John Lucas III

Timberwolves To Make Sweeping Staff Changes

The Timberwolves will be making extensive changes to their coaching staff, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic reports.

Every assistant with an expiring contract — Ed Pinckney, Jerry Sichting, Larry Greer, John Lucas III and Dice Yoshimoto — will not return on Ryan Saunders’ staff as the organization distances itself from the Tom Thibodeau era. Saunders had the interim tag removed on Monday. The only assistant with a year left on his contract, Malik Allen, will be retained.

New president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas wants to split up duties more like a football staff. “We’re going to get the best offensive coordinator. We’re going to get the best defensive coordinator. We’re going to get the best player development coordinator,” Rosas said. “They’re going to execute our vision together. And Ryan will manage that program as a whole.”

We have more on the Timberwolves:

  • Adding players with a defensive mentality is a priority, Krawczynski adds in the same story. The team wants to utilize a more switch-heavy scheme to defend 3-point shooters. “I’ve got to help (Saunders),” Rosas said. “We’ve got to surround our team, our best players with personnel that will be complementary to them and we need more defenders.”
  • The team’s most notable players, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, attended Saunders’ press conference and gave him ringing endorsements. “I think this is a very positive change,” Wiggins told Michael Rand of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and other media members. “You can see the fresh air, you can see the faces and the positive energy in the air. Everyone is happy for Ryan — you don’t see negative faces, everyone is happy and we’re supportive.”
  • The decision to retain Saunders was a bow to Towns and his importance to the franchise’s long-term future, Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune writes. Towns respects and trusts Saunders and feels rejuvenated about the franchise’s direction, Scoggins notes. That’s crucial, because the Timberwolves can’t afford to alienate their best player to the point where an ugly divorce becomes inevitable, Scoggins adds.

Timberwolves Waive John Lucas III

The Timberwolves have decided to waive John Lucas III, says Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. The 34-year-old guard was the club’s lone non-guaranteed player.

Limited to action in just five games this season, Lucas III never did quite carve out a role for himself in Tom Thibodeau‘s rotation. The point guard has played just ten minutes total this season after signing with the club last August and winning a battle for the final roster spot.

According to Bobby Marks or The Vertical, Minnesota’s cap hit on Lucas III is $636K.

Just last month Lucas III squared off against his father for the first time in their respective NBA careers. John Lucas II, a long-retired 14-year NBA veteran, is the head of player development for the Rockets.

Northwest Notes: Thibodeau, Lucas, Oladipo, Blazers

Managing expectations is one of the challenges Tom Thibodeau faces in his first year as coach of the Timberwolves, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Many observers thought Minnesota was poised to become playoff contender with a proven coach joining forces with young stars Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine. But the Wolves have started slow, winning just seven of their first 25 games, and Thibodeau keeps reminding them to ignore outside influences. “Those are all projections,” he said. “Sometimes they’re high and sometimes they’re low. The thing is not to get wrapped up in that and to understand where you are and the improvement you have to make. Also, every year is different. Teams change. Personnel changes on every team and you have to understand what goes into winning.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Veteran Wolves guard John Lucas III is squaring off against his father tonight for the first time in his NBA career, notes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Lucas III earned a roster spot in Minnesota in the preseason, while the elder Lucas serves as head of player development for the Rockets.“It’s good to see him being back doing the thing he loves to do, being around the game. He’s enjoying it. I like seeing him back out there, passing on his knowledge,” Lucas III said.
  • The Thunder’s only plan regarding Victor Oladipo‘s injury is to re-evaluate him every day, according to Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. Oladipo hasn’t played since suffering a wrist sprain Sunday, and no timetable has been set for his return“I think a lot of times people want to know when he’s gonna be back, and to be honest with you, we don’t know,” said coach Billy Donovan. “I’m not saying he’s gonna be out for months. I’m not saying weeks or days. But I think what happens is, if you say, ‘He’s gonna be back this day’ and he’s not, people start to draw conclusions.”
  • The Trail Blazers need to turn some of their frontcourt surplus into a swingman who can play defense or a big man who can score, writes Josh Martin of Bleacher Report. He mentions Mason Plumlee, Ed Davis, Noah Vonleh and Meyers Leonard as possible trade candidates.

Northwest Notes: Faried, Abrines, Lucas, Butler

Kenneth Faried has the inside track to remain the Nuggets’ starting power forward when the season starts, according to Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. Coach Michael Malone wanted to have a competition at that spot, but no one appears to be a serious threat to Faried. Darrell Arthur is still recovering from offseason knee surgery and will be phased in slowly. Denver sometimes uses Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler at power forward, but usually just in short bursts to speed up the game. It’s possible that Malone will decide to start Jusuf Nurkic at center and slide Nikola Jokic over to the four spot, but Dempsey believes the most likely outcome is Faried starting on opening night.

There’s more news from the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets may get their own D-League team again, possibly by next season, Dempsey writes in a separate story. Denver last had a direct affiliate in 2009 with the Colorado 14ers, who moved to Texas and hooked up with the Dallas Mavericks.
  • Alex Abrines waited to make the leap to the Thunder until he saw an opportunity for playing time, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. That chance came when Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City for Golden State and created a huge opening on the wing. OKC has owned Abrines’ rights since 2013, when it took him 32nd in the draft. The 23-year-old shooting guard has been playing in Spain ever since, but now he believes there’s a chance to make an impact with the Thunder. “Once KD left, I think there was a spot at the three position,” Abrines said. “Also I can play the two. I thought I had a chance to come here and grab some minutes. I don’t want to be here and just practice.”
  • Two veterans fighting for spots on the Timberwolves‘ roster, John Lucas III and Rasual Butler, know what to expect from coach Tom Thibodeau because they’ve played for him before, notes Kent Youngblood of The Star Tribune. Both players are 37 and have non-guaranteed contracts, but they came into camp with a decent shot to make the team. Minnesota has 17 players in camp, including Nikola Pekovic, who will be kept on the roster but won’t play this season because of injuries. Butler played for Thibodeau in Chicago briefly in 2010/11, and Lucas and Thibodeau teamed up with both the Rockets and Bulls.

Wolves Notes: Rubio, Lucas, Pinckney, Newton

Ricky Rubio is clarifying remarks he made to a Spanish radio station over the summer that led many to believe he wants to be traded, writes Kent Youngblood of The Star-Tribune. In the June interview, Rubio noted that he had been in the league five years without making the playoffs, adding that he would have to “start thinking about teams that can get into the playoffs and win in the finals” if the Timberwolves don’t make the postseason this year. Minnesota’s best record in the five seasons Rubio has been with the team is 40-42 in 2013-14. “I didn’t say I wanted to get traded,” Rubio explained. “I want to play with a winner. I think we have the right mentality. It’s changing.”

  • Veteran point guard John Lucas III sounded very confident at today’s practice and clearly expects to win a roster spot, tweets John Krawczynski of the Associated Press. Lucas, who played 21 games with the Pistons in 2014/15, signed with the Wolves in August.
  • Ed Pinckney is attending the Timberwolves’ camp as a guest, but he is likely to be added to the coaching staff by the end of the week, according to Krawczynski (Twitter link). Pinckney served as an assistant with the Nuggets last season.
  • Former Minnesota GM Milt Newton hopes to eventually hold that job again with another organization, relays Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. Newton, who was let go as part of a front office shakeup in May, said he believes race is a factor in a league that now has just two black GMs. “I would be naïve to think that it’s not a problem,” said Newton. “At the end of the day, I don’t want to concern myself with that. I know it’s difficult for us African-Americans to have opportunities to interview for these jobs, to have opportunities to be part of these management teams.”

Timberwolves Sign Toure’ Murry, John Lucas III

The Timberwolves have added a pair of players to their offseason roster, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, who reports (via Twitter) that the team has signed guards Toure’ Murry and John Lucas III. While RealGM’s transactions log lists Murry’s deal as official, it’s not clear if Lucas’ signing has also been formalized.

Murry, 26, appeared in 51 games for the Knicks during the 2013/14 season, but has only played in five NBA games since then, enjoying brief stints in Utah and Washington. Lucas has a more extensive NBA resume, having played in 237 regular season contests with the Rockets, Bulls, Raptors, Jazz, and Pistons. The 33-year-old averaged 4.8 PPG and 1.5 APG in those games, shooting 34.5% on three-pointers.

According to Stein, both Murry and Lucas will be given the opportunity to compete for a roster spot in Minnesota this fall. However, for that to happen, the Wolves would need to either trade or cut a player with a guaranteed salary. Currently, the club has 15 players on guaranteed contracts, including Ricky Rubio, Kris Dunn, and Tyus Jones at point guard, and Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, and Brandon Rush at the two.

[RELATED: Minnesota Timberwolves’ depth chart at RosterResource.com]

One other scenario that could open up a roster spot in Minnesota would be a retirement decision from Kevin Garnett. For now, Garnett – who has one year remaining on his contract – hasn’t made a call one way or the other on his future.

Heat Sign Dorell Wright

10:24am: The signing is finally official, the team announced (Twitter link). A mistake involving either spelling, translation or both on the FIBA clearance paperwork caused the delay, tweets Ethan Skolnick of the Miami Herald.

TUESDAY, 9:43am: Winderman confirms FIBA clearance is the holdup (Twitter link).

MONDAY, 1:45pm: The Heat will sign Dorell Wright, tweets Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. The move has been widely expected, as Winderman and Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald (Twitter link) have both written in the wake of this weekend’s deal with rookie point guard Briante Weber, which seemed to preclude the idea that veteran point guard John Lucas III would sign, as Winderman observed then (Twitter link). Wright and the Heat were reportedly set to meet in recent days about the possibility of a deal.

Winderman suggests that complications stemming from Wright’s deal to play in China earlier this season have held up an official signing with the Heat. The Chinese season is over, so Wright is no longer under contract, but FIBA clearance is required whenever a player jumps from one country to another to play.

In any case, the Heat have the financial flexibility to sign Wright to either a prorated minimum-salary deal or a slightly more lucrative one that encompasses a portion of the prorated mid-level exception. The mid-level exception contract could run three years and be worth as much as $33,751 without the Heat going over the tax line and incurring repeat-offender penalties. Wright has said he’d like a multiyear deal.

The 30-year-old Wright averaged 24.3 points in 30.8 minutes per game this season for North Control Beijing, the team formerly known as the Chongqing Dragons. The 11-year NBA veteran went to China after his playing time dipped in two seasons with the Trail Blazers, for whom he saw just 12.3 minutes per game in 48 regular season appearances last year.

Wright has a history with Miami, which drafted him out of high school in 2004 and had him for the first six seasons of his NBA career, and he’s close with Dwyane Wade. The addition of Wright would give the Heat a full 15-man roster heading into the playoffs.

Heat Notes: Weber, Whiteside, Wright, Bosh

The Heat were looking to the future when they agreed to sign Briante Weber to a multiyear contract Saturday, according to Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. The partially guaranteed deal ties up a small amount of money, but it gives Miami a chance to develop the 23-year-old point guard. Winderman notes that the Heat made a similar move with Josh Richardson and will probably do the same this summer with Tyler Johnson. He speculates that the addition of Weber and the possible return of Beno Udrih gives Miami the flexibility to trade Goran Dragic if the front office believes it needs more cap space to re-sign Hassan WhitesideDwyane Wade, Luol Deng or Joe Johnson. Weber, who was waived by the Heat during training camp, is known as a playmaker and defensive specialist. His only NBA experience is six games with the Grizzlies during a 10-day contract in March.

There’s more news from Miami:

  • Despite being a candidate for a max contract, Whiteside is still learning the intricacies of basketball, Winderman writes in a separate story. Coach Erik Spoelstra frequently pulls his center from games for brief teaching moments. “If he sees something, he’ll let me know,” Whiteside said. “If he doesn’t … more likely he’ll see something. Or he’ll give me advice and I’ll go back out there.”
  • Dorell Wright would just provide insurance if he signs with the Heat, Winderman contends in another piece. Miami is planning to use an eight-man rotation in the playoffs, which leaves almost no playing time for Wright, Weber or veteran point guard John Lucas III if the Heat sign him instead of Wright. Winderman notes that the battle for court time is already crowded, with Gerald Green and Josh McRoberts out of the rotation and Tyler Johnson possibly picking up some minutes if he returns from injury.
  • The Heat have embraced “small-ball” in response to Chris Bosh‘s absence, according to Michael Pina of RealGM. Deng has taken over Bosh’s role as Miami has cranked up its tempo. The Heat have been outscoring their opponents by 7.4 point per 100 possessions with Deng on the floor. “It’s a requirement for us,” Spoelstra said. “That’s the benefit of it. Chris Bosh goes out, you have to do things differently.” Bosh hasn’t played since the All-Star break because of blood clots in his left calf.

Eastern Rumors: Carroll, Lucas III, Jennings

The Raptors are hopeful of getting small forward DeMarre Carroll back in action for the final three games of the season, Mike Ganter of the National Post reports. Carroll, who hasn’t played since January 3rd after undergoing knee surgery, practiced in full on Monday and coach Dwane Casey wants him to scrape off some rust before the playoffs, Ganter adds. “The last three or whatever games there are when he comes back, we will use those as his test lab,” Casey told Ganter and other media members. “No disrespect to those teams but to get some work in, get some run in, get knocked down a few times, get hit a few times and see where he stands.”

In other news around the Eastern Conference:

  • Veteran point guard John Lucas III could sign with the Heat this week, Marc Stein of ESPN.com tweets. The Heat will soon have the financially flexibility to add two players and Lucas nearly made Miami’s roster during training camp, Stein adds. Lucas, who appeared in 21 games with the Pistons last season, was playing for the Pacers’ D-League team, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, before he was waived last month.
  • Magic point guard Brandon Jennings would like to re-sign with the club, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders tweets. Jennings, an unrestricted free agent after the season, is averaging 7.1 points and 4.0 assists in 24 games with Orlando since the Pistons dealt him and power forward Ersan Ilyasova at the trade deadline for power forward Tobias Harris.
  • A New York City man has been arrested in connection with the December 30th robbery and shooting of Knicks small forward Cleanthony Early, according to John Marzulli of the New York Daily News. Early has averaged 20 minutes over the team’s last two games after a D-League stint.

And-Ones: Anthony, Marks, Lucas, Tavares

Five years later, no clear-cut winner exists in the blockbuster trade that sent Carmelo Anthony from the Nuggets to the Knicks, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. The teams have combined to win just one playoff series since the 12-player deal, Bondy notes, when New York defeated the Celtics in 2013. The Knicks got the superstar they wanted, but Denver wound up with two young but frequently injured players in Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. The Sixers benefited, as the Knicks’ first-rounder was sent to Denver, which later traded it to the Magic, which dealt it to Philadelphia, which ended up with the rights to Dario Saric.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Sean Marks, whom the Nets hired as GM last month, said he has tried to learn something important during every stop in his NBA career, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. As a player, Marks spent two seasons under current Heat president Pat Riley from 2001 to 2003. “The vision of it’s not about me,” Marks said. “Pat Riley’s, ‘The disease of me,’ I’ve obviously taken that from him.”
  • John Lucas III, who played briefly with the Pistons last season, has been waived by the Pacers affiliate in the D-League, tweets Chris Reichert of Upside and Motor. The move took place because he has plans to sign with an overseas team, Reichert hears.
  • The Hawks sent center Edy Tavares to the Austin Spurs in the D-League, the team announced today. Tavares has appeared in 12 games with Austin this season, but also two with Canton and two with Bakersfield because the Hawks don’t have a direct affiliate. He is averaging 9.6 points and 9.1 rebounds in D-League play.
  • The Clippers have assigned guard C.J. Wilcox to the Cavs affiliate in the D-League. The Clippers also don’t have a direct affiliate, so Wilcox has played for Canton and Bakersfield in two prior D-League stints this season. His D-League averages are 17.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 15 games.