Scott Layden

Latest On Tom Thibodeau, Wolves

Contrary to a report that emerged last night in the wake of Tom Thibodeau’s firing in Minnesota, former Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg is not an “immediate candidate” to become the team’s next coach or president, a source tells Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

Interim coach Ryan Saunders will be given an opportunity to earn the job on a permanent basis, Krawczynski adds, and he has strong support from his players, who respect his work ethic and welcome his approachable nature as a change from Thibodeau. The organization will consider hiring an assistant who has experience as a head coach to help Saunders with the challenges of his new position.

GM Scott Layden was retained last night and will likely remain in place for the rest of the season, but he may need the team to make the playoffs to keep his job beyond that.

While the Wolves have a disappointing 19-21 record, the decision to part with Thibodeau was based on business as much as basketball, Krawczynski writes. The coach had become unpopular with fans, who routinely booed him every time his name was announced in pre-game introductions. Even worse, they were staying away, as Minnesota has dropped to 29th in home attendance after ranking 21st last season. The organization didn’t want to keep an alienating presence in place with a season ticket drive looming.

It’s no secret that owner Glen Taylor was unhappy with Thibodeau and Layden over how they handled the situation with Jimmy Butler before he was traded to the Sixers. Taylor commented several times that he believed both men were dragging their feet on Butler’s trade request and that they let the volatile star hijack the team during training camp and the early season.

Thibodeau has long had a reputation of giving heavy minutes to his starters, and several players complained about poor communication over their roles. Krawczynski reports that Gorgui Dieng, who has fallen out of the rotation after signing a huge contract, was “openly seething” in the locker room after Friday’s game. Tyus Jones, Anthony Tolliver and Jeff Teague have also expressed frustration over their status on the team.

As one of the few remaining coach/executives left in the league, Thibodeau’s standing was also harmed by several personnel decisions that didn’t work out. He was the driving force behind the decision to send Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and a draft pick that turned out to be Lauri Markkanen to the Bulls to acquire Butler. He also convinced Taylor to part with Ricky Rubio in exchange for Teague. And of course, he was responsible for bringing Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, his former players in Chicago, to Minnesota to form the “Timber-Bulls.”

Taylor was in Florida last night as Layden and CEO Ethan Casson delivered the news to Thibodeau. Taylor’s only comment came in an official statement from the organization, saying, “These decisions are never easy to make, but we felt them necessary to move our organization forward.”

Timberwolves Fire Tom Thibodeau

The Timberwolves have fired Tom Thibodeau as their head coach and president of basketball operations, according to Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (via Twitter). After dealing with the Jimmy Butler fiasco, the Timberwolves currently sit at 19-21 and are on the outside looking in on the Western Conference playoff picture.

Krawczynski is also reporting that Ryan Saunders will take over as head coach on an interim basis while Scott Layden will still serve as the team’s general manager.

Meanwhile, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is reporting that Fred Hoiberg is a serious candidate to become the team’s GM or coach. Hoiberg previously served as the Timberwolves’ assistant GM before leaving to be the head coach at Iowa State University. Wojnarowski also believes that Monty Williams may emerge as a serious candidate for the coaching position due to previous interest that the Timberwolves had in bringing Williams in as head coach.

Team owner Glen Taylor spoke to the media about the decision to fire Thibodeau, stating that “we’ve gone up through halfway through the season and I don’t think we’re where we thought we would be or where we think we should be.” Taylor also expressed a desire to make the playoffs, believing that making such a change with half the season left may give the Wolves a chance to do so.

In two and a half seasons with the Timberwolves, Thibodeau had a 96-107 regular season record, leading the club to the playoffs last season for the first time since 2004. However, his decision to acquire Butler from his old team in Chicago ultimately led to his downfall. Although the All-NBA swingman helped Minnesota win 47 games in 2017/18, his offseason trade request – and Thibodeau’s initial reluctance to grant that request – created several weeks of drama within the organization and didn’t reflect well on Thibs.

Thibodeau’s firing represents a continuation of a trend in the NBA’s head coaching ranks. Within the last two years, four head coaches who held president of basketball operations titles within their respective organizations have had those responsibilities removed or have been fired altogether. Mike Budenholzer (Hawks), Doc Rivers (Clippers), and Stan Van Gundy (Pistons) were the others. Gregg Popovich of the Spurs is now the only NBA head coach who is also his team’s head of basketball operations.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Woj’s Latest: Butler, Timberwolves, Thibodeau

In a piece regarding the final days of the Jimmy Butler saga in Minnesota, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN provides a closer look into the Timberwolves‘ front office and the back-and-forth that went down before the trade was finally completed. Let’s dive into some of the highlights he provides:

  • Tom Thibodeau sold Timberwolves‘ owner Glen Taylor on passing on the initial offer from the Heat centered around Josh Richardson because he believed that Pat Riley would come back with a better offer down the road (the Heat never returned with Richardson on the table in subsequent trade talks).
  • Taylor considered firing Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden this past summer before the Butler saga broke out and continues to think about the possibility of replacing both of them.
  • According to Woj, the Timberwolves desperately tried to find other trade partners throughout the past week, including reaching out to the Pelicans and Wizards, to no avail. The Wolves actually had “extensive” discussions with the Pels, but New Orleans wouldn’t offer Jrue Holiday or multiple draft picks. Washington, meanwhile wouldn’t offer Bradley Beal, which comes as no surprise.
  • The Sixers initially offered the Timberwolves their choice of Robert Covington and Dario Saric in an offer for Butler before eventually agreeing to include both players.
  • The Sixers believe they are operating out of a position of leverage when it comes to dealings with Butler. According to Woj, there are league executives that understand that Butler must be on his best behavior in order to get the full five-year max contract he desires this summer.

Wolves Demanding Eric Gordon From Rockets

The Rocketslatest attempt to get Jimmy Butler from the Timberwolves by offering Brandon Knight, Marquese Chriss and four first-round picks is a non-starter, according to Malika Andrews of ESPN, who hears from sources that Minnesota won’t consider any deal that doesn’t include Eric Gordon.

Coach Tom Thibodeau is focused on returning to the playoffs and wants a trade that will benefit the team right away. Knight and Chriss are both injured and neither has been effective over the past two seasons in Phoenix. Thibodeau still has three years and $24MM left on his contract, but there have been rumors that his job may be in jeopardy if the Wolves commit to a full rebuilding project.

Plan A for Thibodeau is to hold onto Butler for as long as possible — possibly until February’s trade deadline — to help with the playoff push, Andrews adds. However, the team is off to a 2-4 start, including a 30-point loss last night to the Bucks, so that strategy isn’t off to a great start.

Butler, who started the process with a trade request last month, has received assurances from owner Glen Taylor that the team will continue to pursue a deal, according to Andrews, who hears from sources that another serious effort will be made about 10 to 15 games into the season.

Taylor has put GM Scott Layden in charge of working out a trade while Thibodeau coaches the team. The Heat and Sixers remain interested and Taylor has been hoping both teams will consider increasing their offers.

“I don’t consider anything drama,” Butler told reporters after a season-low four-point performance Friday. “I consider it business.”

Latest On Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler gave a first-hand account of his return to Timberwolves practice and offered his perspective on the standoff with team management in an interview with Rachel Nichols of ESPN’s “The Jump.” (Twitter link)

Butler describes an exchange with Karl-Anthony Towns during today’s drills. Towns allegedly quipped, “Anybody can get this work,” when they were matched up, and Butler responded with the challenge, “Do it to me” and “Every time I get switched out onto you, you pass it.”

Later in the interview, in an exchange tweeted by Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune, Nichols asked Butler if his presence at practice is a sign that the situation is improving. “I think people think that,” he responded. “I would think that, too. It’s not. It’s not fixed.” He suggested it “could be” fixable, but added, “Do I think so? No. You’ve got to be honest.”

Butler also defended his actions at today’s session, saying, “A lot of it is true. But you got to think I haven’t played basketball in so long and I’m so passionate. I love the game… All my emotion came out at once. Was it the right way to do it? No, but I can’t control it when I’m out there competing.” (Twitter link).

There’s more news to pass along on the Butler situation:

  • Butler sent a message to teammates and the front office by joining forces with third-string players and defeating the starters in today’s scrimmage, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Woj adds that some of the Wolves were “energized” by Butler’s performance and that he followed it by marching out of the gym as though he was doing a “mic drop.”
  • Butler spent much of the practice on a profanity-laced tirade, mostly aimed at Towns, Andrew Wiggins, coach/executive Tom Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Butler taunted Towns and Wiggins by yelling, “They soft” as he faced them in the scrimmage. Neither player confronted him for his actions. Haynes adds that Butler has warned team officials in the past that he might find ways to express his displeasure if his trade request isn’t met.
  • The organization has reacted poorly ever since Butler made his trade demand three weeks ago, argues Britt Robson of The Athletic in a roundtable discussion. Robson contends the best response would have been to trade Butler quickly and start rebuilding the team around Towns and Wiggins. Instead, Thibodeau and Layden publicly expressed a desire to work things out with Butler and dragged their feet on numerous trade offers. Robson also blasts Towns and Wiggins for not playing with more desire in an effort to prove that Butler is wrong about them.

Latest On Jimmy Butler

The Timberwolves appear as if they are preparing to start the season with Jimmy Butler on the roster despite the fact that the four-time All-Star has reiterated his desire to be traded. Butler maintains his stance even after the organization made numerous attempts to convince him to stay.

Heavy negotiations between the Heat and Wolves broke down yet again this week with Miami’s latest offer not satisfying Minnesota’s front office. The Heat’s proposal was a package headlined by Josh Richardson and a protected first-round pick, as Marc Stein of The New York Times reports in his weekly newsletter. Stein doesn’t provide full details on that offer, but based on Miami’s reported interest in moving Dion Waiters, it wouldn’t be surprising if he was also included for salary-matching purposes.

Here’s more on Butler and the Wolves:

  • Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden have been known as one of the most difficult front offices to negotiate with over the past two years, agents and executives within the league tell Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. That has continued to be the case with teams attempting to nab Butler. Rivals have been willing to undergo “unconventional” negotiations because of Butler’s talent, Krawczynski explains, adding that if Butler weren’t a franchise talent, rival organizations would simply hang up the phone and not deal with the Thibs/Layden duo.
  • According to Krawczynski, the Timberwolves are still talking with teams about a potential deal and talks with Miami are expected to resume this week.
  • Should Minnesota hold onto Butler through opening night, he is unlikely to sit out and forfeit game checks. Butler was in Los Angeles when the Wolves faced the Clippers last week and he dined with several current teammates. While some players have said Butler would be welcomed back on the team, Krawczynski notes that it would no doubt add to the club’s chemistry issues.
  • Thibodeau would welcome Butler back unconditionally should he warm up to the idea of playing out the season in Minnesota even though he could leave for nothing next summer, Stein reports in the aforementioned newsletter. Thibs also isn’t concerned about how uncomfortable the situation might get between Butler and the team’s young stars (Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins). Butler’s “chilly” relationships with Towns and Wiggins are said to be high on the list of reasons why Butler wants out, per Stein.
  • The Heat, Clippers, Sixers, Nets have all reportedly had negotiations with the Timberwolves for Butler. Stein contends that Miami’s package headlined by Richardson and a protected first-rounder is likely the best-case scenario for Minnesota, given the circumstances. Stein believes that deal allows the Wolves to recoup a good portion of the value they gave up (Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and the draft pick that became Lauri Markkanen) to bring aboard Butler in the first place.

Wolves Owner Wants Jimmy Butler Deal Done Soon

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor has taken control of the Jimmy Butler trade talks and wants to get a deal completed as soon as possible, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Tom Thibodeau, who serves as president of basketball operations as well as coach, had been objecting to a deal, hoping to hold onto the veteran forward for another season. However, Taylor wants the process to end before training camp starts Tuesday and has mandated that a deal get done quickly.

Wojnarowski cautions that no team has entered serious discussion with the Wolves yet, but he identifies the Nets, Pistons, Rockets, Clippers, Heat, Sixers and Trail Blazers as franchises that have shown interest.

Taylor plans to review the offers over the next two days, then present the best ones to Butler and his agent, Bernie Lee, to see which teams Butler would be willing to sign a five-year extension with. That information will be used to help finalize a deal, although Wojnarowski adds that some teams would be willing to trade for Butler with no guarantee of an extension .

GM Scott Layden may have jeopardized his job by refusing to talk to other teams about a Butler deal, according to Wojnarowski. Taylor has demanded that Layden start aggressively pursuing a trade, even to the point of contacting rival GMs. Taylor has been considering changes in the front office for months and may re-evaluate Layden’s role once the Butler deal is done.

Wolves Notes: Thibodeau, Towns, Aldrich, Patton

Timberwolves head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau and General Manager Scott Layden hosted a news conference this afternoon to discuss tomorrow’s draft, upcoming free agency, and reports of Karl-Anthony Towns wanting out of Minnesota, reports Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune.

Despite reports of Towns’ unhappiness, Thibodeau says the relationship between the franchise and its star player is all well, telling reporters that everybody is in a good place.

 “Yeah, yeah. He’s doing quite well. And I love KAT. He has had a terrific start to his career… To get to where we are — obviously we’re not ultimately where we want to be, but it was a major step forward — you can’t do it individually. It’s got to be the whole group doing it together. And for the most part, I think we are in a good place.”

Regarding the draft, the Wolves own the No. 20 and No. 48 picks and Thibodeau said anything remains possible as the team tries to address their needs.

“It’s one of the few times through the year you have a chance to improve the club, so all options are open right now. We know there’s a great challenge in front of us. The shooting and the toughness, the defense and building the depth.”

As for free agency, Layden said that the team would concentrate more on the free agent market once July 1 draws closer, but that he knows the type of player Thibodeau looks for.

“We know the type of player we need to be in coach’s system and to succeed here. I think we have a real good understanding of that now. So whether it’d be trade, whether it be through free agency or the draft, we have a clear understanding of what type of players will fit here.”

There’s more out of Minneapolis:

  • In the same story, Zgoda says he expects the team to buy out backup center Cole Aldrich before the new league year begins next weekend. Aldrich is owed nearly $7MM in 2018/19, but only about $2MM is guaranteed, so the Wolves can significantly reduce his cap hit by cutting him. Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News confirms that the salary guarantee deadline for Aldrich is June 30.
  • Another backup center, Justin Patton, whom the Wolves used their first round selection on last year at No. 16, is finally working out after surgery, but Thibodeau says he will miss all summer and likely most of the fall as well, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.
  • Krawczynski also tweeted that Layden believes the team is fortunate because their need for wings and shooting line up well with what prospects should still be available at No. 20 tomorrow night.
  • In a separate piece for the Star Tribune, Zgoda takes a look at the prospects the Wolves may be targeting with the No. 20 overall selection, including Grayson AllenDonte DiVincenzoKhyri Thomas, and Jacob Evans.

Free Agent Rumors: Howard, Lee, Waiters

Dwight Howard‘s meeting with the Hawks has concluded and a source tells Chris Broussard of ESPN.com (Twitter link) that Atlanta was “impressive.” Howard will still listen to the Celtics’ pitch, as well as speak with other teams, and a decision is expected to be made within the the next day.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Minnesota GM Scott Layden has reached out to Courtney Lee, but no offer has been made yet, Darren Wolfson of ESPN.com tweets. In addition to the Wolves, Lee has received interest from the Knicks, Kings, Nets and Hawks, according to Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link). Kennedy adds that Atlanta’s interest in Lee is contingent on Kent Bazemore‘s decision to stay or leave in free agency.
  • Dion Waiters will have a face-to-face meeting with the Kings this weekend, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. Pompey adds that the Sixers would like their own meeting with the shooting guard.
  • James Ennis has received calls from the Pelicans, Mavericks, Clippers, Warriors and Hawks, according to Scott Kushner of The Advocate (Twitter link).
  • Nick Minnerath is receiving interest from the Nets, Lakers, Wizards, Pelicans and Mavericks, tweets international journalist David Pick.  Minnerath last played in the D-League for the Canton Charge.

And-Ones: Zanik, Kidd, Brown, Cousins

The Bucks will hire Justin Zanik as GM-in-waiting and are working on a contract extension for coach Jason Kidd, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Currently an assistant GM in Utah, Zanik will have a similar title with the Bucks. A provision of the move is that Zanik will eventually take over for Milwaukee GM John Hammond, although it’s uncertain when that will happen. Hammond has been GM of the Bucks since 2008 and has one year left on his contract.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • California forward Jaylen Brown worked out for the Bucks, Raptors and Sixers today, tweets Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. A source told Spears that Brown was in “great shape” and “super explosive.” He is expected to be a top 10 pick and could be in the running for the No. 3 choice. New Timberwolves GM Scott Layden also traveled to California to see Brown and came away impressed, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
  • Oklahoma point guard Isaiah Cousins worked out for the Suns on Friday, and has upcoming sessions with the Raptors on Tuesday and the Hawks on Thursday, tweets Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv.
  • Anthony Bennett and Quinn Cook were the most recognizable players invited to a Nets mini-camp this week, according to NetsDaily. Bennett, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft, played 19 games with the Raptors last season. Cook, the point guard on Duke’s 2015 NCAA title team, was cut by the Cavaliers in training camp. Also receiving invitations were Alex Stepheson, Scotty Hopson, Alex KirkJerrelle BenimonFuquan Edwin, D.J. Newbill, Will CummingsJarrid Famous, Victor Rudd, Josh Magette and Joel Wright. International journalist David Pick says the Nets are planning another session.