just all around,” said D’Angelo Russell, adding that Edwards “got us over the hump” in the game vs. Miami.

“You need superstars to win in this league now,” Karl-Anthony Towns said of the second-year wing. “We need someone like him. We always talk about the big three. Well, he’s solidified himself. It’s amazing to see him getting better and better every game and figuring it out more and more.”

Edwards is building off his strong second half as a rookie and has boosted his numbers across the board so far this season, further solidifying his place as a long-term cornerstone in Minnesota. In 18 games (35.9 MPG), he has put up 22.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and 3.4 APG on .434/.360/.746 shooting.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • How did Alex Rodriguez go from MLB All-Star to co-owner of the Timberwolves? In an in-depth story for The Athletic, Krawczynski explores A-Rod’s entry into the business world and how he teamed up with Marc Lore, his partner in the purchase of the Wolves.
  • Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault returned to the sidelines for Wednesday’s contest vs. Utah after missing the team’s three-game road trip to be there for the birth of his first child (Twitter link via Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman). Oklahoma City was 0-3 in Daigneault’s absence.
  • Trail Blazers forward Robert Covington was ejected from Wednesday’s game in Sacramento for throwing his face guard and hitting an official’s foot with it. As Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian relays, head coach Chauncey Billups and star guard Damian Lillard said after the game that it was an accident. “Roco always takes his mask off and tosses it to the side,” Lillard said. “This time he just tossed it and it literally bounced into the referee.” It remains to be seen whether Covington will be fined by the NBA for the incident.

Timberwolves Fined $250K For Violating NBA Rules On Offseason Workouts

The Timberwolves have been hit with a $250K fine by the NBA, the league announced on Monday (Twitter link).

According to the NBA, the Wolves violated league rules prohibiting teams from arranging or paying for offseason practices or group workout sessions outside the team’s home market.

New incoming Timberwolves owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez reportedly hosted the club’s players for scrimmages and practices in Miami for a week in early September, culminating in a dinner at Rodriguez’s house. Those team activities came in the final days of Gersson Rosas‘ tenure as president of basketball operations.

[RELATED: A-Rod, Lore Approved By Board Of Governors, Join Wolves Ownership Group]

As Bobby Marks of ESPN observes (via Twitter), the NBA’s rule prohibiting teams from arranging and/or financing out-of-market offseason workouts is actually the very first one listed in the NBA’s 786-page operations manual.

Given that Lore and Rodriguez are reportedly paying $1.5 billion to take over the Timberwolves from Glen Taylor, a $250K fine will be a drop in the bucket for them.

Still, the penalty may compel the duo to pay closer attention to the NBA’s rule book going forward, or at least to be more discreet about arranging offseason workouts — Minnesota probably isn’t the only team to violate that rule in recent years, but the fact that management and ownership were in attendance and photos were all over social media meant the NBA couldn’t ignore it, as Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

Timberwolves Notes: Towns, New Owners, Vaccines

The strain of having multiple family members die from COVID-19 and then losing 50 pounds after he contracted the virus led Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns to experience a panic attack during a game, he tells Michael Pina of Sports Illustrated.

It happened in February in Cleveland after he was cleared to rejoin the team. Towns describes the feeling of being overwhelmed by anxiety while on the bench and texting a message to his agent that read, “I can’t be out here anymore. I can’t do this.” Towns went to the locker room where he was sweating and feeling tightness in his chest. He thought about going to the hotel or even back to Minnesota, but decided to stay in the arena until the game was over.

The heartache from losing loved ones, particularly his mother, had become too much for Towns to bear in a public setting. His father encouraged him to take time away from the game for his mental health, but Towns opted to continue playing because he didn’t want to disappoint anyone, though he was often unhappy with the results.

“I just really didn’t think I could play the game of basketball the way I want to represent myself in the NBA,” Towns said. “I didn’t want to represent myself in a bad way. There’d be a lot of times we’d play a game. Game’s over. And I’m not even in there. I’m doing my own thing. I’m in the bathroom looking at myself, wondering if this is the man that I really think I am.”

He eventually found some degree of solace through regular conversations with head coach Chris Finch, and benefited by getting away from the game during the offseason. Towns is now ready to return to basketball and hopes to establish himself as one of the league’s best centers.

There’s more from Minnesota:

  • Although Towns is frustrated by years of losing, that hasn’t shaken his commitment to the Wolves, Pina adds in the same story. A source close to Towns tells Pina that the surprising dismissal of president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas last week didn’t affect Towns’ desire for a contract extension. He can become eligible for a supermax deal by making an All-NBA team this season. “My chips are all on the table,” Towns said. “So it’s up to the Wolves, you know? If they give me the chance to stay there I fa’ sho would take it. The ball is in their court.”
  • Meeting today with the media, new co-owners Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore repeated their pledge to keep the team in Minnesota, according to Chris Hine and Chris Miller of The Star Tribune“We have no plans to move,” Rodriguez said. “Our plan is to be right here.”
  • New president of basketball operations Sachin Gupta said the team is fully vaccinated except for two players who are in the process of getting their shots, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

Stein’s Latest: Timberwolves, Ujiri, Simmons, Lacob, Dragic

Incoming Timberwolves owners Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore won’t assume majority control of the the franchise from Glen Taylor until 2023, but they’re operating in some ways as if they’re already the team’s primary owners, says Marc Stein of Substack.

Shortly after Gersson Rosas was dismissed this week, Timberwolves reporter Dane Moore suggested (via Twitter) that rumors have circulated for months that Rodriguez and Lore want to bring in a “top-five” front office executive. Stein doesn’t specifically confirm that rumor, but he corroborates it, writing that word circulated at Summer League in August that A-Rod and Lore would have loved to make a run at veteran executive Masai Ujiri, who ultimately re-upped with the Raptors.

While those reports suggest that the Wolves’ new ownership group wants to make a splash, league sources tell Stein that Sachin Gupta is expected to get every chance to impress the team during his time running the basketball operations department. According to Moore (Twitter link), Gupta – whose title is executive VP of basketball operations – doesn’t technically have the “interim” tag attached to his position, an indication that he’ll receive serious consideration for the permanent job.

Here’s more from Stein’s latest NBA roundup:

  • According to Stein, teams around the NBA are skeptical that the Sixers genuinely want to bring back Ben Simmons, viewing Doc Riversmedia comments on Wednesday as an attempt to regain trade leverage rather than a legitimate effort to mend the team’s relationship with Simmons.
  • It may seem odd that Warriors owner Joe Lacob was fined for comments about Simmons that didn’t even mention him by name and made it clear that Golden State isn’t really interested in the Sixers star. However, Stein says the tampering penalty was “as automatic as these ever get,” since there was no doubt Lacob was referring to Simmons, and his comments could be viewed as an attempt to diminish the 25-year-old’s trade value.
  • It doesn’t appear that any deal involving Goran Dragic is imminent. Stein writes that the Raptors want to be as competitive as possible this season, and Dragic can help with those efforts. Toronto also believes that more appealing trade scenarios could arise once the season gets underway and more teams need a point guard due to injuries or underperformance.