Dario Saric

Butler, Covington, Saric Debut For New Teams

Four days after the Timberwolves and Sixers first agreed to a blockbuster Jimmy Butler trade, and two days after that deal was officially completed, Butler made his Philadelphia debut on Wednesday night while Robert Covington and Dario Saric made their first appearances as members of the Wolves.

Butler had a fairly quiet first game for the Sixers, posting just 14 points and four rebounds in 33 minutes as his new team lost to the Magic, 111-106. Despite the loss, head coach Brett Brown and the 76ers weren’t discouraged, pointing out that getting everyone on the same page in the wake of Butler’s arrival will take a little time.

“I mean, it’s hard,” Brown said after the game, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com. “He comes in, and he’s trying to do the right thing. You’re trying to put in some plays this morning at shootaround. He’s trying to figure everybody else out, [and] they’re trying to figure him out. It’s going to take time. It’s going to take time. I think, in general, you sort of see what you have in him, and it’s incredibly exciting.”

Things went better in Minnesota, where Covington and Saric combined for 22 points and 10 rebounds en route to a 107-100 win over New Orleans. As Patrick Reusse of The Star Tribune writes, Covington got an early taste of Tom Thibodeau‘s tendency to ride his starters hard, playing a game-high 41 minutes for Minnesota. “As Thibs said, ‘Being out there on the court is the best way to learn about your new teammates,'” Covington told reporters with a smile after the game. Meanwhile, Thibodeau suggested after the game that Covington’s defensive effort made it easy to give him a major role immediately.

“I knew we could use him right away because he brings so much defensively,” Thibodeau said. “And he goes so hard … if you go hard enough it’s going to make up for a lot of things, including being new to a team.”

Here’s more on the Sixers’ and Timberwolves’ new additions, and how each team is being impacted by the changes:

  • Time is on the Sixers‘ side as they adjust to the arrival of Butler, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. With the start of the playoffs still five months away, the team has plenty of time to work out the kinks, and Butler is confident that’ll happen before too long. “How tough will it be? Nah, it’s not hard at all,” Butler said. “So far we all get along. I think that’s the first thing — we all want each other to be great. We’re all talking about where we’re supposed to be and what we see out there on the floor. I’m telling you, it’s coming sooner rather than later. We’re going to be just fine.”
  • In an interesting piece for HoopsHype, Alex Kennedy goes behind the scenes on Butler’s first couple days as a Sixer, sharing details on how the 29-year-old and his new Philadelphia teammates found out about the trade on Saturday. Kennedy also reports that the 76ers held a team dinner on Tuesday night in the hopes that Butler, fellow newcomer Justin Patton, other recent additions like Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala, and the team’s incumbent players could all get to know each other a little better.
  • With Butler no longer on the team, Karl-Anthony Towns is ready to lead the Timberwolves in his own way, according to Malika Andrews of ESPN.com, who writes that Towns is hoping for a looser environment in Minnesota. “All those teams I was on that were successful were the ones that everyone had love for each other and had fun,” Towns told Andrews. “Things that seem minuscule — joking around, laughing, conversing, all those things that seem childish — that is what builds camaraderie.”

Western Notes: Lowry, Covington, Rockets

The Jazz saw Gordon Hayward walk away after the 2016/17 campaign but he wasn’t the only star the team had an eye on that offseason. Utah spoke with Kyle Lowry‘s representatives during the summer of 2017 and the organization felt confident that it could sign Lowry, sources tell Andy Larsen and Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune.

The front office decided to pull out of the Lowry sweepstakes because signing the point guard would have required the team to use the cap space it had planned to use for Hayward. Lowry ended up re-signing with Toronto on a three-year pact.

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

More Leftovers From Jimmy Butler Trade

Jimmy Butler is officially a member of the Sixers, and appears to be on track to make his debut with his new team on Wednesday in Orlando. As Brian Seltzer of Sixers.com writes, head coach Brett Brown views the newest 76er as a “perfect fit” for the city and for the team, given his fierce competitiveness and willingness to play hard-nosed defense.

Meanwhile, new Sixers general manager Elton Brand indicated in a statement that he believes the franchise now has three of the league’s top 20 players on its roster.

“We have a championship window that’s centered around the continued progression of our talented young core, as well as our ability to add elite players who elevate our program,” Brand said. “In Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, we have two of the NBA’s top 20 players. Now, we’ve added a third top-20 player in Jimmy Butler, who is one of the NBA’s very best on both ends of the floor. This move further strengthens our pursuit of a championship and gives us a formidable combination to take on the league’s top teams.”

We have several more leftover items and reactions related to the Butler deal to pass along, so we’ll round them up right here:

  • After reportedly generating friction with teammates in Chicago and Minnesota, Butler may find the Sixers to be the perfect fit at the perfect time, writes Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports.
  • ESPN’s Kirk Goldsberry explores why Butler won’t solve Philadephia’s biggest issue, while Chris Mannix of SI.com suggests that “The Process” has led to “The Gamble” in Philadelphia, with the Sixers taking a risk on Butler.
  • Having been put in a tough spot by Butler’s trade request, the Timberwolves managed to get good value in their deal with Philadelphia by landing Robert Covington and Dario Saric, says Britt Robson of The Athletic.
  • In the wake of the Butler trade, Anthony Tolliver says that it feels like a cloud hovering over the Timberwolves has lifted, as Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets.
  • Reports throughout the Butler saga suggested that Tom Thibodeau wanted players who could help the team win now, and the Timberwolves‘ head coach and president of basketball operations confirmed as much on Monday, per Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “We wanted quality players. That was important for us,” Thibodeau said. “[We get] two starters [Covington and Saric] off a team that won 52 games, and they’re both young. … Once we get to that point where we felt we were getting multiple rotational players, we felt it would be time to execute the deal.”
  • Covington posted a message on his Instagram account thanking the Sixers and the fans in Philadelphia for his time with the organization. It’s been a incredible journey and I definitely wouldn’t change it for the world,” Covington wrote. “I built friendships and bonds that will last a lifetime. Now a new journey awaits and I’m thankful for this opportunity.”
  • In case you missed it on Monday, we relayed reactions from Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins on the Butler deal, more comments from Thibodeau, details on the Pelicans’ and Rockets’ trade offers, and a note on the Nets’ involvement in Butler trade talks.

Timberwolves Trade Jimmy Butler To Sixers

NOVEMBER 12: The Sixers and Timberwolves have issued press releases announcing that the deal is now official.

NOVEMBER 10: The Sixers have agreed to acquire Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton for Robert Covington, Dario SaricJerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick, according to Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter links). A trade call with the league to finalize the deal has been scheduled for Monday, Charania adds (via Twitter).

Elton Brand‘s first major move as the Sixers’ general manager will allow the team to acquire a third star alongside Simmons and Embiid without having to take their chances trying to lure that sort of impact player to Philadelphia during 2019’s free agent period. It should also reduce the pressure on 2017’s first overall pick Markelle Fultz to develop into that third star.

Butler and the Sixers fully expect to reach an agreement on a long-term deal for the All-NBA swingman once he’s eligible for free agency in 2019, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Philadelphia’s plan is to have a long-term big three of Butler, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, according to Wojnarowski, who suggests (via Twitter) that only a major injury or a poor fit alongside Simmons and Embiid could diminish the Sixers’ optimism on a long-term future with Butler.

It remains to be seen how Butler will fit on and off the court in Philadelphia with the team’s two young stars after failing to make things work with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins in Minnesota, but the four-time All-Star should significantly increase the 76ers’ ceiling. Butler will provide play-making and shooting (.361 3PT% since 2016/17) on offense, and figures to replace Covington as the team’s primary perimeter stopper on defense. As for Patton, his NBA career has been derailed by foot injuries, and he’s unlikely to be a Sixer beyond this season.

Even if they re-sign Butler in 2019, the Sixers won’t necessarily be capped out quite yet, with Simmons still on his rookie deal. As ESPN’s Bobby Marks details, with cap holds for Butler and fellow free agent T.J. McConnell to consider, the team would have about $21MM in cap room next summer. If the 76ers want to clear enough room for another max player, trading Fultz would just about get them there, though Philadelphia’s cap sheet could get messy in that scenario, with an eventual max deal for Simmons also on the horizon.

For Minnesota, this trade will end a near two-month saga after Butler’s trade request went public. The week before training camps got underway, word broke that Butler had asked to be traded during a meeting with Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau and didn’t intend to report to camp.

When the Wolves didn’t find a trade for Butler right away, he rejoined the team, but the last five or six weeks have been rife with drama. The 29-year-old’s return to Minnesota was highlighted by a now-infamous expletive-filled rant in a preseason practice, and things hadn’t quieted down much since then. Now that the Wolves have finally resolved the situation, the team will have an opportunity to focus on a future centered around former No. 1 overall picks Towns and Wiggins.

The Timberwolves will now add Covington and Saric to that long-term core — Saric won’t be up for restricted free agency until 2020, while Covington is locked up through 2022. Both players make sense for Thibodeau, GM Scott Layden, and the Wolves, who didn’t want to take a significant step back in their roster-building process after snapping a lengthy postseason-less streak this past spring. Covington and Saric will be able to jump into the rotation immediately and should also be part of the team for years to come.

Bayless is on an expiring contract and almost certainly won’t be part of Minnesota’s future plans, as he was just included in the swap for salary-matching purposes. If the Wolves don’t plan for Bayless to have a role this season, he’ll become a buyout candidate.

Thibodeau, Layden, owner Glen Taylor, and the Timberwolves also reportedly discussed potential Butler trades with several other teams before agreeing to terms with the Sixers. The Rockets and Heat were said to be the most aggressive suitors, as Minnesota allegedly passed on a Miami offer that included Josh Richardson and a first-round pick, and also balked at a Houston offer featuring four first-round picks.

We don’t know what the protections on those Rockets’ first-rounders or the Heat first-rounder would have looked like, and the Wolves likely would have had to take on an unwanted multiyear contract in each of those proposals. Still, it will still be fascinating to see how Covington and Saric pan out in Minnesota, since we have a sense of what sort of other packages were available to the Wolves.

While Thibodeau exercised plenty of patience through the Butler saga, that patience ran out after the Timberwolves concluded their 0-5 road trip on Friday, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter link). League sources told Wojnarowski that Thibodeau came to the realization Minnesota couldn’t win with Butler in such a dysfunctional environment, and told associates that the team wouldn’t play another game with Butler.

Wojnarowski and ESPN’s Brian Windhorst also report (via Twitter) that team ownership was “heavily involved” on both sides of the negotiations, with Taylor and Josh Harris of the Sixers working closely with management to finalize a deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Woj’s Latest: Butler, Timberwolves, Thibodeau

In a piece regarding the final days of the Jimmy Butler saga in Minnesota, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN provides a closer look into the Timberwolves‘ front office and the back-and-forth that went down before the trade was finally completed. Let’s dive into some of the highlights he provides:

  • Tom Thibodeau sold Timberwolves‘ owner Glen Taylor on passing on the initial offer from the Heat centered around Josh Richardson because he believed that Pat Riley would come back with a better offer down the road (the Heat never returned with Richardson on the table in subsequent trade talks).
  • Taylor considered firing Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden this past summer before the Butler saga broke out and continues to think about the possibility of replacing both of them.
  • According to Woj, the Timberwolves desperately tried to find other trade partners throughout the past week, including reaching out to the Pelicans and Wizards, to no avail. The Wolves actually had “extensive” discussions with the Pels, but New Orleans wouldn’t offer Jrue Holiday or multiple draft picks. Washington, meanwhile wouldn’t offer Bradley Beal, which comes as no surprise.
  • The Sixers initially offered the Timberwolves their choice of Robert Covington and Dario Saric in an offer for Butler before eventually agreeing to include both players.
  • The Sixers believe they are operating out of a position of leverage when it comes to dealings with Butler. According to Woj, there are league executives that understand that Butler must be on his best behavior in order to get the full five-year max contract he desires this summer.

Latest On Jimmy Butler Trade To Philadelphia

The Timberwolves and Sixers agreed on Saturday to one of the biggest trades in recent years. Jimmy Butler is headed to Philadelphia, while Dario Saric and Robert Covington headline the package that Minnesota is receiving.

We have more news to pass along on this blockbuster:

  • Butler had shown an interest in Philadelphia long before Saturday. Butler scheduled a free agent meeting with the Sixers  in 2015, when they were still in the early stages of building a contender, before he re-signed with the Bulls, Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated tweets.
  • If Butler agrees to a max contract with Philadelphia, Markelle Fultz‘s long-term prospects with the organization would be in serious doubt, Zach Lowe of ESPN tweets. There are plenty of other questions regarding how Fultz fits with core group that Philadelphia has assembled and the team’s brass will closely monitor how all the personalities mesh, Lowe adds. The top 2017 pick is averaging just 8.9 PPG and 3.6 APG  in 24.3 MPG and will now have to compete with another All-Star for touches.
  • Minnesota avoided sending Butler to a Western Conference contender, one of the goals it set in trade talks involving the disgruntled swingman, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN notes (Twitter link). The Rockets had been mentioned prominently as a possible destination but even a package of four future first-round picks couldn’t entice the Timberwolves to send him to a conference rival. The Sixers became the most viable trade partner once the Heat pulled Josh Richardson out of trade discussions, Wojnarowski adds.
  • The Sixers were prepared to offer a similar package to the Spurs to acquire Kawhi Leonard this summer, Fischer reports in another tweet. Philadelphia was willing to give up Saric, Covington and a first-rounder to San Antonio before the Spurs opted to deal Leonard to the Raptors. The Spurs’ decision to decline the Sixers’ offer thus far seems like a wise move, considering Saric’s early shooting slump (30% from long range), Jabari Young of The Athletic tweets. Toronto’s package, with DeMar DeRozan as the centerpiece, has helped San Antonio get off to a 6-4 start despite a rash of injuries.
  • Buyout candidates will be even more intrigued to join the Sixers for the stretch run, Alex Kennedy of Hoops Hype tweets. Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli joined Philadelphia in that fashion last season, Kennedy adds, and the incentive for players seeking a ring to hop on Philadelphia’s bandwagon has dramatically increased.
  • The Timberwolves considered three offers from different teams before picking the Sixers’ package, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets.
  • Philadelphia will likely move J.J. Redick back into the starting lineup because his 3-point shooting will be needed on the first unit, Keith Smith of RealGM tweets.
  • The earliest that Butler could make his Sixers debut, once the trade is finalized, is Wednesday against the Magic, Wojnarowski adds in another tweet.

Eastern Notes: Boylan, Hornets, Saric, Yabusele

Former Cavaliers assistant coach Jim Boylan has filed an age-discrimination lawsuit against the franchise, which the team has labelled “frivolous” and a “shameless cash grab,” according to an Associated Press report. Boylan, 63, worked five seasons under former coaches David Blatt and Tyronn Lue but did not have his option picked up this summer. Boylan contends GM Koby Altman told him owner Dan Gilbert wanted a younger coach.

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • The Hornets have used a committee approach at the center spot and that position is likely to remain in flux, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reports. Starter Cody Zeller, Willy Hernangomez, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Nicolas Batum, Frank Kaminsky and Bismack Biyombo have all taken turns in the middle but first-year coach James Borrego isn’t worried. “We’re still searching (but) I like the dilemma I have,” he told Bonnell.
  • Sixers coach Brett Brown is allowing forward Dario Saric to work through his shooting slump, Sarah Todd of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Saric has scored in single digits in each of the last three games while shooting 2-for-13 from long range. Brown has no plans to reduce Saric’s workload. “If he came to me and said, ‘I need some time,’ I would listen,” Brown said. “But I don’t feel like I’m force-feeding anything, I do not feel like I’m hurting him. In fact, I feel like I’m helping him.”
  • Guerschon Yabusele’s option was picked up for next season because his game fits the modern NBA, according to coach Brad Stevens, and the Celtics believe the 22-year-old has high upside, the team’s PR department tweets. Boston’s brass decided to retain Yabusele despite a cap hit of $3,117,240, a figure that could grow if Boston pays the luxury tax. The 6’8” Yabusele has played just 18 minutes this season after seeing action in 33 games in his rookie campaign. But with several players hitting the free agent market next summer, the Celtics felt Yabusele was too valuable to give up, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald notes. “Having Guerschon gives us continuity. He knows our system,” GM Danny Ainge said. “He’s loved by everybody. It’s just not easy to find that type of player.”

Sixers Pick Up Options On Simmons, Fultz, Saric

The Sixers have exercised their 2019/20 team options on Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, and Dario Saric, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Those decisions, which were due on October 31, don’t come as any surprise.

Simmons’ fourth-year option will lock in his $8,113,930 cap hit for 2019/20, though it’s Fultz’s third-year option, worth $9,745,200, that is the priciest of the bunch. Saric’s fourth-year option is more modest, with a value of $3,481,986. In total, the three options will tack on about $21.34MM in guaranteed money to Philadelphia’s cap for next season.

Simmons and Saric are now on track to become eligible for rookie scale extensions during the 2019 offseason. The 76ers will have to make one more option decision on Fultz, with that decision on his 2020/21 option due a year from now.

Philadelphia must make one more rookie scale option decision by Wednesday, with Furkan Korkmaz‘s $2,033,160 third-year option for 2019/20 also outstanding. A recent report suggested that option was a good bet to be exercised, but if the team announces its decisions on the other three options without mentioning Korkmaz, that won’t bode well for him. The cap hit on his option wouldn’t be much higher than the minimum salary, but declining it would help the Sixers maximize their cap space.

We’re tracking all of the 2019/20 rookie scale option decisions right here.

Sixers Notes: Saric, Draft History, Korkmaz, Injuries

Dario Saric‘s slow start may be related to the time he spent this summer with the Croatian national team, but he doesn’t plan to stop representing his home country, relays Mike Sielski of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Saric shot just 26.5% from 3-point range and 37% overall in the Sixers’ first five games, which coach Brett Brown believes is related to a year-round work schedule.

“I don’t think it’s anything to do with the league scouting him differently,” Brown said. “I think it maybe does have to do with a little bit of burnt energy. It’s the toil of a summer. … This notion, that you play 12 months and you’re really in a good flow, is a myth. It is a myth. People need rest.”

However, Brown doesn’t expect Saric to change his priorities. As a former Olympics coach with Australia, Brown understands the passion of international competition. The NBA has long embraced the idea of players representing their native lands and it means too much to Saric to consider changing.

“Absolutely, I think I would be a better player if I didn’t play five, six years on the national team,” he said. “I think I would be a better player. But at the end of the day, everything is winning. You want to win with the national team.”

There’s more today from Philadelphia:

  • Costly draft mistakes have forced the Sixers to rely on trades or free agency to add a third star to pair with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The organization used high lottery picks on Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor, who were both traded away for little return, and chose Michael Carter-Williams ahead of Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2013. They couldn’t sign free agents LeBron James or Paul George this summer, while Kawhi Leonard was traded to the Raptors. Pompey states that the pressure for a huge move will be intense heading into the last summer for a while that significant cap space will be available.
  • The Sixers are expected to pick up the third-year option on Furkan Korkmaz, even though he doesn’t see much playing time, Pompey adds in the same story. Korkmaz would only make $2.03MM next season, which shouldn’t be enough to affect the team’s free agency plans. Philadelphia has until Wednesday to decide on the option for Korkmaz, along with Simmons, Saric and Markelle Fultz.
  • Injuries are at least partially to blame for the Sixers’ slow start, notes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. Philadelphia hasn’t gotten much production outside of Simmons, Embiid and J.J. Redick, but two offseason pickups who were expected to be important parts of the reserve unit, Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala, have both been sidelined by injuries.

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Nets, Saric

It’s hard to be patient when building a team under the spotlight of New York City, Knicks president Steve Mills is acutely aware of just that. Still, after 45 years without a title and two particularly disappointing decades, the club is going to try it out.

I believe [Knicks] fans will accept a team that has a plan and you stick with it and if you deliver players, you do have some hope,” Mills told Steve Popper of Newsday. “[…] We think we have something we can see is different as long as we have the patience to stick to it.

Among other things, the Knicks will need to wait for Kristaps Porzingis to return from a knee injury months into the 2018/19 season and hope for progress out of raw 2017 lottery pick Frank Ntilikina.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Nets have addressed their rebounding shortage with vigor. Chris Milholen of Nets Daily writes that the club’s acquisitions of Ed Davis, Kenneth Faried and now Alan Williams prove that they’re committed to improving that particular shortcoming.
  • It’s reasonable to assume that the Sixers envisioned Markelle Fultz as a starter when they drafted him. Derek Bodner of The Athletic writes that much-improved sophomore Dario Saric may need to return to the bench if that’s the case.
  • There are less than 10 days until training camp begins. Currently, two Atlantic Division teams have maxed out their rosters at 20. The Knicks, Raptors and 76ers all have one more space to fill. Check out our list of NBA roster counts for the rest of the league, broken down by team.