Flip Saunders

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Beverley, Lillard, Sneed

Back in 2017, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Zach LaVine were in the early stages of their respective careers with the Timberwolves and had picked out a neighborhood where they’d all have homes within walking distance of one another, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

“I remember us all talking about getting houses in the same cul-de-sac so we could be locked in every single day with each other and make that camaraderie and unity that we needed to win a championship,” Towns told Krawczynski.

The trio’s plan to turn the Timberwolves into a contender together was derailed when LaVine was traded to Chicago and Wiggins was later sent to Golden State, but Towns, Wiggins, and LaVine were reunited at this weekend’s All-Star Game in Cleveland, each representing a different team.

As Krawczynski relays, former Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders said his father – the late Flip Saunders, who built that Wolves roster – would have been “so proud” to see all three players make the All-Star team, even if they were no longer teammates in Minnesota.

“It was just really cool to see us all on that stage and where we came from, being together on the same team and us all leaving and figuring out our own way,” LaVine said. “Everything happens for a reason.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • John Hollinger of The Athletic takes a look at the Timberwolves‘ decision to sign Patrick Beverley to a one-year, $13MM contract extension, noting that the team will be over the cap and under the tax line this offseason and didn’t really sacrifice any flexibility to extend Beverley. Minnesota remains in good position to potentially use cap room in 2022/23, Hollinger adds.
  • Speaking to Adam Caparell of Complex Sports, Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard reiterated that, despite a disappointing season, he remains committed to the franchise for the foreseeable future. “I’m loyal to what I believe,” Lillard said. “I do love living in Portland. I do love playing for the Trail Blazers. But I’ve built this. I’ve been part of this for 10 years. I’ve been part of the change here and us being a successful franchise. I know what means something to me in my heart. And that’s winning a championship here.”
  • Xavier Sneed‘s new two-way contract with the Jazz is a two-year agreement, covering 2022/23 in addition to the rest of this season, Hoops Rumors has learned. That doesn’t guarantee that Sneed will remain with the team next season, but it gives Utah the option to hang onto him without needing to sign him to a new deal.

Pacific Notes: Curry, Beal, Rondo, Kokoskov

Warriors point guard and two-time MVP Stephen Curry could be back in action this week, according to an NBA.com post. He will go through a full practice on Tuesday with the possibility of playing against the Raptors on Thursday, coach Steve Kerr told the media. Curry has missed 10 consecutive games with a left groin strain.

We have more news from around the Pacific Division:

  • Any potential Lakers trade for Wizards guard Bradley Beal would likely have Brandon Ingram as its centerpiece, according to Eric Pincus in a Bleacher Report column. Los Angeles probably wouldn’t agree to deal Ingram plus either Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma or Josh Hart, Pincus opines. However, a package of Ingram, Rajon Rondo and Michael Beasley would add up to enough salary to absorb Beal’s hefty contract. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope couldn’t be substituted for Rondo unless he agreed to the deal, due to a quirk in rules regarding players who re-sign one-year contracts, Pincus adds.
  • The Lakers’ offense has suffered without Rondo, who is currently out with a broken hand, Joey Ramirez of the team’s website reports. The Lakers ranked fourth in scoring (116.9 ppg) and fifth in assists (26.0) before Rondo’s injury, but are 22nd in points (106.6) and 29th in assists (18.6) in the first five games without him. Rondo has been cleared for non-basketball activities but is still several weeks away from returning, Ramirez adds.
  • Suns first-year coach Igor Kokoskov believes his days as an assistant in Detroit were pivotal in his coaching career, as he explained to Chris McCosky of the Detroit News. He was a young coach with the Pistons when they reached the Eastern Conference Finals on a regular basis. “I had the privilege of being with Larry Brown for two years and Flip Saunders for three years,” Kokoskov told McCosky. “I was very fortunate to learn from those great coaches and those great players. Just being a part of that group, with those guys all in their prime, I had a chance to steal the best from those guys. I learned a lot. Especially when you are winning.”

Wolves Notes: Franchise Valuation, Rose, Saunders

The Timberwolves only ranked 27th in Forbes’ most recent list of NBA franchise valuations, but like the 29 other teams in the league, Minnesota has a perceived value of at least $1 billion, coming in at $1.06 billion. For Wolves owner Glen Taylor, who bought the team for $88.5MM back in 1994, that’s a staggering figure.

“It never occurred to me that anything like this would happen,” Taylor told Sid Hartman of The Star Tribune. “But it has been, especially in the last few years, partly due to the big contract we got on TV, but just everything — the advertisements, sponsorships have gone up, attendance has gone up every year, and therefore the value has gone up.”

While Taylor was reportedly seeking a successor at one point to take over control of the franchise, a deal with Steve Kaplan fell through, and the Timberwolves’ majority owner has since re-committed to his investment in the team. Taylor, who is 76 years old, won’t control the Wolves forever, but it doesn’t seem as if he has any desire to sell anytime soon — particularly with the club in position to claim a playoff spot for the first time since 2004.

Here’s more out of Minnesota:

  • While the Timberwolves have been linked to Derrick Rose since he was traded from Cleveland to Utah – and subsequently waived – Taylor says his club hasn’t had any plans to sign the former MVP, according to Hartman. “If we could find the right person to fit into our team and have some ability to play, get out there on the floor, we are certainly going to look at it,” Taylor said. “We kept one slot open all year long just in case that possibility occurred. But as of today we don’t have anybody in mind.”
  • Earlier today, we passed along word from Taylor – via Hartman – that the Timberwolves are willing to accommodate a Shabazz Muhammad buyout.
  • The late Flip Saunders, who served as the head coach and president of basketball operations for the Timberwolves, was honored by the franchise with a banner on Thursday night, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN details. Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic took an in-depth look at the Wolves’ decision to honor Saunders, and what he meant to the organization.

And-Ones: Saunders, Gordon, Prigioni

It’s been two years since Timberwolves icon Flip Saunders, then the franchise’s president of basketball operations, passed away from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The man’s impact on the organization is still felt to this day, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes.

Saunders played a vital role in the club’s recent return to relevance both from a business and personnel perspective. The celebrated executive’s touch can be seen at all levels of the organization from the new practice facility that Saunders helped design to the transactions he made in the wake of David Kahn‘s time at the helm from 2009 to 2013.

Saunders remains the only head coach in franchise history to lead the team to the playoffs, having done so eight times from 1997-2004 during his first run with the franchise. Since 2006, the team has cracked a .400 win percentage only once.

I made a promise to Flip Saunders that we would win and end the playoff drought,” current franchise cornerstone Karl-Anthony Towns said on the media day of his rookie season shortly before Saunders passed. “And I intend to keep that promise.

There’s more from around the league:

  • Former NBA player Ben Gordon has run into trouble with the law, Jonathan Bandler of The Journal News writes. The 34-year-old wasn’t ultimately charged following a confrontation between himself and a woman at his business but police were called to the scene and he was hospitalized for psychiatric evaluation.
  • The journey into the business world continues for Kobe Bryant. As Darren Rovell of ESPN writes, Bryant has approached his investments with the same obsessiveness that he did his NBA career.
  • Retired NBA guard Pablo Prigioni is stepping down from his role as the head coach of Liga ACB team Baskonia, Orazio Cauchi of Sportando writes. The team has gotten off to a rocky start and it’s said that Prigioni has lost control of the situation.

Northwest Notes: Nurkic, Gobert, Garnett

After playing sparingly in Game 3, Jusuf Nurkic and the Trail Blazers have decided to shelve the big man once again. Per Mike Richman of the Oregonian, the Bosnian Beast will not play at all in Game 4.

He didn’t do any further damage,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said of Nurkic playing through a fractured leg. “There was soreness, tenderness and it just wouldn’t be wise to have him play through that.

Limited to shifts of 3-5 minutes, Nurkic didn’t catch much of a rhythm on offense. Though he pulled down 11 rebounds, he only scored two points in his 17 minutes on the court.

There’s more from the Northwest:

  • When the Jazz tip off for Game 4 of their first-round series later tonight there’s a 50% chance that they’ll see Rudy Gobert return to action, Tim MacMahon of ESPN writes. The big man was formally updated to questionable earlier today.
  • The Jazz failed to capitalize when Clippers forward Blake Griffin left Game 3 injured but the fact that fans can ruminate on the team’s inability to slow Chris Paul simply means that they’re playing meaningful games again, Brad Rock of the Deseret News writes, and that’s something that they can be excited for.
  • For the second time in a week, former Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett spoke about his relationship with franchise owner Glen Taylor. A report on ESPN details the conversation KG had with the Associated Press, including how he felt Flip Saunders‘ passing was handled.

Southwest Notes: Gasol, Joerger, Pachulia

Pau Gasol once more finds the idea of joining the Spurs intriguing, as he said to the Marca newspaper in his native Spain (translation via HoopsHype). Marc Gasol, who’s under contract with the Grizzlies for at least another three years, this week curiously advised his brother to sign with San Antonio. The Spurs were among the teams Pau Gasol reportedly considered when he was a free agent two years ago. The new Creative Artists Agency client has a player option with the Bulls for next season, but it’s worth less than $7.77MM and he’s long said he’ll likely turn it down, and chances of a new deal in Chicago appear to be waning.

See more from the Southwest Division:

  • The idea that the Timberwolves considered Dave Joerger for the coaching job that’s since gone to Tom Thibodeau simply wasn’t true, according to Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal. Any would-be path to Minnesota for Joerger vanished when former coach/executive Flip Saunders died, Tillery writes. The Commercial Appeal scribe expects Joerger to seek an extension with the Grizzlies as he heads into next season, the last one that’s guaranteed on his existing deal.
  • Joerger pushed hard for the team to draft Rodney Hood two years ago, when the Grizzlies selected Jordan Adams instead, as Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com details amid a larger piece on the team. Despite the way Hood, a 36% 3-point shooter, has blossomed for the Jazz, Grizzlies executive Ed Stefanski rejects the notion that the front office hasn’t looked for shooting. “Of course we want shooters,” Stefanski said. “An ‘oh, [expletive]’ shooter would be a helluva weapon for us, but they’re not easily had. It makes me laugh when people act like we’re ignoring shooters. You think we’re not looking?”
  • Soon-to-be free agent Mavericks center Zaza Pachulia wishes he had a lifetime contract and doesn’t understand why more players don’t choose to play in Dallas, observes Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News“It’s my first year for me being here so I don’t exactly know what happened previously,” Pachulia said. “But the one thing, whoever will come here and play for this team and this organization would love it. Very few percentage of the players — very few — wouldn’t like it. The city, the fans, the organization, the personality and the heart. This team is all about winning. So if you are a winner definitely this is the place to be.”

Pacific Notes: Murphy, Russell, Livingston

The Warriors announced today that Chris Murphy has been named team president of the Santa Cruz Warriors, Golden State’s D-League affiliate. “We’re extremely pleased to have Chris in position to lead our business efforts with the Santa Cruz Warriors,” said Golden State team president Rick Welts. “He’s done a terrific job of enhancing our ticket sales initiatives with the Warriors in recent years and he’s ready for a bigger challenge and an opportunity to expand his role within our organization. We truly view our Santa Cruz partnership as the perfect training ground for not only our players and coaches, but for front office personnel such as Chris. This is a great example of that synergy within the organization and a move that will benefit both the Warriors and Chris as we move forward.

Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Despite receiving criticism for not playing rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell, Lakers coach Byron Scott says that he won’t rush the young playmaker’s development along, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. “I’m not just going to put him out there to put him out there. If I do that and he’s not prepared and he’s not learning, then I’m preparing him to fail,” Scott said. “And I’m not going to do that. I think this kid is too valuable to us. His learning process is getting better and better. Our coaches are spending more time with him. So I’m pretty confident that he’ll be better in a week or so, that he’ll understand exactly what we need from him on a night to night basis.
  • Warriors guard Shaun Livingston credits the late Flip Saunders for reviving his career back in 2010 when both were with the Wizards, Diamond Leung of The Bay Area News Group writes. “After playing the season with him, I just felt like I understood the NBA game, and that was the first time I really understood it,” Livingston said of Saunders. “I always had a high IQ, but just as far as time and score and just as a pro, he was a guard’s coach. He gave me the opportunity to implant me back into the NBA. Just to be somewhat relevant again…he gave me an opportunity. He blessed me an opportunity and allowed me to a chance to make the most of it.
  • Xavier Henry, who suffered a season-ending Achilles tear while with the Lakers last season, said he was glad to join the Warriors‘ D-League team as an affiliate player this season because of the reputation of the team’s training staff, who are lauded for their ability to rehab players from serious injuries, Adam Johnson of D-League Digest relays. Henry also told Johnson that the current timetable for his return to action is anywhere from one to two months. “I can’t really tell you exactly, could be better in three weeks, it could be better in two and a half months, but the things that I’ve done already that I have in place I feel like all I need is more strength, more structure,” Henry said. “And from then on as long as everything’s great, strength and your form’s good then it’s all about repetition, repetition, repetition before you can really do it full speed, every day on the court.

Western Notes: Ezeli, Miller, Lillard, Diawara

Festus Ezeli‘s favorable perception of the Warriors hasn’t changed in the wake of the end of extension talks between agent Bill Duffy and the team, as Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group relays. The center is headed into restricted free agency in July with the extension window officially set to close at 11pm Central tonight.

“Obviously [Duffy] didn’t come up to an agreement with the team, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I want to be here for the rest of my career, and I love these guys,” Ezeli said. “I love the team. We discussed it a little bit with my family, and [Duffy] kind of told us what he thought was best moving forward, and we went with that.”

See more from the Western Conference:

  • Part of the reason the Timberwolves wanted to sign Andre Miller is because Flip Saunders wanted to shore up the team’s troubles with simply inbounding the ball at the end of games, as TNT’s David Aldridge notes within his Morning Tip column for NBA.com. Of course, Miller’s leadership was key, too, and Saunders told Miller ahead of time that the team would be signing fellow veteran Tayshaun Prince, as Miller said to Aldridge for a piece that further shows the respect the Wolves have for the late coach/executive.
  • Damian Lillard‘s play has been surprisingly underwhelming so far this season, but it’s chiefly a product of his willingness to experiment with his game so that he can tailor it to the needs of the Blazersoverhauled roster, as Jason Quick of CSNNW.com examines. “It’s easy for me to go out there and get 35 and have seven assists and the game not be played as well,’’ Lillard said. “But if we are going to play the game the right way and if our team is going to grow and keep getting better, then I have to make sure we are doing things the right way.’’
  • Four-year NBA veteran and Grizzlies camp cut Yakhouba Diawara has signed with CSP Limoges of France, the team announced (translation via Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia). Freelance journalist Guido Guida first reported the news (Twitter link).

And-Ones: Colangelo, Timberwolves, Leonard

Jerry Colangelo will step down as chairman of USA Basketball after the 2020 Olympics, he confirms to TNT’s David Aldridge, who writes about it in his Morning Tip column for NBA.com. Colangelo nonetheless committed to remain in his job that long to help persuade Gregg Popovich to take over as Team USA head coach, Aldridge notes. Popovich is also signed only through 2020, though it’s unclear if he’s open to coaching the team beyond then. “For sure, I’m done in ’20,” Colangelo said. “There’s an end date.”

In other news around the league:

  • The Timberwolves spoke with league officials about postponing Wednesday’s season opener against the Lakers after coach Flip Saunders succumbed to complications from cancer treatments on Sunday, but the talks never reached a serious stage, Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports. The sorrowful Timberwolves know it will be difficult to play so soon after their coach’s untimely death, Zgoda adds. “We’re definitely in a tough spot, but we’re gonna do the best we can,” veteran small forward Tayshaun Prince said.
  • The Trail Blazers have not engaged in extension talks with center Meyers Leonard, according to Jason Quick of CSNNW.comNeil Olshey, the Blazers’ president of basketball operations, delayed the process because he wanted to avoid drawn-out negotiations with Leonard’s agent Aaron Mintz, Quick continues. The Blazers can preserve cap space for next summer by putting off the extension, Quick points out, because the first year of his salary would count against the cap if they sign him before the Nov. 2nd deadline.
  • Owners are looking to former agent Arn Tellem, who joined the Pistons organization as an executive this year, for perspective as they prepare to negotiate on labor issues with the players, reports Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter links). Tellem, who is the vice chairman of the Palace Sports and Entertainment group that controls the Pistons, addressed owners at last week’s Board of Governors meeting.

Northwest Notes: Saunders, Waiters, Gobert, Atkins

Flip Saunders was in a coma for nearly six weeks before his death at age 60, writes Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune. He had one more treatment left for Hodgkin’s lymphoma when he came down with pneumonia, went into the hospital, and failed to recover, sources told Hartman. Saunders was optimistic in the months leading up to his death, about his own prognosis — saying that he thought he’d return to the team shortly after the New Year — and about the Timberwolves, as Hartman details. The coach/executive predicted a title for the team within three years, though close friends speculated that by that time, he hoped that he could turn over head coaching duties to son Ryan, a Wolves assistant coach, according to Hartman. Saunders was by far the winningest coach in Timberwolves history, going 427-392 over his two tenures in the job, and was the only coach ever to take the team to the playoffs, the Star Tribune’s Jerry Zgoda writes in an obituary. As the NBA mourns, see more from the Northwest Division: