- The Mavericks have made offers to the Timberwolves for Robert Covington, but have been turned down, according to O’Connor. While O’Connor doesn’t have the specific details on Dallas’ offers, I imagine they’d start with Courtney Lee‘s expiring contract and the Warriors’ 2020 second-round pick. The Mavs’ first-rounders are tied up for trade purposes until at at least 2025.
Teams around the NBA have been keeping an eye on the Timberwolves this season to see how Karl-Anthony Towns is coping with another sub-.500 season, but president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas made it clear in a conversation with ESPN’s Eric Woodyard that those clubs won’t get a chance to trade for the star big man this winter.
“Karl-Anthony Towns is as untouchable as they come,” Rosas told Woodyard. “He’s the best player on our team and he’s the guy we’re building around. Everything we do is to help him become the best player and to help us become the best team we can be. He’s a special talent that we’re going to do anything possible to help him achieve his highest potential.”
Rosas’ comments don’t come as a surprise. The opportunity to build around Towns was likely a major reason why he agreed to become the head of basketball operations in Minnesota last spring after nearly two decades in Houston.
Towns is in the first season of a five-year, maximum-salary contract, so there’s no reason for the Timberwolves to consider a move involving the former No. 1 overall pick unless he explicitly asks for one — even then, he’d have limited leverage to force the team’s hand, since he can’t reach the open market until 2024.
Although the Wolves have had a disappointing season so far, with their 15-29 record placing them in a tie for 13th in the West, Towns recently dismissed the idea that he’s unhappy in Minnesota, referring to the trade speculation surrounding him as “nonsense.”
For now, Rosas and the Wolves’ front office are expected to continue seeking ways to upgrade Towns’ supporting cast, with a long-term answer at point guard among the most pressing items on the club’s wish list.
“We’ve been very aggressive. We’ve been very thorough in terms of any opportunities to help our team, and that’ll be a continual process,” Rosas told ESPN. “So for us, we’re gonna be very active and we’re going to look at any opportunity that can present itself and make sure that if there’s a deal that we can do to improve our team, we’re going to take advantage of those opportunities.”
As one of three Hawks veterans with a big expiring contract, Allen Crabbe entered the season as a trade candidate and it didn’t come as a huge shock when the team moved him last week. Still, the new Timberwolves swingman admits he was caught off guard by being dealt, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune writes.
“I was taken aback,” Crabbe said on Monday. “I didn’t hear anything leading up to this. … It definitely was a shock to me, but it’s not my first time being traded. It’s the business side. The only thing you got to try to do is pack up, get to your new team, get implemented and show up and go to work.”
It remains to be seen whether Crabbe will see an uptick in minutes – or in his team’s playoff odds – in Minnesota, but as a player who likes to shoot from outside, the 27-year-old believes the Timberwolves will be a good fit for his skill set.
“I mean, it’s a match made in heaven,” Crabbe said, per Hine. “They like to shoot threes, I love to shoot threes. So I can’t ask for anything better than that.”
Here’s more from around the Northwest:
- When Chris Paul was first traded to the Thunder, there was an expectation that he wouldn’t be satisfied to stay in Oklahoma City. However, Paul has found happiness in OKC as the team has exceeded expectations this season, writes Rohan Nadkarni of SI.com. Within Nadkarni’s feature, CP3 also made it clear he has no interest in waiving his 2021/22 player option to accommodate a trade: “No chance. That’s not happening. Nope.” Paul’s player option is worth $44.2MM for his age-36 season, so the idea that he’d give it up to be traded was never a realistic one.
- As part of their trade with Sacramento, the Trail Blazers used Anthony Tolliver‘s outgoing salary to match Caleb Swanigan‘s incoming contract rather than taking on Swanigan using their disabled player exception, tweets Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights. As a result, Portland won’t create a $1.62MM traded player exception, but will still have its $2.86MM disabled player exception available. The DPE will expire on March 10, while the TPE would’ve been available for a year.
- With Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Paul Millsap all banged up and the Nuggets not looking to rush them back, the team’s depth is coming in handy, according to Kyle Fredrickson of The Denver Post. Players who have been in and out of the rotation – such as Juan Hernangomez, Malik Beasley, and Torrey Craig – have all seen regular action with those starters sidelined.
- Robert Covington has heard his name bandied about in trade rumors but the Timberwolves forward is trying to block out the speculation, as he told Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The Rockets were reportedly pursuing Covington, who is signed through the next two seasons, though their interest has apparently waned. “I’m not even focused on that,” Covington said. “My main focus is this team and what I do every day. I’m not going to get caught up in rumors or hype or what not.”
- Covington, Gorgui Dieng and Andrew Wiggins are some of the players who have exceeded preseason expectations for the Timberwolves, Britt Robson of The Athletic writes while handing out his midseason grades.
Point guard Jeff Teague felt that it was only a matter of time before the new Timberwolves regime traded him. That came to pass in a Friday deal with the Hawks. “I came from the [Tom Thibodeau] regime, and I knew they [GM Gersson Rosas and head coach Ryan Saunders] wanted to get their guys in there,” Teague explained, according to The Athletic’s Chris Kirschner.
“It was very difficult because I went there to play with Thibs, Jimmy [Butler], [Derrick] Rose and Taj [Gibson],” Teague continued. “That’s what I had envisioned for my whole time that I was going to be there.” Teague is in the final season of a three-year, $57MM contract he signed with the Timberwolves in 2017.
With rumors surrounding Karl-Anthony Towns‘ future with the Timberwolves, the All-Star big man addressed his mindset and status in Minnesota with reporters on Friday after he returned to action.
Towns missed 15 games due to a knee injury and his return was delayed after he suffered an illness. During that time, rumors of him potentially being unhappy in Minnesota swirled even as the team reportedly explored a trade for D’Angelo Russell.
Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic was among those to speak to Towns about his future after he posted 27 points in 28 minutes in Friday’s loss.
Check out highlights of Towns’ postgame chat:
On returning from his first extended absence due to injury:
“The game of basketball is a very fragile thing. I don’t like playing with it. I had to take my time, had an unfortunate setback with getting sick. But if I could really say I’m just so happy the game of basketball is here for me. It was some great therapy for me today. I needed the game more than ever. It allowed me to put my mind somewhere else.”
“I’m here to be a Minnesota Timberwolf. Very fortunate I have a head coach like Ryan (Saunders), a president and friend like Gerss (Gersson Rosas). I’m not worried about all that nonsense. Whatever we have to deal with in house, we’ll deal with in house, but this ain’t the circus like it used to be. This is something that’s going to be done as a family. If we have a problem or anything, we’ll deal with it internally. We won’t have any external forces here adding anything.”
On his focus for the remainder of the season:
“I trust my teammates. They did an amazing job. (Gorgui Dieng has) been fantastic. Noah (Vonleh), Naz (Reid) has come up and played really well. Just gotta find ways to get wins. I’m back now. So I gotta find ways to implement myself into the winning formula.”
Towns hadn’t played since December 13th, mainly due to a knee injury. He was cleared to play earlier in the week but then contracted an illness which delayed his return.
The Timberwolves have reportedly been seeking another impact player to pair up with Towns, particularly Warriors guard D’Angelo Russell. Minnesota made a hard push for Russell during free agency but the Wolves’ recruiting efforts fell short when the Warriors offered him a four-year, maximum-salary contract after losing Kevin Durant.
The front office created more roster flexibility by making a two-for-one swap with the Hawks earlier this week, dealing point guard Jeff Teague and swingman Treveon Graham in exchange for wing Allen Crabbe.
The Timberwolves entered Friday’s action in the 13th spot in the West but aren’t completely out of the playoff hunt. They’re 3.5 games behind the Grizzlies, who currently hold the final playoff berth.
A healthy Towns certainly improves their prospects, as would a blockbuster deal. There was speculation when Towns was sitting out that Minnesota might entertain trade offers for him and the Knicks and Warriors were reportedly monitoring his situation. However, a subsequent report insisted that the Timberwolves have no interest in dealing their franchise player.
As we’ve detailed before, the Timberwolves put on the full-court press in their efforts to recruit D’Angelo Russell during the 2019 free agent period, but the Warriors‘ maximum-salary offer and the opportunity to play alongside Stephen Curry ultimately swayed Russell to Golden State. Discussing that decision with Leo Sepkowitz of Bleacher Report, Russell made it sound as if it didn’t take him long to choose the Dubs once his agent called him to inform him of the max offer.
“I’m like, ‘Why the f–k is you on the phone with me?!'” Russell said. “‘Tell them yes!'”
Of course, his first year in the Bay Area hasn’t played out like he’d hoped, with Curry joining Klay Thompson on the long-term injury list and the Warriors plummeting to the bottom of the Western Conference.
Russell has been linked to the Wolves again as of late, with Minnesota reportedly intensifying its efforts to trade for him. While a deal seems unlikely to happen before the deadline, D-Lo acknowledged that this has been something of a lost season for the Warriors, who are essentially evaluating their roster for 2020/21.
“This whole year is kind of a test of seeing what’s gonna fit, what’s gonna make sense for next year,” Russell told Sepkowitz. “It’s them kind of sitting back, seeing who I am as a teammate and a player, what I bring to the table.”
Here’s more out of the Pacific:
- Warriors guard Jacob Evans has been diagnosed with a concussion and a broken nose after taking an elbow to the face on Tuesday, the club announced (Twitter link). It’s not clear how much time Evans will miss, but he’s currently in the NBA’s concussion protocol and will wear a protective mask when he returns, according to the Warriors.
- The Kings passed on Luka Doncic in the 2018 draft due to concerns about his fit alongside De’Aaron Fox, a decision that some fans in Sacramento have had a hard time moving past, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. According to Amick, former Kings coach Dave Joerger passive-aggressively joked to GM Vlade Divac midway through last season that he’d negotiated a trade with the Mavericks to land Doncic, to which Divac shot back: “Do I get their coach, too?”
- In an interesting piece for ESPN.com, Kevin Arnovitz explores how the perception of Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has changed over the last several months. When Vogel was hired in the spring, he was viewed as a Plan C whose hiring was proof of the franchise’s dysfunction. However, he has helped right the ship in L.A., leading the team to a 33-8 first-half record.
“We want to be positioned where we can take advantage of opportunities that present themselves where you can acquire a high-level player and give a team savings if they need it,” the executive said.
- The Wolves are confident they’re on the same page with their superstar Karl-Anthony Towns, as Rosas tells Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “We have an ownership group and a leadership group here that’s given us every resource to be successful,” Rosas said. “We’ve been aggressive at every step of the way during my short tenure here, whether it’s the draft or free agency, to bring in high-level talent. There’s going to be challenges along that path, but I’m extremely confident we’re on the same page and there’s full commitment from every level here to make this successful.”
- In the same piece, Rosas added that the team is happy with No. 6 overall pick Jarrett Culver‘s progress. “What he’s doing in a semi-point guard role this year, for a guy at his age, with his skill set, is very exciting. History shows you that guys will improve their shooting,” Rosas said. “…We’re very excited about what he means for this organization now and in the future.”
- Former Suns general manager Ryan McDonough has been in Minnesota, visiting with the Wolves’ coaching staff and front office, Krawcynski tweets. The scribe adds that the late Flip Saunders had a history of meeting with coaches who were currently out of the league.