Mike Conley

Northwest Notes: Yurtseven, Edwards, Thunder, Simons

Omer Yurtseven tells Semih Tuna of Eurohoops that he received interest from two Turkish teams before deciding to sign with the Jazz last month. The 25-year-old center, who spent his first two seasons with Miami, said he wants to try to establish himself in the NBA before giving consideration to playing in his native country.

Fenerbahce and Anadolu Efes were interested,” Yurtseven said. “Fenerbahce is my home, and I also love Erdem Can, my former coach, but even if I wanted to come here towards the end of my career, now is not the time.”

Yurtseven, who is spending this summer with the Turkish national team, became an unrestricted free agent when the Heat opted not to give him a qualifying offer. He had a promising rookie year, but was limited to nine games last season after undergoing ankle surgery. He’s happy to get a chance to start over in Utah.

Having coach Will Hardy at Utah Jazz, playing with Europeans in significant positions, and being a young team, I couldn’t see any negatives, so it was an easy choice among my top three preferences,” Yurtseven said.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Anthony Edwards believes the Timberwolves would been much better if not for a calf injury that forced Karl-Anthony Towns to miss most of the season, per Sam Yip of HoopsHype. “I think if we get KAT for a whole season, we’ll be all right,” Edwards said. He added that the trade for Mike Conley in February brought a much-needed veteran presence to the team and expressed delight that Minnesota was able to reach an extension with Naz Reid.
  • In a mailbag column, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman projects the Thunder‘s 15-man roster for opening night. Mussatto expects Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Jack White, TyTy Washington and Victor Oladipo to all be waived at some point.
  • Anfernee Simons expressed support for Trail Blazers teammate Damian Lillard to Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian (Twitter link). Asked what it would be like to lose his mentor in a potential trade, Simons responded, “A lot of people ask me that question all the time, obviously, like what’s going on with Dame. I say, ‘They say he asked for a trade, he asked for a trade.’ That was it. Obviously, me and Dame have a close relationship. I’m always going to support him no matter what.”

Wolves Notes: Finch, Towns, Gobert, Edwards, Conley, Minott

Outside reviews of the Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert pairing were mostly negative, but the Timberwolves saw enough potential that they haven’t tried to break up the experiment this summer. In an interview with Chris Hine of The Star Tribune, head coach Chris Finch talks about how he will approach the upcoming season with the two big men in his starting lineup.

“I think we have to be way more definitive with our spacing around Rudy in pick and roll and KAT in the post,” Finch said. “That gives you two anchor points. Maybe in general, just a little more structured two-big spacing. Both bigs having a purpose at the same time. Then, I think we got away from KAT being in the trail spot. I think we’ve got to get him back where he’s really destructive, which is playing at the top of the floor early in the offense. That’s just off the top of my head of the things that pop out, which I feel pretty confident about being able to firm that up.”

Finch also said Anthony Edwards needs to re-establish his pick-and-roll game with Towns, who missed a major portion of last season with a calf injury. Finch believes Edwards and Gobert developed good chemistry together, and he wants to see that same decisiveness when Edwards is running the pick and roll with Towns.

There’s more on the Timberwolves:

  • In the same interview, Finch said Mike Conley was able to upgrade the offense after being acquired in February, and he hopes to see even more progress this season. “I think the single biggest thing he can do for us that we weren’t able to maximize or figure out is to be that connective bridge between Ant, Rudy and KAT,” Finch said. “Make all the right plays and all the little plays that you don’t see, and help talk everybody through all these situations. He’s not wired to want to score all the time.”
  • Edwards will face a new level of pressure in the wake of his max extension, including the expectation of bringing an NBA title to Minnesota, observes La Velle E. Neal III of The Star Tribune. The deal also signifies that Edwards has replaced Towns as the face of the franchise, Neal adds.
  • After appearing in just 15 games as a rookie, Josh Minott is approaching Summer League in hopes of showing the Wolves he can handle a larger role, Hine adds in another Star Tribune story.“It’s just another opportunity to show the jump I’ve made, to show the work that I’ve been putting in over the summer,” Minott said. “Anybody can watch a workout, but I feel like it’s environments like this, environments like Summer League, where you see how much the work has translated and just how much you’ve gotten better.”

Wolves’ Mike Conley Wins 2022/23 Sportsmanship Award

Timberwolves point guard Mike Conley has won the Sportsmanship Award for the 2022/23 season, the NBA announced in a press release.

According to the NBA, each of the league’s 30 teams nominated one of its players for the award. It was then narrowed down to six finalists — one from each division — by a panel of league executives. Finally, current players voted for the winner.

As the full voting results show, Conley narrowly edged Boban Marjanovic for his fourth award, which is the most in league history — he had previously been tied with Grant Hill at three apiece. The annual award is “designed to honor a player who best represents the ideals of sportsmanship on the court,” per the NBA.

The other four finalists, listed in order of the voting results, were Darius Garland, Bam Adebayo, Harrison Barnes and Jalen Brunson.

Conley, 35, appeared in 67 games for Utah and Minnesota in ’22/23, having been traded in February. The steady veteran averaged a combined 11.9 PPG, 6.7 APG, 2.7 RPG and 1.1 SPG on .428/.385/.834 shooting in 30.3 MPG.

The Sportsmanship Award trophy is named after Joe Dumars, the Hall-of-Fame guard who won the inaugural award back in ’95/96.

Rockets Rumors: No. 4 Pick, FA Targets, Coaching Staff, More

Multiple teams have already expressed some level of interest in acquiring the Rockets‘ No. 4 overall pick, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

It remains to be seen just how much value that pick will have and whether it would be enough to be the centerpiece of a deal for an impact player, Iko writes. Because the draft is perceived to have a drop-off after No. 3, Houston is also considering whether it would be possible to move up into the top three with a package centered around the Nos. 4 and 20 overall picks, league sources tell Iko.

If the Rockets keep their lottery pick and there are no surprises in the top three, Overtime Elite wing Amen Thompson could be the player atop Houston’s board, according to Iko, who says that several people within the organization are high on Thompson. Iko hears that both Amen and his twin brother Ausar Thompson had positive interviews with the team at last week’s combine.

No matter what happens with the No. 4 pick, the Rockets intend to be aggressive in their pursuit of veterans this offseason, with a desire to improve their play-making, shooting, and defense, Iko adds. League sources tell The Athletic that James Harden is Houston’s top free agent target, with Brook Lopez, Dillon Brooks, Donte DiVincenzo, Jordan Clarkson, Cameron Johnson, and Austin Reaves among the other players the team may pursue.

Acquiring an established point guard will be a primary objective for Houston this summer, per Iko, so if they miss out on Harden, the Rockets could explore a trade for a veteran like Mike Conley or Chris Paul.

Here’s more out of Houston:

  • New Rockets head coach Ime Udoka recently traveled to Los Angeles to visit with Jalen Green, says Iko. That time spent with Green – which included workouts and a dinner – is part of Udoka’s efforts to get to know his new team before the fall. “I’ve gotten the chance to spend a lot of time with the players. Got some lunches, dinner, gym time with guys,” Udoka told Iko. “Also been busy putting together a staff, getting to know everybody, but the most important thing is to spend time with the guys, build a relationship with them, and I’ve done quite a bit of that.”
  • Speaking of Udoka’s staff, Iko reports that assistant coaches Lionel Hollins and Rick Higgins aren’t expected to be back with the Rockets next season. However, it’s unclear whether or not Mahmoud Abdelfattah – another assistant under Stephen Silas – will return. Abdelfattah was part of the Rockets’ contingent at last week’s combine and has frequently been at the club’s facility since the end of the season, sources tell The Athletic.
  • The Rockets could be the long-term winners of the blockbuster trade that sent Harden to Philadelphia and Ben Simmons to Brooklyn, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Houston controls the Nets’ first-round picks from 2024-27 (either outright or via swaps) and may be in position to steal Harden away from the Sixers this offseason.

Northwest Notes: Alexander-Walker, Edwards, Markkanen, Jazz Staff

Nickeil Alexander-Walker was basically a throw-in to the deal that brought Mike Conley to the Timberwolves in February but he has emerged as a playoff starter, Chris Hine of The Star Tribune writes.

Alexander-Walker moved into a more prominent role after Jaden McDaniels broke his hand during the regular season finale. Alexander-Walker has shadowed Jamal Murray during a portion of the series against the Nuggets and contributed a couple of key three-pointers in Game 4. He’ll be a restricted free agent at the end of the season and hopes to stay with the Timberwolves.

“They gave me a chance,” he said of the Timberwolves. “I’ve been working very, very hard, relentlessly and sometimes I’m too hard on myself, for an opportunity. So for me to get that, I would love to come back. I believe in this group. Believe that we can figure it out together and do something special.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Anthony Edwards carried the Timberwolves to an overtime victory in Game 4 with 34 points but he wasn’t impressed with himself, ESPN’s Andrew Lopez relays. “I played terrible if you ask me,” Edwards said. “I took three bad threes, three terrible possessions, and I (darn) near shot us out the game. I didn’t play that good.”
  • After being named the league’s Most Improved Player, Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen wants to find more ways to improve, according to Tony Jones of The Athletic. “I haven’t accomplished anything,” Markkanen said. “I’ve said this before, but I’m not trying to stop here. I’m just beginning. I want to get better this summer and make that next leap. I want to lead this team to the playoffs. Having this kind of season feels good, but I want to keep continually getting better. That’s my mindset.”
  • Jazz head coach Will Hardy is tweaking his staff as he heads toward his second season with the franchise. He is not retaining assistant coaches Alex Jensen and Irv Roland, Jones tweets.

And-Ones: More CBA Notes, Sportsmanship Award, A. Johnson

One major reason the one-and-done rule for draft prospects wasn’t changed in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was that neither the NBA nor the NBPA was particularly gung-ho about adjusting it and both sides wanted the other to give something up in exchange for scrapping it, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on his Woj Pod. According to Wojnarowski, one idea the league proposed during the one-and-done discussions was to tack a year onto rookie scale contracts for first-round picks.

“I think the league wanted the rookie scale to go another year so it would be another year before players could get their rookie extension or restricted free agency,” Woj said (hat tip to RealGM). “That was something that obviously they didn’t get in talks, but I think was tied a little bit to one-and-done.”

Current rookie scale contracts cover four seasons and give players the ability to sign extensions after three years, so it sounds like the NBA proposed the idea of bumping those numbers to five and four years, respectively.

Later on his podcast, Wojnarowski said that he views the new rule requiring postseason award winners to have played at least 65 games as a “ceremonial” one designed to make it look as if the NBA is doing something to reduce load management.

“I don’t know that this is going to change much behavior,” he said (hat tip to RealGM). “… I’m rolling my eyes a little bit at that one… I just don’t see this impacting star players playing in any more or less games than they would have before.”

Wojnarowski’s ESPN colleagues Bobby Marks and Tim Bontemps also questioned the rule, with Marks pointing out that teams – not players – are generally the ones dictating load management plans, while Bontemps observed that most players who suit up for fewer than 65 games are doing so because of actual injuries, not load management.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter links) provides some more information on the investment opportunities that NBA players will have in the new CBA, clarifying that individual players won’t be able to directly invest in NBA teams — the NBPA will have the ability to passively invest in teams on behalf of all players. Individual players will have the ability to directly invest in WNBA teams, but there will be restrictions: They can’t invest in WNBA teams that an NBA owner controls a stake in, an individual player can’t own more than 4% of a franchise, and players can’t collectively control more than 8% of a franchise.
  • The NBA has announced six finalists – one from each division – for its 2022/23 Sportsmanship Award (Twitter link). Those players are Heat big man Bam Adebayo, Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, Cavaliers guard Darius Garland, Kings forward Harrison Barnes, Timberwolves guard Mike Conley, and Rockets big man Boban Marjanovic.
  • Big man Alize Johnson, who has been an NBA free agent since being waived by the Spurs in December, has new representation. He has signed with agent Bernie Lee of Thread Sports Management, according to HoopsHype (Twitter link). Johnson joined the Austin Spurs of the G League following his short stint with San Antonio, then was dealt to the Wisconsin Herd in January.

Northwest Notes: Reid, Towns, Conley, Lillard, Samanic

Naz Reid is a perfect component in the free-wheeling offense that Timberwolves coach Chris Finch prefers, and his absence was evident in Friday’s loss to the Lakers, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Reid is expected to undergo surgery and miss six weeks after fracturing his left wrist this week.

Finch said the offense lacked “flow” without Reid, who had averaged 18.1 PPG over his last eight games. The team missed Reid’s quick decision-making, Hine notes, and shot just 32% from the field in the second half as it dropped an important game to a rival in the Western Conference playoff race.

The loss of Reid comes while Minnesota is still adjusting to Karl-Anthony Towns, who returned to action 10 days ago. Finch believes the Wolves may be trying to force the ball to Towns too often, and Mike Conley has been working individually with Towns to find the best way to integrate him into the offense.

“Having him back in the mix and him implementing into what we’re already doing is, I wouldn’t say challenging, but it’s the obstacle that we’re trying to (overcome),” Conley said. “How can we get us to space the floor properly. How can we cut? What plays? Plays change when you bring a guy like KAT in. Stuff that we run for him now as opposed to we weren’t running those plays before, so it’s just finding the balance.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • In an interview with Marc J. Spears of Andscape, Conley talks about the challenges he faced after being traded in midseason for the first time in his career. Although Conley has stabilized the Timberwolves since being acquired from the Jazz in February, he rarely gets to see his wife and three young sons, who are still living in Utah.
  • Appearing Friday on the Dan Patrick Show (video link), Damian Lillard said the Trail Blazers made the choice to shut him down for the rest of the season (hat tip to Kurt Helin of NBC Sports). “I wouldn’t say it’s my decision at all,” said Lillard, who appeared in 58 games this season. “I think maybe the team protecting me from myself. … Every time that I’ve had some type injury like that kind of get irritated or aggravated or something like that, it’s come from just like a heavy load, and stress, and just, you know, going out there and trying to go above and beyond. So, you know, I would say just; there is something there, and also them just trying to protect me from myself as well.” Lillard also reiterated his loyalty to the organization, saying he’s still determined to bring a title to Portland.
  • Luka Samanic is grateful to get another shot at the NBA with the Jazz, per Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. Before signing a 10-day contract with Utah, the former first-round pick hadn’t appeared in an NBA game since the Spurs waived him before the start of last season.

Wolves Notes: Gobert, Officiating, Reid, Conley, KAT

Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert was highly critical of the officiating following Wednesday’s loss in Phoenix and will likely be fined, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.

The Wolves have felt they’ve gotten poor treatment from the officials all season long, so it wasn’t just about last night’s game, Hine writes. The Suns attempted 27 free throws versus Minnesota’s 12.

It’s not fair. It’s really not fair,” Gobert said. “Every night. I’ve been in this league for 10 years and I try to always give the benefit of the doubt, but it’s hard for me to think they’re not trying to help [the Suns] win tonight. It’s hard for me to think they didn’t try to help the Warriors win the other night or Sacramento Kings the other night. It’s just so obvious. As a basketball player that’s been in this league for so long, it’s disrespectful.”

According to Hine, Gobert specifically pointed to how many moving screens he’s been called for this season, and he believes officials are favoring bigger-market teams.

We understand that we’re not the biggest of the markets and we’re a team that — I think you want to see KD [Kevin Durant] in the playoffs, Steph [Stephen Curry] in the playoffs, you want to see LeBron [James] in the playoffs,” Gobert said. “[The] Timberwolves are not there yet. We got to keep putting our head down, keep playing through that and it’s frustrating for sure, especially for me.”

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • Reserve center Naz Reid injured his left wrist yesterday after taking a hard fall on a dunk attempt, Hine adds in the same story. Reid was able to keep playing, but was in noticeable pain in the locker room afterward. It’s unclear if the fourth-year big man will miss time with the injury.
  • Prior to the game, Suns head coach Monty Williams praised Reid, Hine tweets. “He’s probably a starter in this league on some teams, if not most,” Williams said. If a rival team believes Reid can be its starting center, that might make it tricky for the Wolves to retain him, Hine notes (via Twitter). The 23-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, though he will remain eligible for an extension until the end of June. Reid was recently nominated for Western Conference player of the week.
  • In addition to his chemistry with Gobert, the Timberwolves traded for Mike Conley because they wanted a mature veteran who “cared less about making flashy plays,” sources tell Kendra Andrews of ESPN. The three-team deal saw the Wolves send out D’Angelo Russell in exchange for Conley, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and three second-round picks. Head coach Chris Finch also strongly implied that Russell’s limitations as a point-of-attack defender played a factor in the trade, according to Andrews, who takes a look at the team’s outlook for the rest of the season.
  • On The Ringer’s Off Guard podcast with Austin Rivers and

Lakers Notes: LeBron, Russell, Reaves, Beasley, Bamba, Irving

LeBron James likely won’t be back until the final week of the regular season if he returns at all before the playoffs, Jovan Buha of The Athletic said during a discussion about the team with Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. James missed his ninth straight game with a right foot injury Wednesday night, but there have been some positive signs regarding his recovery.

Buha notes that James was able to shed his walking boot this week and was seen dribbling the ball and shooting layups during Tuesday’s shootaround. The Lakers have been cautious about releasing information on James, but Buha hears he’s ahead of schedule and will be reevaluated next week.

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • Buha and Scotto believe D’Angelo Russell and the team have mutual interest in a new contract this summer. The Lakers brought back their former draft pick in a trade last month, and he has been productive apart from injury, averaging 18.8 points and 5.9 assists in the eight games he has played for L.A. The Lakers could have received Mike Conley from the Jazz in the trade, according to Buha, but they opted for Russell because they see him as part of their future. Scotto believes Russell is motivated to succeed with the team that drafted him.
  • The Lakers are hoping to re-sign Austin Reaves, but multiple teams are planning to make a run at him in free agency, Scotto states. L.A. can offer up to $50MM over four years, and Scotto believes his floor will be the mid-level exception. Buha points out that Reaves’ flexibility has been extremely valuable for the Lakers, noting that he has played everywhere from point guard to small forward and brings a high IQ to the game. He adds that the team has to be careful about getting into a situation similar what it did with Alex Caruso, adding that another team might be willing to offer Reaves $12-15MM per season. The Lakers would have the ability to match a higher offer via the Arenas provision.
  • Another free agent, Rui Hachimura, is also likely to get offers in the non-taxpayer MLE range, which will be about $10MM per year, according to Buha. He believes the Lakers are willing to make that offer, but another team may be able to outbid them.
  • General manager Rob Pelinka had been interested in Malik Beasley for some time before acquiring him, so the team is likely to pick up his $16.5MM option for next season, Scotto states. Mohamed Bamba, who has a $10.3MM team option, is more “on the bubble,” Scotto adds, because the Lakers can probably find a more affordable backup center.
  • The Lakers were strongly interested in Kyrie Irving when he asked the Nets for a trade in February, but that seems to have changed in light of their moves at the deadline, Buha adds. He hears that the front office likes the current look of the team and doesn’t plan to pursue Irving in free agency.

Northwest Notes: Jokic, Vucevic, Porter Jr., Micic, Prince

Bulls center Nikola Vucevic doesn’t think Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic should be penalized for being a prior Most Valuable Player award winner when voters make their selections this season, he told K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

“I think he deserves to get another one, the way he’s playing. I think you take him out of that team, it’s not even close to the same team,” Vučević said of the Nuggets’ franchise player. “The things that he does, you look at his stats, the efficiency he’s playing at, it’s very impressive. And it’s not like he’s putting up numbers and they’re not winning. They’re (25-0) when he has a triple-double. And he plays in a winning way. He makes the right play. He doesn’t force. He doesn’t try to do something just to do it. It’s all within the flow of the game. It’s winning basketball.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets may finally reach the Finals this season in large part because of Michael Porter Jr’s maturity, Harrison Wind of TheDNVR.com writes. Porter has made himself a force at both ends of the floor after teams previously tried to take advantage of his defensive shortcomings. “I think Michael Porter has been just tremendous on both ends of the floor all season long,” coach Michael Malone said.
  • Serbian guard Vasilije Micic has hired the Wasserman Media Group as his new representative, HoopsHype tweets. Micic, whose draft rights are owned by the Thunder, is a two-time Euroleague Final Four MVP and is considered the best guard in Europe. However, it’s unclear whether the Thunder would have a role for the 29-year-old if he pursued an NBA career next season and he could be traded if he wants to make the jump.
  • Taurean Prince‘s value to the Timberwolves is reflected in their won-loss record, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes.  They are 24-17 when he plays and 10-16 when he doesn’t. “He’s like the ultimate glue guy with a little bit extra spice to it,” guard Mike Conley said. “You think he’s just three-and-D and all of a sudden, coming off pin downs, he’s making plays for guys. He’s being a leader. … He’s got a full game to him that’s really big for our second unit.” Prince has a non-guaranteed salary of $7.455MM next season and Minnesota has to make a decision on his contract status before free agency.