Luka Garza

Wolves Notes: Gobert, Towns, Garza, Russell

The Timberwolves weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders in their 115-108 win over Oklahoma City to open the regular season on Wednesday. Stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards combined to shoot just 6-of-27 from the field for a total of 23 points.

However, center Rudy Gobert made his presence felt in his regular season debut with his new team, leading the way with 23 points and 16 rebounds. Head coach Chris Finch said after the game that Gobert’s “impact was strong everywhere,” while the center himself said there’s still plenty of work to do.

“It shows how good we can be and how much better we can be at the same time,” Gobert said of the Wolves’ up-and-down play in the opener, per Jim Souhan of The Star Tribune. “It’s going to be a process and every night is going to be an opportunity for us to get better.”

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • The Wolves’ frontcourt pairing of Gobert and Towns, rivals turned allies, is the NBA’s biggest experiment entering this season, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes in an article looking back at how the duo came together and what we should expect from the two star big men.
  • Luka Garza was thrilled to have his Exhibit 10 contract converted into a two-way deal at the end of the preseason, as Kent Youngblood of The Star Tribune details. “The coaching staff, the system, the players, everything kinds of fit me really well,” Garza said. “For a young big in this league there is no better environment to be in, with the best offensive big in the league and the best defensive big man. What better guys to learn from?” The opportunity to spend some time with the Iowa Wolves was an added bonus for the former Hawkeyes star. “I’m from (Washington) D.C., but now it feels like I’m from Iowa. So I’m super excited,” he said.
  • A potential unrestricted free agent in 2023, D’Angelo Russell enters this season seeking redemption after a disappointing showing in the Wolves’ first-round playoff loss this spring, says Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.
  • Michael Rand of The Star Tribune identifies five factors that will help determine how high the Timberwolves’ ceiling is, including their defensive consistency, Russell’s performance in a contract year, and the team’s role players being a net positive.

Wolves Converting Luka Garza To Two-Way Deal

10:50pm: Lawson will be waived to make room for Garza, sources tell Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link). Minnesota was high on Lawson, but didn’t want to lose Garza, per Krawczynski.

10:26pm: The Timberwolves are signing center Luka Garza to a two-way deal, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

While Charania says “signing,” Garza is already under contract with the team, so the Wolves are technically converting his Exhibit 10 contract into a two-way deal. Minnesota’s two-way slots are currently occupied by A.J. Lawson and Eric Paschall, so they’ll need to waive one of them in order to convert Garza.

Garza, 23, was selected by the Pistons with the 52nd overall pick in the 2021 draft and spent his rookie season in Detroit, averaging 5.8 PPG and 3.1 RPG in 32 games (12.2 MPG). He was a standout for the Motor City Cruise, Detroit’s G League affiliate, putting up 20.6 PPG and 9.5 RPG in 16 games (29.8 MPG) and earning a spot on the All-NBAGL Third Team.

The former Iowa star’s contract with the Pistons was for two years, but the 2022/23 season was a team option, which Detroit declined, making him an unrestricted free agent. Garza signed an Exhibit 10 deal with the Wolves in August.

Wolves head coach Chris Finch recently stated that he likes what Garza has brought to the team during training camp.

He’s the perfect system fit for us. Great acquisition by our front office,” Finch said. “He’s a guy I think can really grow into our system here. He can stretch the floor and he can score around the basket. That’s a great combo. Not a lot of bigs can do that.”

Wolves Notes: Gobert, Towns, Chemistry, Garza

The Timberwolves‘ trade for Rudy Gobert was perhaps the NBA’s biggest blockbuster this summer, shocking league executives due to the price Minnesota was willing to pay. The move also surprised the Wolves’ own players, who were caught off guard that so many of the team’s most well-liked players – including Patrick Beverley – were included in the deal, Brian Windhorst writes in an Insider-only ESPN story.

“It wasn’t that it put us in a bad mood,” forward Taurean Prince said, “but, uh, we were surprised.”

As Windhorst outlines, the Wolves recognized that players like Gobert – a three-time Defensive Player of the Year on a long-term contract – don’t become available often, and believed he would make the team’s current core players better. On top of that, Minnesota didn’t have to give up any of those core players – Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, D’Angelo Russell, and Jaden McDaniels – to acquire Gobert.

“We put up the 30 best players in the league on a board,” head coach Chris Finch said. “At any given time, like there’s maybe three or four of them available. Some aren’t even available if you gave 10 picks. And if you have one you can get and he fits and does a lot of the things that we like — the more that we looked at it and the deeper we went, like just the more we felt like we couldn’t not (trade for him).”

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • Towns and Gobert are expected to be active together for the first time in Friday’s preseason finale, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Towns’ preseason debut was delayed by a non-COVID illness, while Gobert has rested in the Wolves’ two most recent preseason contests.
  • The Timberwolves will need some time to figure out how Towns and Gobert work together, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic, who suspects it will take another year for the best version of this team to show up. Hollinger expects the Wolves to take a small step forward in 2022/23, projecting 47 wins and a seventh-place finish in the West.
  • In a Q&A with Mark Medina of, Gobert spoke about his first impressions of his new NBA home, establishing chemistry with his new teammates, and much more.
  • Wolves coach Chris Finch likes what Luka Garza has brought to the team this fall, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. “He’s the perfect system fit for us. Great acquisition by our front office,” Finch said. “He’s a guy I think can really grow into our system here. He can stretch the floor and he can score around the basket. That’s a great combo. Not a lot of bigs can do that.” Garza is on a non-guaranteed Exhibit 10 contract, so it’s unclear if Minnesota plans to keep him on its 17-man roster to open the regular season.

Western Notes: Suns, Durant, Bridges, Bogdanovic, Beasley, Garza

The Suns were never truly in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes, according to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7. While the Suns had multiple conversations with the Nets this offseason, none of them occurred in recent weeks.

The Nets wanted a better haul than the Jazz received from the Timberwolves for Rudy Gobert.

Forward Mikal Bridges was never offered because neither side made a formal proposal, Gambadoro adds (Twitter links). The Suns simply didn’t have the assets Brooklyn insisted upon and they would not give up franchise player Devin Booker.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • With Durant pulling back on his trade request, the Suns will look to obtain a post-up power forward, perhaps via free agency, Gambadoro tweets. They have an open roster spot and the taxpayer mid-level exception still available to them. Our updated list of unsigned free agents can be found here.
  • If the Jazz go into fire sale mode, there are several rotation players on their roster that could help the Grizzlies, Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. That list includes wing Bojan Bogdanovic — who could slide in nicely alongside Ja Morant and Desmond Bane — as well shooting guard Malik Beasley and veteran power forward Rudy Gay.
  • Luka Garza‘s contract with the Timberwolves is an Exhibit 10 deal, Darren Wolfson of KSTP tweets. Minnesota officially signed the second-year big man on Tuesday. He’ll compete for a roster spot but could become an affiliate player for the Iowa Wolves, Minnesota’s G League team. He’ll be eligible for a bonus worth up to $50K if he is waived and then spends at least 60 days with Iowa.

Timberwolves Sign Luka Garza

The Timberwolves have officially signed free agent forward/center Luka Garza, the team announced today in a press release. The Wolves also confirmed the previously reported signing of CJ Elleby, which was made official a couple weeks ago.

Garza, 23, was selected by the Pistons with the 52nd overall pick in the 2021 draft and spent his rookie season in Detroit, averaging 5.8 PPG and 3.1 RPG in 32 games (12.2 MPG). He was a standout for the Motor City Cruise, Detroit’s G League affiliate, putting up 20.6 PPG and 9.5 RPG in 16 games (29.8 MPG) and earning a spot on the All-NBAGL Third Team.

Garza’s contract with the Pistons was for two years, but the 2022/23 season was a team option, which Detroit declined, making him an unrestricted free agent.

The former Iowa star is now on track to attend training camp with Minnesota, though it’s unclear if there will be any room for him on the club’s 15-man roster. The Timberwolves currently have 12 players on guaranteed contracts, with Austin Rivers, Jaylen Nowell, and Nathan Knight seemingly the frontrunners to fill out the regular season squad.

If Garza doesn’t make the Timberwolves’ 15-man roster or end up on a two-way deal, he could become an affiliate player for the Iowa Wolves, Minnesota’s G League team. Terms of his contract aren’t known, but if it includes Exhibit 10 language, he’d be eligible for a bonus worth up to $50K if he spends at least 60 days with Iowa.

Counting their two-way players, the Timberwolves now have 19 players under contract.

Pistons To Decline Options On Garza, Edwards

The Pistons will not pick up the team options of center Luka Garza and guard Carsen Edwards, James Edwards III of The Athletic tweets.

The option on Garza, a second-r0und pick last season, is worth $1,563,518. The option figure for Edwards, who joined the Pistons late last season, is $1,815,677.

Edwards also confirms that Detroit will decline the $3,150,000 option on Frank Jackson‘s contract, which he previously reported was likely.

Technically, Detroit could make Garza and Edwards restricted free agents by extending qualifying offers, but that’s unlikely given the team could have retained either player at a low-cost figure. The Pistons are projected to have more cap space than any other team in free agency and these moves open up a little more room to make a splash.

Garza, who starred at Iowa, appeared in 32 games (five starts) last season, averaging 5.8 PPG and 3.1 RPG in 12.2 MPG. The addition of lottery pick Jalen Duren increased the possibility that Garza would be let go.

Edwards spent the bulk of last season in the G League before appearing in four games with Detroit in April.

NBA G League Announces 2021/22 All-NBAGL Teams

Rockets two-way player Trevelin Queen, who was named the NBA G League MVP and the G League Finals MVP this season, has added two more honors to his impressive 2021/22 résumé.

Queen headlined this year’s All-NBA G League First Team and also earned a spot on the NBAGL’s All-Defensive team, as the league announced today in a press release.

The complete list of the 2021/22 All-NBA G League teams, along with the All-Rookie and All-Defensive squads, is below. Players who finished the season on NBA contracts are noted with an asterisk (*), while those on two-way contracts are noted with a caret (^).

All-NBAGL First Team

All-NBAGL Second Team

All-NBAGL Third Team

NBAGL All-Rookie Team

  • Charles Bassey (Delaware Blue Coats) *
  • Luka Garza (Motor City Cruise) *
  • Carlik Jones (Texas Legends)
  • Mac McClung (South Bay Lakers) ^
  • Micah Potter (Sioux Falls Skyforce)

NBAGL All-Defensive Team

  • Charles Bassey (Delaware Blue Coats) *
  • Braxton Key (Delaware Blue Coats) ^
  • Tacko Fall (Cleveland Charge)
  • Shaquille Harrison (Delaware Blue Coats)
  • Trevelin Queen (Rio Grande Valley Vipers) ^

All 19 players who earned a spot on one of the G League’s All-NBAGL, All-Rookie, or All-Defensive teams this year were on some form of standard, two-way, or 10-day NBA contract during the 2021/22 season.

Of those 19, Tillman is the only player who has yet to make his NBA debut, as he didn’t appear in any games after signing a 10-day deal with Atlanta in December.

Injury Notes: Anunoby, DeRozan, Bucks, Iguodala, Pistons

Raptors forward OG Anunoby returned to action on Thursday after missing 15 games due to a fractured finger. He immediately reentered Toronto’s starting lineup and scored 14 points in an important win over Cleveland.

While a current Raptor returned from an injury on Thursday, a former Raptor headed to the sidelines with an ailment of his own. Bulls star DeMar DeRozan missed the team’s game against New Orleans due to a left groin strain, one that head coach Billy Donovan referred to as “mild,” per Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago.

“I think he was experiencing some tightness (there) for a little bit, but nothing more than tightness,” Donovan said. “And then I think — I don’t know if it was a specific play — but (he) definitely started to feel it a little bit more than just being tight after (Tuesday’s game).

“DeMar knows his body better than anybody else. I think he felt like, ‘OK this could get into something else a little bit more significant if I don’t take care of this.’ That’s why they wanted to do the imaging and they found out it’s a mild strain really all it is right now… We just don’t want it to turn into something bigger.”

As we wait to see if DeRozan will miss any more time, here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Bucks forward Khris Middleton has missed a couple games due to a wrist injury, but head coach Mike Budenholzer expressed optimism that Middleton will be available in Memphis on Saturday, per Eric Nehm of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • Budenholzer is less certain about Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s status for Saturday’s game after the Bucks star sat out on Thursday with right knee soreness, but said Antetokounmpo’s injury shouldn’t be “anything long-term or significant” (Twitter link via Nehm).
  • Andre Iguodala, who has missed the Warriors‘ last 19 games due to a back issue, has been upgraded to questionable for Friday’s game in Atlanta, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Even if Iguodala isn’t able to play tonight, it sounds like he’s very close to returning.
  • Pistons rookie wing Chris Smith, who has spent the season on a two-way contract recovering from an ACL tear, is undergoing another surgery and won’t make his NBA debut this season, head coach Dwane Casey said on Wednesday (Twitter link via James Edwards III of The Athletic). Smith’s two-way deal runs through 2022/23, but that doesn’t guarantee Detroit will hang onto him for next season.
  • Pistons rookie forward Isaiah Livers entered the NBA’s concussion protocol and missed Wednesday’s game after bumping heads with Luka Garza in practice, per Casey (Twitter link via Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press). While Livers was diagnosed with a concussion and has been ruled out for Friday’s game too, Garza was OK and didn’t have to enter the protocol.

Central Notes: Caruso, LaVine, Lopez, Hill, Garza

Alex Caruso will be back on the court tonight, the Bulls announced (via Twitter), and his return should help solve the team’s defensive issues, writes Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. Caruso has been sidelined for seven weeks with a fractured wrist, and he and Lonzo Ball have played a combined eight games since Christmas Day. Over that span, Chicago has dropped from ninth to 21st in team defense.

The difference is especially noticeable in regard to creating turnovers, as Caruso and Ball would both rank among the top 10 in the league in steals per game if they had played enough minutes. Schafer notes that the Bulls are last in the NBA in creating turnovers and 29th in steals in their 37 games since Christmas.

“There was certain things with those guys (Caruso and Ball) we did a little bit of, whether it be trapping pick-and-rolls, switching, or those guys’ ability to read something and fight through a screen or shoot the gap or anticipate something,” coach Billy Donovan said. “We gave those guys the freedom, I don’t want to say just to freelance, but like, be aggressive. Use your instincts. Get out in passing lanes. Use your activity.”

Caruso will be restricted to about 24-30 minutes per game, Schaefer tweets, but Donovan said that’s related more to his lengthy absence than concerns about the wrist.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Zach LaVine is being held out of tonight’s game, even though the Bulls haven’t played since Wednesday, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link). The team has been taking precautions with LaVine’s sore left knee, but it’s unusual for him to be rested after a two-day break. “It’s not necessarily regressing,” Donovan said. “It’s just something he has to manage and deal with.”
  • Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer offered encouraging news on Brook Lopez, who had back surgery and has played just one game this season, tweets Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Lopez feels good after a week of 5-on-5 practices and is expected to be ready soon. Teammate George Hill, who is suffering from neck soreness, is also making progress (Twitter link from Eric Nehm of The Athletic). “He’s close. He had a good day yesterday,” Budenholzer said. “I think he’s come through it well. So, I would say they’re both doing really well and they’re both close.”
  • If the Pistons select a center in the draft, they may consider not bringing back rookie Luka Garza for another year, Rod Beard of The Detroit News states in a mailbag column. Detroit holds a team option on Garza for next season.

Central Notes: Bickerstaff, Cunningham, Garza, Stephenson

The Cavaliers‘ improved play this season has put them in position to be unhappy after a win, writes Chris Fedor of Victories have been rare in Cleveland over the past three seasons, but with the Cavs in fifth place in the East at 28-19, coach J.B. Bickerstaff is stressing the importance of a strong performance every night.

That’s why he was upset Saturday after watching his team struggle to put away the Thunder. Bickerstaff was displeased over a lack of effort and an offense that produced 23 turnovers and only 22 assists.

“It’s an understanding of the bigger picture of what we’re trying to get done and the seriousness of every game for us and what it means,” he said. “That’s part of our growth and maturation. There’s games like this where if you lose these games, you’re looking back in April and they matter.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Head coach Dwane Casey wants to take some of the ball-handling duties away from Cade Cunningham, who is running the offense and handling much of the scoring for the short-handed Pistons, per Keith Langlois of Injuries to Jerami Grant, Kelly Olynyk and Killian Hayes have resulted in Cunningham taking on a larger-than-expected share of the offense. “I’ve got to do a better job of getting him off the ball,” Casey said. “Find another ballhandler. When we get Kelly (Olynyk) back, get his time up as a point five, allowing Cade to play off the ball a little more and that’ll take the pressure off Cade, because to bring the ball down the floor, create his own shot, that’s too much.”
  • Pistons rookie center Luka Garza has cleared the health and safety protocols and is focused on reconditioning so he can start playing again, tweets Rod Beard of The Detroit News.
  • The Pacers have to make a decision on Lance Stephenson, whose 10-day contract expires tonight, tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. Stephenson joined the team under the hardship provision at the start of January, but because all of Indiana’s players cleared protocols by the time that deal expired, he had to sign a standard 10-day contract. The Pacers have the options of giving him another 10-day deal or signing him for the rest of the season. He has averaged 9.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 11 games.