Chris Finch

Timberwolves Notes: Nori, Finch, Ownership, Rebounding

Speaking on Wednesday to reporters, Timberwolves assistant coach Micah Nori said that Chris Finch‘s knee surgery went well, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter links). According to Nori, the team is still considering options for Finch for Game 1 on Saturday, including the possibility of moving some seats around on the bench to make room for the head coach.

If having Finch on the bench isn’t practical, he may end up watching from a suite and joining the team before the game and at halftime, Nori said. According to the Wolves’ assistant, there were some conversations about the idea of Finch texting the staff with observations during the game, but Finch apparently doesn’t love the idea of meddling in that way.

With Nori set to serve as the Timberwolves’ acting head coach if Finch is unavailable for Game 1, Krawczynski takes a more in-depth look at the veteran assistant whom Anthony Edwards calls a “genius.” According to Krawczynski, Nori has an “encyclopedic grasp of opponent tendencies” and delivers feedback to players in a uniquely humorous way.

“He’s brutally honest but still funny,” said Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, who worked with Nori when the coach was on Michael Malone‘s staff in Denver from 2015-18. “He says brutally honest stuff in really funny ways. That’s what makes him a really interesting, really funny guy.”

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • As reported last week, the mediation session in the Timberwolves’ ownership dispute between Glen Taylor and the Alex Rodriguez/Marc Lore group is beginning on Wednesday. Nick Williams of The Star Tribune examines what that means, noting that if the issue isn’t resolved through mediation, the next step would be an arbitration process that must be completed within six months.
  • Eben Novy-Williams and Michael McCann of Sportico also check in on the Wolves’ ownership situation, noting that the retired judge who will oversee the mediation process (Rick Solum) has a lengthy history with sports lawsuits — he also mediated a 2020 suit filed against Taylor by a group of plaintiffs who accused the Wolves’ owner of “sabotaging their investment into a medical device company.” Rodriguez and Lore chose Solum from a handful of possible mediators provided by Taylor, per Sportico.
  • The Timberwolves’ effective shooting percentage during their first-round series vs. Phoenix was lower than their regular season mark, but their offensive rating was up by 8.6 points per 100 possessions, according to Chris Hine of The Star Tribune, who points to the team’s offensive rebounding as a key reason for its success on that end of the floor. Minnesota’s 39.2% offensive rebounding percentage has easily been the best mark of any team in the first round, but it will be tested against a Nuggets squad that ranks third in playoff defensive rebounding percentage (78.8%).
  • In case you missed it, the NBA announced today that Mike Conley won this season’s Teammate of the Year award. We have the full story here.

Wolves’ Finch To Undergo Knee Surgery; Availability For Game 1 TBD

Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch, who sustained a torn right patellar tendon during a sideline collision with point guard Mike Conley in Sunday’s Game 4 victory over Phoenix, will undergo surgery on Wednesday to repair the tear, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Barring any unexpected complications following that surgery, Finch should be able to travel to Denver with his team on Friday ahead of the start of the Western Conference semifinals on Saturday, per Wojnarowski and Shelburne. However, it remains to be seen whether the head coach will be able to join the Wolves on the bench for Game 1.

As ESPN’s reporters explain, Finch’s right leg will have to be immobilized in a brace during the early stages of his rehabilitation. If it’s not practical for him to sit on the bench at the start of the series vs. Denver, he’ll have to communicate to the bench from Minnesota’s locker room, with assistant Micah Nori acting as head coach.

While the Wolves are fortunate not to be missing any key players due to injuries, they’ll need every edge they can get heading into a huge second-round series against the defending-champion Nuggets. Finch’s situation isn’t ideal, especially with Minnesota up against one of the NBA’s top tacticians in Michael Malone, so hopefully he’s able to safely and comfortably return to his spot on the bench as soon as possible.

Wolves Notes: Finch, Conley, Edwards, Reid

The Timberwolves‘ only major injury concern after their first-round series involves head coach Chris Finch, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Finch suffered a ruptured patella tendon in his right leg during a collision with Mike Conley late in Sunday’s game (video link). Conley was dribbling along the sidelines when Devin Booker bumped him into Finch, who fell to the court in pain.

“I didn’t see him at first, I was just trying to push the ball up the floor and Book hip checked me out of bounds,” Conley said.

The injury capped a memorable day for Finch, who finished third in the Coach of the Year balloting, then won his first playoff series as a head coach. He was able to celebrate with the team in the locker room, sitting on a chair as players gathered around him. Finch had to use crutches as he left the arena, and no announcement has been made about treatment plans. The series sweep gives him a few days to rest before the start of the second round.

“Prayers up for him,” Conley said. “I’m sure he’ll be fine. We’ll do it for him and we’ll keep it moving.”

There’s more on the Wolves:

  • Anthony Edwards has been considered a future star, but his performance against Phoenix shows he’s in that category already, observes James L. Edwards of The Athletic. Edwards scored 40 points on Sunday to finish off the Suns, and he served as the team’s emotional leader throughout the series with a mixture of highlight plays and trash talking. “He’s the face of the league,” Karl-Anthony Towns told reporters after the game. “He hates when I say it, but it’s true. Like I said, ‘Future so bright, got to put the sunglasses on.’”
  • It took time for Edwards to earn Finch’s trust, according to Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Although he was the top pick in the 2020 draft, Edwards’ game was unrefined when he entered the league, which caused friction with his coach. “Imma be honest. At first it was like, up and down,” Edwards said. “He don’t want me doing this. He want me to do this. We fighting. Which is like a regular coach-player relationship. … But probably the end of my second year, going into those playoffs, we gained each other’s trust. We took off ever since then.”
  • Naz Reid was honored to be selected as Sixth Man of the Year earlier this week, Krawczynski tweets. It’s a significant accomplishment for a player who never averaged more than 20 minutes per game before this season. “To get this award is a monumental moment for myself,” Reid said, “just to see how far I’ve come since I started this journey.”

Northwest Notes: Murray, Jordan, Thunder, Finch

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray struggled mightily through three quarters on Monday, going just 3-of-16 from the floor as the defending champions trailed the Lakers by as many as 20 points. As Tony Jones of The Athletic writes, when Murray told his teammates he wanted to affect the game in other ways by becoming more of a play-maker, they emphatically disagreed and told him to stay aggressive.

The thing about Jamal is that we know what he’s capable of,” reigning Finals MVP Nikola Jokic said. “We obviously would like him to make every shot, but we know that everyone goes through a bad stretch. We know what he’s capable of, and we want him to shoot the ball because we know he can make all kinds of shots.”

Murray responded by catching fire in the fourth quarter, going 6-of-8 from the field and scoring 14 of his 20 points, Jones notes, including a game-winning buzzer-beater over Anthony Davis (YouTube link).

There really is a playoff Jamal,” head coach Michael Malone said. “All of those commercials you see, the persona is real. He will never shy away from the moment, and all he needs is to see one go in.”

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • He only appeared in 36 regular season games this season for the Nuggets, but DeAndre Jordan played nine minutes off the bench in Game 1 when other players were in foul trouble, notes Bennett Durando of The Denver Post. “I told D.J. as we approach these playoffs, last year every time we called upon him — foul trouble, whatever’s going on in the game — he delivered,” Malone said as part of a larger quote. “He stays ready. … And I felt that he had a real positive impact (in Game 1). His size, his presence.”
  • Tyler Parker of The Ringer compares and contrasts the current Thunder squad to the era featuring Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Oklahoma City finished with the West’s No. 1 seed in 2023/24 and is currently up 1-0 in its first-round series with New Orleans after a Shai Gilgeous-Alexander game-winner in Game 1.
  • Coach of the Year finalist Chris Finch is “clearly the right coach” for the Timberwolves, argues Patrick Reusse of The Star Tribune. As Reusse writes, many media members picked the Suns to defeat the Wolves in their first-round matchup after Phoenix went 3-0 against Minnesota during the regular season. But Finch has pushed all the right buttons thus far as the Wolves hold a 2-0 lead behind a suffocating defense and perhaps the best game of Jaden McDaniels‘ career.

Doncic, Gilgeous-Alexander, Jokic Named MVP Finalists

Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Nuggets center Nikola Jokic were revealed on Sunday as the finalists for the Most Valuable Player award, according to the NBA (Twitter link).

Doncic led the league in scoring (33.9 points per game) and finished second in assists (9.8) while also grabbing 9.2 rebounds per contest. Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder to the top seed in the Western Conference by averaging 30.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.0 steals per contest. Jokic, who is widely considered the favorite to win his third MVP trophy, averaged 26.4 points, 12.4 rebounds and 9.0 assists per night.

The NBA also announced the finalists for six other postseason awards. Here are the finalists for all of those awards:

Most Valuable Player

Sixth Man

Defensive Player of the Year

Most Improved Player

Note: Sengun appeared in just 63 games but was eligible for award consideration based on the season-ending injury exception described in our glossary entry on the 65-game rule.

Coach of the Year

  • Mark Daigneault, Thunder
  • Chris Finch, Timberwolves
  • Jamahl Mosley, Magic

Rookie of the Year

Clutch Player of the Year

Thunder’s Mark Daigneault Wins Coaches Association Award

Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault has won the Michael H. Goldberg award for the 2023/24 season, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, who reports that Daigneault has been named the National Basketball Coaches Association’s Coach of the Year.

This award, introduced in 2017 and named after longtime NBCA executive director Michael H. Goldberg, is voted on by the NBA’s 30 head coaches, none of whom can vote for himself.

However, it isn’t the NBA’s official Coach of the Year award, which is voted on by media members and is represented by the Red Auerbach Trophy. The winner of that award will be announced later this spring.

J.B. Bickerstaff (Cavaliers), Chris Finch (Timberwolves), Joe Mazzulla (Celtics), and Jamahl Mosley (Magic) also received votes from their fellow coaches for this year’s NBCA award, per Wojnarowski.

Daigneault, who is just 39 years old, has overseen the rebuild in Oklahoma City since 2020. After winning just 22 games in his first year on the job, the Thunder increased that total to 24 in 2021/22, 40 in ’22/23, and 57 in ’23/24. That 57-25 record this season made the Thunder the improbable No. 1 seed in the West in their first trip to the playoffs during Daigneault’s tenure.

As Wojnarowski points out, Oklahoma City was one of just two NBA teams this season – along with Boston – to finish in the top five in both offensive and defensive rating. The Thunder’s 118.3 offensive rating ranked third in the NBA, while their 111.0 defensive rating was fourth.

The NBCA Coach of the Year award has frequently been a bellwether for the NBA’s Coach of the Year honor, which bodes well for Daigneault. In five of the seven years since the award’s inception, the winner has gone on to be named the NBA’s Coach of the Year.

Northwest Notes: Murray, SGA, Sharpe, Wolves, Jazz

Jamal Murray continues to deal with a sprained left ankle and swollen right knee, having missed a fourth consecutive game on Friday vs. Minnesota. According to a report from ESPN, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone told reporters before Friday’s game that Murray is improving, but said he’s “not ready to go out there and compete at the level that we need him to” and hinted that the star guard may remain out for Sunday’s game vs. Cleveland.

Still, Malone isn’t worried at this point that Murray’s health issues will extend into the postseason, adding, “I do think he will be back on the court before the playoffs start.”

It should be an eventful spring and summer for Murray, assuming he gets – and stays – healthy. After seeking a second straight NBA championship with the Nuggets, the 27-year-old hopes to suit up for the Canadian national team at the Olympics in Paris, he confirmed to Eurohoops.

“I’m excited to be there,” he said. “We have a great squad, (it) was great to see them win a medal (at the 2023 World Cup). Hopefully, we can go our way and win gold this summer.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander missed a second consecutive game on Friday vs. Phoenix due to his right quad contusion. Head coach Mark Daigneault said that Gilgeous-Alexander will continue to be considered day-to-day, so there’s no indication at this point that the injury will result in an extended absence (Twitter link via Joel Lorenzi of The Oklahoman).
  • Trail Blazers guard Shaedon Sharpe, who is recovering from core muscle surgery, is with the team on its current seven-game road trip and will continue to be evaluated after participating in non-contact and conditioning drills in the G League earlier this week, per the club (Twitter link). Sharpe hasn’t played since January 11, but there’s still hope that he’ll return in the season’s final two weeks.
  • Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch said on Friday that he has great relationships with Glen Taylor, Marc Lore, and Alex Rodriguez, so he won’t be taking sides in the franchise’s ownership struggle and doesn’t expect the situation to affect his team at “troop level,” tweets Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “If there was ever a definition of ‘above your pay grade,’ this is it,” Finch added.
  • After expressing some concern in mid-February about the frustration level in the Jazz‘s locker room, Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune says the locker room vibes in Utah are “way better” now. However, that comes with an important caveat — according to Larsen, since the Jazz have fallen out of the postseason race, they’re no longer as stressed about winning games, as “the sting of losing is absolutely gone.”

Northwest Notes: Conley, Towns, Finch, Reath, Jazz

Mike Conley, who agreed to a two-year, $21MM contract extension to remain with the Timberwolves, likely could have gotten a more lucrative deal in the open market, but he’s happy to be the floor leader of a prime contender, he told Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

“This organization is headed in the right direction,” said Conley, who is still seeking his first championship. “It’s got good people leading the way, people with great intentions and are trying to build a team that can compete for years to come. Give fans something to be excited about. So, organizations like this you don’t want to pass up on.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • A phone call between Karl-Anthony Towns and Chris Finch just after Finch was hired during the 2020/21 season established a bond that had fostered the Timberwolves‘ resurgence, as both Hine and The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski write. “That was not lost on me at the moment, and it’s never been lost on me,” Finch said. “It’s been everything for the relationship. It points to really what a great person he is in terms of — he’s referred to himself as a servant leader. That’s what servant leadership is about. It’s what can you do to make those people around you, their experiences, better or easier? He paved the way for me in that regard.”
  • Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups is thrilled that Duop Reath was promoted from a two-way deal to a standard three-year contract. “I just love to see people get what they deserve,” Billups told Sean Highkin of the Rose Garden Report. “That was maybe the most happy thing that happened over the break, was being able to talk to him. He’s just so grateful and so thankful. That’s what this thing is really all about—to be able to bring somebody in who’s trying to make the league, bring him into Summer League and have him grow to a level where he’s getting an actual NBA contract is unbelievable.” Reath has a $4MM guarantee through next season and could make as much as $6.22MM through the life of the contract, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype tweets.
  • The Jazz came close to trading for an impact player, The Athletic’s Tony Jones said on the Jackpotting Around Jazz Podcast (Twitter link). Jones didn’t name the “really good player” Utah was pursuing, but did say it wasn’t Dejounte Murray.

Wolves Notes: Finch, Film Session, Towns, Gobert, Edwards

Timberwolves coach Chris Finch will coach the Western Conference All-Stars, the team announced in a press release.

Finch and his staff clinched the coaching honor with Sunday’s 111-90 victory over the Rockets. This marks the first time in Finch’s career been an All-Star head coach and the second time in Timberwolves history a head coach has been named to the All-Star Game. Flip Saunders coached the Western Conference All-Stars at the 2004 NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

Finch, who is in his fourth season as head coach, has guided the Wolves to a 35-15 record this season, which is tied for the best 50-game start to a season in franchise history.

We have more on the Timberwolves:

  • Following a fourth quarter collapse against the Magic on Wednesday, Finch held an hour-long film session on Saturday to point out the team’s second half mistakes. Assistant coach Corliss Williamson was instrumental in getting the message across to the players. “It’s very matter of fact. We don’t pull any punches. We’re direct,” Finch told Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. “We have a saying in our locker room. It’s called ‘brutal truth.’ Everyone has to give it to each other when it’s necessary. We just have to make sure we’re doing it in a non-threatening way, but these messages are being received.”
  • Speaking of the All-Star Game, Karl-Anthony Towns was disappointed that frontcouurt partner Rudy Gobert didn’t join him among the selections. “Big fella deserved to be in the All-Star Game and all of this is all possible because of him,” Towns told Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Being No. 1 in the West, you need to have a defensive impact. To have the best defensive player in the NBA definitely gave us better odds of making it. It’s all part of the reason we made it was because of him. So it felt weird that he’s not there with us.”
  • All-Star guard Anthony Edwards was fined $40K by the league last week for ripping the officials during a postgame TV interview. His reaction? He shrugged it off, Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets. “I don’t care about it. S–t, it needed to be said,” he said. “Like I said, I’ll take the fine. I’m OK with it.”

Northwest Notes: Towns, Finch, Ayton, Pokusevski, Sexton

Karl-Anthony Towns scored a franchise record 62 points on Monday but coach Chris Finch tore into Towns and his teammates for blowing a double-digit, second-half lead to the lottery bound Hornets, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

“It was an absolutely disgusting performance of defense and immature basketball,” the Timberwolves coach said.

Finch believed Towns and the other regulars weren’t focused enough on playing winning basketball.

“We totally disrespected the game, ourselves, and we got exactly what we deserved,” said Finch, adding, “We’ve got a lot of basketball left to play, and that’s what our guys need to understand. We haven’t done a thing yet. We haven’t accomplished a thing yet. We’ve got to play with a better desire and a better purpose and a better readiness every single night.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Deandre Ayton is averaging a career-low 12.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game in his first season with the Trail Blazers but it hasn’t impacted his high opinion of his game. Ayton told Mark Medina of (subscription required) that he’s a max player. “I got nothing to prove in this league,” Ayton said. “I’m a max player, and I’ll continue to be a max player.” Ayton is in the second year of a four-year, $132.9MM contract, which Indiana offered him in restricted free agency and Phoenix matched in 2022.
  • Aleksej Pokusevski has only appeared in seven games for the Thunder this season. Coach Mark Daigneault said there’s nothing wrong with the big man physically — he just doesn’t have a spot in the rotation, Clemente Almanza of The Thunder Wire tweets. “He’s healthy,” Daigneault said. “You can only dress 15 guys and we’ve had kinda an uncommon run of health here. We’ve really had a healthy team for much of the season, which is hard to do. Some of that is luck and some of that is the work these guys have put in. Some combination of the two. You have to make three guys inactive and we usually just put out the 15 in uniform that we think are most relevant for that game that night.”
  • Collin Sexton has been a major part of the Jazz’s surge up the standings. The guard said his trust in his surgically repaired knee is a big reason why, according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. “Confidence is everything,” he says. “Not worrying about pushing off or not trying to change your game just because you are nervous or scared. I feel like that’s something that people have to get over that hump. Now, I’m back at full swing.” Sexton received a four-year, $72MM contract in a sign-and-trade between Cleveland and Utah in 2o22.