Tim Connelly

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Hyland, Jokic, Connelly, Cousins

When Jamal Murray was practicing with the Nuggets in April and weighing the possibility of returning from his ACL tear, he was more apprehensive on the defensive side of the ball than on offense, Mike Singer of The Denver Post said on the HoopsHype podcast with Michael Scotto.

“He was concerned about fighting around screens, getting dinged, diving for loose balls, and that half-second hesitancy that might still be there as a result of that ACL tear he had,” Singer said.

However, that hesitancy was no longer evident when Murray practiced with Denver’s Summer League team a few weeks ago, according to Singer, who suggests that Denver’s decision to trade Monte Morris signals the club is confident in Murray’s ability to return strong in 2022/23.

The Morris trade was also a sign that Bones Hyland will have a bigger role going forward, according to Scotto, who has heard that the 2021 first-rounder has put on six pounds of muscle this offseason and is working out twice a day as he prepares for a minutes bump in the fall.

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Singer suggests that if Morris had reached free agency this summer, he likely would’ve earned a deal in the range of $14-15MM annually, as opposed to the $9MM he’ll make on his current deal. The Nuggets’ reluctance to pay that much to retain the point guard once his contract expires in 2024 was one reason why the team was willing to move him. As for Will Barton, his age (32 in January), injury history, and defensive limitations were factors in Denver’s decision to trade him, per Singer.
  • People around the Nuggets were “pinching themselves” when Nikola Jokic signed a five-year extension to remain with the team and appreciated that those negotiations were drama-free, according to Singer. As Singer points out, Denver is typically viewed as “a place where (star) free agents don’t want to come,” so Jokic’s decision to commit long-term was a testament to the relationship he has built with the franchise. Of course, the fact that he’ll be in line for a projected $270MM (an NBA record) on the five-year deal probably didn’t hurt either.
  • Singer believes that if the Nuggets had offered president of basketball operations Tim Connelly an extension worth about $5-6MM per year before the Timberwolves began pursuing him in earnest, he likely would’ve been “eager to stay” in Denver. However, the Nuggets were unwilling to match the five-year, $40MM offer Minnesota eventually made.
  • Singer got the impression there was some “friction” behind the scenes with DeMarcus Cousins last season, which is one reason why the Nuggets signed DeAndre Jordan this summer to fill that backup center role.

Northwest Notes: Connelly, Booth, Morris, Jazz

New president of basketball operations Tim Connelly has a lot of decisions to make in his first draft with the Timberwolves, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. In addition to the No. 19 pick, Minnesota holds three second-round selections at 40, 48 and 50. Connelly is looking forward to shaping the team, but he admits that whoever is selected might not have a major role next season as the Wolves are planning to be contenders.

“If you look at the final eight teams this year, there’s not many teams that were playing rookies,” Connelly said. “So, we’re drafting for the next three to seven years. If we expect the 19th pick to make an instant impact on a team that was in the playoffs last year, it’s unfair for that player. You want to get on base with 19. How much do you want to swing for the fences? That depends who’s there.”

Connelly adds that the Wolves are “super open” to trading one or more of the picks, but he’s been surprised by how quiet the market has been so far.

“I thought they’d be a bit further advanced than they are today,” he said about trade talks. “But all it takes is one call, and you make a trade in two minutes. A lot of jabbing right now; hopefully there’s some punching starting [Thursday] morning.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets could also be active on the trade market as new general manager Calvin Booth runs the team’s draft for the first time, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Booth has two first-round picks to work with after acquiring No. 30 in a trade with the Thunder, and sources close to the team told Singer he might try to move up or swap both selections for veteran help. If the Nuggets keep the picks, Singer expects them to prioritize experienced prospects who can contribute on both ends of the court.
  • There’s speculation that the Wizards are interested in Monte Morris, but the Nuggets won’t part with the back-up point guard without a “significant return,” Singer tweets.
  • Jazz owner Ryan Smith said the team has started conducting second interviews in its search for a new head coach, per Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. He added that the organization is taking it slow and he’s trusting CEO Danny Ainge and general manager Justin Zanik to determine the best candidates.

Timberwolves Notes: Nuggets Rivalry, Lore, A-Rod, Lloyd, Jovic

The comments that Nuggets governor Josh Kroenke‘s made to the press last week about the Timberwolves‘ pursuit of longtime Denver executive Tim Connelly will fuel a rivalry between the two division rivals going forward, opines Michael Rand of The Star Tribune. Kroenke spoke about Minnesota coming through the “side door” to land Connelly and suggested that it was a “desperate” move.

“Ultimately when you go to a stratosphere that some clubs, you say some desperate clubs, are willing to go to, there’s a tier out there that just kind of doesn’t make sense,” Kroenke said of the Nuggets’ decision not to match Connelly’s offer from the Wolves, per Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

Rand notes that Denver has now decided to let its lead decision-maker walk twice in the last decade, first with Masai Ujiri, who left for the Raptors in 2013 and won a title with the team in 2019, and now with Connelly.

There’s more out of Minnesota:

  • Incoming Timberwolves owners Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore seem intent on using their money to improve the Minnesota front office, a ploy that Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune applauds. In addition to luring Connelly away from Denver, Minnesota has added Matt Lloyd and retained Sachin Gupta to the team’s decision-making brain trust.
  • The widely-respected Lloyd learned under a variety of scouting styles while with the Bulls and Magic, write Jon Krawczynski and Josh Robbins of The Athletic. He worked with Chicago from 1999-2012, and started with the Magic as an assistant GM in 2012 before becoming the team’s VP of basketball operations for the 2021/22 season.
  • 18-year-old NBA prospect Nikola Jovic, currently playing for Mega Mozzart of the ABA League, recently worked out for the Timberwolves, according to Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link). Wolfson is skeptical that the 6’10” wing will still be on the board in time for Minnesota to draft him with the No. 19 pick in the 2022 draft. He is currently listed as the No. 24 top prospect on the latest ESPN big board.

Nuggets’ Josh Kroenke: “It’s Championship Or Bust”

In a wide-ranging conversation with the media on Friday following Tim Connelly‘s exit to Minnesota, Nuggets governor Josh Kroenke said he has championship expectations going forward, according to an ESPN report.

We’re entering a new phase of the organization, and with this squad in particular, which is: It’s championship or bust. And this is the first time those words have been uttered around these halls, I think,” Kroenke said.

We have a two-time MVP, we have two more All-Star-caliber players coming off injuries,” Kroenke said, referring to Nikola Jokic, Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray. “And I think that we are poised in a way that perhaps this organization hasn’t been in the past.

And that excites me. But that brings a lot of pressure. We’re no longer the underdog that’s kind of the lovable guys that are bouncing along from Denver, Colorado. I think that when we get healthy and show what we’re capable of, we will have a target on our back.”

Kroenke said he doesn’t regret signing Porter to a five-year, $172MM contract extension last summer, despite him only playing nine games in 2021/22.

I’d say we’re concerned about his injuries, not concerned about the contract,” Kroenke said, per ESPN.

He also said the team was prepared to pay the luxury tax, as Mike Singer of The Denver Post relays.

Yeah, I mean, I think that you know, first of all, my dad (Stan Kroenke) is the owner. I’m just making sure I don’t screw everything up on a day-to-day basis. … If you’ve drafted well, you better be ready to pay that tax, and we’re ready to pay that tax,” Kroenke said.

Here’s more from Kroenke’s press conference:

  • Kroenke endorsed GM Calvin Booth to replace Connelly as the top basketball decision-maker going forward. “I’ve always thought very highly of Calvin, I think he’s going to do a wonderful job for us,” Kroenke said, per Singer. “… He’s got a great mind and I think he’s open to suggestions but he showed me that he can make ruthless decisions when he needs to.”
  • The team sent out a tweet to leave no doubt about who will be in charge of the front office. “At the top of the org chart, it’s going to be Calvin Booth,” Kroenke said.
  • Multiple sources told Singer that Booth doesn’t have much “contractual security” as he transitions to the lead basketball executive, so Kroenke was asked if he was committed to Booth long-term. Kroenke suggested an extension could be coming soon. “Calvin and I are going to be sitting down, our whole front office and I will be sitting down in the very near future,” he said. “… We’re all talking and I think those guys know where they sit, and we’ll have some more announcements and some more information coming in the very near future.”
  • Kroenke said he regretted giving Connelly an opt-out clause after three years when the Nuggets gave him a contract extension in 2019, according to Singer. “I put that in his contract never anticipating that he would opt out and go to another NBA team and that’s what happened,” he said. “There was an option in his contract, he chose to exercise that option. And there was a major offer out there for him.”
  • Kroenke reiterated that the Nuggets made Connelly a competitive offer to stay in Denver, and said Minnesota’s offer was definitely unwelcome from his perspective. “Tim was under contract, the offer kind of came in through the side door, as they always seem to do in the NBA,” he said, per ESPN. “And so once those type of numbers start getting thrown around and get into someone’s head, it becomes very difficult to contain. I felt that we made a very competitive offer that would have allowed him to feel good about staying in Denver, and ultimately he felt that some of the upside there on the back end through some of the bonus schemes were probably too good to pass up for his family.” As Singer writes, Kroenke also twice characterized a team willing to pay significant money to poach a rival executive as “desperate.”
  • A new practice facility could be in store for Denver, says Kroenke, but Singer notes that the team’s governor made a similar statement five years ago and there’s been essentially no progress since.

Wolves Notes: Connelly, Towns, Russell, A-Rod, Lore

New Timberwolves president of basketball operations Tim Connelly will make some additions to the team’s front office, starting with longtime Magic executive Matt Lloyd.

However, Connelly made it clear during his introductory press conference on Tuesday that he’s certainly not looking to clean house or make any major, immediate changes to the way the franchise is run, joking that his plan is to “get out of the way (and) hope I don’t mess it up too much,” according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic and Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.

“I’m not joining a team that’s broken,” Connelly said. “This is a team that’s trending in the right direction. It’s made a ton of really, really smart decisions, most recently extending (head coach) Chris (Finch) and getting Pat Beverley on the additional one-year (contract). So I’m not here to impede progress, I’m here to promote it, and I’m hopeful that I can learn a ton from the people in the building, and hopefully I can add a little bit of my knowledge to what’s already a very strong core of people.”

Connelly acknowledged that it was a difficult decision to leave Denver for Minnesota, suggesting there were “a lot of sleepless nights” as he weighed the decision. But he believes the Timberwolves have a have a chance to “do something special,” which helped sell him on the move.

Of course, the financial aspect of the Wolves’ offer was also a major selling point, though sources confirmed to The Athletic that Connelly doesn’t technically have a stake in the team’s ownership. His deal calls for him to “benefit financially” if the value of the franchise increases over the life of his contract, per Krawczynski.

“Basically he’s on a bonus program, just like a lot of people are,” majority owner Glen Taylor said when asked about the equity aspect of Connelly’s contract. “If the team does well, he does better.”

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • Giving Karl-Anthony Towns a super-max extension this offseason should be a no-brainer decision for Connelly, but determining what to do with D’Angelo Russell will be a trickier call, Chip Scoggins of The Star Tribune contends. Russell is also extension-eligible as he enters the final year of his current contract, and looks like a possible trade candidate. “I don’t know how or what our roster is going to look like on draft night or into free agency, but certainly this team doesn’t win 46 games without the contributions of them both,” Connelly said during his first media session, per Hine. “It’ll be fun to get to know both guys.”
  • Hiring Connelly away from Denver is part of a push by incoming Timberwolves owners Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore to make the club a “world-class” organization, writes La Velle E. Neal III of The Star Tribune. “We want to be first in class in every category,” Rodriguez said this week. “From an arena, to personnel to players, to medical staff, to physical therapy and everything in between. The Minnesota people deserve that. They are starving for a winner and we are going to bring them that.”
  • Michael Rand of The Star Tribune takes a look at three paths Connelly could take with the Timberwolves’ roster this offseason and beyond.

Stein’s Latest: Pinson, Boban, Hornets, Connelly, Handy

The Mavericks are “determined” to find space on their roster for Theo Pinson next season, Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack article. Pinson appeared in just 19 regular season games in 2021/22 and wasn’t eligible to play in the postseason, but the Mavs view the 26-year-old wing as an important part of the team dynamic in Dallas, Stein explains, noting that center Boban Marjanovic falls into this category too.

Marjanovic has a $3.5MM contract for next season, so the Mavericks will have no problem keeping him around if they want to, but Pinson’s two-way deal is set to expire, making him an unrestricted free agent. Since he’ll have four years of NBA service under his belt, Pinson will no longer be eligible to sign a two-way contract in 2022/23 — he’d have to get a standard contract and be part of the 15-man roster if the Mavs want to retain him.

Pinson was viewed as the unofficial ring leader of the Mavs’ bench mob that earned the team $175K in fines during the playoffs due to its “bench decorum” violations.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • With Darvin Ham off the board, it’s unclear which head coaching candidate is the frontrunner for the Hornets‘ job. However, Stein says there was some “fresh buzz” over the weekend that if Mike D’Antoni is hired by Charlotte, he could bring former Bulls head coach Jim Boylen along with him as an assistant. Stein reported a couple weeks ago that D’Antoni was in a strong position to land the job, but later cast some doubt on that report.
  • Sources with knowledge of the situation tell Stein that the “equity” aspect of Tim Connelly‘s deal with the Timberwolves has been overstated. Stein’s understanding is that Connelly’s contract includes a bonus based on the value of the franchise increasing during his five-year contract, but he doesn’t actually own a stake in the team.
  • It remains to be seen whether veteran assistant Phil Handy will return to the Lakers under Ham, according to Stein, who believes the Nets could be a fit for Handy if he doesn’t stay in L.A. Handy worked well with Kyrie Irving during their Cleveland days, and the Nets have a need on the player development side following Adam Harrington‘s exit, Stein observes.

Nuggets Notes: Jokic, Connelly, Morris, Booth

Echoing Mike Singer’s reporting from earlier this week, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic confirm that Nikola Jokic remains fully committed to the Nuggets and intends to sign a five-year, super-max extension this offseason.

According to The Athletic’s duo, Jokic’s brothers Strahinja and Nemanja have met with general manager Calvin Booth and assistant GM Tommy Balcetis in the days since Tim Connelly‘s departure to discuss the team’s future, while Booth and head coach Michael Malone have spoken on the phone to Jokic, who is in Serbia. Everyone is in the same page going forward, per Charania and Amick.

As the Nuggets continue to build around Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr., the focus for Booth and the new-look front office this offseason will be to add long, versatile, defensive-minded players, sources tell The Athletic.

The team will be open to surrendering more of its draft assets if that helps open up favorable opportunities to acquire win-now talent, according to Charania and Amick, since the goal is to compete for a championship and make the most of Jokic’s prime years.

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • The Timberwolves’ willingness to include equity in their offer to Connelly was viewed by the Nuggets as an obstacle they couldn’t overcome, say Charania and Amick. In addition to the Nuggets, the Kroenkes own franchises in other sports – including the NFL’s Rams and the NHL’s Avalanche – and had no interest in setting a new precedent on equity that might affect future negotiations with team executives.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic takes a close look at the Nuggets’ situation going forward, wondering if the team will be open to trading Will Barton and/or Monte Morris this offseason. Hollinger suggests Morris could be more expendable due to Murray’s return and Bones Hyland‘s emergence.
  • Within his story, Hollinger notes that Connelly’s salary during his last season in Denver put him in the bottom half of the NBA’s lead basketball executives and suggests that the Nuggets have a history of investing minimally in their basketball operations department and organizational infrastructure.
  • Mike Singer of The Denver Post takes a closer look at what Calvin Booth will bring to the Nuggets’ head of basketball operations job, speaking to several people who have worked with him over the years. One source told Singer that Booth is more “structured” than Connelly and predicted he’ll have a lower tolerance for “locker room headaches.”

Nuggets Notes: Connelly, Kroenkes, Offseason

The Timberwolves‘ interest in longtime Denver executive Tim Connelly was known two weeks ago when a Nuggets traveling party went to Serbia to surprise Nikola Jokic with his MVP award, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. At the time, there was some hope that a new deal between Connelly and the Nuggets could be struck, but Minnesota’s momentum began picking up shortly thereafter.

During the two days between Connelly’s meeting with Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor on Saturday and his decision to accept Minnesota’s offer on Monday, there was some hope within the Nuggets’ organization that the Kroenkes might find a way to keep Connelly, according to Singer. The team did make a counter-offer, but there was a “significant gap” between Denver’s offer and Minnesota’s, a source told The Denver Post.

Interestingly, one source with knowledge of the situation told Singer that if the decision on Connelly’s future had been entirely up to Josh Kroenke, Connelly probably wouldn’t have gone anywhere. In other words, it sounds like Josh may have been more willing to step up financially than his father Stan Kroenke, who also let Masai Ujiri walk in a similar situation nine years ago.

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Nuggets ownership didn’t learn anything from having nearly lost Connelly to the Wizards in 2019, according to Harrison Wind of TheDNVR.com, who argues that Stan Kroenke still doesn’t value his top basketball executives and “skimps on line items that rival organizations would deem as necessities.”
  • The Nuggets are on the precipice of championship contention, but they’re not there yet, Singer writes for The Denver Post. The team could badly use at least one more wing defender, Singer notes, adding that it will be interesting to see if general manager Calvin Booth – who is expected to become Denver’s head of basketball operations – will value pieces like Bones Hyland, Zeke Nnaji, and this year’s No. 21 pick any differently than Connelly would have.
  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer takes his own look at the Nuggets’ offseason to-do list, writing that the club needs to surround Jokic with better shooters and perimeter defenders. O’Connor also suggests that Jokic should wait to see what moves Denver makes before locking in his five-year, super-max extension, but acknowledges that he’d be surprised if the two-time MVP doesn’t sign his new deal early in the offseason.

Tim Connelly Named Timberwolves’ President Of Basketball Operations

6:06pm: The Timberwolves have officially named Connelly their president of basketball operations, according to a team press release.

“We are thrilled to announce Tim Connelly as the next leader of our basketball operations department and welcome his family to the Twin Cities,” the team said in a statement attributed to ownership. “He brings a wealth of NBA front office experience with various franchises. We look forward to building upon our most recent playoff run and bringing more success to Timberwolves fans for years to come.” 

“My family and I couldn’t be more excited to join the Timberwolves organization,” Connelly said in a statement. “I appreciate Glen, Becky, Marc and Alex’s confidence in me to lead this organization and I can’t wait to get to work to build an elite franchise that our fans can continue to be proud of.” 

2:28pm: Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly will be leaving Denver for Minnesota, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link), who reports that Connelly and the Timberwolves have agreed to a deal that will make him one of the NBA’s highest-paid executives.

Connelly’s new contract as the Wolves’ president of basketball operations will cover five years and will be worth $40MM, per Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. The agreement will also include a kicker for ownership equity, The Athletic’s duo adds.

After Timberwolves minority owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez initiated talks with Connelly and presented him with a preliminary offer, the longtime Nuggets executive flew to Minnesota on Saturday and had a four-hour meeting with majority owner Glen Taylor, according to The Athletic (Twitter link). Taylor signed off on the offer, and Connelly subsequently took two full days to deliberate before accepting the job on Monday.

Connelly had been the head of basketball operations in Denver since 2013, following Masai Ujiri‘s departure for Toronto. He reportedly had a significant impact on the Nuggets’ culture, empowering coaches, staffers, and players while creating a positive work environment.

His loyalty to Denver and his comfort level with Nuggets ownership made it a difficult decision to leave for Minnesota, according to Charania and Krawczynski, who say Connelly’s new contract more than doubles his previous salary — the equity component also makes the deal substantially more lucrative.

Mike Singer of The Denver Post confirms that financial compensation was a significant factor in Connelly’s decision to leave Denver and join a division rival, since he hadn’t been eager to depart. According to Wojnarowski (Twitter link), the Nuggets made a bid to retain Connelly that would’ve significantly increased his salary, but Woj describes the ownership equity in Minnesota as “life-changing money” for the veteran executive.

The Wolves, who dismissed Gersson Rosas shortly before the 2021/22 season began, had been in the market for a big-name executive to fill the president of basketball operations role on a permanent basis. With Lore and Rodriguez expected to take over majority control of the franchise in 2023, they wanted to “change the narrative” around a team that has often been overlooked nationally, according to Charania and Krawczynski.

Executive VP of basketball operations Sachin Gupta, who ran the Timberwolves’ front office on an interim basis following Rosas’ ouster, remains part of the long-term vision in Minnesota, sources tell The Athletic. While Connelly will likely make some hires of his own, it sounds as if there are no plans to move on from Gupta or head coach Chris Finch, who was previously an assistant coach in Denver.

The Nuggets, meanwhile, are considered likely to promote general manager Calvin Booth to run their front office, Charania reports (via Twitter).

The club has produced a series of successful basketball executives across the last decade, including Ujiri, Connelly, and Arturas Karnisovas, the GM in Denver before leaving to become the Bulls’ president of basketball operations. There’s a belief within the organization that Booth – a rising talent well-respected around the NBA – is capable of carrying that torch going forward, Charania notes.

Northwest Notes: Connelly, Wolves, Jokic, Trail Blazers

Nuggets president Tim Connelly faces several important decisions if he winds up running the Timberwolves, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Connelly is meeting with Wolves owner Glen Taylor this weekend, and the two sides appear to be getting close to a deal, per Hine.

Minnesota gave Chris Finch a four-year extension in March, so the coaching situation is stable. Connelly has experience working with Finch, who served as a Denver assistant in 2016/17. Things are less clear regarding the front office, which has been run by Sachin Gupta since Gersson Rosas was fired in September. Gupta recently made an important personnel move, hiring Steve Senior as assistant general manager.

As for the roster, Karl-Anthony Towns will be eligible for a super-max extension this offseason if the star center is voted onto an All-NBA team, Hine notes. Connelly would also have to determine whether to pursue extension talks with D’Angelo Russell, who is entering a contract year, and would be searching for ways to improve the roster to build on this year’s playoff appearance.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • If Connelly joins the Timberwolves, he might bring a big-name executive from another organization with him, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News. Taylor isn’t expected to stand in the way of the rumored move, which is supported by incoming owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez.
  • The Nuggets‘ lack of urgency to keep Connelly should make Nikola Jokic think twice about committing to the organization, argues Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post. Kiszla accuses Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, which owns the team, of treating everyone like they can be replaced, even Connelly, who built a potential title contender and was responsible for drafting Jokic in the second round. Connelly was upset that the Nuggets failed to offer him a long-term deal during the season, according to Kiszla, and that decision could cost the team one of its most valuable assets.
  • The Trail Blazers may target Charlotte’s Miles Bridges and Cody Martin in free agency, per Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Both players will be restricted free agents, so the Hornets could match any offer that Portland (or another team) makes.