Tim Connelly

Pacific Notes: Vanderbilt, Warriors, Howard, Morris

Lakers power forward Jarred Vanderbilt holds the unusual distinction of being traded away from two different teams by the same executive. When Tim Connelly ran the Nuggets, he sent Vanderbilt to Minnesota as part of a four-team trade at the 2020 deadline. He did the same thing last summer as the Timberwolves’ president of basketball operations, shipping Vanderbilt to Utah in the Rudy Gobert deal.

“(Timberwolves) got a new president/GM. Same one that came from (the Nuggets),” Vanderbilt said on the Tidal League “Run Your Race” podcast (video link from ClutchPoints). “… He traded me to Minnesota, then he got to Minnesota, traded me again to (the Jazz). I’m like ‘damn.’”

Things worked out fine for Vanderbilt, who played an important role in the Lakers’ run to the Western Conference Finals and was recently rewarded with a four-year, $48MM extension. On the same podcast, Vanderbilt addressed rumors that he has grown over the summer (hat tip to Fan Nation).

“They saying I’m 6’11” now. … I don’t know,” Vanderbilt said. “That’s what the streets saying, I’m just the messenger.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Minority investors who own a little more than 10% of the Warriors are looking to sell their shares in the team, according to Giles Turner and Randall Williams of Bloomberg. They are reportedly asking for $700MM, which would put the team’s valuation at an NBA record $7 billion. The Warriors refused to confirm the rumor, issuing a statement that reads, “Per our organization policy, we do not comment on the potential sale or non-sale of ownership among our investment group.”
  • Dwight Howard posted a cryptic tweet on Saturday after the Warriors reportedly decided not to sign him or any other big man before the start of training camp. The 37-year-old center had two days of interviews with the team and worked out with some of its veteran players this week. “Only as a WARRIOR can one withstand the path of knowledge,” Howard wrote. “A WARRIOR cannot complain or regret anything. His life is an endless challenge. And challenges cannot possibly be good or bad. Challenges are simply challenges.”
  • Marcus Morris‘ situation with the Clippers appears unsettled, but he won’t consider staying away from the team the way that Jae Crowder did with the Suns, sources tell Law Murray of The Athletic. Morris started all 65 games he appeared in last season, but Murray called him “unplayable” after Paul George was lost with a knee injury. Murray notes that Morris was brought in to be the third scoring option for a team without a ball-dominant point guard, but there’s no longer a need for that since the acquisition of Russell Westbrook.

Wolves’ Connelly Talks Gobert, KAT, Edwards, Milton

As we relayed on Thursday, Timberwolves president of basketball operations Tim Connelly spoke during an appearance on The Jon Krawczynski Show about the team’s desire to keep Jaden McDaniels around for the long term, telling Krawczynski that he’d love to get an extension done with the young forward before the season begins.

Connelly’s comments about McDaniels weren’t the only interesting takeaway from that conversation. As Krawczynski writes for The Athletic, the Wolves’ lead decision-maker also addressed several other topics related to the club’s offseason and expectations for the 2023/24 season, including why Minnesota is more optimistic about the pairing of Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns heading into their second year together.

“We don’t have too much video, but we have enough video to understand where we were wrong and where we were right and kind of drill down on those things that were working and say, ‘Maybe we were wrong with this is how things potentially could work,'” Connelly said. “So I just think collectively, knowing all the actors is going to make things a whole lot easier.”

Here are a few more highlights from Connelly during his interview with Krawczynski:

On whether the Wolves viewed 2022/23 as a down year for Gobert:

“I think at times we kind of don’t appreciate how impactful it can be (for a player) to make a big move. And the first one. So I think Rudy was very good last year by NBA standards. I thought by his standards, I don’t think he played up to his standards. I think he’d be the first to tell you. He was coming off a brutal European championship where I think he played until maybe eight days before the season. Nobody works harder than Rudy. Nobody pays more attention and detail to every single aspect of his game, his body, his mental approach. And he’s super, super excited to have a more comfortable season both on and off the court.”

On why he has big expectations for Anthony Edwards this season:

“I think he’s primed to have a monster year. … His work ethic has been insane this offseason. I mean, the guy’s in the best shape of his life. He’s so excited to take the next step, excited with the guys on this team and what they can do as they grow together. But I think with him, anything that’s not sincere or not kind of true to who he is, I think he smells it out quickly. So him forging his path, I think is the challenge that we’ve given him. And how can we help ensure he’s doing it in a way that’s reflective of who he is?”

On the role the Wolves envision for free agent addition Shake Milton:

“We view Shake as a point guard. He’s started enough NBA games at that position where we feel confident that he can handle that load. He’s a guy that, when given the opportunity, he always produced and produced for good teams. Philadelphia has won as many games as anybody in the last three or four years. So we were excited to get him in. I think it gives us a different look with size at that position, his ability to score around the paint and his ability to be a good match for our bigs. He can make some of the passes that, at 6’5″, 6’6″, he’s allowed to make that maybe smaller guards can’t make. So we’re excited about him.”

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Irving, Smith, Williams, Braun, Watson, Anunoby

The Nuggets’ path to the championship was a testament to perseverance and patience. They didn’t panic when they fell short in previous postseasons, nor did they feel the need to replace coach Michael Malone. They were rewarded this season but there was some measure of luck involved. ESPN’s Zach Lowe (Insider link) offers some sourced nuggets on the Nuggets, sharing details about the steps along the way to the first title in franchise history. Here are some of the highlights from Lowe’s story:

  • The Nuggets never seriously considered trading Jamal Murray as he rehabbed from his ACL injury but former executive Tim Connelly approached Malone five or six years ago to say that Murray could be moved for a high-profile veteran player or two. Kyrie Irving, who requested a trade from the Cavaliers during the 2017 offseason, was one of the players Denver considered acquiring in a Murray deal, but the team ultimately decided against pursuing Irving.
  • The Nuggets had an opportunity to move journeyman point guard Ish Smith prior to this season’s trade deadline, but coaches and players lobbied the front office to keep him. Smith didn’t play much but he proved to be a powerful influence behind the scenes, including mimicking the Heat’s playbook as part of Denver’s scout team at Finals practices.
  • General manager Calvin Booth considered trading up to the No. 10 spot — held by the Wizards — in last year’s draft with the idea of selecting Jalen Williams. The Nuggets also considered moving up later in the lottery to nab Christian Braun, even though he was projected as a late first-rounder. They got him anyway at No. 21. They were also concerned that the Warriors would take Peyton Watson with the No. 28 pick. Golden State passed on Watson and Denver grabbed him at No. 30.
  • In one of the few mistakes they made, the Nuggets traded down from No. 13 to No. 24 in the 2017 draft — the 13th pick turned out to be Donovan Mitchell. Denver had considered taking OG Anunoby at that spot but felt he was a reach at that point in the draft. Anunoby came off the board at No. 23 and the Nuggets wound up with long-forgotten Tyler Lydon with the next pick.

Nuggets Notes: Jokic, Front Office, Brown

Nikola Jokic enjoyed sweeping the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, but he didn’t view it as a reason to celebrate, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Jokic was typically low-key on Saturday during a session with reporters as he prepares for the first NBA Finals appearance for both himself and his team.

Denver had to overcome a large deficit in Game 4 against L.A., and the victory wasn’t secure until Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon combined to shut down LeBron James on the final play. It set up a career milestone for Jokic, but he didn’t get emotional about it.

“The win was nice,” he said. “Like half an hour after that, it was just OK. It’s a win. I thought it’s gonna be much bigger feeling, to be honest.”

There’s more from Denver:

  • Jokic’s desire to join the Nuggets a year after being drafted stemmed more from personal reasons than professional, per Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post (subscription required). Jokic played one season in the Adriatic League, but he wanted to come to the United States to be closer to his girlfriend, who’s now his wife, and his brothers. Jokic wasn’t certain that he was good enough to play in the NBA, but he asked the Nuggets if he could take part in training camp in 2015 so he could be near his loved ones. “I was more happy to be around them than to be in the NBA,” he admitted.
  • General manager Calvin Booth has been in his current job for less than a year, so he wants to make sure the architects of the team get recognized for assembling a championship roster, Singer adds in another Denver Post story (subscription required). Booth offered thanks to former team president Tim Connelly, who put together a version of the Kentavious Caldwell-Pope trade before he left to take over the Timberwolves last summer, and to others who played a role in building the team’s foundation. “(Tim) deserves a ton of credit,” Booth said. “I also think Josh (Kroenke) and (former GM) Masai (Ujiri) deserve credit. … They did the Carmelo (Anthony) trade, and the Carmelo trade ended up being a lot of different assets that helped this team get to this point, one of them being Jamal with the pick swap. I feel like each iteration of the front office has helped contribute to get to this point.”
  • The Nuggets were fortunate to land Bruce Brown on the second day of free agency last July, Harrison Wind and Adam Mares of DNVR Sports state on their podcast. Brown said he didn’t get any immediate offers when free agency began, so he was thrilled when Denver expressed interest.

Northwest Notes: Jazz Draft, THT, Iowa Wolves, Connelly

Armed with three first-round picks in 2023, CEO Danny Ainge says the the Jazz will have at least 10 members of the organization present at the NBA draft combine in a couple weeks, writes Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune.

Some. Yeah,” Ainge said when asked how much stock the team puts into the combine. “We’ll have 10 of us or more there anyway. We’ll spend a lot more time watching [the prospects] there collectively, with groups, and evaluating them. And we’ll have a lot of time at the combine and in draft workouts to get to know them up close and personal.”

The Jazz control their own first-rounder, currently projected to be No. 9 overall, though that draft slot could change when the lottery is conducted on May 16. They also control the Wolves’ (No. 16) and Sixers’ (No. 28) first-round picks from trades last summer. According to Walden, the team plans to bring in a horde of prospects to Utah for workouts, but it won’t be publicly disclosing those players “for competitive reasons.”

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • Talen Horton-Tucker is a difficult player to evaluate and that was certainly true of his performance with the Jazz during the 2022/23 season, according to Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. Todd says she would be surprised if Horton-Tucker declines his $11MM player option for ’23/24 due to his inconsistency, but notes that he’s still only 22 years old despite the fact that he’s already played four seasons. Horton-Tucker will be extension-eligible if he picks up his option, but Todd thinks the Jazz should take a wait-and-see approach with the young guard next season.
  • The Timberwolves‘ G League affiliate, the Iowa Wolves, received a couple of NBAGL awards, per a press release. The franchise received the President’s Choice Award for demonstrating “excellence in business performance across key areas of focus.” The team set a franchise record for attendance in ’22/23. Iowa Wolves president Ryan Grant was also named G League Executive of the Year, as voted by his peers.
  • Tim Connelly is a Baltimore native and got his start with the Wizards, which is why speculation about him possibly re-joining the organization won’t go away. Still, Minnesota’s president of basketball operations plans to remain with the Timberwolves next season, he said in a radio interview with Chad Hartman of WCCO. “That’s certainly the plan,” Connelly said, per Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “That’s why we came here, moved here. We had a lot of unfinished business. It’s been a really fun year, on and off the court, and we’re fully committed to being a Timberwolf.”

Wolves Notes: Edwards, McDaniels, Reid, Gobert, Finch, Connelly

As former first-round picks entering their fourth seasons, Timberwolves wings Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels will be eligible for rookie scale extensions this summer. President of basketball operations Tim Connelly didn’t hesitate when asked if the team would commit to the two young players, tweets Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.

When the Wolves are permitted to have extension discussions with Edwards and McDaniels, both players will have “really, really nice offers with a lot of money in their inbox,” Connelly said.

Edwards is highly likely to receive a rookie scale max extension after emerging as the team’s best player in 2022/23, while McDaniels could potentially get a nine-figure offer himself — particularly with the addition of a fifth year on non-max rookie extensions — following a career season.

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • Edwards’ attorney released a statement saying the guard intends to fight the “baseless” assault charges he’s facing in Denver, Hine writes for The Star Tribune. “With the game over, Anthony’s exit from the court was partially obstructed by a chair, which he moved and set down three steps later,” attorney Harvey Steinberg said via Klutch Sports, Edwards’ agency. “As video of the incident confirms, Anthony did not swing the chair at anyone and of course did not intend to hurt anyone. Despite these innocent facts, the Denver Police Department inexplicably chose to charge Anthony with two counts of misdemeanor assault. Anthony intends to vigorously defend against these baseless charges.”
  • Both Connelly and head coach Chris Finch said that bringing back reserve big man Naz Reid will be a top priority for the Wolves, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link). Reid will be an unrestricted free agent this summer if he doesn’t sign an extension. The 23-year-old averaged career highs in points per game (11.5), rebounds (4.9) and field goal percentage (53.7%), but missed the end of the regular season and postseason after fracturing his left wrist, which required surgery.
  • Center Rudy Gobert has been a mainstay for the French national team in international play, but he says he’s not sure if he’ll compete in the World Cup, which starts in late August, per Krawczynski (Twitter link). The three-time Defensive Player of the Year added that he wants to “come back like I want to have the best year of my career next season. I know that this summer I’m going to put myself in position that I’ve never put myself in before.”
  • It certainly sounds like Finch’s job will be safe entering next season, as Connelly called the coach and his staff “elite,” tweets Krawczynski. As for the rumors linking Connelly to the Wizards‘ front office opening, he says he’s “pretty committed to the Minnesota Timberwolves right now” and is focused on advancing in the playoffs and building for the future (Twitter video link via SneakerReporter, who covers the Wolves).

Southeast Notes: Young, Murray, Wizards, Bridges, Love

The Hawks still face long odds in their first-round series with the Celtics, but they have to be encouraged by the way Trae Young and Dejounte Murray played together Friday night, writes Jeff Schultz of The Athletic. Atlanta avoided a 3-0 deficit as the backcourt combination turned in one of its best games since Murray was acquired last summer. They combined for 57 points in the Game 3 victory, with 38 of those coming in the second half.

“At one point, I was just like, I should just keep quiet and let them do it,” coach Quin Snyder said. “They had some isolation situations where they created for themselves and for other guys, and a lot of that was them just figuring it out. People feed off that.”

Schultz notes that there have been questions about whether they can be effective together ever since the Hawks sent three first-round picks and other assets to the Spurs in exchange for Murray. Former general manager and team president Travis Schlenk reportedly didn’t support the deal, and the results hadn’t been positive during a 41-41 season.

A recent report indicated Atlanta will consider trading Young this summer, but Schultz states that Friday’s performance may show that he and Murray can find a way to make things work.

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Wizards may dream about landing a big name like Raptors president Masai Ujiri or Warriors general manager Bob Myers to replace fired GM Tommy Sheppard, but they’re better off pursuing someone who has succeeded in building a team in a mid-level market, contends Ava Wallace of The Washington Post. She names Pelicans GM Trajan Langdon, Knicks GM Scott Perry, Bucks assistant GM Milt Newton and Timberwolves president of basketball operations Tim Connelly as potential targets.
  • The NBA was too lenient with former Hornets forward Miles Bridges when it agreed to reduce his 30-game suspension to 10 games for next season, argues David Aldridge of The Athletic. Aldridge disagrees with the league’s reasoning that Bridges would have served 20 games of that suspension if he had signed with a team this year and notes that the CBA gives commissioner Adam Silver the power to invoke a harsher penalty under its “misconduct” section.
  • Kevin Love is back in the Heat‘s starting lineup for tonight’s Game 3 against the Bucks, tweets Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Chiang observes that the new starting five of Love, Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo has only played together for two minutes in the series and 13 minutes during the regular season.

Southeast Notes: Young, Wizards’ GM Search, Draft, F. Wagner

Trae Young was one of the stars of the 2021 playoffs, but he hasn’t been able to reach that level since then, writes Jeff Schultz of The Athletic. Young and the Hawks have looked overmatched in the first two games of their series with the Celtics, getting blown out early both times. Young is shooting 35% from the field and 23% from three-point range so far, and Atlanta has been outscored by 32 points when he’s on the court.

It’s a big difference from two years ago, when Young led the Hawks past the Knicks and Sixers, then helped take the eventual champion Bucks to six games. A report earlier this month indicated that Atlanta’s new front office is willing to consider trading Young this summer, and an early playoff exit could push the team in that direction.

“The ball hasn’t gone in for him the way that it can and will,” Hawks coach Quin Snyder said after the Game 2 loss. “He’s no different than anyone else on the team, as far as finding a rhythm. Trae will be the first one on the plane watching the tape and trying to figure out ways he can play better.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said the team will replace general manager and president Tommy Sheppard with “an executive from outside the organization,” per Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Robbins expects the team to check on the availability of Raptors vice chairman and president Masai Ujiri and Timberwolves president of basketball operations Tim Connelly. Robbins points out that Connelly is originally from Baltimore and broke into the NBA as an intern with the Wizards in 1996.
  • Tyler Byrum and Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington have released a new mock draft that has the Wizards landing Arkansas guard Anthony Black if they keep the No. 8 pick after the lottery. Byrum and Hughes note that Washington needs a long-term answer at point guard and Black would provide an upgrade on defense.
  • Magic forward Franz Wagner talked to Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel about the progress he made during his second NBA season. Wagner took over more ball-handling responsibilities after early-season injuries in the team’s backcourt and now feels like a more complete player. “The way I play now, I wish I would’ve played a little earlier in the season,” he said. “Not necessarily meaning stats, but the way I play. Earlier on in the season, I might have forced a little bit more than was helpful for the team. But I think that’s part of it. I learned a lot.”

Wizards Fire GM Tommy Sheppard

Tommy Sheppard has been dismissed as general manager and president of the Wizards, the team announced in a press release. The move comes after another disappointing season for Washington, which compiled a 35-47 record and failed to qualify for the play-in tournament.

Sheppard, 53, had been with the organization since 2003, starting as vice president of basketball operations. He had served as GM since 2019 when he was promoted to replace Ernie Grunfeld. He received an extension and a promotion to president of basketball operations after the club got off to a strong start in 2021/22.

The Wizards never won more than 35 games in a season under Sheppard’s tenure and they reached the playoffs just once, advancing through the play-in tournament in 2021 before losing to the Sixers in the first round.

“Failure to make the playoffs the last two seasons was very disappointing to our organization and our fans,” owner Ted Leonsis said in a statement explaining the move (Twitter link from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski).

Sheppard’s departure means someone else will handle key financial decisions in what should be an important summer for Washington. Kyle Kuzma and Kristaps Porzingis are both expected to turn down their player options for next season and test free agency, although Porzingis is involved in extension talks with the team.

The new GM will also try to improve on Sheppard’s performance in the draft, as Washington holds the No. 8 spot heading into next month’s lottery.

Pelicans general manager Trajan Langdon and Timberwolves president of basketball operations Tim Connelly are names to watch as the Wizards launch their search for Sheppard’s replacement, tweets Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.

The front office shakeup won’t affect Wes Unseld Jr., who just completed his second season as head coach, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter link), who hears from sources that Leonsis remains a strong supporter of Unseld.

Nuggets Notes: Connelly, KCP, Murray, Defense, Malone

Former Nuggets president of basketball operations and current Timberwolves executive Tim Connelly feels strange facing his former team in the first round of the playoffs, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscription required). Connelly still communicates with members of the Denver organization on a regular basis.

“I mean, we talk all the time. It’s more just stupid memes or non-basketball stories we talk about. These people are like family,” he said.

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • They gave Kentavious Caldwell-Pope a two-year, $30MM extension last offseason after acquiring him from the Wizards, and his defense and championship pedigree played a big role in that decision, Harrison Wind of TheDNVR.com writes. Michael Porter Jr. considers KCP the ultimate glue guy. “It doesn’t matter if he gets 12 shots that night, four shots that night, he’s going to still play the right way,” Porter said. “He’s going to make the extra pass. He’s going to play defense.” Caldwell-Pope had 15 points and committed just one turnover in 31 minutes during the team’s Game 1 109-80 victory.
  • Following a laborious recovery last season from a serious knee injury, Jamal Murray is relishing the return to the postseason, Singer writes in a subscriber-only story. Murray had a game-high 24 points, eight rebounds and eight assists on Sunday night with just one turnover. He said the last time he was as excited for any game was the first game back from his ACL tear.
  • Coach Michael Malone repeatedly said during the season that defensive improvement would be the key to a championship run. He saw a lot of good things in Game 1, as the current group displayed its defensive versatility, according to Tony Jones of The Athletic. “It was a stellar defensive performance through four quarters,” Malone said. “Guys were locked in through the entire game. That’s the kind of effort we are going to need through the series. It’s important that we don’t let this win linger. We have a lot of work to do.”
  • However, Malone doesn’t want his team to rest on its laurels heading into Game 2 on Wednesday, Jones adds in a separate story. Their practice film session on Tuesday emphasized the negative. “I made sure to tell the guys that we haven’t done a damn thing,” Malone said. “We’re trying to win a championship, and if we are going to do that, we have 15 more games to win. There are a lot of things that we could have done better in Game 1. That’s what film was about and what practice was about (Tuesday) morning. We want to identify the areas where we can be better. My job is to keep the guys humble.”