Nemanja Bjelica

Wolves Rumors: Butler, Bjelica, Gibson, Rose

Jimmy Butler offered an update on his medical condition at a press conference before tonight’s game. Butler, who had surgery last month for a torn right meniscus, said there’s no projected date for his return, but he hopes to play before the end of the regular season.

“I’m excited at my progression because I know how close I am to returning back to the floor with my guys,” he says in a video tweeted by KSTP Sports. “I have a little bit of [recovery] time left, but I know my guys are going to stick this thing out and do what they’ve been doing. Keep us in that race, and when I come back we’ll see what we have left in the tank.”

There’s more news out of Minnesota:

  • Butler’s injury has provided an opportunity for Nemanja Bjelica, who is increasing his value on the free agent market with his recent performance, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Bjelica was averaging just nine minutes per game before the All-Star break, but has topped 40 minutes three times in March. “To be hon­est, I just try to play as good and hard as I can and at the end of the day, ev­er­y­bod­y will be fine,” Bjelica, who will be a restricted free agent, said about the possibility of staying in Minnesota. “I’m hap­py here. My fam­i­ly is hap­py. Some­times I hate Jan­u­ar­y be­cause it’s so cold, but I kind of got used to it.”
  • Also taking on a heavy workload is veteran forward Taj Gibson, Zgoda notes in a separate story. In his first season with the Wolves after signing as a free agent last summer, Gibson is averaging 33.5 minutes per night, roughly five minutes more than his career peak set four seasons ago. The 32-year-old said he doesn’t mind the extra work. “Life is too short to be holding back,” Gibson said. “I go out there and lay it on the line, just do what I got to do. When I come off the court, I don’t want to have any regrets when I go home. I don’t worry about minutes or how much I play.”
  • Historical trends are working against Derrick Rose ever being an effective player again, according to Zach Kram of The Ringer. His study finds that a small percentage of guards who have made an All-NBA team are ever able to raise their level of play after their first below-average season.

NBA Suspends Arron Afflalo Two Games

The NBA has suspended Magic guard Arron Afflalo two games for his role in an altercation with Timberwolves forward Nemanja Bjelica, Shams Charania of The Vertical tweets.

On Tuesday night, Afflalo got tangled up with the 29-year-old Wolves forward and ended up launching a wild haymaker that careened off the back of Bjelica’s head and neck. Bjelica put Afflalo in a headlock before the two were eventually separated.

The suspension, which will be in place for tonight’s Magic-Cavaliers game, targets Afflalo and not Bjelica presumably because Afflalo appeared to be the one to escalate the situation, while Bjelica looked content containing Afflalo and defusing the situation.

Northwest Notes: Anthony, Bjelica, Hill

It’s been an emotional week for the Thunder and that’s only going to continue through the weekend as Carmelo Anthony makes his return to New York for a battle with the Knicks. As Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports writes, the week could help give the new-look Oklahoma City squad much-needed closure.

We can focus on what’s ahead of us. We can focus on being [the] Thunder. It’s no more Pacers. It’s no more Knicks,” Anthony’s newest superstar teammate Paul George said, having narrowly defeated his own former squad in his first game back in Indiana on Wednesday. “We can focus on what we have to do, to get better as a team and get better as Thunder players. That story, that chapter, and that book is over with.

One difference between Anthony’s exit and George’s exit is that there was somewhat of an understanding between all parties that his tenure in the Big Apple had run its course. George’s hasty departure, the trade request that triggered his deal to the Thunder, left plenty of Pacers fans betrayed.

At the end of the day, it’s business to me. But I’d be lying if I said I’m not ecstatic to be going back and playing there,” Anthony, who has averaged 17.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game for the Thunder, said. “Like I said, I got a different feeling with New York. A different relationship, different bond with the city, with the fans, with the people. It’s a little bit special for me.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

Western Notes: Leonard, Hood, Bender, Bjelica

Kawhi Leonard‘s long-awaited season debut will likely take place on Tuesday. The Spurs All-Star forward is listed as probable for Tuesday’s road game against Dallas, ESPN’s Michael C. Wright relays. Leonard has endured a longer-than-expected recovery period from right quadriceps tendinopathy. He averaged a career-high 25.5 PPG last season and led his club to the Western Conference finals.

In other developments around the Western Conference:

  • Jazz shooting guard Rodney Hood hopes to return to action Wednesday, Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets. Hood, averaging a career-best 17.7 PPG, has been sidelined seven games with a left ankle injury.
  • Suns second-year power forward Dragan Bender will have to earn his way back into the regular rotation, as Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic reports. Bender has totaled just 12 points and 11 rebounds over the last seven games while shooting 20% from the field, as his playing time has diminished. “I don’t think competition is bad especially when you’re a young player and you’re not guaranteed minutes,” coach Jay Triano said of the lottery pick. “He has to play better. … If you want to say Dragan is not playing well enough to be on the court right now, that’s fine. I want it to be competition.”
  • Timberwolves power forward Nemanja Bjelica has missed the last nine games with a foot injury and it’s still uncertain when he’ll return. Coach Tom Thibodeau provided an update on his status to Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter Jerry Zgoda (Twitter link) and other media members.  “We don’t want to put a timetable on it,” Thibodeau said. “We thought it would be sooner, but when he’s healthy, he’s healthy. We don’t want to go back and forth with it. He has ramped it up conditioning-wise, so that’s a good sign.”

Northwest Notes: Durant, Wolves, Thunder

More than a year after leaving Oklahoma City for Golden State, Kevin Durant can’t seem to escape the drama that came with that decision. As Weston Shepherd of Daily Thunder outlines, a pair of tweets sent from Durant’s Twitter account earlier this week suggested that the star forward “didn’t like the [Thunder] organization or playing for Billy Donovan” and that OKC’s roster wasn’t talented enough to win a championship.

While those tweets were sent from Durant’s account, they referred to him in the third person, so it’s possible that someone with access to his Twitter published them without realizing which handle he was using. The tweets were quickly deleted, but there has been no explanation from KD, which may be a sign that his(?) comments on the Thunder weren’t far off the mark.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News passes along a couple updates from Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, tweeting that Taylor has spoken personally to Dante Cunningham and is waiting on the forward’s free agent decision. Wolfson adds that Nemanja Bjelica believes he’s ready to go after suffering a broken foot last season, but the club will take things slow with him in camp.
  • The Thunder don’t yet have recovery timelines for Alex Abrines and Patrick Patterson, who are dealing with knee injuries, but both players are making progress, as Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman details.
  • While Shabazz Napier is one of 21 fourth-year players eligible for a rookie scale extension, he’s not a great candidate for a new deal. As Joe Freeman of The Oregonian writes, Napier is “little more than an insurance policy” for the Trail Blazers this season, and will have a hard time earning extended minutes.

Wolves Rumors: FAs, Muhammad, Wiggins, Roth

The Timberwolves are still carrying just 11 players on guaranteed contracts for 2017/18, but head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau expects that number to increase in the near future. As Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune details, Thibodeau and the Wolves plan to add three players on guaranteed minimum contracts, retaining some flexibility with the 15th and final roster spot.

As has been the case for more than a month now, the Wolves intend to add a backup point guard and two wings to their roster. While the market for backup point guards has thinned out considerably, there are still several interesting wings on the market, including Tony Allen, Gerald Green, Anthony Morrow, and Mike Dunleavy.

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • Of course, as Minnesota looks to add a couple wings, Shabazz Muhammad remains an option, if he’s willing to settle for a minimum salary contract, writes Zgoda. “There’s an opportunity here for him,” Thibodeau said of Muhammad. “He has several opportunities to look at.”
  • The process of signing Andrew Wiggins to a contract extension will be delayed by his agent change, but Thibodeau and the Wolves still expect that deal to get done in the “next few weeks,” as Zgoda details.
  • Nemanja Bjelica and Justin Patton continue to recover from foot injuries. According to Zgoda, Thibodeau is hopeful that Bjelica will be ready for training camp and Patton will good to go for the Wolves’ regular season opener.
  • Thibodeau confirmed that the Wolves explored the possibility of acquiring Kyrie Irving from the Cavaliers, per Zgoda. “You have the responsibility to explore every possibility,” Thibodeau said. “If it makes sense for us, we’ll do it. If it doesn’t, we move on. We love the players we have. We know there’s a lot of work to do.”
  • Former Timberwolves player and current scout Scott Roth is set to become the first head coach of the Iowa Wolves, Minnesota’s newly-purchased G League affiliate, according to Zgoda. Roth will be tasked with his helping to develop young players for the Wolves, as well as implementing Thibodeau’s strategic concepts in Iowa.

Western Rumors: Bjelica, Watson, Crawford

Timberwolves big man Nemanja Bjelica underwent surgery Tuesday to repair a fractured navicular bone in his left foot, the team announced in a press release. Bjelica’s season-ending injury occurred during Minnesota’s 117-104 loss to Boston on March 15th. He was averaging 6.2 PPG and 3.8 RPG in 18.3 MPG while appearing in 65 games. The club did not announce how long it would take for Bjelica, who will make a guaranteed $3,949,999 next season, to recover from the injury.

In other developments around the Western Conference:

  • Suns coach Earl Watson brushed aside speculation that might leave Phoenix if the UCLA coaching job opens up, Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic reports. Current UCLA coach Steve Alford is considered a top candidate for the vacant Indiana job because of his ties to the school. Watson, a UCLA alum, would be a logical choice to replace him if that happened. “I’m more focused on creating value for our [organization], to give management and ownership many options to build a championship contender here,” Watson told Haller. “What I mean by that is, building the value of the young players so that their value and their game and their confidence give them the option to be financially secure in this league when they become free agents; giving our ownership the option to build around them or give ownership and management the option to make moves because their value is so high to put us in contention quicker.”
  • Jordan Crawford has become a potent force for the Pelicans, William Guillory of the New Orleans Times-Picayune writes. Crawford averaged 14.3 PPG in his first seven games with the club while shooting 51.9% on 3-point attempts, giving it a much-needed boost on the perimeter. Crawford’s production allowed the 28-year-old guard to turn a 10-day contract into a two-year deal“When I got the 10-day, that was the accomplishment,” Crawford told Guillory. “I didn’t really feel like I was on a 10-day once I was here. The hard part was getting the 10-day.”
  • Lakers power forward Larry Nance Jr. wants to remain with the organization on a long-term basis, as he relayed to Alex Kennedy of in a Q&A session. Nance is still on his rookie contract and will make $1,471,382 next season. The club will have to decide whether to make him a qualifying offer in the summer of 2018. “We’re on the up-and-up as a team and we’ve got a bright future,” Nance said. “And would I love to be a part of that future? Man, I’d love nothing more than that.”

Nemanja Bjelica Out For Rest Of Season

The Timberwolves saw a key reserve go down on Wednesday night, as Nemanja Bjelica left the team’s game against Boston with a left foot injury. After Bjelica underwent an MRI today to determine the extent of the injury, the Wolves announced in a press release that the forward will miss the rest of the season.

The exact nature of Bjelica’s injury wasn’t specified by the Wolves in their announcement today. However, the team did say that the 28-year-old will seek medical opinions from “appropriate specialists” in order to determine his options for treatment.

A second-round pick in 2010, Bjelica finally arrived stateside for the 2015/16 season, and has appeared in 125 games for the Wolves since making his NBA debut, coming off the bench in all but one of those games. The 6’10” Serbian has been a steady presence for Minnesota’s second unit, averaging 5.7 PPG and 3.6 RPG in 18.1 minutes per contest over the course of his career. Bjelica had been playing even better as of late, with four double-doubles since the All-Star break.

Bjelica remains under contract with the Wolves for at least one more season. He’ll make just under $4MM in 2017/18, then will face a decision on a player option in the summer of ’18.

Knicks Notes: Anthony, Rose, Porzingis, Jackson

Carmelo Anthony is unsure of the Knicks‘ direction after standing pat at the trade deadline. “I think they were kind of planning on the trade deadline, whether they were trying to make moves,” Anthony said. “I think that was one plan. Now they’ve got to get back to the drawing board and come up with another plan about the future of this team.”

Anthony’s frustration is understandable. Team president Phil Jackson extensively discussed the prospect of shopping Anthony, despite ‘Melo’s no-trade clause. While Anthony wasn’t mentioned in trade rumors throughout the deadline, the team was apparently rebuffed by Minnesota on a Ricky Rubio-for-Derrick Rose swap. Anthony claimed he “kind of knew” he wouldn’t be dealt in the days leading up to the deadline, and spoke for his teammates in criticizing the front office’s lack of transparency.

“Yeah, I mean, nobody likes to be in limbo,” Anthony said. “We all want to know kind of what’s going on, especially when it’s involving you. I think there’s other players who feel the same way, that they want to be involved — not involved, but at least up to date with what’s going on.”

More from the Mecca…

  • Kristaps Porzingis will be out several days with an ankle injury, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports (Twitter link). Porzingis made an early exit from Thursday’s loss to the Cavs, and appears likely to miss match-ups against the Sixers and Raptors.
  • Frank Isola of the Daily News relayed a troubling report that Phil Jackson was difficult to contact leading up to the deadline. Isola commended Jackson for not dealing a first round pick, but chastised his inactivity on the trade market. Through three seasons as team president, Isola notes, Jackson’s only deadline acquisition has been Alexey Shved.
  • Marc Berman of the New York Post echoes Isola’s sentiments, claiming Jackson “overplayed his hand” throughout negotiations for Rubio. According to Berman, the Knicks insisted Minnesota include either a draft pick of Nemanja Bjelica along with Rubio in a trade for Rose. Now 12 games under .500, the Knicks’ “win-now-with-Rose experiment” has been doomed, Berman writes.
  • By the conclusion of the trade deadline Thursday, coach Jeff Hornacek received a text stating “we’re sticking with what we have,” from Jackson. The team’s deadline inactivity is the latest development in a “disappointing and chaotic season,” David Waldstein of the New York Times writes. While Rose is on an expiring contract, there appears to be “little momentum” for the Knicks to re-sign him, Walstein notes.

Trade Rumors: Rose, Rubio, Okafor, Caldwell-Pope

The Timberwolves have reached out to the Knicks about a possible Derrick Rose deal, reports Marc Berman of The New York Post. Rose has fallen out of favor with Knicks president Phil Jackson, who is disappointed with the veteran guard’s effort on defense. Rose is entering free agency and sources tell Berman that New York would rather move him now than give him a long-term deal. He won MVP honors in Chicago in 2011 under Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau.

The proposed deal is believed to involve Ricky Rubio, whom Thibodeau has never believed in as his long-term point guard, according to Berman. Rubio still has two years and more than $29MM left on his contract and has been the subject of trade rumors since Minnesota drafted Kris Dunn last summer.

The Knicks contacted the Wolves about Rubio at last year’s deadline, Berman writes, and have been interested in him since he entered the league in 2009 because of the recommendations of their European scout, Kevin Wilson, who is based in Barcelona.

New York also reportedly likes Minnesota’s Nemanja Bjelica and inquired about his availability as part of the Rose discussions, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today (Twitter link).

There’s more on the trade front as Thursday’s deadline inches closer:

  • The Rockets have asked about Wolves guard Shabazz Muhammad, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News in Minneapolis. Wolfson doesn’t believe the teams are close to a deal.
  • The Pistons refused an offer from the Sixers involving Jahlil Okafor and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, tweets Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated. Philadelphia offered to bring a third team into the trade, but Detroit still wasn’t interested. The Pistons reportedly have hesitations about giving Caldwell-Pope a maximum salary after his contract expires at the end of the season. The Sixers have been calling around the league trying to make a deal for Okafor, with the Pacers and Bulls as the most frequently mentioned potential trade partners.
  • The Suns are looking for someone to take Brandon Knight‘s contract and might be a fallback option for an Okafor trade, according to Fischer (Twitter link). A former starter in Phoenix, Knight in is the midst of a disappointing season, averaging 11.0 points per game and shooting less than 40% from the field. He still has three seasons and nearly $43.9MM left on his current deal.
  • The Thunder and Clippers remain in pursuit of Nuggets swingman Wilson Chandler, tweets Sam Amick of USA Today.