Chris Finch

Northwest Notes: Simons, Lillard, Jokic, Finch

Anfernee Simons says he’s “pretty sure” he’ll be back with the Trail Blazers next season, Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report tweets“We both have a mutual interest in coming back,” Simons said of being a restricted free agent this summer. “I’m pretty sure it will get done.” Simons expressed back in February he “100 percent” wanted to re-sign with Portland — it seems nothing has changed since then.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Damian Lillard expects the Trail Blazers to return to prominence in the Western Conference next season and will have a say in the team’s roster building, according to Highkin (Twitter links). “A tough season, a lot of adversity this year,” Lillard said. “A lot of things came up that we didn’t expect. But I want you to know one thing: this will not continue. Next year, we’re going to be back better than before.”
  • Nikola Jokic gained a $534,484 bonus when the Nuggets made the playoffs again. The incentive was considered likely before the season and has no cap implications, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Jokic is a prime contender for the Most Valuable Player award once again but he knows there’s plenty of worthy candidates, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets“To be honest, I think there is a lot of guys that are playing at an extremely high level,” he said. “I’m just trying to be humble, to stay on the ground. … I don’t think about that to be honest, am I one of the best? I’m just trying to win the game.”
  • Timberwolves coach Chris Finch signed a multi-year extension on Monday and the team’s top executive was glad to lock him up long-term, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes. “He’s just a joy to work with,” executive VP of basketball operations Sachin Gupta said. “I think the results on the floor are clear, just the drastic improvement from last year to this year, with really little change to the roster. I think he and his whole staff deserve a ton of credit for that.” Finch said, “I feel like there’s a pathway we can see to keep getting better and better. I’m just really excited to be able to say that these guys believe in what I’m doing.”

Timberwolves Sign Chris Finch To Multiyear Extension

The Timberwolves have signed head coach Chris Finch to a multiyear contract extension, the team announced today in a press release. The assistants on Finch’s staff have also been extended.

Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link) first reported that Finch and his coaching staff were receiving multiyear extensions. According to Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link), Finch signed a three-year deal with a fourth-year option.

A former assistant coach in Houston, Denver, New Orleans, and Toronto, Finch took the reins in Minnesota midway through the 2020/21 following Ryan Saunders‘ dismissal. He guided the Timberwolves – who got off to a 7-24 start – to a 16-25 finish last season, then helped take the club to another level in ’21/22.

Minnesota finished this season with a 46-36 record, good for seventh in the Western Conference. It’s the Wolves’ second-best record since 2004 and puts them in position to earn just their second playoff berth since then, assuming they can win a play-in game this week.

“Chris has done a tremendous job creating stability and consistency for this franchise and building a winning mentality,” the Timberwolves said in a statement attributed to their ownership group. “We look forward to supporting him throughout the years while he continues achieving the goals he and his staff have set out for the team.”

The Wolves are in the midst of an ownership transition, with Glen Taylor planning to hand majority control over to Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore in 2023. Finch’s extension – and the statement from team ownership – is a strong signal that he has the full support of Rodriguez and Lore in addition to Taylor.

Chris Finch Talks KAT, Edwards, Defensive Approach

On the one-year anniversary of his tenure with the franchise, Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch sat down for a wide-ranging conversation with Chris Hine of The Star Tribune to discuss his approach to the team.

Finch, 52, has guided Minnesota to a 32-28 record this season thus far, good for the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference. Center Karl-Anthony Towns made his first All-Star team since 2019, and second-year shooting guard Anthony Edwards has continued his trajectory toward becoming an All-Star talent in his own right.

Finch was an assistant coach under Nick Nurse for the Raptors during the first half of the 2020/21 season before accepting the gig as the head man in Minnesota on February 22, 2021.

Finch discussed his expectations for the club’s roster upon arriving as head coach late into the 2020/21 NBA season. Under Finch’s abbreviated stewardship as a midseason replacement for Ryan Saunders last year, the Timberwolves ultimately finished 16-25. 

“I thought there was a lot of talent, particularly in [Towns] and [point guard D’Angelo Russell],” Finch said of his initial impressions of Minnesota’s roster. “Not just talent but skill. You can have talent, but skill is another thing altogether too.”

This season, the Timberwolves have been striving to strike a balance defensively between a proactive and reactive approach towards opposing offenses. Finch considers this tactic a good dress rehearsal for adjusting to playoff matchups.

“Now that you played teams multiple times, they have a good feel for who you are and what you’re trying to do,” Finch noted. “Our defense is pretty aggressive and aggressive defenses can be baited into a lot of things. Tempering some of that or using that at the right time is key. Two, as we whittle everything down towards what we hope is a playoff presence, it’s all about being able to adjust and execute different schemes in a playoff.”

Edwards, the No. 1 pick out of Georgia in 2020, has taken an offensive leap recently. Finch discussed how the 20-year-old is learning to adjust to different defenses. Through 55 games this season, Edwards is averaging 21.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.7 APG, and 1.5 SPG. The 6’4″ wing has shooting splits this season of .431/.348/.765.

“He is definitely a smart and quick learner,” Finch said. “Obviously we’re walking him through it on video, pointing it out when we see it in a game as soon as it happens and communicating so he can start making some adjustments. … It’s not on autopilot for him to switch gears right away and do something different. Every night it might be different so he’s still in that phase where he’s struggling to get an offensive rhythm at times because of this.”

Timberwolves Notes: Finch, Trade Deadline, McDaniels, Towns

Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch believes the team’s depth is “showing itself” over the course of the season, according to Chris Hine of The Star Tribune (via Twitter).

We thought we had good depth the beginning of the season. At times we were inconsistent with that,” Finch said.

Discussing the team’s roster ahead of the trade deadline, Finch said the Wolves don’t feel the need to make moves, suggesting that the biggest improvement they can make will come from internal growth.

Mainly we don’t feel any great pressure to do anything with this roster at this point in time. We’re pretty happy with where we are and guys are playing well and being the best versions of themselves we thought they could be.

I don’t think anyone thinks we’re by any means a finished product. All rosters change from season to season. We don’t feel any great pressure to have to do something right now. Internal growth is always going to be the best accelerant for teams to take the next step,” Finch said, per Hine.

Here’s more on Minnesota:

  • Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic breaks down which Wolves players are most likely to be moved by the deadline on February 10. He believes that Patrick Beverley is a wild card, because both sides are interested in an extension, but if that doesn’t come to fruition before the deadline, he might be dealt. Krawczynski views Malik Beasley, Naz Reid and Josh Okogie as the three prime trade candidates worth monitoring, all for different reasons.
  • Second-year forward Jaden McDaniels is starting to get noticed after being selected to the Rising Stars game at All-Star weekend, Hine writes for The Star Tribune. McDaniels, the 28th overall pick of the 2020 draft, has proven to be a versatile, impactful defender. McDaniels was passed over by the media for All-Rookie teams last season, but Finch says people across the NBA know how good he is. “He has a lot of fans around the league, I do know that,” Finch said. “A lot of coaches or opposing players know he’s a tough matchup, and he’s really playing well and, at the right time, caught the eye of the league.”
  • In a column for The Star Tribune, Patrick Reusse opines that Karl-Anthony Towns has shown improvement this season, even if his individual numbers may not reflect that. Towns was recently named an All-Star reserve for the Western Conference, his third selection to the game.

Northwest Notes: Forbes, Towns, Wolves, Gasol

The Nuggetsfirst attempt to trade Bol Bol didn’t work out, but they’re happy with the return they got on the second try, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Denver officially completed a three-team deal today that sends out Bol and PJ Dozier in exchange for Bryn Forbes, a dangerous outside shooter who will have a clearly defined role on the team.

“Really for me, it comes down to Bryn Forbes is a career 42% three-point shooter,” coach Michael Malone said. “You go back to last year in their run in winning a world championship in Milwaukee, that first-round series they swept Miami, and Bryn Forbes averaged 15 points a game.”

Currently ranked 18th in three-point shooting percentage, the Nuggets have a need for Forbes, who is expected to make his debut either Friday or Sunday. Malone was disappointed to part with Dozier, who will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Malone offered to give Dozier a role on his staff if he ever goes into coaching.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns has been working on personal growth to set a better example for his teammates, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Part of that process included making peace with Tom Thibodeau after their uneasy relationship when they were together in Minnesota. “I remember after we played the Knicks (last season) pulling Thibs to the side,” Towns said. “I said, ‘I just want to let you know I forgive you.’ There’s not bad blood. One day let’s just go get dinner. Let’s just chill. We don’t have to worry about the business side, let’s just work on our relationship.”
  • Timberwolves head of basketball operations Sachin Gupta will work closely with coach Chris Finch heading into the trade deadline, according to Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. They have a working relationship that dates back to their days with the Rockets, and their goal is to make moves that will benefit the team over the next five years.
  • Jazz guard Mike Conley recently reached out to Marc Gasol, his long-time teammate with Grizzlies, tweets Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. Gasol is playing in Spain this season, but has indicated that he may have interest in returning to the NBA. “I texted him when we had no bigs. I said, ‘If you wanna come back, now’s the time,’” Conley said. “… He’s happy. I don’t know if he’ll return. But I told him the invitation is out there.”

Northwest Notes: Whiteside, Finch, Edwards, Bol

With Jazz reserve center Hassan Whiteside unavailable while recovering from a concussion, Utah struggled to find much success in its small-ball lineups when All-Star center Rudy Gobert went to the bench, writes Eric Walden of the Salt Lake City Tribune. Walden notes that lineups with 6’8″ reserve forward Rudy Gay playing the five were minus-19 across 19:52 of action.

“It’s different without having a traditional big in Hassan or Rudy [Gobert] back there, because we base our defense solely on forcing everybody to our big,” All-Star point guard Mike Conley said. “Everybody’s kind of activated into more of a help-the-helper situation, as opposed to trying to make it a two-on-two situation with the big and the guard like we’re accustomed to doing.” Gay signed a two-year, $12.1MM contract with the team this summer.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch has earned rave reviews for the way he handled Minnesota’s rotations as the team was impacted by several coronavirus-related absences, writes Chris Hine of the Star Tribune. Win or lose, the Wolves have always been prepared and kept contests close. “His [after-timeout plays], his mindset, how he conducts practice, very detailed man,” point guard Patrick Beverley said. “His professionalism, I preach to these guys every day that they’re fortunate to have a coach like that, for sure.”
  • After Finch had a quick hook for Timberwolves wing Anthony Edwards due to what the head coach perceived as lackluster defense in the first quarter of an eventual 122-104 Minnesota victory over the Clippers, Edwards responded with renewed effort, writes Chris Hine of the Star Tribune. Finch inserted Jaylen Nowell in Edwards’s stead early in the first quarter. “I wasn’t a big fan of his approach defensively to start the game, which is why I went that direction early,” Finch said. “He responded to that and was a lot more dialed in.” Edwards conceded that Finch had a point: “I get mad, but he right. At the end of the day I can’t do nothing but take the constructive criticism and come back and show him that I can do it.”
  • 7’2″ Nuggets power forward Bol Bol showed promise in scoring a career-best 11 points across 20 minutes against the Rockets in a 124-111 win this weekend. He has support in high places as a prospect with upside, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post. One big name in his corner is Denver head coach Michael Malone, who sent Bol a congratulatory text after his big night.

Northwest Notes: Blazers, Lillard, Finch, Rockets

Now that the Trail Blazers have fired general manager and president of basketball operations Neil Olshey, Dan Devine of The Ringer wonders if the move will jump-start the process of Damian Lillard asking for a trade.

Olshey’s firing came less than 24 hours after Portland lost to San Antonio 114-83, but the team clarified that he violated the franchise’s code of conduct. The decision came following a month-long investigation into complaints that Olshey had created a toxic work environment.

On the court, Portland’s product hasn’t been much better. The team has struggled defensively and is a mediocre 11-13, allowing 145 points to Boston in its most recent loss.

“My biggest concern at the moment is I want us to compete harder,” head coach Chauncey Billups said after the San Antonio game, as relayed by Jason Quick of The Athletic. “I want us to be more competitive in every game. And I don’t feel like every night we do that. And that concerns me.”

Here are some other notes from the Northwest Division:

  • In a separate story for The Athletic, Quick examines what could be next for the Trail Blazers. Portland, having promoted director of player personnel Joe Cronin to interim GM after firing Olshey, has upcoming games against the Clippers on Monday and Warriors on Wednesday, followed by a four-game homestand.
  • The National Basketball Coaches Association and president coach Rick Carlisle apologized to Timberwolves coach Chris Finch for a statement that was released when he was hired this year, as relayed by Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. The statement accused the Wolves of not conducting a thorough and diverse search for a head coach. “We apologized to Chris for that,” Carlisle said. “That wasn’t fair to him. It was no reflection on who he is as a person, coach or anything like that. This summer we got a chance to talk to him about it when we met as an association. It’s pretty clear why he got the job. I’m really happy for him.”
  • The Rockets currently hold the league’s longest win streak at five games, Mark Berman of Fox 26 tweets. Head coach Stephen Silas admitted the streak is good for the team’s confidence, especially when the club had lost 16 of its previous 17 games. “It feels good, especially considering where we came from, but there’s been some things that led to it and it’s more about those things that led to it than the actual results,” he said as part of a larger quote.

Chris Finch Talks Gupta, Wolves Offense, Vanderbilt, Defense

Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch recently sat down for an extensive interview with Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Finch and Hine engaged in some nitty-gritty conversations pertaining to the team’s plans for development on both sides of the ball, Finch’s relationship with new team president Sachin Gupta, and how power forward Jarred Vanderbilt is an under-appreciated contributor.

Under Finch, Minnesota sports a competent record of 18-25. They are currently 2-0 this year. Team stars Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, and D’Angelo Russell have exhibited encouraging chemistry together during this early portion of the 2021/22 NBA season.

The Timberwolves boast a 93.1 defensive rating thus far, good for the second-best in the league. Their 104.8 offensive pace ranks fifth in the NBA.

The full conversation is well worth a read, but here are some highlights from the chat:

On his time developing a relationship with Gupta with the Rockets, where Finch was an assistant coach and Gupta was a front office advisor:

“I remember the first project that (Sachin) and I ever did together. We were studying corner threes and I was looking for places on the floor where the passes came to generate the best corner threes. Some of it made sense just looking at the game, but he mapped it out. He gridified the half court and had all different color zones about the best way to create open corner threes from where you were passing on the floor.”

On how he hopes to re-tool the Timberwolves’ offensive possessions:

“I think probably develop a little bit more of a complete package for Anthony. So he’s kind of not like going through the game looking for opportunities. Maybe direct the ball more to him. Opportunities to post D’Angelo for his playmaking down there. Then continue to experiment with (Towns). Just move him around and continue to play him more like a guard as well as a big. When you have a guy like that, it’s a lot of fun.”

On how the recently re-signed Vanderbilt helps the team win, per analytics research:

“Multiple possessions guy (with offensive rebounding). So anyone who gets you multiple possessions is worth it. If you think about the average possession in the NBA, it’s worth like 1.1 points or whatever, let’s say. If you get three more possessions than your opponent, that’s about 3.5 points more. So it’s just basketball mathematics in that way. That’s one. Two is his defense, versatility on defense. So when he’s on the floor with multitude of defensive lineups, they are generally plus defensive ratings. Then, his rebounding too. He’s not only getting you extra rebounds offensively, but he’s helping a place where you’re already weak defensively. With that, it’s probably not as strong as the other two for sure. And a lot of the defensive stuff is his ability to be successful in pick and roll as a switch defender.”

On how he intends to improve the club’s defense:

“Transition, eliminate our fouling or reduce it, and rebounding. If you look at those three play types, from an offensive point of view, they’re the three most efficient play type starts. Teams that score in transition score at a higher rate. Free throws are big and then offensive rebounds. So even if we got back and we’re not a great half-court defense, but we make them play in the half court more, we’re going to win that small battle, even if they’re making shots against us. They’re not going to make shots at the rate they do in transition.”

Wolves Notes: Gupta, Finch, Durisic, Ehambe, Outlook

Just hours before word broke that the Timberwolves had fired head of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, team executive Sachin Gupta was meeting with Rosas to smooth things over in advance of the upcoming season, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

As has been previously reported, Gupta explored leaving the organization this summer when he received a job offer from the Rockets. He was blocked by Rosas from accepting that opportunity, since it technically would’ve been a lateral move based on his title, though Krawczynski suggests that it would have come with a “substantial” pay raise. That situation was said to have considerably strained the relationship between the two executives, but Gupta is diplomatic now when he discusses it.

“Those types of things happen around the league,” Gupta said. “I was just focused on doing the best that I could for everyone here in this building and for the team. I’m excited about the decisions that we were all able to make together. Really excited about where we’re at now and about moving forward.”

As Krawczysnki details, after meeting with Rosas to bury the hatchet, Gupta was summoned to meet later in the day with team owner Glen Taylor, who gave him control of the Wolves’ front office following Rosas’ dismissal.

“I’ll be honest, it was definitely a whirlwind that first day,” Gupta told Krawczysnki. “But now that we’re in camp and everyone’s ready to go, definitely everyone’s moved past what’s happened and is really focused on our goals for this year. There’s a lot of good energy in the building and a lot of excitement.”

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • Gupta is close with Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch, who says the two franchise leaders talk twice a day and are “leaning on each other a lot right now,” per Krawczynski. “I think we’re completely aligned, not just in terms of basketball philosophy, but in terms of our values and the kind of culture we want to build here,” Gupta said.
  • Zarko Durisic, a popular longtime Timberwolves scout who was let go by Rosas, is back with the team, according to Krawczynski (Twitter link). Durisic will have the same title (senior player personnel scout) and duties as he did before, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News.
  • After spending last season on Nate Bjorkgren‘s staff in Indiana, Moses Ehambe has joined the Timberwolves as the team’s director of player programs, a league source tells Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files (Twitter link).
  • While the Timberwolves are close to the tax line and likely won’t take on any extra salary this season, they have more flexibility going forward, opening the door for them to swap expiring deals for multiyear contracts, John Hollinger of The Athletic writes in his season preview. Hollinger likes some of the Wolves’ talent, but thinks they need another reliable forward or two and projects them to finish 12th in the West with a 36-46 record.

Timberwolves Notes: Rosas, Gupta, Finch, Simmons, Towns

The impending ownership change played a role in the surprising dismissal of Gersson Rosas as the Timberwolves‘ president of basketball operations, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

Minority partners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez, who will eventually take over for Glen Taylor, are doing a full investigation into the franchise and discovered “disenchantment” among front office employees, sources tell Krawczynski. Considering the team’s poor record with Rosas in charge, Lore and Rodriguez determined that he would eventually need to be replaced, and that decision was sped up with the discovery that Rosas was having a “consensual intimate relationship” with another member of the organization.

Sachin Gupta, who was chosen to replace Rosas, has strong relationships with the new ownership group and will be given a chance to win the job on a more permanent basis, according to Krawczynski’s sources. He has full power to make decisions on trades and other personnel moves, but will be watched closely to make sure the owners are happy with the direction of the franchise. The Wolves are seeking stability and don’t appear to be searching outside the organization for someone else to take over.

Gupta is a strong supporter of coach Chris Finch, whose job will be safe despite the loss of Rosas, who hired him in February. Finch has “nearly universal approval” throughout the organization, along with the trust of the players. However, he may need a successful season to keep his job if a new lead executive is eventually hired.

There’s more from Minnesota:

  • The front office shakeup won’t affect the Wolves’ chances of trading for Ben Simmons, Krawczynski adds in the same piece. Gupta was involved in the team’s negotiations with Philadelphia, according to sources, and like Rosas, he worked with Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey in Houston. Minnesota’s main obstacles to landing Simmons are a lack of assets that appeal to Philadelphia and the difficulty of finding a third team to facilitate a deal.
  • Acquiring Simmons may be the only way to keep Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota for the long term, suggests Michael Rand of The Star-Tribune. The Wolves seem likely to miss the playoffs again with their current roster, which increases the chances that Towns will ask for a trade next summer when he will have just two years left on his contract.
  • The bad decisions made by Rosas show the importance of finding the right person to run the team, states John Hollinger of The Athletic. Hollinger notes that the Wolves have a history of front office failure, which is why they have just one playoff appearance over the past 17 years.