Derrick Rose

Wolves Notes: Butler, Towns, Wiggins, Rose

The Clippers, who hosted the Timberwolves on Monday, were reportedly on Jimmy Butler‘s list of preferred destinations when he requested a trade in September, and the Lakers, who will face Minnesota tonight, have also been identified as a potential suitor for the 2019 free-agent-to-be. However, Butler was in no mood to answer questions about a possible future in Los Angeles this week, as Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com relays.

“No, I’m in Minnesota for the time being,” Butler said after Monday’s loss. “I’ll enjoy the sunshine for a couple days, and then if we go back there, we go back there.”

Butler also turned away inquiries on whether or not he’d even play in the game against the Lakers on Wednesday. The All-NBA swingman has only appeared in two of the Wolves’ last four contests, missing games against Utah and Portland due to what the team referred to as “general soreness” and “precautionary rest.” He’s listed as questionable for tonight.

Here’s more on Minnesota:

  • With Timberwolves president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau under fire for his handling of the Butler situation, Michael Rand of The Star Tribune revisits all of Thibodeau’s major personnel moves during his time in Minnesota, assigning each a grade. Karl-Anthony Towns‘ rookie scale extension received the highest marks of any transaction Thibodeau has overseen.
  • Speaking of Towns, Chris Herring of ESPN.com explored whether he and Andrew Wiggins are strong enough franchise cornerstones to make the Wolves a legit contender in the West once Butler departs.
  • Although he has started two of his last three outings for the Wolves, including last Wednesday’s 50-point game, Derrick Rose recently suggested that he’s aiming to win the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award this season, as Nick Fridell of ESPN.com writes. Rose, who has come off the bench in eight of his 10 games, is averaging 17.4 PPG, 4.6 APG, and 3.5 RPG.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets’ D, Rose, Thunder

Despite scoring being at a near-all-time high early on this NBA season, one team has still been able to hold every one of its opponents to less than 100 points in each game played thus far – the Nuggets.  And while one may not think of the up-and-coming Nuggets as a defensive juggernaut just yet, head coach Michael Malone is a defensive guy at his core, writes Christopher Dempsey of Nuggets.com.

Yes, it’s awfully early to make any long lasting conclusions about a team’s defensive prowess this season, but Malone is excited about the potential for this year’s team to be one of the best defensive teams to come along in Denver in a while. This is the defense I dream about,” Malone said. “Ever since I got here.”

Asked why exactly it is his team is playing so well on the defensive side of the ball so far during the 2018/19 campaign, Malone lauded his team’s effort and want-to. “I would say just an overall buy-in and commitment. You can talk game plan and you can talk strategy but at the end of the day, for me, defense comes down to pride. Do you want to go out there and give it everything you have to defend?

Additionally, Dempsey opines that adding defensive-minded players like Torrey Craig, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee has helped the mentality around the team morph into a more defensive-oriented group.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves’ head coach Tom Thibodeau evidently thinks backup guard Derrick Rose still has a lot of gas left in the tank, despite a bevy of evidence to the contrary, telling Jace Frederick of the Pioneer Press that “as long as (Rose is) healthy, he’ll be one of the best players in the league.”
  • The Thunder, praised as one of the best teams in the deep Western Conference to begin the season, have gotten off to a rocky, 0-3 start. Yet, as Erik Horne of The Oklahoman writes, there exists reason for optimism, with rookie Hamidou Diallo and newcomer Nerlens Noel both providing a spark off the bench in Sunday’s loss to the lowly Kings.
  • In other Thunder news, Brett Dawson of The Athletic is reporting that guard Alex Abrines, who left Sunday’s game in the first half with a mouth contusion, and who will compete for Diallo and Terrance Ferguson for minutes until the return of Andre Roberson, is not expected to miss any additional time.

Western Notes: Ball, Allen, Schroder, Rose

Magic Johnson knows a thing or two about passing — he ranks fifth in career assists with 10,141 — but Johnson, a three-time NBA MVP, also knows the importance of scoring. Johnson held a stellar mark of 11.2 assists per game in his career, but his ability to keep defenders guessing by also becoming an elite scorer is what truly made him great.

Johnson, who is in his second year as Lakers President of Basketball Operations, strongly believes this is the transition Lonzo Ball must now enter, according to Nick Schwartz of USA TODAY Sports. Ball has already become an accomplished passer, but has plenty of room to grow as a scorer.

“He has to learn how to attack the paint and get his floaters, and then take it all the way to the rim,” Johnson said. “He loves to pass first – and that’s fine, we want him to stay with that – but a lot of times now the defense is baiting him. ‘Go ahead and drive the lane, we know you’re going to kick it out.’ So they don’t really play him. So he’s got to take it all the way.

“He’s got to be able to score. And once he’s able to score… he can do everything else. He can play defense. He’s one of the best rebounding guards in the league. And he knows how to get his teammates great shots. We want him to keep the pace going, because we want to run, run, and run.”

Drafted by Johnson’s group, Ball, 20, can help round-out his overall offensive game by taking these strides. He made his season debut on Thursday against the Trail Blazers, three months after undergoing knee surgery.

There’s more from the Western Conference:

  • The Trail Blazers were more than just a team for the late Paul Allen — they were his passion, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. Allen passed away this week after a battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He owned the Blazers for 30 seasons, purchasing the franchise in 1988.
  • Dennis Schroder proved his worth in the Thunder’s season-opener on Tuesday, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman writes. Schroder finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and six assists in 34 minutes of work, filling in for the injured Russell Westbrook.
  • Derrick Rose‘s role will fluctuate with the return of Jimmy Butler, writes Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Rose was labeled as a starter alongside Jeff Teague before Butler’s return, but came off the bench in the team’s first game this week. “[Rose] has the versatility to play with both groups,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “So he’s gotten comfortable playing the off guard; his natural position is the point. I think you can mix and match with those guys.”

Derrick Rose: “I’m Not Here To Steal Nobody’s Job”

While Derrick Rose is no longer the exhilarating young phenom and Most Valuable Player candidate, the point guard feels he can help the Timberwolves this season, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes (subscription required).

Rose, 30, has played well in the preseason for Minnesota, averaging 11.3 PPG and 2.0 RPG through three contests. Those numbers are a far cry from his MVP totals from the 2010/11 season, but the veteran’s mindset is different.

“I’m just looking for comfort and opportunity,” Rose said. “I’m not here to steal nobody’s job. I’ve been in that position before early in my career. I did that. I’m here to help. I’m not here to challenge no one for their spot. All that talk is crazy. I’m not looking to start. That’s not me. I’m just looking to do whatever the team needs me to do.”

Minnesota signed Rose last March after he was waived by the Jazz following a trade from the Cavaliers. In nine regular season games with the Timberwolves, Rose averaged just 12.7 minutes per game as the team relied on fan-favorite Tyus Jones. In the postseason, however, Rose showed bursts of his prior form as he averaged 14.2 PPG and shot 51% from the field.

It’s unfair to expect that type of performance consistently from Rose, who has dealt with a plethora of injuries in his career. However, the three-time All-Star is also willing to take on any role that helps the team succeed.

“As far as me becoming a leader, just trying to help the team, whatever they need me to do, pick up garbage, whatever, I’m here,” Rose said. “Whatever they need me to do to help the team.”

Wolves Notes: Butler, Thibodeau, Wiggins

The Timberwolves have yet to move All-Star shooting guard Jimmy Butler in a trade, keeping a distraction on their roster one game into the preseason and almost a week after the team’s media day. Butler requested a trade in early September after spending just one season with the team, with head coach Tom Thibodeau now focused on making sure his players don’t get distracted.

“That’s the NBA. That’s part of everyone’s job,” Thibodeau said, according to Chris Hine of the Star Tribune. “Don’t allow yourself to be distracted. You have to be focused on what your job is. My job is to do what’s best for the Timberwolves and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Minnesota’s asking price for Butler is said to be steep, with the team reportedly seeking quality veterans, future assets and cap relief. The idea of losing Butler, a longtime teammate of Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, and other members of the Timberwolves, could make for a period of adjustment in the coming weeks.

“That’s part of being a pro,” Thibodeau said. “So in this league there could be distractions every day if you allow it, so it’s important to understand how to approach your job and I think we have a good mix of veterans who have been through it and they understand how important training camp is and getting ready for the season.”

There’s more from the Timberwolves:

Timberwolves Re-Sign Derrick Rose To One-Year Deal

JULY 4: The Timberwolves have officially re-signed Rose, the team announced today in a press release. While most signings can’t be finalized until after the July moratorium, deals that use the minimum salary exception are permitted, so Minnesota didn’t have to wait until Friday.

JULY 1: Former MVP Derrick Rose is finalizing a one-year deal to return to the Timberwolves, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports confirms (via Twitter) that the two sides have agreed to a one-year, minimum salary contract.

Since Rose has 10 years of NBA experience, his full salary for 2018/19 figures to be $2,393,887, the minimum for a 10-year veteran.

Rose, 29, is coming off a mostly disappointing season in 2017/18 as he appeared in 25 total games split between the Cavaliers and Timberwolves. Despite starting the year as Cleveland’s starting point guard, injuries — a familiar theme in his career — derailed Rose’s season, and multiple reports suggested he might retire. Instead, the Cavaliers shipped Rose to Utah as part of a three-team deal at the deadline and he was promptly released by the Jazz.

The Timberwolves, anchored by Rose’s former head coach with the Bulls, Tom Thibodeau, brought the veteran aboard in early March for their charge to the postseason. Rose appeared in just nine games with Minnesota, averaging 5.8 PPG in 12,4 minutes per contest. All told, Rose averaged 8.4 PPG and 1.4 APG between Cleveland and Minnesota.

However, Rose showed some life in the postseason as the Timberwolves faced the Rockets in the first round. Coming off the bench, Rose posted double-digits in four of the games, including back-to-back 17-point performances as the Wolves fell to Houston in five games. For the series, Rose averaged 23.6 minutes per game.

While it’s clear that he is far removed from his past MVP form, Rose’s postseason rejuvenation proved he is still a useful role player. Barring any other moves, the veteran will likely back up Jeff Teague along with Tyus Jones.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Wolves Notes: Rose, Jones, Wiggins, Crawford

The Timberwolves are very interested in re-signing free agent guard Derrick Rose, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Rose turned into a valuable reserve after coming to Minnesota following a late-season buyout. He played just nine regular season games for the Wolves, but became a force in the playoffs, averaging 14.2 points and making seven of 10 3-pointers in the series with the Rockets.

Rose also played well defensively and proved himself to be a good teammate, Krawczynski adds, two attributes he didn’t display during his time in Cleveland. Minnesota’s only concern in bringing Rose back is his injury history, as he was sidelined for a while with a sprained ankle after joining the Wolves. Rose has excelled under Tom Thibodeau and wants to be with a coach he trusts after five unsettled seasons.

Krawczynski offers more insight into the Timberwolves in a mailbag column:

  • A return by Rose would continue to limit the playing time for Tyus Jones, who saw his minutes decline after the Rose signing. Without roster changes, Jones would enter his fourth season as the third point guard on the depth chart.
  • The front office may consider an Andrew Wiggins trade if the Wolves can find a better fit in return. The team needs to quickly take steps to become a serious contender with Jimmy Butler entering his option year, Krawczynski states, and dealing Wiggins or Gorgui Dieng might be necessary to make that happen. Both players have large contracts that will make them difficult to unload. A max extension for Wiggins kicks in next season, and Dieng is owed nearly $48.7MM over the next three seasons. Wiggins’ trade value is low coming off an underwhelming fourth NBA season, and Krawczynski thinks the franchise may decide to hold onto him and hope he can develop into an All-Star.
  • One suggested deal would send Wiggins to the Raptors as part of a package for DeMar DeRozan, but there’s no evidence that Toronto is ready for a roster shakeup, even after firing coach Dwane Casey. A Butler-DeRozan combination would have many of the same issues as Butler and Wiggins, Krawczynski notes, including a lack of 3-point shooting.
  • Don’t count on veteran guard Jamal Crawford returning for another season, even though Butler would prefer to keep him. The 38-year-old complained this season about Thibodeau’s reluctance to use his bench, and things are unlikely to change as Crawford gets older.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2018: Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves landed back in the NBA playoffs for the first time in 14 seasons this spring. That comes as no surprise, given that the club has finally paired its stockpile of young stars with a formidable, winning coach and a green light to spend.

The Wolves need not fret that they barely put a dent in the Rockets this postseason as they’ll be back in contention next season and for as long as Jimmy Butler is capable of leading the club’s offense, flanked by Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.

It’ll get mighty difficult to afford all three eventually but they won’t need to seriously contemplate how to make all the numbers work until the summer after this one.

Nemanja Bjelica, PF, 30 (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $12MM deal in 2015
The Timberwolves are in a much different position now than they were when they inked Bjelica as an international free agent, but the veteran has hung around in large part due to his presence in the locker room. Given that the Wolves already have so much of their 2018/19 payroll tied up in other players, don’t expect them to offer Bjelica much more than the minimum.

Aaron Brooks, PG, 33 (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2017
Brooks didn’t exactly take the league by storm in his tenth season but his role and value are clear; he’s a familiar insurance policy for former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. Brooks isn’t likely to have a long list of suitors so it’s well within reason that he ends up back in Minnesota on another veteran’s minimum deal late this offseason.

Jamal Crawford, SG, 38 (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $9MM deal in 2017Jamal Crawford of the Minnesota Timberwolves
Having made over $100MM over the course of his career, including $11MM from a team he didn’t even play for in 2017/18, Crawford won’t accept his $4.5MM player option for next season if he’s not perfectly content playing for Minnesota. I wouldn’t rule out the 38-year-old passing on a second season with the Wolves in order to close out his career as a killer reserve on a team with more realistic short-term title aspirations.

Marcus Georges-Hunt, SG, 24 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $1MM deal in 2017
There won’t be significant pressure for the Wolves to bring back Georges-Hunt after a solid but modest first year in Minnesota, but they’ll need to fill out their lineup eventually and he’s a tough, defensive-minded player. Expect the club to keep its options open over the course of the offseason but don’t be surprised if the Wolves bring the familiar 24-year-old back on the cheap.

Amile Jefferson, PF, 25 (Up) – Signed to a one-year deal in 2018
The Wolves converted Jefferson’s two-way contract into a standard deal last month despite the fact that he never even suited up for the big league roster. Still, the team had a spot to spare and had no reason not to add the extra layer of depth heading into the postseason. Jefferson is a stud in the G League so the organization may be intrigued by his eventual fit with the parent club, but he won’t earn more than the minimum.

Derrick Rose, PG, 29 (Up) – Signed to a one-year deal in 2018
Prior to signing on with his former head coach late in the regular season, Rose’s value was at a career low. Fast forward two months later, however, and the wayward guard may have actually stumbled into an opportunity to salvage his career. Rose averaged 14.2 points per game for the Wolves in the postseason and could be a valuable rotation piece in the right situation. We’ve seen Rose flame out in a couple of wrong situations, so the fact that he’s found any sort of momentum reunited with Thibodeau and the rest of the Timberbulls bodes well for all involved. Rose didn’t do enough during the first six months of the season to warrant any more than another speculative one-year, minimum deal, but the postseason resurgence may have earned him one last run at meaningful minutes on a competent team.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Wolves Will Prioritize Adding Wings In Offseason

The Timberwolves will look to improve their depth on the wing this offseason, head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau told reporters today. As Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets, Thibodeau indicated that acquiring wing players who can shoot three-pointers and guard multiple positions is Minnesota’s top priority during the offseason.

Most of the Wolves’ top contributors – including Karl-Anthony Towns, Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford, and Nemanja Bjelica – shot a little from the outside in 2017/18, but no player on the roster made more than 1.5 threes per game. As a team, the Wolves made 8.0 three-pointers per contest, which ranked dead last in the NBA.

By comparison, Minnesota’s first-round opponent – the let-it-fly Rockets – led the league with 15.3 threes per game and had six players who knocked down at least two per game. So it’s no surprise that adding more three-point shooting on the wing will be a key focus for the Wolves this offseason.

Here’s more out of Minnesota:

  • Krawczynski and Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune (Twitter link) both interpreted Thibodeau’s comments today as good news for Derrick Rose‘s potential return to the team. Thibodeau called Rose – who is an unrestricted free agent this summer – a “terrific addition,” Zgoda notes.
  • Timberwolves GM Scott Layden suggested there will be a lot of activity around the draft, acknowledging that the club could explore trading its first-round pick, tweets Krawczynski. Zgoda expands on Layden’s comments, tweeting that the GM believes that first-rounder represents a chance to “get in the game” when it comes to making a trade offer for an impact player. However, Layden did say Minnesota would be happy to use the pick if there’s a player on the board who can “help us now.”
  • Layden expressed some regret that he wasn’t more active at the trade deadline, indicating he expects to be more aggressive this summer (Twitter link via Krawczynski).
  • Thibodeau anticipates Wiggins will have a good offseason entering the 2018/19 campaign, since he won’t have to deal with the distraction of working out a contract extension this time around, like he did a year ago (Twitter link via Krawczynski).
  • Butler was just dealing with general soreness in his right knee at the end of the season, and won’t require any additional procedures on that knee, Thibodeau said today (Twitter link via Zgoda).

Northwest Notes: Thibodeau, Rose, Anthony, Lyles

The Timberwolves broke their 14-year playoff drought because coach/executive Tom Thibodeau was willing to trade away the future to get better now, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Thibodeau signaled a new direction for the franchise last June when he shipped Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the seventh pick in the draft to Chicago in exchange for Jimmy Butler. He followed that up by signing veteran free agents Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford, Aaron Brooks and more recently, Derrick Rose.

“Look, when you’re trying to erase 14 years of losing, you have to bring in some people who have won before,” Thibodeau explained. “That was a big factor in that. These guys have won in the playoffs, and I knew the hole we had to get out of. When you looked at the number, the numbers said we had to do a lot of improving and I think we’ve done that.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Rose’s overlooked defensive abilities could be important in the playoff matchup with Houston, Zgoda notes in a separate story. Defense was one of the areas Thibodeau considered when he decided to sign the former MVP in March. Rose, who had a frustrating start to the season in Cleveland before being acquired and then waived by Utah, is happy with where he has landed. “Going through free agency, it’s all about being strategic,” Rose said. “I wanted to go to a contender. I wanted to go somewhere where I was familiar with the coach, and being here was the perfect situation.”
  • Carmelo Anthony is preparing for his first playoff appearance in five years, but he’s headed there in a much different role, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. Anthony was an MVP candidate when the Knicks last reached the postseason in 2013. Now he’s a complementary player after an offseason trade to the Thunder. “My approach is not any different,” he said. “My situation is different. My team is different.”