Robert Covington

Timberwolves Notes: Sichting, Covington, Wiggins

The Timberwolves are finalizing a deal with veteran assistant coach Jerry Sichting, who is poised to join Ryan Saunders‘ coaching staff, according to Jon Krawczynski and Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). This will be Sichting’s third stint with the Wolves — his first came from 1995-2005, when he was part of Flip Saunders‘ coaching staff in Minnesota for a decade.

As Krawczynski notes (via Twitter), there’s a lot of familiarity between Sichting and Ryan Saunders, making it a logical hire for the Timberwolves. Sichting will fill the hole on the staff created by Andy Greer’s departure, Krawczynski adds. Greer was dismissed earlier this month along with Tom Thibodeau, given his close association with Thibs.

Here are a few more notes from out of Minnesota:

  • Timberwolves forward Robert Covington, who is on the shelf with a bone bruise, said today that there’s no timetable for his return to the court, tweets Krawczynski. “I haven’t pressed the issue just yet,” said Covington, who hasn’t done any substantial on-court activities.
  • Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report explores whether the Timberwolves might be able to find a realistic – and favorable – trade involving Andrew Wiggins, whose maximum-salary contract runs through 2022/23.
  • With Jimmy Butler poised to face the Timberwolves for the first time since the club traded him to Philadelphia, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer previews the showdown and relays some comments Butler made to Kevin Garnett during a recent appearance on TNT’s KG Area 21. Butler’s response when asked if his issues in Minnesota were more with management or his fellow players: “Maybe a little bit of both.”

Robert Covington Discusses Sixers, Being Traded

Robert Covington, who is now a member of the Timberwolves, heard the trade rumors surrounding his name over the summer. He was aware that the Sixers were in the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes and asked Brett Brown about the possibilities of him getting dealt.

“I was told over the summer that there was no chance that I would be traded,” Covington said (via Sarah Todd of the Philadelphia Inquirer). “But things happen. I talked to Brett numerous times. At the same time, you saw everything that transpired with Kawhi and DeMar [DeRozan, the main principles in the trade that sent Leonard from San Antonio to Toronto], so anything can happen.”

Covington added that he didn’t find out about the trade from the Sixers.

“I found out on social media,” he said. “It was like five minutes before the team meeting, then Brett [Brown, the Sixers’ coach] called me and EB [general manager Elton Brand] called me, but I already knew. By then it was already out there. That’s how I found out.”

Covington added that the conversation with Brown was “clear-cut and dry.” The small forward was merely told he going to Minnesota in a package for Butler.

“As far as having that respect level, and for how much we’d been through, I would have thought it had to be completely different, but it wasn’t. Considering how much time relationship-wise and everything that went down. … It was weird,” Covington added.

Brown and Covington have been in contact via text since the deal. Brown recently learned about Covington’s feelings on the communication of the trade and indicated that he will reach out to the 28-year-old about it.

Brand and Covington haven’t spoken since the day of the trade. The two have known each other since Brand was a member of the Sixers (Todd notes that the two players had adjacent lockers) and they had a close relationship. Brand acknowledged that things are different now.

“It probably was cold,” Brand said of trading Covington. “I would talk to those guys about anything and everything … and now we don’t talk anymore. With my new role and my new job, it’s tough to make those decisions. The relationship is real, but it’s tough because it becomes transactional. I can see how he would think it was cold, for sure.”

Covington told Todd that he doesn’t hold any grudges. The Sixers will host the Timberwolves on January 15. “I think it’ll be warm, but you never know with Philly,” Covington said of the response he’ll get from the Philadelphia crowd. “One minute they love you and the next, you never know.”

Timberwolves Waive James Nunnally

In the latest move in a busy day for the Timberwolves, the club is waiving guard James Nunnally, league sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). The transaction will happen in advance of Nunnally’s contract guarantee deadline this week.

After playing in Europe for the past two seasons, Nunnally signed with the Timberwolves during free agency, as Minnesota was looking to add players that could space the floor and provide solid defense. However, Nunnally was not a regular part of the rotation and rarely saw the court during his time with the Wolves.

The 28-year-old wing only played 64 minutes this season, averaging 2.1 points per game while knocking down 38.5 percent of his 3-pointers. The emergence of Josh Okogie and the additions of Robert Covington and Dario Saric pushed Nunnally further out of the rotation.

If Nunnally doesn’t catch on with another NBA team right away, a return to the EuroLeague is a viable possibility, given his past success overseas.

Robert Covington To Miss Extended Time

Timberwolves forward Robert Covington has been diagnosed with a bone bruise and will be out for an extended period, head coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters today, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link).

While Thibodeau couldn’t offer a specific timeline for Covington’s potential recovery and return, he added that the Wolves don’t believe surgery will be required, as Krawczynski relays (via Twitter).

The Timberwolves are set to get Jeff Teague back in their lineup, but losing Covington is a tough blow for the team, which had initially experienced a bit of a resurgence after acquiring him and Dario Saric from Philadelphia in November’s Jimmy Butler blockbuster. Minnesota is still just 17-21, 13th in the West and four games out of a playoff spot, and will now be without its best perimeter defender for the next little while, further reducing the club’s chances of earning a postseason spot.

If the Wolves continue to slip further out of the playoff race, it will be interesting to see what they do at next month’s trade deadline. The club has reportedly tried to move Gorgui Dieng, and veterans on expiring contracts like Taj Gibson, Jerryd Bayless, and Anthony Tolliver may also be expendable. Teague, who has a $19MM player option for next season, could be a trade candidate too. None of those players would bring back a substantial return, however.

Wolves Notes: Covington, Jones, Dieng, Towns

During Jimmy Butler‘s final, acrimonious weeks in Minnesota, his ability to communicate with young Timberwolves players like Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins was called into question. Tasked with leading the club, Butler instead berated teammates in practice, questioning their desire to win and their ability to take criticism.

By comparison, new forward Robert Covington, acquired in the deal for Butler, seems to have a better sense of when to talk to teammates and when to lay off, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.

“I know how to read it,” Covington said. “Emotions are flying and everything like that. That’s just part of my character. … I pick the right moments and that’s when I approach guys. I would never want to sit up here and rub people the wrong way because not a lot of people will typically react the right way.”

While Covington has gotten on Towns a little, encouraging him to bring more of a “defensive mindset” to his role, it doesn’t seem to be negatively impacting the relationship between the two, according to Hine, who notes that Covington and Towns are constantly talking and making fun of each other in the locker room. The duo has helped the Wolves win seven of nine games since trading Butler.

Here’s more from out of Minnesota:

  • While Tyus Jones and Gorgui Dieng have been frustrated at times this season due to their limited roles, both players have excelled since Butler’s departure, says Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Within the same story, Krawczynski reports that there’s still no definitive timeline for Jerryd Bayless‘ return to action, though it’s not clear if he’ll have a role in Minnesota even once he’s healthy.
  • In a separate story for The Athletic, Krawczynski explores how Towns is adjusting to his new role as the Timberwolves’ leader, with current teammate Derrick Rose and former teammate Kevin Garnett weighing in on the subject. “He’s not always going to get things right,” Garnett said. “He’s going to have to speak up, voice his opinion. It doesn’t always have to be from a confrontational standpoint. KAT has good leadership skills because he works hard. It’s whether he wants to vocalize those, which is his next challenge as a leader, to me.”
  • While the Butler drama is in the rear view mirror, head coach Tom Thibodeau remains under the microscope, as Frank Isola of The Athletic details. Thibodeau’s long-term hold on Minnesota’s head coaching job is still tenuous, but he has done an excellent job with the new-look Wolves so far.

Sixers Optimistic Butler Will Stay Put

Sixers managing partner and owner Josh Harris is both determined and optimistic that Jimmy Butler will remain with the team beyond this season, as he told USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt and The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

The Butler trade was made to give the franchise a third star alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and become a serious championship contender. It wouldn’t have happened unless the Sixers were convinced they could keep Butler, who can opt out of his contract this summer, in the long run.

“We’ve been saying since the summer we’ve been looking for another star and we felt we needed another shooter, a three-and-D wing, someone like Jimmy,” Harris told Zillgitt. “They’re hard to find at this elite level. We know who we have to get through to win the East. It’s obvious who it is. We think this is a piece we needed.”

While Butler became a major distraction around the Timberwolves, he’s been a model citizen since joining the Sixers. And Philadelphia anticipates that its gamble will pay off in the long run in the form of a multi-year contract.

“Our goal is to have elite talent under contract for a long time,” Harris told Charania. “That’s what we’re interested in.”

Both reporters offered insights into the trade discussions involving Butler. The Sixers eventually agreed to deal Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless and a future second-rounder for Butler and throw-in Justin Patton.

  • The Timberwolves initially asked for another starter in addition to the trio the Sixers dealt, according to Zillgitt.
  • Minnesota narrowed its offers to three teams, with the Pelicans and Rockets being the other finalists, according to Charania.  New Orleans dangled forward Nikola Mirotic and a first-round pick, while Houston was willing to part with guard Eric Gordon and two first-rounders.
  • The Sixers initially offered draft picks and other large contracts, Harris told Charania. Markelle Fultz was discussed in the Butler talks.
  • Other suitors, such as the Lakers, wanted to wait until the December 15th date when signed free agents could be included in a deal for Butler, Charania added.

Butler, Covington, Saric Debut For New Teams

Four days after the Timberwolves and Sixers first agreed to a blockbuster Jimmy Butler trade, and two days after that deal was officially completed, Butler made his Philadelphia debut on Wednesday night while Robert Covington and Dario Saric made their first appearances as members of the Wolves.

Butler had a fairly quiet first game for the Sixers, posting just 14 points and four rebounds in 33 minutes as his new team lost to the Magic, 111-106. Despite the loss, head coach Brett Brown and the 76ers weren’t discouraged, pointing out that getting everyone on the same page in the wake of Butler’s arrival will take a little time.

“I mean, it’s hard,” Brown said after the game, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com. “He comes in, and he’s trying to do the right thing. You’re trying to put in some plays this morning at shootaround. He’s trying to figure everybody else out, [and] they’re trying to figure him out. It’s going to take time. It’s going to take time. I think, in general, you sort of see what you have in him, and it’s incredibly exciting.”

Things went better in Minnesota, where Covington and Saric combined for 22 points and 10 rebounds en route to a 107-100 win over New Orleans. As Patrick Reusse of The Star Tribune writes, Covington got an early taste of Tom Thibodeau‘s tendency to ride his starters hard, playing a game-high 41 minutes for Minnesota. “As Thibs said, ‘Being out there on the court is the best way to learn about your new teammates,'” Covington told reporters with a smile after the game. Meanwhile, Thibodeau suggested after the game that Covington’s defensive effort made it easy to give him a major role immediately.

“I knew we could use him right away because he brings so much defensively,” Thibodeau said. “And he goes so hard … if you go hard enough it’s going to make up for a lot of things, including being new to a team.”

Here’s more on the Sixers’ and Timberwolves’ new additions, and how each team is being impacted by the changes:

  • Time is on the Sixers‘ side as they adjust to the arrival of Butler, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. With the start of the playoffs still five months away, the team has plenty of time to work out the kinks, and Butler is confident that’ll happen before too long. “How tough will it be? Nah, it’s not hard at all,” Butler said. “So far we all get along. I think that’s the first thing — we all want each other to be great. We’re all talking about where we’re supposed to be and what we see out there on the floor. I’m telling you, it’s coming sooner rather than later. We’re going to be just fine.”
  • In an interesting piece for HoopsHype, Alex Kennedy goes behind the scenes on Butler’s first couple days as a Sixer, sharing details on how the 29-year-old and his new Philadelphia teammates found out about the trade on Saturday. Kennedy also reports that the 76ers held a team dinner on Tuesday night in the hopes that Butler, fellow newcomer Justin Patton, other recent additions like Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala, and the team’s incumbent players could all get to know each other a little better.
  • With Butler no longer on the team, Karl-Anthony Towns is ready to lead the Timberwolves in his own way, according to Malika Andrews of ESPN.com, who writes that Towns is hoping for a looser environment in Minnesota. “All those teams I was on that were successful were the ones that everyone had love for each other and had fun,” Towns told Andrews. “Things that seem minuscule — joking around, laughing, conversing, all those things that seem childish — that is what builds camaraderie.”

Western Notes: Lowry, Covington, Rockets

The Jazz saw Gordon Hayward walk away after the 2016/17 campaign but he wasn’t the only star the team had an eye on that offseason. Utah spoke with Kyle Lowry‘s representatives during the summer of 2017 and the organization felt confident that it could sign Lowry, sources tell Andy Larsen and Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune.

The front office decided to pull out of the Lowry sweepstakes because signing the point guard would have required the team to use the cap space it had planned to use for Hayward. Lowry ended up re-signing with Toronto on a three-year pact.

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

More Leftovers From Jimmy Butler Trade

Jimmy Butler is officially a member of the Sixers, and appears to be on track to make his debut with his new team on Wednesday in Orlando. As Brian Seltzer of Sixers.com writes, head coach Brett Brown views the newest 76er as a “perfect fit” for the city and for the team, given his fierce competitiveness and willingness to play hard-nosed defense.

Meanwhile, new Sixers general manager Elton Brand indicated in a statement that he believes the franchise now has three of the league’s top 20 players on its roster.

“We have a championship window that’s centered around the continued progression of our talented young core, as well as our ability to add elite players who elevate our program,” Brand said. “In Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, we have two of the NBA’s top 20 players. Now, we’ve added a third top-20 player in Jimmy Butler, who is one of the NBA’s very best on both ends of the floor. This move further strengthens our pursuit of a championship and gives us a formidable combination to take on the league’s top teams.”

We have several more leftover items and reactions related to the Butler deal to pass along, so we’ll round them up right here:

  • After reportedly generating friction with teammates in Chicago and Minnesota, Butler may find the Sixers to be the perfect fit at the perfect time, writes Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports.
  • ESPN’s Kirk Goldsberry explores why Butler won’t solve Philadephia’s biggest issue, while Chris Mannix of SI.com suggests that “The Process” has led to “The Gamble” in Philadelphia, with the Sixers taking a risk on Butler.
  • Having been put in a tough spot by Butler’s trade request, the Timberwolves managed to get good value in their deal with Philadelphia by landing Robert Covington and Dario Saric, says Britt Robson of The Athletic.
  • In the wake of the Butler trade, Anthony Tolliver says that it feels like a cloud hovering over the Timberwolves has lifted, as Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets.
  • Reports throughout the Butler saga suggested that Tom Thibodeau wanted players who could help the team win now, and the Timberwolves‘ head coach and president of basketball operations confirmed as much on Monday, per Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “We wanted quality players. That was important for us,” Thibodeau said. “[We get] two starters [Covington and Saric] off a team that won 52 games, and they’re both young. … Once we get to that point where we felt we were getting multiple rotational players, we felt it would be time to execute the deal.”
  • Covington posted a message on his Instagram account thanking the Sixers and the fans in Philadelphia for his time with the organization. It’s been a incredible journey and I definitely wouldn’t change it for the world,” Covington wrote. “I built friendships and bonds that will last a lifetime. Now a new journey awaits and I’m thankful for this opportunity.”
  • In case you missed it on Monday, we relayed reactions from Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins on the Butler deal, more comments from Thibodeau, details on the Pelicans’ and Rockets’ trade offers, and a note on the Nets’ involvement in Butler trade talks.

Timberwolves Trade Jimmy Butler To Sixers

NOVEMBER 12: The Sixers and Timberwolves have issued press releases announcing that the deal is now official.

NOVEMBER 10: The Sixers have agreed to acquire Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton for Robert Covington, Dario SaricJerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick, according to Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter links). A trade call with the league to finalize the deal has been scheduled for Monday, Charania adds (via Twitter).

Elton Brand‘s first major move as the Sixers’ general manager will allow the team to acquire a third star alongside Simmons and Embiid without having to take their chances trying to lure that sort of impact player to Philadelphia during 2019’s free agent period. It should also reduce the pressure on 2017’s first overall pick Markelle Fultz to develop into that third star.

Butler and the Sixers fully expect to reach an agreement on a long-term deal for the All-NBA swingman once he’s eligible for free agency in 2019, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Philadelphia’s plan is to have a long-term big three of Butler, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, according to Wojnarowski, who suggests (via Twitter) that only a major injury or a poor fit alongside Simmons and Embiid could diminish the Sixers’ optimism on a long-term future with Butler.

It remains to be seen how Butler will fit on and off the court in Philadelphia with the team’s two young stars after failing to make things work with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins in Minnesota, but the four-time All-Star should significantly increase the 76ers’ ceiling. Butler will provide play-making and shooting (.361 3PT% since 2016/17) on offense, and figures to replace Covington as the team’s primary perimeter stopper on defense. As for Patton, his NBA career has been derailed by foot injuries, and he’s unlikely to be a Sixer beyond this season.

Even if they re-sign Butler in 2019, the Sixers won’t necessarily be capped out quite yet, with Simmons still on his rookie deal. As ESPN’s Bobby Marks details, with cap holds for Butler and fellow free agent T.J. McConnell to consider, the team would have about $21MM in cap room next summer. If the 76ers want to clear enough room for another max player, trading Fultz would just about get them there, though Philadelphia’s cap sheet could get messy in that scenario, with an eventual max deal for Simmons also on the horizon.

For Minnesota, this trade will end a near two-month saga after Butler’s trade request went public. The week before training camps got underway, word broke that Butler had asked to be traded during a meeting with Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau and didn’t intend to report to camp.

When the Wolves didn’t find a trade for Butler right away, he rejoined the team, but the last five or six weeks have been rife with drama. The 29-year-old’s return to Minnesota was highlighted by a now-infamous expletive-filled rant in a preseason practice, and things hadn’t quieted down much since then. Now that the Wolves have finally resolved the situation, the team will have an opportunity to focus on a future centered around former No. 1 overall picks Towns and Wiggins.

The Timberwolves will now add Covington and Saric to that long-term core — Saric won’t be up for restricted free agency until 2020, while Covington is locked up through 2022. Both players make sense for Thibodeau, GM Scott Layden, and the Wolves, who didn’t want to take a significant step back in their roster-building process after snapping a lengthy postseason-less streak this past spring. Covington and Saric will be able to jump into the rotation immediately and should also be part of the team for years to come.

Bayless is on an expiring contract and almost certainly won’t be part of Minnesota’s future plans, as he was just included in the swap for salary-matching purposes. If the Wolves don’t plan for Bayless to have a role this season, he’ll become a buyout candidate.

Thibodeau, Layden, owner Glen Taylor, and the Timberwolves also reportedly discussed potential Butler trades with several other teams before agreeing to terms with the Sixers. The Rockets and Heat were said to be the most aggressive suitors, as Minnesota allegedly passed on a Miami offer that included Josh Richardson and a first-round pick, and also balked at a Houston offer featuring four first-round picks.

We don’t know what the protections on those Rockets’ first-rounders or the Heat first-rounder would have looked like, and the Wolves likely would have had to take on an unwanted multiyear contract in each of those proposals. Still, it will still be fascinating to see how Covington and Saric pan out in Minnesota, since we have a sense of what sort of other packages were available to the Wolves.

While Thibodeau exercised plenty of patience through the Butler saga, that patience ran out after the Timberwolves concluded their 0-5 road trip on Friday, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter link). League sources told Wojnarowski that Thibodeau came to the realization Minnesota couldn’t win with Butler in such a dysfunctional environment, and told associates that the team wouldn’t play another game with Butler.

Wojnarowski and ESPN’s Brian Windhorst also report (via Twitter) that team ownership was “heavily involved” on both sides of the negotiations, with Taylor and Josh Harris of the Sixers working closely with management to finalize a deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Luke Adams contributed to this post.