D'Angelo Russell

Western Notes: Hyland, Porter Jr., Towns, Russell, Toliver

Rookie Bones Hyland averaged 19.7 PPG across four games in Las Vegas and his Nuggets summer league coach believes he can play right away for the NBA club, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes. “His skill set is undeniable,” Charles Klask said. “… I think there’s always room for players like him that have great feel for the game. They find a way to get on the floor because they can do so many different things, and as long as he can bring it on both ends, night in and night out, I think he can be part of our rotation, for sure.” Hyland was drafted with the No. 26 pick.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • There shouldn’t be any serious concern about the Nuggets’ ability to reach a rookie scale extension agreement with Michael Porter Jr., Singer opines in a mailbag piece. Singer’s sources say there shouldn’t be too much read into the lack of news regarding negotiations, since the club has until the start of the season to extend Porter. His agent, Mark Bartelstein, had a number of other clients to focus on during free agency, Singer adds.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell are determined to do what it takes this offseason to turn the Timberwolves’ fortunes around, coach Chris Finch told The Athletic’s Britt Robson. “There is a deep and genuine motivation by Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell to have their best offseason ever. And that’s really where it begins and ends, because if your best players aren’t all-in and ready, then you are not going to go very far,” Finch said. “They’ve seen their contemporaries having success. Devin Booker’s in the Finals. Nikola Jokic wins MVP. These are guys who they feel they are every bit as good as, if not better than — or at one point have been better than — in the league.”
  • The Mavericks are hiring Kristi Toliver as an assistant coach, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. Dallas had been seeking a female assistant for Jason Kidd‘s staff. Toliver, who remains an active player in the WNBA, spent two seasons in the Wizards’ organization.

Timberwolves Reportedly Have Trade Interest In Ben Simmons

The Sixers, who are weighing what changes to make to their roster this offseason, continue to insist they’re committed Ben Simmons for the long term. However, if the 76ers seriously explore a potential Simmons trade this offseason, the Timberwolves are among the teams expected to show interest, Darren Wolfson of SKOR North said on The Scoop (audio link).

“I texted with somebody that knows Ben Simmons incredibly well (and) has working knowledge of all things NBA,” Wolfson said. “My text the other day said, ‘How badly do the Wolves want to trade for Ben Simmons?’ This individual sent me a text back, it was one word: ‘Badly.’

“Make no mistake, the Wolves have trade interest in Ben Simmons,” Wolfson continued. “… (President of basketball operations) Gersson Rosas is going to show – or already has, going back many months – interest in Ben Simmons.”

As Kurt Helin of NBC Sports writes, the Wolves probably aren’t parting with Karl-Anthony Towns or Anthony Edwards in any deal this offseason. That would leave D’Angelo Russell as the likely centerpiece in any offer for Simmons. Alternatively, Minnesota could package Malik Beasley and Ricky Rubio in order to put together enough salary to match Simmons’ $33MM+ cap hit.

However, even if the Wolves were to add draft picks to their offers, it’s unclear how appealing those offers would be to Daryl Morey and the Sixers. Should the 76ers move their three-time All-Star, they’d want to make a deal that would improve the team’s chances of competing for a title in 2022, rather than one heavy on draft picks. Morey would likely aim higher than a package headed by Russell or Beasley/Rubio.

Still, it’s an interesting idea, particularly given the Wolves’ quest to add a power forward this summer. While Simmons has been considered a point guard for the majority of his NBA career, the Defensive Player of the Year runner-up is more than capable of guarding threes and fours, which would make him an intriguing fit in Minnesota.

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Clarkson, Jokic, Rivers

Asked this week during an appearance on The Star Tribune’s Daily Delivery podcast about the trade that sent Andrew Wiggins and a lightly-protected first-round pick to Golden State in exchange for D’Angelo Russell at the 2020 trade deadline, Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas expressed no regrets, writes Michael Rand of The Star Tribune.

Even if Rosas – with the Timberwolves in position to give up a possible top-five pick to the Warriors – was having second thoughts about the trade, it’s not as if he’d be inclined to admit as much during a podcast appearance. But Rand said he felt as if the Wolves’ president was being honest and forthright in his assessment of the deal.

“As of now, I think our resurgence has happened with D’Angelo’s return, so that’s paying dividends now,” Rosas said. “We put the protection in the pick that we felt like was critical to keeping the pick. At some point you’re going to give the pick up whether it’s this year or next year. We’re firm believers. We did it for a purpose. We’re seeing the return on that deal now.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • After bouncing from Los Angeles to Cleveland to Utah during his first few NBA seasons, Jordan Clarkson has found an ideal fit with the Jazz, Tony Jones of The Athletic writes in an extensive look at the Sixth Man of the Year candidate. “The organization has let me be myself, and that’s meant a lot,” Clarkson said.
  • When the Nuggets clinched a spot in the first round of the postseason this week, it secured a $500K bonus for Nikola Jokic, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Since that bonus had already been deemed likely entering the season, it’ll have no impact on Denver’s cap.
  • After scoring 25 points on Wednesday against his old team (the Knicks), Austin Rivers had nothing but praise for his new team, the Nuggets, per Sean Keeler of The Denver Post. “This has been a life-saver and (life)-changer for me, coming (to Denver),” Rivers said. “I’ve never experienced a team, an organization, like this, (where it’s) so about ‘we’ instead of ‘me’ …. They just build everybody up here. That’s why (Michael Porter Jr.) plays the way he plays and Jokic and all these guys. They just build everybody up here. So I just feel kind of lucky. Honestly, I’m just lucky to be here and thankful to be here.”

Timberwolves Notes: Lottery Pick, Henry, Russell

The 2021 first-round pick the Timberwolves traded to the Warriors has top-three protection, so you could make a case that it’s in the team’s best interest to lose as much as possible down the stretch, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. However, the Wolves’ actions at the trade deadline and on the court suggest the team is prioritizing building some late-season momentum that could carry over to next season.

Karl-Anthony Towns has dealt with a nagging wrist issue this season and D’Angelo Russell is coming off knee surgery, but the Wolves have shown no interest in resting those players down the stretch, Krawczynski observes. While Minnesota has hardly been dominant lately, the club has won five of its last seven games after starting the season 14-42.

As our reverse standings show, the Wolves still have the NBA’s second-worst record, but a few more wins in the season’s final 18 days could move them anywhere from fourth to sixth in those reverse standings, reducing their odds of securing a top-three pick. Although the franchise could certainly use another impact player, it appears Gersson Rosas‘ group is content to keep its foot on the gas and to let the lottery balls fall where they may, writes Krawczynski.

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • If Minnesota wins a few more games, it could end up hurting the Warriors more than the Timberwolves, contends Michael Rand of The Star Tribune. If the Wolves finish with the NBA’s worst record, Golden State would have a 60% chance of landing either the No. 4 or No. 5 overall pick. But if Minnesota finishes the season fourth in the lottery standings, that pick could slide as far as No. 8. From an optics perspective, giving up a pick in that range would be far better for the Wolves than sending the Warriors a top-five selection, says Rand.
  • Following up on a report that Baskonia guard Pierria Henry is considering an offer from the Timberwolves, Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News notes (via Twitter) that a buyout with Henry’s Spanish club would need to be worked out. According to Wolfson, who suggests Rosas and the Wolves have long been interested in Henry, there should be resolution one way or the other by the end of the week.
  • He still hasn’t been inserted back into the starting lineup following his return from knee surgery, but D’Angelo Russell is showing now why the Timberwolves were willing to give up a lightly-protected first-round pick to acquire him at the 2020 trade deadline, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. The newly-healthy point guard is averaging 19.6 points and 5.5 assists per game on .468/.419/.870 shooting in 13 games (25.9 MPG) this month. “My body feeling the way it feels has a lot to do with my individual success,” Russell said.

Northwest Notes: Towns/D-Lo, Thunder, Gordon, Wolves

Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell made his long-awaited return to the floor in a 116-106 win against the Kings on Monday night after missing 26 games due to a left knee surgery. It marked just the sixth contest in which Russell appeared alongside his friend Karl-Anthony Towns for Minnesota.

Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes that Russell’s return has to encourage Timberwolves fans, as it perhaps can be seen as a preview of the interplay that could lift the club out of the depths next season.

“As long as we continue to work, work the way we want it, we can do something special,” Towns said of himself and his Timberwolves teammate. “We just got to work. Obviously, first, we got to be healthy enough to stay on the court with each other.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault discussed the team’s latest additions, Justin Robinson and two-way player Jaylen Hoard, according to Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman. “Robinson gives us a little extra ball handling,” Daigneault said, adding that Hoard “[p]lays hard, [is a] defender, somebody that understands how to play in a system on offense.”
  • Dan Devine of The Ringer wonders if Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon is allowing his new team to maximize its ceiling — and if being in Denver is doing the same for Gordon. Because he can cut off the ball, handle the rock, and roll to the rim, in addition to being a multifaceted defender, Gordon thus far has proven to be a more-than-serviceable facsimile of what Jerami Grant was in Denver last season. As of this writing, the Nuggets are poised to win their fifth straight game since adding Gordon.
  • The Timberwolves have announced (via Twitter) that Minnesota’s players and staff have received their COVID-19 vaccines.

D’Angelo Russell Ready To Return On Monday

Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell will return to the lineup on Monday against Sacramento, according to Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Russell has missed the last 26 games due to a knee injury. He underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee to remove a loose body in mid-February and was expected to be out for four-to-six weeks. Russell’s return comes at the back end of that timeline.

Russell last played on February 8, when he lasted just six minutes against the Mavericks before leaving with what was described as left leg soreness. He also missed a game due to right quad soreness.

Russell is averaging 19.3 PPG and 5.1 APG this season. After being drafted by the Lakers with the No. 2 pick in 2015, Russell was shipped to the Nets in the summer of 2017. He became an All-Star for Brooklyn in 2019 but wound up with the Warriors on a four-year, $117MM maximum contract sign-and-trade that summer.

He was traded last February, along with Jacob Evans and Omari Spellman, to Minnesota in exchange for Andrew Wiggins and two future draft picks.

Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns have only played five games together since the trade. Russell’s return gives Minnesota a chance to evaluate how Russell, Towns, and top pick Anthony Edwards blend together.

Northwest Notes: Porter, Brown, Jerome, Russell

Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. has become a much different player in his second NBA season, writes Kyle Fredrickson of The Denver Post. A year ago, there were concerns about Porter’s effort, especially on defense, as well as his tendency to rely too much on the three-point shot. But now his game is flourishing and he has won the full trust of the coaching staff. The concerns about his back that made him available with the 14th pick in the 2018 draft appear to be gone as well.

“(Porter) is getting so much more comfortable,” Nuggets guard Will Barton said. “He knows that he’s going to play and he knows that we count on him. You’ve seen him grow on the other side of the ball. It’s a nice thing to see, especially for a guy with his talent. When he’s stepping up and playing defense, it’s only going to open up his game more and open up our team’s game. He’s just becoming a heck of a player. You can just see his IQ growing with each game and each possession. It’s a pleasure to see, man. I’m very excited for him and his future.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Moses Brown has been one of this season’s most pleasant surprises, writes Nick Gallo of OKCThunder.com. After earning First Team and All-Defensive Team honors in the G League, the 21-year-old center has continued that level of play with the Thunder, averaging 11.5 points and 11.8 rebounds since being added to the rotation after the All-Star break. “I’m just a player that plays hard and does everything that is asked of me to do. I’m very into the game,” Brown said. “This is what I love to do. I can’t really see myself doing anything else. Not saying that I can’t, but I just don’t want to.”
  • Teams are starting to notice how dangerous Thunder guard Ty Jerome is as a three-point shooter, states Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Jerome has been limited to 16 games after suffering a high ankle sprain in the preseason, but he’s shooting 42.5% from beyond the arc.
  • The Timberwolves haven’t set a timetable for D’Angelo Russell to return from knee surgery, but there are indications it might happen this week, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Russell underwent an arthroscopic procedure in mid-February and was projected to miss four to six weeks. Minnesota may need him to replace Malik Beasley, who strained a hamstring Friday night. “It’s more minor than it is significant,” coach Chris Finch said, “but these things are tricky with hamstrings.”

Timberwolves Notes: Towns, Saunders, Russell, Vanterpool

Amid the turmoil of a mid-season coaching change, the Timberwolves got some good news Sunday night as star center Karl-Anthony Towns indicated he foresees a long future with the organization, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Towns was asked about his intentions following a loss to the Knicks that dropped Minnesota’s record to a league-worst 7-24.

“If you want to build a legacy we got to win,” Towns said. “And I want to build my legacy here so I want to win with the Wolves, and I’m going to do everything I possibly can to keep step-by-step, brick-by-brick, building something and a culture here that’s going to stand here for a long time.”

Towns, 25, still has three more years on the extension he signed in 2018, paying him $31.65MM, $33.83MM and $36MM through the 2023/24 season. He could opt to demand a trade, as other stars have done in losing situations, but Sunday’s comments should offer some hope to the Wolves that he’s committed to turning things around in Minnesota.

There’s more on the Timberwolves:

  • Ryan Saunders knew for weeks that his job was in jeopardy, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Players had been openly speculating about a coaching change, and the only question was whether management would keep him in place through the end of the season. Owner Glen Taylor had resisted the move because Towns was out of the lineup so much this season due to injuries and a battle with COVID-19. However, Minnesota was just 1-7 since Towns returned February 10, which was enough for Taylor to endorse firing Saunders.
  • Obvious tension built up between guard D’Angelo Russell and Saunders as losses mounted, Krawczynski adds in the same story. A long-time friend of Towns, Russell was brought in at last year’s trade deadline to provide a second star for the team to build around. However, because of injuries and the hiatus, Saunders only got to coach Towns and Russell together in five games.
  • Several NBA players questioned why Timberwolves associate head coach David Vanterpool wasn’t chosen to replace Saunders, with the loudest support for the former Trail Blazers assistant coming from Portland stars Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, notes Jamie Hudson of NBC Sports. “How the hell do you not hire David Vanterpool,” Lillard tweeted, “and he’s right there on the bench… and has been in front office SUCCESSFULLY and on the front of a bench of a winning team SUCCESSFULLY (7 years) … and also has played a major role in the development of a dominant backcourt smdh!” According to Krawczynski, there has been speculation throughout the league that Chris Finch has been on top of president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas‘ wish list since he joined the Wolves two years ago, and Rosas was willing to endure criticism over not considering a minority candidate such as Vanterpool.

D’Angelo Russell To Undergo Left Knee Procedure

Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell will have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to remove a loose body, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. Russell is expected to be sidelined for four to six weeks, Wojnarowski adds.

It’s another big blow to a struggling team that has dealt with injuries and illness this season.

Russell last played on February 8, when he lasted just six minutes against the Mavericks before leaving with what was described as left leg soreness. He also missed a game this month due to right quad soreness.

Russell is averaging 19.3 PPG and 5.1 APG for a club that has won just seven of 27 games. Without him, Malik Beasley, Ricky Rubio and Jordan McLaughlin will get the bulk of the minutes at the guard spots.

After being drafted by the Lakers with the No. 2 pick in 2015, Russell was shipped to the Nets in the summer of 2017. He became an All-Star for Brooklyn in 2019 but wound up with the Warriors on a four-year, $117MM maximum contract sign-and-trade that summer.

He was traded last February, along with Jacob Evans and Omari Spellman, to Minnesota in exchange for Andrew Wiggins and two future draft picks.

As The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski tweets, Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns have only played five games together since the trade.

Timberwolves Notes: Butler, D-Lo, Layman, Gershon

Observing the 2020 postseason ascent of one-time Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler has allowed Patrick Reusse of the Minnesota Star Tribune to glean some perspective on Butler’s old team.

Reusse opines that former Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau‘s instincts were correct in making his 2017 trade with the Bulls to acquire Butler — but that the team erred in signing 2014 No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins to a his full five-year, $148MM maximum contract extension. When it became clear that this meant Butler would not be able to get the kind of maximum extension he desired, he forced his way out of Minnesota.

There’s more out of the Gopher State:

  • Point guard-turned-assistant coach Pablo Prigioni could be the key to improving the play of Wolves star point guard D’Angelo Russell, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Prigioni was also a part of the Nets coaching staff when Russell made his lone All-Star appearance for Brooklyn.
  • Wolves forward Jake Layman recently discussed the team’s in-market group practices, which commenced this week. “It has been great,” Layman said, per a team tweet. “I think going over those little things really builds the chemistry on and off the court and that has translated well to playing our 3-on-3 drill and 5-on-5.”
  • As we previously relayed, the Wolves ahead of the 2020 draft will add 247 Sports analyst Josh Gershon to their front office. He will serve as a consultant for the team’s draft preparation and player personnel.