Taj Gibson

Wolves Rumors: Butler, Bjelica, Gibson, Rose

Jimmy Butler offered an update on his medical condition at a press conference before tonight’s game. Butler, who had surgery last month for a torn right meniscus, said there’s no projected date for his return, but he hopes to play before the end of the regular season.

“I’m excited at my progression because I know how close I am to returning back to the floor with my guys,” he says in a video tweeted by KSTP Sports. “I have a little bit of [recovery] time left, but I know my guys are going to stick this thing out and do what they’ve been doing. Keep us in that race, and when I come back we’ll see what we have left in the tank.”

There’s more news out of Minnesota:

  • Butler’s injury has provided an opportunity for Nemanja Bjelica, who is increasing his value on the free agent market with his recent performance, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Bjelica was averaging just nine minutes per game before the All-Star break, but has topped 40 minutes three times in March. “To be hon­est, I just try to play as good and hard as I can and at the end of the day, ev­er­y­bod­y will be fine,” Bjelica, who will be a restricted free agent, said about the possibility of staying in Minnesota. “I’m hap­py here. My fam­i­ly is hap­py. Some­times I hate Jan­u­ar­y be­cause it’s so cold, but I kind of got used to it.”
  • Also taking on a heavy workload is veteran forward Taj Gibson, Zgoda notes in a separate story. In his first season with the Wolves after signing as a free agent last summer, Gibson is averaging 33.5 minutes per night, roughly five minutes more than his career peak set four seasons ago. The 32-year-old said he doesn’t mind the extra work. “Life is too short to be holding back,” Gibson said. “I go out there and lay it on the line, just do what I got to do. When I come off the court, I don’t want to have any regrets when I go home. I don’t worry about minutes or how much I play.”
  • Historical trends are working against Derrick Rose ever being an effective player again, according to Zach Kram of The Ringer. His study finds that a small percentage of guards who have made an All-NBA team are ever able to raise their level of play after their first below-average season.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 3/2/18

Here are Friday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

  • The Timberwolves have recalled rookie big man Justin Patton from the G League, according to a team press release. Patton, who has yet to make his NBA debut, may provide some emergency frontcourt depth for Minnesota on Friday night, with Shabazz Muhammad gone and Taj Gibson injured.
  • Cavaliers center Ante Zizic continues to bounce back and forth between the NBA and G League, with the team announcing in a press release that he has been re-assigned to Canton. The Cavs’ G League affiliate will host the Grand Rapids Drive on Friday night, so Zizic should be in Canton’s starting lineup for that game.
  • The Spurs have sent guards Brandon Paul and Derrick White to the G League, the team announced today in a press release. The backcourt duo figures to suit up for the Austin Spurs on Friday night as San Antonio’s G League affiliate hosts the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
  • The Jazz have recalled Tony Bradley from the Salt Lake City Stars, according to the team’s website. Bradley has had 16 trips to the G League this season.

Northwest Notes: George, Schedules, Rose

As we’ve already touched upon, fans in Los Angeles who hope to see Paul George don a Lakers uniform next season serenaded the five-time All-Star with chants during this past weekend’s All-Star festivities. And while Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook would obviously like to see George remain in Oklahoma City, the speculation about George’s future likely won’t stop until a decision is made this summer, writes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman.

George, who is scheduled to make $20.7MM next year on the final season of his current contract, has the ability to opt out and become a free agent this summer. Doing so would afford him the chance to make upwards of $30MM next season in the first year of his new contract, whether it be with the Thunder or another team.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reports that while some NBA executives still feel that George is drawn by Los Angeles and will leave unless the Thunder reach the NBA Finals, others have become increasingly skeptical that he’ll depart Oklahoma City. Regardless of what happens, George says he wants wherever he ends up to be a long-term commitment.

“I’m not looking to bounce around and play for multiple teams throughout my career,” George said. “The decision I make will ultimately be to build something. So, this next decision, whatever it is, is to make sure I’m there for a duration.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Some members of the Timberwolves believe that the new NBA schedule, implemented this season to reduce the number of back-to-back games and ensure teams now don’t play four games in five nights, is actually making the season feel longer, reports Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune. “You can tell there’s a big difference,” says Taj Gibson. “A lot of guys are getting hurt. The fatigue is there.”
  • The Jazz, on the other hand, have one of the most favorable slates in the whole league going forward after drudging through a 5-10 December that saw them play the toughest schedule in the NBA. And Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News opines that the favorable schedule could see Utah, now 10th in the Western Conference standings, move as high as the No. 5 spot by the time the playoffs roll around.
  • In another article for the Star Tribune, Zgoda writes that Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler, while a fan of free agent guard and former teammate Derrick Rose, will not try to influence the team to sign Rose. “That’s not my job,” Butler said. “Is he a hell of a player? Yeah. But that’s up to Thibs and everybody else to figure if he has a place on this roster and this team. Obviously, I’ve played with him before. I know the talent he has. (But) It’s not my job to say.”

Northwest Notes: Mitchell, Allen, Butler, Gibson

Jazz rookie guard Donovan Mitchell intended to return to Louisville for his junior season when tested the draft waters, Tim MacMahon of ESPN reports. Mitchell paid his expenses to the Creative Artists Agency pre-draft camp because he wanted to see what improvements he needed in his game before returning to college, MacMahon continues. Chris Paul and Paul George convinced Mitchell during the camp that he was good enough to be a first-round selection. The Jazz targeted him after an interview during the Chicago pre-draft camp and traded into the lottery to snag him, MacMahon adds.

In other news involving the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets coach Michael Malone downplays the feeling that the franchise made a mistake dealing Mitchell, the No. 13 pick, to the Jazz, Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News tweets. “The only thing I can say is obviously we got (forward) Trey Lyles in that deal and Trey Lyles has been great for us,“ Malone told Woodyard. Mitchell doesn’t hold any grudges against Denver for trading him, Kyle Goon of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets.
  • Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen is the biggest reason why the franchise is wallowing in mediocrity, John Canzano of The Oregonian opines. Allen’s hands-on approach has been a failure, which has led to numerous GM and coaching changes, Canzano continues. The best way for the franchise to move forward is for Allen to let his basketball staff and coaches do their jobs without his constant meddling, Canzano adds.
  • The acquisitions of Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson have transformed the Timberwolves, as coach Tom Thibodeau told Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and other reporters. “Just the toughness,” Thibodeau said. “You’re talking about two elite defenders and knowing how important defense is and making the right plays offensively. … You can ask (Butler) to guard any player on the floor and he does it. They don’t take any possessions off and they understand how hard you have to play on every possession. With young guys, sometimes they don’t understand that. You can’t take plays off and you can’t pick and choose when you’re going to play defense.”

Northwest Notes: Gibson, T. Jones, O’Neale, Lillard

Taj Gibson is justifying the Timberwolves‘ decision to give him a two-year, $28MM contract this summer, writes Britt Robson of The Athletic. Many questioned committing that much to Gibson when Minnesota had obvious needs at the wing and Gorgui Dieng already in place at power forward. Through the first month of the season, Gibson is logging a career high in minutes at 30.7 per game, while Dieng’s playing time has been cut to 15.4 per night from 32.4 a year ago.

“I talk to Gorgui every day. That’s my guy,” Gibson said. “He understands it too that you want to take care of yourself and be in this league a long time. It’s not about the minutes, it is about the production with the minutes you get. I tell him that you want that option where teams know you can start or come off the bench; that’s how you are a great teammate.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Tyus Jones is also finding minutes hard to come by off the Wolves‘ bench, but he is compensating by developing chemistry with center Karl-Anthony Towns, relays Kent Youngblood of The Star-Tribune. Jones, who recently had his fourth-year option picked up, has developed an effective two-man game with Towns. “We’ve known each other since high school,’’ Towns said. “We’ve had a great chemistry. And we play the same style of basketball.”
  • Injuries have presented Jazz small forward Royce O’Neale with an unexpected chance for playing time, notes Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune. Undrafted out of Baylor in 2015, O’Neale spent one season in Germany and another in Spain before getting a shot with Utah’s summer league team. He played a career-high 21 minutes in Friday’s loss to the Nets. “It felt good to play real minutes,” he said. “You never know when your name is going to be called, so I have to take advantage of the playing time when I get the chance. It’s just about going out and executing the work I put into practice every day.”
  • Damian Lillard is coming to the defense of Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts, who is under fire for the team’s sluggish start, writes Mike Richman of The Oregonian. The heat was turned up after Friday’s loss to Sacramento, which prompted Lillard to respond to fans on Instagram. “Late game turnovers and not getting stops has nothing to do with a coach,” Lillard wrote. “Blame me then. This the NBA … we play 82 games and we’ve played 15 and won more than we’ve lost. Relax family.”

Northwest Notes: Gibson, Felton, OKC, Blazers

Outside shooting is one potential area of concern for the Timberwolves heading into the 2017/18 season, as many of the team’s major offseason additions, including Jimmy Butler, aren’t exactly marksmen from three-point range. However, as Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune outlines, the Wolves may end up getting some shooting from an unlikely source, with Taj Gibson – who has made four career three-pointers – working to extend his range.

“He worked on it all summer,” said head coach Tom Thibodeau after Gibson made a pair of threes in the Timberwolves’ preseason opener. “He always had a pretty good corner jump shot from 17 feet. He has stretched it out. As long as he works on it and he’s comfortable shooting it, I’m good with it.”

Thibodeau went out and signed the former Bull this offseason because he valued Gibson’s selflessness and toughness, but if the veteran big man can develop a reliable outside shot, it would give the Timberwolves a much-needed boost.

Here’s more from around the Northwest division:

  • Given the Thunder‘s struggles last season when Russell Westbrook wasn’t on the court, the impact of Oklahoma City’s Raymond Felton signing shouldn’t be overlooked, writes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. As Horne notes, the Thunder are expected to stagger Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony, meaning Felton should have some help, but the veteran point guard has taken ownership of the team’s second unit.
  • In a separate piece for The Oklahoman, Horne examines the 15th spot on the Thunder‘s roster. The club currently has 13 players on fully guaranteed salaries, with Jerami Grant set to make the roster too. That leaves one opening for a player like Semaj Christon or Isaiah Canaan, but with multiple players capable of handling the ball, the Thunder may decide they don’t need another point guard and opt to enter the season with that 15th spot open, writes Horne.
  • While this year’s Trail Blazers‘ roster looks very similar to last year’s squad, a pair of positions in the starting lineup are up for grabs, with the club attempting to determine its rotation at the forward spots. Joe Freeman of The Oregonian takes a closer look.

Timberwolves Sign Taj Gibson

"<strongJULY 10: The Timberwolves have officially signed Gibson, the team confirmed today.

JULY 2: The Timberwolves have agreed to sign free agent power forward Taj Gibson, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical (via Twitter). According to Charania, Gibson will receive $28MM on a two-year deal from Minnesota.

The pact doesn’t include an option (player or team) for the second year, per Sam Amick of USA Today (on Twitter). News of the agreement comes on the heels of a report from Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link) that the Wolves’ interest in Gibson had “increased.”

[RELATED: 2017 NBA Free Agent Tracker]

By agreeing to join the Wolves, Gibson will reunite with Tom Thibodeau, who coached the forward in Chicago. He’ll also be joining former Bulls teammate Jimmy Butler, who was acquired by Minnesota in a blockbuster trade. The market for Gibson’s services was relatively quiet, with the only other team reportedly interested in him being the Kings.

Inking Gibson will wipe out most, if not all, of Minnesota’s remaining cap room. The Wolves are still armed with their Room Exception, valued at about $4.33MM, which can be used to further bolster their ever-improving roster. However, adding Gibson almost certainly eliminates the Wolves from the Paul Millsap sweepstakes, which may make the Nuggets the frontrunner to land the versatile forward.

The Timberwolves will likely have to renounce their qualifying offer for Shabazz Muhammad in order to sign Gibson, which would make the swingman an unrestricted free agent. Muhammad could – in theory – still return to Minnesota, but the Wolves would no longer have matching rights, allowing him to sign outright with another club.

Gibson, 32, split his time between the Bulls and Thunder last season. He appeared in a total of 78 contests, averaging 10.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 0.9 assists. He shot .515/.231/.715 from the field.

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

Western FA Notes: Muhammad, Holiday, Young

A theme is developing in Minnesota as head coach Tom Thibodeau slowly molds the young Timberwolves into a modern day version of his old team. Consider Justin Holiday the latest former Bulls rotation piece that the T-Wolves have expressed an interest in, Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders writes.

Holiday would join Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson with the Wolves, should the organization seek to sign the 28-year-old 3-and-D specialist.

The Bulls and Knicks, the team with whom Holiday averaged 7.7 points per game for in 2016/17, are both said to be interested in retaining the swingman’s services.

There’s more today as free agency rolls along:

  • The Timberwolves will likely have to renounce Shabazz Muhammad in the wake of today’s two-year, $28MM agreement with Taj Gibson, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News. He adds that Muhammad’s representatives have been notifying teams that he is now an unrestricted free agent (Twitter link).
  • Nick Young has emerged as a candidate for the Warriors‘ $5.2MM exception, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The Pelicans can offer more playing time and a larger role in the offense, notes David Aldridge of TNT (Twitter link), but Young may opt for the chance for a ring.
  • Gordon Hayward will meet with Jazz officials in San Diego, not Utah, on Monday, tweets Jody Genessy of The Deseret News. Coach Quin Snyder, GM Dennis Lindsey and team president Steve Starks will be among Utah’s delegation.
  • The Rockets‘ interest in Cleveland’s Iman Shumpert is “basically dead,” according to Cody Taylor of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link). The teams had trade discussions regarding Shumpert on Saturday before Houston signed Tucker.

Free Agent Rumors: Durant, Hayward, Gay, Kings

The defending NBA champion Warriors started free agency off with a bang, agreeing to terms with two-time Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry to the richest pact in league history. The team will reportedly sign Curry to a five-year deal worth $201MM+ and now the focus turns to retaining the remainder of Golden State’s championship-winning roster.

Last year’s prized acquisition, Kevin Durant, led the team to a championship and is now a free agent. However, Chris Haynes of ESPN (via Twitter) reports that teams have not reached out to Durant’s camp to gauge his interest in leaving because they see it as a “waste of time.” Earlier this week, it was reported that Durant will wait to re-sign with the Warriors to allow the team to finish other offseason business, and he will not meet with other teams during that stretch.

Below are additional rumors surrounding this year’s free agency period:

  • If the Heat’s pursuit of Gordon Hayward falls through, the team may turn its attention to fellow free agent Rudy Gay, according to Chris Mannix of The Vertical (via Twitter). Mannix adds that Gay told the outlet he should be ready for the start of the season as he recovers from a torn Achilles.
  • The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor (via Twitter) cites three league sources who believe the Heat are the frontrunners for Hayward. The sunny beaches and warm weather of Miami, a popular coach in Erik Spoelstra, and a prominent role in which he can be the team’s primary scorer are all lucrative incentives, O’Connor notes. However, O’Connor acknowledges that it’s a fluid situation, and a lot could change based on Hayward’s meetings.
  • Restricted free agent Alan Williams is a “serious” candidate to sign with the Knicks, a source tells Marc Berman of The New York Post (Twitter link). While the Suns could match any offer for Williams, their willingness to do so may hinge on who else they’re able to land in free agency.
  • The Kings are intent on landing a power forward in free agency, according to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, who tweets that Zach Randolph, Patrick Patterson, and Taj Gibson are all on Sacramento’s radar. We had previously heard about the team’s interest in Randolph and Patterson.
  • According to Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press (via Twitter), the Pistons have been in contact with Reggie Bullock, Aron Baynes, and restricted free agent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope since free agency opened late on Friday night.

Northwest Notes: Hayward, Jazz, OKC, Gibson

Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward has earned a max contract, according to Randy Hollis of The Deseret News. Hollis admits that he had been wrong about Hayward and hopes that Hayward elects to return to the Jazz in free agency in a fascinating piece that touts the budding star’s basketball brilliance.

Let’s round up a few more notes from around the Northwest…

  • Alec Burks has had a difficult past few years as a result of injury, but he’s poised for a comeback, reports Mike Sorensen of The Deseret News. “It’s frustrating,” Burke said to Sorensen. “My (latest) injury was way more serious than I thought. But I’m a soldier and I learned a lot about my body and the game of basketball during the time out.”
  • While Trey Lyles suffered through a disappointing sophomore campaign, Jazz coach Quin Snyder is certainly not giving up on his forward, per Randy Hollis of The Deseret News. “I think, for Trey, like a lot of young players, it’s more about him taking stock and looking at the year, figuring out he can use it to improve,” Snyder said. “Sometimes you have to go through some things like that in order to get a good gauge on where you are. I expect Trey to have a terrific summer and look forward to him leveraging some of that adversity to make himself a better player.”
  • Taj Gibson would love to return to the Thunder, but he will have many suitors, writes Erik Horne of NewsOK.com. Horne’s piece discusses Gibson’s success in Oklahoma City after being traded from Chicago and names the power forward as likely the team’s best option in free agency.
  • Although the Thunder are locked into the 21st overall pick in the draft, Tuesday night’s lottery may very well have implications for the team, as the draft ordering could affect which players are available on the trade market, writes Brett Dawson of NewsOK.com.
  • Marcus Smart, who played his college ball at Oklahoma State, would fit in very well with the Thunder, writes Berry Tramel of NewsOK.com. Smart remains under contract with Boston for one more year.