Jeff Teague

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.”

Atlantic Notes: Butler, Russell, Raptors, Wanamaker

Sixers coach Brett Brown is defending Jimmy Butler, saying he wasn’t disrespectful when he questioned the way he’s being used in the offense, according to an Associated Press story. ESPN reported Friday that Butler has “aggressively challenged” Brown since being acquired from the Timberwolves in November and has “tenuous” chemistry with fellow stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Meeting with reporters before tonight’s game, Brown tried to calm the situation.

“I didn’t feel like any of that crossed the line,” he said of Butler’s comments. “He’s vocal. He’s all in and he has opinions, but it’s instigated by me. None of this should surprise anybody. He’s got opinions. He wants to be heard. And he should be heard.”

Butler missed the game with a respiratory infection and wasn’t available for comment. He reportedly wants to be utilized more often in pick-and-roll situations, which aren’t a standard part of Brown’s offense.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets guard D’Angelo Russell has improved significantly during his second season in Brooklyn, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Russell, who is averaging career highs with 18.2 points and 6.4 assists per game, is headed for restricted free agency this summer but indicated a desire to stay with the Nets. “We’re winning,” he said. “I haven’t won a lot in this league, so for me to get that type of success, I’m going to stick with it.”
  • As Kyle Lowry missed his sixth straight game tonight with back trouble, the Raptors are looking for another playmaker before next month’s trade deadline, according to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. He states the best target would be the Timberwolves’ Jeff Teague, who isn’t being shopped but has become more expendable with productive seasons from Derrick Rose and Tyus Jones. Other possibilities include the Mavericks’ J.J. Barea or Devin Harris and the Hawks’ Jeremy Lin.
  • Brad Wanamaker was as surprised as anyone when Celtics coach Brad Stevens told him to check in during the first quarter last night, relays Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. It was the 15th game of the season for the 29-year-old rookie, but most of his time has come late in games that were already decided. He responded with a pair of 3-pointers to help Boston build a lead. “The key word is challenging,” Wanamaker said. “I’m just trying to stay mentally prepared. I’m getting a lot of feedback from my family, friends, just saying, ‘Stay ready.’”

Robert Covington To Miss Extended Time

Timberwolves forward Robert Covington has been diagnosed with a bone bruise and will be out for an extended period, head coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters today, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link).

While Thibodeau couldn’t offer a specific timeline for Covington’s potential recovery and return, he added that the Wolves don’t believe surgery will be required, as Krawczynski relays (via Twitter).

The Timberwolves are set to get Jeff Teague back in their lineup, but losing Covington is a tough blow for the team, which had initially experienced a bit of a resurgence after acquiring him and Dario Saric from Philadelphia in November’s Jimmy Butler blockbuster. Minnesota is still just 17-21, 13th in the West and four games out of a playoff spot, and will now be without its best perimeter defender for the next little while, further reducing the club’s chances of earning a postseason spot.

If the Wolves continue to slip further out of the playoff race, it will be interesting to see what they do at next month’s trade deadline. The club has reportedly tried to move Gorgui Dieng, and veterans on expiring contracts like Taj Gibson, Jerryd Bayless, and Anthony Tolliver may also be expendable. Teague, who has a $19MM player option for next season, could be a trade candidate too. None of those players would bring back a substantial return, however.

Northwest Notes: Roberson, Teague, Adams

While the Thunder have gotten off to a strong start, they would surely love to have Andre Roberson back in the lineup. Roberson has had several setbacks in his recovery from the ruptured left patellar tendon he suffered nearly a year ago. However, as Erik Horne reveals for The Oklahoman, Roberson has stayed active during his recovery and has led some defensive film sessions with the team’s young wing players.

Most notably, Terrance Ferguson has benefited the most from these film sessions, as he has stepped up to a bigger role in the starting lineup as a result of his much-improved defense. Led by quality defenders such as Paul George and Steven Adams, the Thunder have length and versatility throughout their number-one ranked defense.

The Thunder have been below average offensively this season, which highlights how much of their success is derived by their defense. And even when Roberson can’t play, he is still making his mark on the defense.

There’s more from the Northwest division:

  • Erik Horne also details Steven Adams‘ case for being an All-Star this season, highlighted by the advanced metrics that paint the picture of Adams being one of the best centers in the league. However, as Horne also points out, Adams isn’t focused on being an All-Star.
  • Unfortunately for the Timberwolves, they will continue to be without starting point guard Jeff Teague for another 7-10 days, according to Alan Horton (via Twitter), the radio voice of the Wolves. The Timberwolves have struggled in recent games as they continue to adjust to life without Jimmy Butler.
  • Speaking of the Timberwolves, Chris Hine of The Star Tribune writes that Derrick Rose has struggled with an ankle injury and could miss some time, which would leave the Wolves short at point guard as they look to bounce back from recent losses.

Timberwolves’ Jeff Teague To Miss At Least One More Week

The Timberwolves will be without point guard Jeff Teague for at least another 7 to 10 days as he deals with a left ankle injury, according to Chris Hine of the Star Tribune. Minnesota has been without Teague since last Saturday when the pain of the injured ankle became too significant, Hine writes.

“It was tough, just trying to fight through it,” Teague said. “That last game in Phoenix, I just couldn’t move. The pain was just too bad. Just trying to do some things to get right.”

Teague said he originally injured the ankle on Nov. 12, the same game he came back from a six-game absence dealing with a left knee contusion. In 23 games this season, Teague has averaged 11.6 PPG and a career-high 8.3 APG for the Timberwolves.

In his absence, Minnesota has been more reliant on Derrick Rose, who’s in the midst of a renaissance year. Rose is averaging 18.6 PPG, his highest total since the 2012-13 season, and shooting a career-best 46.9% from three-point range.

Woj: Wolves’ Asking Price For Butler Too High

11:25am: Butler hasn’t joined the Wolves for training camp yet and has asked to sit out until he has been traded, Wojnarowski and Lowe report in a full story.

8:51am: Little progress has been made in Jimmy Butler trade talks because teams believe the Timberwolves are asking too much in return, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Minnesota owner Glen Taylor hopes to get a deal get done soon, but the organization is holding out for an offer that provides quality veterans, top prospects, future assets and cap relief. The price has been too high so far for all the teams interested in Butler, including the Heat, who are said to be the most aggressive. Because Miami is well over the cap, it is unable to offer anything in the way of cap relief, notes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel (Twitter link).

Sources tell Wojnarowski they’re skeptical that coach/executive Tom Thibodeau wants to part with Butler, even after Taylor’s mandate. ESPN colleague Zach Lowe adds that it’s not possible to exaggerate “how volatile things are in Minnesota right now.” (Twitter link)

Wojnarowski also reported last night that the Suns, who are in the market for a point guard, looked into getting involved to help facilitate a three-team trade, but decided what the Wolves were asking was “far too steep” (Twitter link). There hasn’t been any communication about sending Jeff Teague or Goran Dragic to Phoenix, but that could still happen if Minnesota and Miami make progress on trade talks.

It has been nine days since Butler met with Minnesota’s front office and issued his trade request. Taylor wanted to get a deal done quickly to “avoid a circus” in training camp, but the situation doesn’t appear close to a resolution. Miami is reportedly Butler’s first choice among trading partners, but so far that hasn’t made a difference.

Suns’ Search For Point Guard Could Overlap With Butler Sweepstakes

The Suns‘ pursuit of a point guard on the trade market could result in them getting involved in the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes as a facilitator, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Keith Smith of first reported (via Twitter) that the Suns, like the Kings, were open to the idea of helping facilitate a three-team Butler trade.

As Wojnarowski details, if the Timberwolves and Heat were to make a trade involving Butler and Goran Dragic, it could open the door for Minnesota to send Jeff Teague to Phoenix as part of the deal. The Suns are also known to have inquired on backup Wolves point guard Tyus Jones. It’s not clear how interested the Suns would be in landing Dragic – who has already had two stints in Phoenix – as part of a three-team trade with Minnesota and Miami, but that could also be an avenue the team explores.

[RELATED: Heat Now Atop Jimmy Butler’s Wish List?]

The Kings may make a bit more sense than Phoenix as a third team in a potential Butler trade, since they have $11MM in cap room to work with, putting them in a better position to accommodate an unwanted contract. However, Sacramento would likely be after a first-round pick. The Suns are over the cap and would need to match salaries in any deal, perhaps using expiring contracts like Tyson Chandler‘s ($13.59MM) or Darrell Arthur‘s ($7.46MM).

The Suns have been on the lookout for a point guard since moving Brandon Knight to Houston in a trade last month. Besides Teague and Jones, some of the point guards cited as potential trade targets for Phoenix include Patrick Beverley, Cory Joseph, and Spencer Dinwiddie.

Injury Notes: F. Jackson, Butler, Harris, Barea

Pelicans rookie Frank Jackson is making progress after having his third surgical procedure in 11 months, relays Christian Boutwell of The Advocate. The most recent operation, performed March 19, was follow-up surgery on his right foot to take out scar tissue left over from previous surgeries. Jackson was in New Orleans for tonight’s game and offered an update on his condition.

“Feels great. I’m already walking,” he said. “I’m like two weeks out of surgery. I’m walking. I’m in a boot for another week and then I’ll be out of that. My pain’s completely gone. That’s why I did it. Just taking care of it now.”

A second-round pick out of Duke, Jackson had a stress reaction in his foot that caused him to miss the summer league, then fractured it in late August. Jackson said he is hoping to be ready for summer league this year.

There’s more injury news from around the league:

  • It appears the Timberwolves and Nuggets will both be missing key players for tomorrow night’s showdown in Denver. Jimmy Butler is listed as doubtful for Minnesota as he tries to come back after surgery to fix a torn meniscus, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Derrick Rose and Jeff Teague are both questionable. Denver guard Gary Harris will miss the game as he continues to rehab a right knee injury, according to Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune (Twitter link).
  • Mavericks guard J.J. Barea left tonight’s game after suffering a left oblique strain, writes Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. With just three games remaining, it’s possible that Barea’s season is over.
  • Nets forward DeMarre Carroll has a strained left hip and will be day-to-day for the rest of the season, tweets Michael Scotto of The Athletic.
  • Magic forward Jonathon Simmons may miss the rest of the season with a badly bruised right wrist, according to John Denton of Simmons sat out his eighth straight game tonight and is upset about not being able to play after signing a three-year, $18MM contract last summer. “My disappointment is about my love for the game and not wanting to let these guys down under the circumstances,” he said. “I’d love to be out there fighting with these guys, and the most disappointing part is not being able to be out there with my teammates.’’

Northwest Notes: Teague, Butler, Shabazz, Millsap

If the Timberwolves want to continue their winning ways while All-Star Jimmy Butler is sidelined, point guard Jeff Teague must continue to play with pace and aggression, opines Britt Robson of The Athletic Minnesota.

Despite an apparent tendency and preference to let his teammates get involved as playmakers, Teague no longer has that luxury, at least for the time being, with Butler out of the equation. Teague must also continue to push the pace of play, as he has done in the team’s last two games.

In fact, in the team’s first full game since Butler’s injury, Minnesota launched a season-high 35 three pointers, primarily a product of Teague’s ability to  get into the half-court offense quickly, beat defenders off the dribble, and present a viable threat to score at the rim or kick it out to the perimeter for a shot or extra pass.

As head coach Tom Thibodeau described, “We have to make sure we get to the right spots so we can get that pass out. And once you get that pass out, usually the second pass will get you a great shot.” 

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves‘ reserve guard Shabazz Muhammad is not likely to be bought out after all, tweets Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune. When asked about the possibility, Thibodeau simply said, “Nope, we like the team we have.”
  • In a piece for The Athletic Minnesota, Jon Krawczynski details Butler’s decision to have surgery on his damaged right meniscus. Fortunately for Butler and the Timberwolves, the procedure was neither a major repair nor a removal, and the hope is that he will be able to return to action without facing some of the long-term risks involved with removal.
  • With last night’s loss to the Clippers, the Nuggets have fallen to ninth place in the Western Conference, percentage points behind the Clippers, who now also own the the head-to-head tiebreaker between the two teams. Part of the problem recently is Denver’s defense, reports Gina Mizell of The Denver Post. Head coach Mike Malone is particularly frustrated, saying the recent struggles defensively have left him “questioning (his) whole being as a coach.”
  • In brighter news for the Nuggets, forward Paul Millsap played last night for the first time since he injured his left wrist on Nov. 19.

Northwest Notes: Jazz, Thunder, Teague, Wolves

The Jazz‘s decision to trade Rodney Hood and Joe Johnson in deadline deals last week signaled that neither of those players was part of Utah’s plans going forward. Still, there were no hard feelings in either case, as Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News details. Speaking last week about the two veteran wings, general manager Dennis Lindsey said Johnson had become a “folk hero around here,” and added that the team has “great respect” for Hood.

“I told Rodney that I hope I see a playoff game on ABC where Rodney Hood hits a game-winning shot,” said the Jazz GM. “That would tickle me. So we’re rooting for him, we care about him and we wish him the best and we thank him for not only the efforts that he gave us the last four years but the player that he was able to return to us in Jae Crowder.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest division:

  • The Thunder have yet to establish a permanent starting five since Andre Roberson went down with his season-ending knee injury last month, and it sounds like the lineup tinkering will continue, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. “I don’t want to say it’s going to be different night to night,” said head coach Billy Donovan. “But yeah, it could change in certain situations based on what’s best for our team.”
  • With so many scorers on the Timberwolves‘ roster, Jeff Teague has found himself playing a facilitator role more often this season after signing with the team last summer. The veteran point guard, whose 12.7 PPG is his lowest mark in six years, admits that new approach has taken some getting used to. “It’s just not how I play,” said Teague, per Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. “But someone has to make a sacrifice, and it was me.”
  • Michael Rand of The Star Tribune identifies five veteran free agents or buyout candidates who could be of interest to the Timberwolves.