While Fred Hoiberg would prefer to continue coaching at the NBA level, Marc Stein of The New York Times believes league-wide interest in the former Chicago head coach will be limited. Stein suggests that the Timberwolves – and owner Glen Taylor – are fond of Hoiberg, but they’re “the only known team to rate Hoiberg so highly.” It’s possible that Minnesota could move on from Tom Thibodeau at season’s end and consider Hoiberg at that point, but speculation about Thibodeau’s job security has quieted down since the Jimmy Butler trade.
We’re nearly a full month removed from the blockbuster trade that sent Jimmy Butler from Minnesota to Philadelphia in a package that included Dario Saric and Robert Covington. With both the Sixers and Timberwolves playing well since completing that deal, Butler sat down with teammate J.J. Redick for an appearance on Redick’s podcast for The Ringer, revisiting the trade request that ultimately ended his time as a Timberwolf.
In addition to discussing his trade request and his initial thoughts on heading to Philadelphia, Butler also provided some new details on the year’s most-discussed scrimmage. Here are a few highlights from the All-NBA swingman:
On whether Philadelphia was on his radar as a possible destination after he requested a trade:
“It was. When they were talking, Minnesota and Philly, they liked the deal that they were starting to get and then put together. So that’s when I became kinda aware that I could end up in Philly. Did I think this was gonna be where I ended up? I didn’t think so. And the only reason I didn’t think so was because it’s like, Philly is already a really, really good team. If you put me on there, I would like to think I’m a good enough player to add a little something and maybe get us to the hump of Eastern Conference finals, maybe even Finals.”
On whether scheduling a one-on-one sitdown with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols on the same day as his infamous performance in practice was premeditated:
“Look, I did go to Marquette University, so I know you think I’m really that smart, but that’s not what happened. What happened was: This interview was planned three weeks ahead of time to talk about what was going on. So I would keep going into the office talking with management, talking with Thibs, and they would be like, ‘Hey, you need to come in and practice.’ I was like, ‘Thibs, what I need to come in and practice for? Y’all gonna trade me.’ What’s the point of practicing — going in there, getting up and down — and then I’m gonna be gone in a day. ‘Cause it was always like: ‘We almost got a deal, we almost got a deal, we almost got a deal.'”
More on that scrimmage, in which Butler teamed up with the Wolves’ third-stringers to beat the starters:
“We go into the practice, and I’m telling Thibs, ‘I just wanna hoop,’ like I just wanna get up and down. See if I can go. And we start doing some drills, and at the end we start hooping. Now that’s when all of the stuff goes on. We play, we win, and I’m yapping. I’m yapping, I’m yapping. I always talk, anyways. If you can’t tell, I’m always talking, talking about how somebody can’t guard me, or nobody can beat me. I do that. That’s what I do. This time it was just a little bit different ’cause of whose team I was on and I ain’t been around, so it was just taken up a notch and it didn’t help who was watching—ownership, management, all of that good stuff.”
On “the most interesting detail of that whole scrimmage that nobody knows”:
“I only shot the ball one time. I only shot the ball once. … I was dominating, but I only shot the ball once. Dimes, boom, boom, boom. Steals, blocks. I only shot the ball one time.”
- The Timberwolves had a shouting match during halftime of the game against Houston on Monday, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes. As a result, the team then worked together in the second half to pull off an impressive victory. “We screamed at each other about how we wanted to fix our mistakes on defense and how we were as a group going to do it before Thibs talked to us,” Karl-Anthony Towns said. “And we went out there and did it.”
Over the course of the 2018/19 NBA season, up until February’s trade deadline, we’re keeping an eye on potential trade candidates from around the NBA, monitoring their value and exploring the likelihood that they’ll be moved. Each of these looks at possible trade candidates focuses on a specific division, as we zero in on three players from that division.
When we last checked in on the Northwest, the Timberwolves held the NBA’s top trade candidate in Jimmy Butler. Now that Butler has been moved, there are far fewer obvious trade chips in the division, where teams like the Jazz, Trail Blazers, and Nuggets have doubled down on their current cores within the last year or two.
Here’s our latest look at a few possible trade candidates from the Northwest…
Jerryd Bayless, G
$8.58MM cap hit; unrestricted free agent in 2019
Bayless was traded by the Sixers before we could profile him as an Atlantic division trade candidate, but the same traits that made him a useful trade chip for Philadelphia will give him some value for the Timberwolves.
Whether or not Bayless will be able to contribute anything on the court in 2018/19 is somewhat irrelevant — it’s his $8.58MM salary and his expiring contract that make him useful in trade talks. That cap hit makes him ideal for matching mid-level type contracts, or packaging him with other pieces (after January 12), as the Sixers did. And the fact that he’ll be a free agent at season’s end could appeal more to a team looking to create 2019 cap space than it will to the Wolves, who will likely remain over the cap even after clearing Bayless from their books.
It’s possible that Minnesota is done dealing for now, in which case Bayless could become a buyout candidate, rather than a trade candidate, assuming he gets healthy later in the season.
Jusuf Nurkic, C
Portland Trail Blazers
$11.11MM cap hit; under contract through 2021/22
Nurkic just re-signed with the Trail Blazers over the summer, securing a lucrative new four-year deal from the club, so he’s not likely to be traded anytime soon — he’s not even eligible to be moved until January 15.
Still, in past years, big men like Blake Griffin and Nene Hilario have been traded just months after signing even longer-term contracts than Nurkic’s. And it’s worth noting that Zach Collins‘ ongoing development has made the idea of a Nurkic trade more viable for Portland, as ESPN’s Zach Lowe observed last month.
The Blazers have been reluctant to break up their core in recent years, and if they decide to do anything drastic, it will probably happen during the offseason rather than at the trade deadline. However, I suspect that if they do take a big swing, they’re more likely to move their veteran center than one of their star guards, given Collins’ potential to fill a similar role at a fraction of the price. If that happens, Nurkic could be the key to helping Portland acquire a much-needed impact player on the wing.
Patrick Patterson, F
Oklahoma City Thunder
$5.45MM cap hit; $5.71MM player option for 2019/20
Like Bayless, Patterson is a trade chip by virtue of his cap hit, which the Thunder might need for salary-matching purposes if they make a deal.
Patterson’s salary is more modest than Bayless’, but of the eight Oklahoma City players earning more than $2.2MM, seven are starters or important rotation players who may not be expendable. The eighth is Patterson, who has struggled mightily since arriving in OKC, making him the club’s most logical chip, even if his contract extends beyond this season and won’t be appealing to trade partners.
If Patterson’s value is too limited to make a deal work, Alex Abrines could be the Thunder trade candidate to watch — he’s earning almost exactly the same salary as Patterson and is on an expiring contract.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- D’Antoni has high praise for the Timberwolves’ Derrick Rose, who has reinvented himself as a shooting guard, Feigen writes in a separate story. Rose is averaging 19.3 PPG despite starting just five of 21 games. “Accepting new roles is tough. Some guys can do it. Some guys just can’t do it,” D’Antoni said. “They can try to shoot threes all they want. When they can do it, for the team, obviously, it’s beneficial. The league has changed. If you want to be effective, you have to change sometimes.”
- Timberwolves guard Derrick Rose also wants to be considered for the Sixth Man award, according to Chris Pine of The Star Tribune. The former MVP has settled into a reserve role since coming to Minnesota and is averaging 19.3 points per game while shooting a career high .494 from 3-point territory. “I would like winning Sixth Man of the Year,” Rose said. “I don’t think that’s anything bad to say or a bad goal with me coming off the bench. I want to be the best bench player.”
- Adding Robert Covington and Dario Saric in the Jimmy Butler trade has turned the Timberwolves into a much better rebounding team, Pine notes in the same story. Since the deal, Minnesota has upped its defensive rebounding percentage from 67% to 73%.
Here are Thursday’s G League assignments and recalls from across the NBA:
- The Pistons assigned guard Luke Kennard to the Grand Rapids Drive as he continues his rehab from a shoulder injury, announcing the news in an email. Kennard will play with the Drive in the team’s game on Friday.
- The Grizzlies recalled then later assigned Jevon Carter to the Memphis Hustle, according to a tweet from the team. The move was made so Carter could practice with the Grizzlies Thursday morning.
- The Suns have recalled guard De’Anthony Melton from Northern Arizona, the team announced. Melton is averaging 17 points, 6.6 assists and seven rebounds in five G League games this season.
- The Timberwolves have assigned Keita Bates-Diop to the Iowa Wolves, the team’s G League affiliate, announcing the news on Twitter. Bates-Diop has seen action in two games with the Timberwolves this season.
- The Celtics assigned guard Brad Wanamaker to their G League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, according to a tweet from the team. Wanamaker has scored 16 points in five games with Boston on the season.
- The Knicks recalled Luke Kornet from the Westchester Knicks, the team announced. Kornet has played in four games with the Knicks.
- New Timberwolves forward Dario Saric revealed what it’s like to be traded in the NBA with CBS Sports’ James Herbert, just weeks after he was moved from Philadelphia: “It’s just different,” Saric said. “You don’t have time to prepare, or somebody asks you, like, ‘What do you think?’ Normal people, somebody calls them and says, ‘Do you want to accept the job, yes or no?’ You have maybe two days or one day to decide. But here, they just trade you. You are like a bag, you know? Like some bucket, you know? And they just move you around. But that’s life. What can you do?”
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.
“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.
After making a brief comeback last season, veteran big man Kendrick Perkins is looking for another shot with an NBA club this season. As A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston details, Perkins said on Wednesday that he reached out to the Celtics to inquire about a potential reunion with his old team.
“I did reach out to (Celtics president of basketball operations) Danny (Ainge),” Perkins said. “I told him, ‘I’m here if you need me.’ He said, ‘You know what, Perk? I would love for you to end your career here.’ And I was like, ‘OK, keep me in mind.'”
During an appearance on Toucher & Rich on Thursday morning, Ainge acknowledged that he had spoken to Perkins, as Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston tweets. However, while the former Celtics center may be on Boston’s radar, it doesn’t sound like a deal will happen anytime soon.
“I don’t think it’s a good fit for our team right now,” Ainge said. “You never know what happens during the course of a season.”
According to Blakely, Perkins said that if he returns to the NBA, it likely won’t happen until at least January, when teams become eligible to sign players to 10-day contracts. And no matter where he ends up playing, the 34-year-old expects 2018/19 to be his final NBA season, Blakely adds.
Perkins didn’t specify any other potential destinations besides Boston, but indicated that he has drawn interest from a couple other clubs and will probably work out for one of them in early December, per Blakely. Citing a source close to Perkins’ camp, Ben Stinar of AmicoHoops.net (Twitter link) identified the Wizards and Timberwolves as ideal fits, so those may be the two other teams the 14-year veteran was referencing.
Perkins signed with the Cavaliers at the end of the 2017/18 season, appearing in his first NBA game since April 2016. However, his 15 minutes of action in Cleveland’s regular season finale represented his lone appearance for the team — he didn’t see the floor at all during the playoffs.