Gorgui Dieng

Western Notes: Dieng, George, Nelson, Williams

In an interesting pierce regarding former head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau‘s tenure with the Timberwolves, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic shares a story involving how the relegation of forward Gorgui Dieng to the bench was just one example of Thibodeau’s inability to effectively communicate and integrate with others in the organization.

Dieng, a starter for all 82 games in Minnesota during the 2016/17 season, Thibodeau’s first, showed up for training camp in 2017 expecting to continue starting, or at least have an opportunity to compete for a starting position with newly-signed Taj Gibson, a stalwart for Thibodeau during his days in Chicago coaching the Bulls. After all, Dieng had just signed a four-year, $62.8MM contract extension with the Timberwolves the previous summer.

However, before the first practice of camp, and without any communication of any kind from Thibodeau or any representative thereof, Dieng was relegated to the second unit by discovering a second-unit jersey hanging in his locker. Per Krawczynski, Dieng took the lack of communication as a sign of disrespect, one which he seemingly never got over during the course of Thibodeau’s tenure with the Timberwolves.

Rather, Dieng’s play suffered, as did his playing time, going from 10.0 points and 7.9 rebounds in 32.4 minutes per game in 2016/17 to averages of 5.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 16.9 MPG, with zero starts, during the 2017/18 campaign. With two seasons left on his current contract, Dieng, now 29, will look to return to the form he displayed during the 2016/17 season, as Gibson enters this offseason as an unrestricted free agent, his future with the Timberwolves still unknown.

There’s more news from the Western Conference this afternoon:

  • It’s clear from his decision to sign a long-term deal with the Thunder this summer that Paul George wants to be in Oklahoma City, but the question now becomes whether or not George is able and willing to overtake Russell Westbrook as the franchise’s marquee player, which Brett Dawson of The Athletic writes may be necessary if the Thunder ever want to reach their full potential with the team’s current core.
  • Pelicans‘ new general manager David Griffin is prioritizing hiring highly-respected trainer Aaron Nelson, currently the Suns’ Senior Vice President of Athlete Health & Performance, away from Phoenix, reports Marc Stein of The New York Times. As his profile on the National Basketball Athletic Trainers Association states, Nelson and his staff have built the Suns into an industry leader with a reputation for prolonging the careers of some of the game’s best players.
  • In other Suns’ news, 76ers’ assistant coach Monty Williams, a highly-regard head-coaching candidate this offseason for both Phoenix and the Lakers, had a “very positive” meeting with Suns’ brass on Friday (story). Williams, the first candidate to meet with the Suns’ front office since Igor Kokoskov‘s firing on Monday, is a top contender to be James Jones‘ pick for the team’s next head coach.

Trade Rumors: Davis, Randolph, Wolves, Morris

The Knicks and Lakers are equal on Anthony Davis‘ list of preferred destinations, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. The Clippers and Bucks also remain in the top four, Stein adds. New York may make a bid for Davis before the deadline, but it should be in a stronger position after the draft lottery when everyone knows where its first-rounder will fall (Twitter link).

League sources tell Stein that Davis doesn’t expect to sign his next contract before he reaches free agency in 2020, no matter where he is by then (Twitter link). That means anyone who trades for Davis won’t be assured of a long-term extension.

He has been sidelined with a fractured left index finger, but Davis intends to resume playing regardless of what happens at the trade deadline (Twitter link). He has received medical clearance to return to action, but the Pelicans haven’t divulged their plans for Davis if there’s no trade on Thursday. He was held out of two games this week to avoid further injury.

Here’s a roundup of rumors heading into the trade deadline:

  • The Lakers are running out of hope that a Davis trade will be completed before the deadline, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Pelicans GM Dell Demps hasn’t responded to Magic Johnson’s latest offer, and it appears New Orleans is content to run out the clock. The Pelicans may never have been serious about dealing with L.A. and might have been trying to sabotage the Lakers as revenge for what they consider to be tampering, tweets Rachel Nichols, host of ESPN’s “The Jump.” “It’s not just possible, it’s what happened,” colleague Brian Windhorst said today in an appearance on the show.
  • The Mavericks will have buyout talks with newly acquired Zach Randolph, Wojnarowski tweets. The 37-year-old hasn’t played yet this season, but he may be able to help a contender.
  • The Timberwolves continue to look for someone to take Jeff Teague and Gorgui Dieng, sources tell Chris Hine of The Star-Tribune. Teague has a $19MM player option for next season, while Dieng still has two seasons left on his four-year, $63MM deal. Minnesota hasn’t found much interest, but it may be willing to attach Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, Anthony Tolliver or Luol Deng as incentives.
  • New Pelican Markieff Morris could become a buyout candidate once he’s fully recovered from a neck injury, tweets Tim Bontemps of ESPN.
  • The Thunder plan to watch what the Suns do with Wayne Ellington and may be interested if he hits the buyout market, according to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News (Twitter link).

Trade Rumors: Wolves, A. Davis, Irving, Conley, More

After making a big splash earlier in the season by sending Jimmy Butler to Philadelphia, the Timberwolves remain active on the trade market, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, who reports that GM Scott Layden is “canvassing the league for available deals.” Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News relays a similar sentiment, tweeting that Layden has been “much more communicative” than in past years.

According to Wolfson, players on expiring contracts are available, as are Jeff Teague and Gorgui Dieng. However, as of Tuesday, there was “zero sense” that anything was close to getting done. Meanwhile, sources tell Krawczynski that multiple teams checked in last month on Andrew Wiggins to see if the Timberwolves might be willing to move him for “pennies on the dollar.” Those inquires qualified more as due diligence though, and didn’t really go anywhere, per Krawczynski.

Here are several more trade rumors from around the NBA:

  • The Pelicans still have yet to respond to the Lakers‘ most recent trade offer for Anthony Davis, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). L.A. reportedly pulled out of talks on Tuesday after making a big offer on Monday night, though it appears the club would be ready to re-engage if New Orleans makes a counter-offer.
  • While Kyrie Irving‘s comments on his upcoming free agency last week had some league observers wondering if the Celtics would consider moving him at the trade deadline, the team – unsurprisingly – has no intention to do so, writes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. “Boston’s not taking calls on Kyrie,” one general manager said. “That was made pretty clear.”
  • The Grizzlies are believed to be seeking multiple first-round picks in any package for Mike Conley, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. According to Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune, the Jazz’s final offer to Memphis was a first-round pick, a second-round pick, and expiring contracts (likely Ricky Rubio and Derrick Favors). The Grizzlies asked for Dante Exum, but were told no, per Jones (Twitter link via John Martin of 92.9 ESPN).
  • A source tells Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times that the Bulls have received “a handful” of calls about Jabari Parker within the last week. Parker is a candidate to be traded, or to be bought out if Chicago can’t find a suitable deal.
  • According to Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link), the Hawks have started to receive more calls on veteran trade candidates Kent Bazemore, Dewayne Dedmon, and Jeremy Lin. Smith adds (via Twitter) that Knicks forward Noah Vonleh is another trade candidate to watch, as he has generated multiple inquiries.

Latest On Tom Thibodeau, Wolves

Contrary to a report that emerged last night in the wake of Tom Thibodeau’s firing in Minnesota, former Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg is not an “immediate candidate” to become the team’s next coach or president, a source tells Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

Interim coach Ryan Saunders will be given an opportunity to earn the job on a permanent basis, Krawczynski adds, and he has strong support from his players, who respect his work ethic and welcome his approachable nature as a change from Thibodeau. The organization will consider hiring an assistant who has experience as a head coach to help Saunders with the challenges of his new position.

GM Scott Layden was retained last night and will likely remain in place for the rest of the season, but he may need the team to make the playoffs to keep his job beyond that.

While the Wolves have a disappointing 19-21 record, the decision to part with Thibodeau was based on business as much as basketball, Krawczynski writes. The coach had become unpopular with fans, who routinely booed him every time his name was announced in pre-game introductions. Even worse, they were staying away, as Minnesota has dropped to 29th in home attendance after ranking 21st last season. The organization didn’t want to keep an alienating presence in place with a season ticket drive looming.

It’s no secret that owner Glen Taylor was unhappy with Thibodeau and Layden over how they handled the situation with Jimmy Butler before he was traded to the Sixers. Taylor commented several times that he believed both men were dragging their feet on Butler’s trade request and that they let the volatile star hijack the team during training camp and the early season.

Thibodeau has long had a reputation of giving heavy minutes to his starters, and several players complained about poor communication over their roles. Krawczynski reports that Gorgui Dieng, who has fallen out of the rotation after signing a huge contract, was “openly seething” in the locker room after Friday’s game. Tyus Jones, Anthony Tolliver and Jeff Teague have also expressed frustration over their status on the team.

As one of the few remaining coach/executives left in the league, Thibodeau’s standing was also harmed by several personnel decisions that didn’t work out. He was the driving force behind the decision to send Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and a draft pick that turned out to be Lauri Markkanen to the Bulls to acquire Butler. He also convinced Taylor to part with Ricky Rubio in exchange for Teague. And of course, he was responsible for bringing Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, his former players in Chicago, to Minnesota to form the “Timber-Bulls.”

Taylor was in Florida last night as Layden and CEO Ethan Casson delivered the news to Thibodeau. Taylor’s only comment came in an official statement from the organization, saying, “These decisions are never easy to make, but we felt them necessary to move our organization forward.”

Scotto’s Latest: Bazemore, Porter, Holiday, Dieng

Any team that trades for Hawks forward Kent Bazemore should prepare to pay him beyond this season, according to Michael Scotto of The Athletic. Scotto shares a few rumors in a column on New Year’s resolutions for all 30 teams, including a report that Bazemore is leaning toward exercising his $19.27MM player option for next year.

That would represent a modest raise for the 29-year-old, who is making a little more than $18MM this season. Bazemore, who is sidelined with a right ankle sprain that will keep him out for at least two weeks, is one of the most popular names on the trade market, with the Rockets among the teams already expressing interest in acquiring him.

Scotto offers a few more interesting tidbits sprinkled among his advice for 2019:

  • The Mavericks have expressed interest in trading for Wizards forward Otto Porter. Washington faces luxury tax concerns this season and beyond and will owe Porter nearly $56MM over the next two years if he exercises his player option for 2020/21. Porter’s production has declined in his sixth season, and the Wizards may concentrate on fixing their long-term salary structure after John Wall elected to have heel surgery that will sideline him for six to eight months.
  • After losing out on the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes, the Rockets have continued to search for a defensive-minded wing who can hit 3-pointers. Among the players they called about is Justin Holiday, who is averaging 11.8 PPG with the Bulls and ranks eighth in the league in made threes with 96. Holiday has an expiring $4.4MM deal, so he would be a low-cost option for any contender. Houston is also looking for a rim protector to back up Clint Capela.
  • The Timberwolves tried again to find a taker for center Gorgui Dieng, who has become a little-used reserve, playing just 13.7 minutes per night. Minnesota attempted to unload Dieng, who is owed about $33.5MM over the next two seasons, in Butler trade talks but couldn’t find anyone willing to take on that salary.
  • D’Angelo Russell‘s friendship with Suns star Devin Booker may make him an option for Phoenix. Russell is headed for restricted free agency this summer and the Suns need a long-term solution at point guard. The extension the Nets gave to Spencer Dinwiddie could make them reluctant to invest heavily in Russell.

Wolves Notes: Covington, Jones, Dieng, Towns

During Jimmy Butler‘s final, acrimonious weeks in Minnesota, his ability to communicate with young Timberwolves players like Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins was called into question. Tasked with leading the club, Butler instead berated teammates in practice, questioning their desire to win and their ability to take criticism.

By comparison, new forward Robert Covington, acquired in the deal for Butler, seems to have a better sense of when to talk to teammates and when to lay off, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.

“I know how to read it,” Covington said. “Emotions are flying and everything like that. That’s just part of my character. … I pick the right moments and that’s when I approach guys. I would never want to sit up here and rub people the wrong way because not a lot of people will typically react the right way.”

While Covington has gotten on Towns a little, encouraging him to bring more of a “defensive mindset” to his role, it doesn’t seem to be negatively impacting the relationship between the two, according to Hine, who notes that Covington and Towns are constantly talking and making fun of each other in the locker room. The duo has helped the Wolves win seven of nine games since trading Butler.

Here’s more from out of Minnesota:

  • While Tyus Jones and Gorgui Dieng have been frustrated at times this season due to their limited roles, both players have excelled since Butler’s departure, says Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Within the same story, Krawczynski reports that there’s still no definitive timeline for Jerryd Bayless‘ return to action, though it’s not clear if he’ll have a role in Minnesota even once he’s healthy.
  • In a separate story for The Athletic, Krawczynski explores how Towns is adjusting to his new role as the Timberwolves’ leader, with current teammate Derrick Rose and former teammate Kevin Garnett weighing in on the subject. “He’s not always going to get things right,” Garnett said. “He’s going to have to speak up, voice his opinion. It doesn’t always have to be from a confrontational standpoint. KAT has good leadership skills because he works hard. It’s whether he wants to vocalize those, which is his next challenge as a leader, to me.”
  • While the Butler drama is in the rear view mirror, head coach Tom Thibodeau remains under the microscope, as Frank Isola of The Athletic details. Thibodeau’s long-term hold on Minnesota’s head coaching job is still tenuous, but he has done an excellent job with the new-look Wolves so far.

Rockets Aggressively Pursuing Butler Deal

The Rockets have put together numerous packages in an attempt to acquire Timberwolves swingman Jimmy Butler but Minnesota coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau has taken a hard and somewhat confusing stance on all potential deals, Kelly Iko of The Athletic reports.

Houston is intent on prying Butler away from the Timberwolves to strengthen its porous defense and give it another special talent to combat the star-powered Warriors. Minnesota is intent on dumping Gorgui Dieng‘s four-year, $62.8MM contract, which still has two more fully guaranteed years remaining, in any deal involving Butler, Iko continues. In general, the Timberwolves are treating negotiations as if they were dealing a difference-maker locked into a long-term contract rather than one who wants out and can opt out after the season.

With the Rockets already dealing with luxury-tax issues, absorbing Dieng’s contract would be virtually impossible. In the earlier stages of negotiations, the Rockets made inquiries to as many as six teams in the hope of involving a third party to facilitate a deal but failed to find a partner, according to Iko.

That’s when the Rockets decided to offer up to four future first-round picks for Butler, in all likelihood their first-rounders in 2019, 2021, 2023 and 2025. The reasoning behind that was to entice the Timberwolves to make the deal without Dieng.

The proposal would have allowed Minnesota to pursue a separate deal packaging Dieng and a pick or two to shed his salary. Even though it was willing to mortgage the future in a bid to win the title this season, Houston wasn’t confident that reported offer would get Thibodeau to soften his stance, Iko adds.

The Rockets have a couple of minor trade exceptions — one for $1.545MM and another for $2.85MM — but nothing substantial to help absorb the approximate $35.5MM in combined salaries of Butler and Dieng.

Rockets Making Strong Effort To Land Jimmy Butler

The Rockets are making a “strong effort” to acquire Jimmy Butler in a trade with the Timberwolves, sources tell Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston (Twitter link). Berman’s report comes after ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski indicated on Wednesday that Houston was pursuing Butler.

Wojnarowski, who suggested that the Rockets were “trying to be creative” as they explored trade possibilities for Butler, wrote that it would be tricky for the club to pull off a deal for the All-NBA wing without involving a third team. Berman, meanwhile, doesn’t offer much in the way of specifics.

It’s hard to imagine Houston being able to trade for Butler without giving up Eric Gordon, whose $13MM+ salary would make for a good salary-matching piece and whose ability to make an immediate impact might appeal to Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau. The Rockets also have full control over their future first-round picks, though the value of their 2019 selection would be limited, since it’s likely to fall in the late-20s.

Although the Rockets are apparently pushing to land Butler, they’re not the only team involved. Wojnarowski’s report on Thursday named the Clippers and Cavaliers as other clubs in the mix, with the Heat still considered the most aggressive suitors. The Wizards and Mavericks have also gauged the asking price on Butler, while the Nets have interest but haven’t engaged Minnesota recently, per Woj.

Here’s more on Butler:

  • The Heat are open to the idea of taking on Gorgui Dieng‘s contract from the Timberwolves “under the right circumstances,” according to Wojnarowski.
  • Wojnarowski indicates that potential trade partners are skeptical of Thibodeau’s willingness to move Butler, since he’s making counter-offers he knows would never be accepted. In an appearance on the Bill Simmons Podcast, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer provided an example, reporting that the Timberwolves asked for Ben Simmons when they made a counter-offer to the Sixers (hat tip to Dane Delgado of NBC Sports). We passed along a report earlier today suggesting that Philadelphia has since pulled out of the Butler sweepstakes.
  • The Nuggets were mentioned several days ago as a potential dark horse for Butler, but T.J. McBride of Mile High Sports hears that Denver views Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris as “untouchable” (hat tip to Kurt Helin of NBC Sports). A trade for an All-Star like Butler is probably a long shot without any of those players involved.
  • Earlier today, we relayed an update on the Kings‘ potential involvement in the Butler talks — Sacramento is still interested in getting involved as a facilitator, but will be cautious about adding too much multiyear money to its cap.

Kings Open To Facilitating Three-Team Butler Trade

Only one NBA team still has any real cap space available for the 2018/19 season, and that team – Sacramento – is keeping a close eye on the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com. According to Wojnarowski, the Kings have been “aggressive” in courting both the Timberwolves and potential Butler suitors, offering to use their cap room to accommodate unwanted contracts.

As Wojnarowski explains, the Kings – who have about $11MM in cap space – don’t have their own first-round pick for 2019, but could be in position to acquire another team’s first-rounder or other assets as part of a three-way Butler swap. Sacramento assistant GM Brandon Williams has let teams know that his club isn’t opposed to taking on multiyear contracts, whether that means Gorgui Dieng‘s deal or perhaps a pricey contract from a potential Wolves trade partner like the Heat, Clippers, or Nets.

While the Kings don’t have enough cap room to absorb, say, Dieng’s $15MM+ salary on its own, the club could send out any number of expiring contracts to make the math work. Zach Randolph ($11.7MM), Iman Shumpert ($11MM), Kosta Koufos ($8.74MM), and Ben McLemore ($5.46MM) are among the Sacramento veterans on expiring deals.

As the Kings explore ways to get involved in a possible Butler deal, teams interested in acquiring the All-Star wing have been receiving mixed signals from the Timberwolves on what kind of assets they value, sources tell Wojnarowski. According to ESPN’s report, clubs dealing with the Wolves are also confused about whether to deal with owner Glen Taylor or front office execs Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden — there’s a perception that the management and ownership groups may not be in agreement on the structure and timetable of a potential trade.

Although Thibodeau tried on Monday to convince Butler to report to the team during the preseason, the 29-year-old remains adamantly opposed to ever practicing or playing with the Timberwolves again and has implored Thibodeau and Taylor to trade him soon to avoid prolonging the drama, writes Wojnarowski. While there has been some optimism among opposing teams that Minnesota will comply with that request, “renewed uncertainty and hazy chains of communication” have dominated recent talks, Woj adds.

Jimmy Butler Rumors: Dieng, Clippers, Bucks, More

The early trade market for Jimmy Butler is “confused and cool” as teams contemplate the risk of trading for the All-Star wing, according to Zach Lowe, who takes a deep dive into the Butler situation his his latest piece for ESPN.com. The 29-year-old’s reported desire for a five-year contract that could be worth in the neighborhood of $190MM may make some potential suitors back off, though those teams could also be posturing in the early going, Lowe notes.

One of the most interesting tidbits that Lowe passes along in his article is on the Timberwolves‘ desire to include Gorgui Dieng in a deal if they decide to move Butler. Lowe is skeptical that any prospective trade partners will be eager to take on Dieng, who still has three years and over $48MM left on his contract.

Here’s more from Lowe and others on Butler and the Wolves:

  • It would be “shocking” if the Clippers were willing to offer rookie guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in any package for Butler, sources tell Lowe. In fact, there has been no indication that the Clips haven’t acted aggressively – or much at all – on Butler so far.
  • The Bucks placed a courtesy call to the Timberwolves asking to be kept in the loop if the team gets serious about moving Butler. Still, Lowe doesn’t view Milwaukee as a fit, observing that Khris Middleton would probably have to be included. The Bucks would likely have a better chance next summer to re-sign Middleton than Butler.
  • After reporting earlier today that the Timberwolves are telling teams Butler’s not available, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has updated his story to suggest that opposing clubs believe the “fastest avenue” to negotiating a trade is to engage owner Glen Taylor, rather than Tom Thibodeau. Thibodeau is less inclined to part with Butler, but Taylor has stepped in on this sort of matter in the past, overseeing trades involving Kevin Garnett and Kevin Love.
  • In the wake of Butler’s trade request, initial reports suggested his desire to leave Minnesota was motivated more by “contractual matters” than any discord with Karl-Anthony Towns or Andrew Wiggins. A source in Butler’s camp who spoke to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times disputes that notion, suggesting it was “manufactured” by “ownership mouthpieces” to make Butler look bad. “According to the source, this is about a philosophy in making an impact in the Western Conference,” Cowley writes. “In Butler’s mind you can’t run down a dynasty like Golden State when two of the so-called dogs in the pack are in fact kittens.” Presumably, that’s a reference to Towns and Wiggins.