Rick Brunson

Thibodeau Shoots Down Chemistry Concerns

Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau shot down reports regarding chemistry issues and Jimmy Butler‘s desire to leave after next season during an appearance at the Minnesota State Fair, Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Butler was supposedly unhappy with his younger teammates and looking to pair up with Kyrie Irving when he can enter free agency next summer. Thibodeau said Butler has not voiced any displeasure about his teammates to him.

“I’ve been around a long time, I don’t buy into any of that stuff,” Thibodeau said. “You have to distinguish what’s real and what’s not real. You never heard any of that come from Jimmy’s mouth. It’s always a source close to Jimmy. If Jimmy has something to say to someone, he usually says it directly.”

Thibodeau also said he anticipated that Butler would turn down the team’s extension offer because he could make more in free agency but the franchise is still optimistic on re-signing him.

“We know the position we’re in. We have a lot to offer him. We think this is the best place for him and it’s up to us to show him the reasons why.”

Thibodeau also addressed a number of other topics:

  • He’s also “very optimistic” big man Karl-Anthony Towns will sign a contract extension by the October 15 deadline. “We know how important Karl is to the future of the organization,” Thibodeau said. As we noted in our Extension Candidate series, Towns is likely to sign a max extension.
  • Former Pistons assistant Malik Allen has been added to his coaching staff, replacing Rick Brunson. Allen joined the staff of ex-Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy in 2014. Brunson resigned in May amid allegations of misconduct.
  • Center Justin Patton should be cleared for contact by the start of training camp. The 7-foot Patton, the 16th overall pick in 2017, appeared in just one game last season after undergoing two foot surgeries.

Timberwolves’ Brunson Resigns Amid Allegations Of Misconduct

3:46pm: The Timberwolves have issued a statement regarding Brunson’s resignation, as Krawczynski relays at The Athletic.

“Our entire organization – made up of the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Minnesota Lynx and Iowa Wolves — is deeply committed to creating a safe work environment for our employees, partners and fans,” the Wolves’ statement reads. “Our teams strive to have our actions reflect our values each and every day. We work to maintain high standards of conduct and expect our staff to lead by example. We did not believe Mr. Brunson’s conduct was consistent with those standards.”

Sources tell Krawczynski that the most recent incident involving Brunson occurred during the playoffs, when a woman who doesn’t work for the Timberwolves lodged a complaint with the team after Brunson made “several unwanted advances” toward her.

2:50pm: Veteran NBA coach Rick Brunson has resigned from his position as an assistant coach on Tom Thibodeau‘s staff in Minnesota, per Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link).

It’s the fourth coaching change this week for the Timberwolves, who also cut ties with player development coach Vince Legarza, shooting coach Peter Patton, and assistant video coordinator Wes Bohn, as we relayed on Monday. However, Brunson’s departure appears to fall into a different category.

According to Jon Krawcyznski of The Athletic (Twitter link), Brunson was facing allegations of “improper interactions with several women while on the job.” Wolfson and ESPN’s Chris Haynes confirmed as much, with Haynes tweeting that one of those women is a member of the media.

A former NBA player, Brunson began his coaching career in 2007, and has also served as an assistant in Denver, Chicago, and Charlotte. He has run into legal troubles in the past, having been arrested in June 2014 and indicted on criminal sexual assault charges following an encounter with a massage therapist. Brunson was later acquitted of those charges.

While the Timberwolves, who hired Brunson in 2016, were willing to give him a second chance two years after that incident, he seems unlikely to catch on with another NBA team anytime soon.

Western Notes: Payne, Suns, Barnes, Wolves Coaches

Second-year Thunder guard Cameron Payne has shown encouraging signs in his recovery from the Jones fracture surgery he had in July, writes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. Payne has gone through full contact during Oklahoma City’s first two days of practice and is expected to participate in a scrimmage on Tuesday. Coach Billy Donovan said Payne has been working to recapture his timing, but the medical staff hasn’t recommended any limitations on his playing time. “He probably feels like the more he can play, the more comfortable he’ll get back into a routine,” Donovan said. “He’s obviously been in practice. He’s been active. Cam’s got a really, really instinctive game. He’s got a good feel for the game. I think getting his timing back playing, because he hasn’t done a lot of 5-on-5 will take him a little bit of time. But he looks good; he’s moving well.”

There’s more news from the Western Conference:

  • The four players the Suns added to their training camp roster today will probably end up in the D-League, according to Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic. Phoenix reached agreements with undrafted rookies Gracin Bakumanya, Shaquille Harrison and Derrick Jones, along with returning D-League player Derek Cooke. Teams can assign up to four waived players to the D-League as long as they aren’t claimed by other organizations.
  • As he gets ready for his first training camp with the Kings, one of Matt Barnes‘ objectives will be to improve team chemistry, relays Andy Furillo of The Sacramento Bee. The 36-year-old Barnes agreed to a two-year, $12MM contract this summer to come to Sacramento. He joins an organization that was beset by internal problems last season, especially between star big man DeMarcus Cousins and former coach George Karl. “I’ve never been a star player, so to speak,” Barnes said, “but I’ve been one of the leaders, one of the voices of reason, and I have, I think, an uncanny ability to be able to get through to everybody, and not so much by talking. I lead by example, so that when I do talk, people listen, and I’m respected.”
  • The Timberwolves finalized their coaching staff today, the team announced on its website. Minnesota named Andy Greer and Rick Brunson as assistant coaches, Peter Patton as shooting coach and Daisuke Yoshimoto as special assistant to the president of basketball operations. In addition, Vince Legarza was promoted to player development coach.

Bobcats’ Dunlap Close To Choosing Staff

Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reports that new Bobcats head coach Mike Dunlap is close to filling out his first coaching staff in Charlotte. Brian Winters and Dan Leibovitz have emerged as heavy favorites to take the final two spots on Dunlap's bench, joining Rick Brunson and Stephen Silas.

Winters, who was named an All-Star twice as a player, has NBA head coaching experience, having coached the Vancouver Grizzlies from 195 to 1997. He has also served as head coach of the WNBA's Indiana Fever, and as an assistant in the NBA with the Cavs, Hawks, Nuggets, and Warriors.

Leibovitz, like Dunlap, comes from the college coaching scene, having served four seasons as Hardford's head coach, as well as stints as an assistant with Temple and Penn.