Tim Connelly

Wolves Notes: KAT, Gobert, Russell, Connelly, Nuggets

Karl-Anthony Towns has been sidelined since November 28 after suffering a right calf strain. As Chris Hine of The Star Tribune writes, the Timberwolves‘ star big man recently expressed frustration regarding the reporting surrounding the injury.

It was never a Grade 2 [strain], it was never going to be a Grade 2, unfortunately,” Towns said on his livestream. “I prayed to God almighty that it was a Grade 2, but I knew it wasn’t. It was a Grade 3.”

Hine notes that Grade 3 strains are more severe and a recovery timeline could be more than two months. ESPN reported on November 29 that Towns would miss four-to-six weeks, but was expected to make a full recovery and return in January. Towns said that timeline was never in the cards.

I wish it was four-to-six weeks. I knew then it wasn’t going to be four to six,” Towns said. “The team was trying to say four to six. There was no way with the injury I sustained, it’s a very significant injury. I don’t know if they were trying to give false hope to the fans or what the case may be.”

Hine points out that the Wolves ruled Towns out indefinitely and never gave a definitive recovery timeline. Still, it’s understandable that he would be frustrated about an inaccurate timeline that was leaked almost immediately after taking his MRI. The 27-year-old also gave a positive (if vague) update on his recovery.

I’m getting better. Everything is going good. Going really well,” Towns said, per Hine. “Just getting better, man. It takes time. This is a very real injury. Significant, but it could’ve been way worse.”

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • Grading the team to this point is “premature and pointless,” according to Jim Souhan of The Star Tribune, who argues that the Wolves still need to see what they have with a fully healthy lineup before declaring the season — and the Rudy Gobert trade — a lost cause. Souhan says it has been a disappointing 47 games, and they clearly have some issues, but it’s too early to make broad declarations. They’ve gone 13-13 without Towns and are still in the playoff mix at 23-24, currently the West’s No. 7 seed.
  • D’Angelo Russell showed both his strengths and weaknesses in Thursday’s game against the Raptors, but ultimately came through in the clutch with several big shots in leading the Wolves to a comeback victory, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Russell has been the subject of recent trade rumors, and his high-variance play can be frustrating, so Minnesota will have a tough decision to make ahead of the deadline, Krawczynski adds.
  • President of basketball operations Tim Connelly, who was hired away from the Nuggets in the offseason, says he still wants to see his former team succeed, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscriber link). “… I watch every Nuggets game, I root for them like crazy,” he said. “It’s neat that me and my family played something super small.” Minnesota visited Denver for the first time this season on Wednesday, and while Connelly enjoyed seeing his former co-workers, he also said it was “super weird.”

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Simons, Adelman, Conley

The Timberwolves are off to a disappointing 22-24 start this season, but Rudy Gobert‘s former teammates continue to preach patience and still believe the center can be successful in Minnesota, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Gobert’s fellow All-Star in Utah, Donovan Mitchell, says he let friends Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell know that building rapport with the big man on both sides of the ball wouldn’t be an overnight process.

“I told them, ‘It’s not just going to happen,'” Mitchell said. “‘You’ve gotta stay building that bond and chemistry. It’s going to take time to see it continuously build gradually.'”

Meanwhile, ex-colleagues of Timberwolves president of basketball operations Tim Connelly have faith in the former Nuggets executive’s ability to right the ship in Minnesota, raving about his ability to stay positive in the face of adversity, as Krawczynski details in another story for The Athletic.

“This may sound strange, but in a long, emotional NBA season, he’s going to find a way to bring some comedy and some lightness to it, which I think is needed,” Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said of Connelly. “I’m sure everybody here in Minnesota is not happy with their play. Getting down and getting negative will not help that. That will only make it worse. So Tim is definitely the guy that can get this team out of that.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Appearing on the Rip City Radio 620 show in Portland, Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report said he hasn’t heard anything so far about the Trail Blazers dangling players in trade talks, though he acknowledged that could change within the next three weeks (story via Matthew Legros of Blazer’s Edge). Haynes added that the team considers guard Anfernee Simons close to untouchable.
  • Filling in this week for Michael Malone, who was placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, Nuggets assistant coach David Adelman received a strong endorsement from two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscription required). Jokic believes it’s just a matter of time before Adelman is named a permanent head coach by an NBA team. “I really think that DA’s a guy who’s gonna be next head coach because he has that, I’m gonna say ‘head’ for a head coach,” Jokic said. “… He knows the answers. He reads, reacts.”
  • Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune explores the rumors linking Jazz point guard Mike Conley to the Clippers and considers what a trade package might look like. Larsen suggests that a combination like Robert Covington, John Wall, and one minimum-salary or near-minimum player might work, adding that Utah could seek a second-round pick depending on who that third player is.

Tim Connelly: Wolves Expected “Growing Pains” With Rudy Gobert Trade

President of basketball operations Tim Connelly admits the Rudy Gobert trade hasn’t been an immediate success for the Timberwolves, but he never expected it to be, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Connelly explains that Minnesota made the deal with Utah with the understanding that it would take time to adjust to a unique player like Gobert.

“We didn’t have expectations it was initially going to hit the ground running. We kind of expected a lot of growing pains there,” Connelly said. “So I think, individually, Rudy’s been fantastic. When we’re fully healthy, we’ve got to figure out how to most effectively employ all those guys. It’s a win-loss league. If we had three or four more wins right now, it would be an emphatic positive.”

Instead, the Wolves are in 11th place in the West at 11-12 and have rarely looked like the energetic team that raised expectations in last season’s playoffs. Gobert is averaging 11.2 PPG, his lowest scoring numbers in seven years, and his rebounding is down to 11.4 per game after he led the league last season at 14.7. Most alarming is that he’s averaging just 1.3 blocks per night, about half of what he did in his best seasons in Utah, after being brought to Minnesota as a rim protector.

Connelly believes the statistical decline has a lot to do with getting used to a new set of teammates, and he expressed confidence that Gobert will eventually bounce back. He also stressed that the team’s perimeter players have to do a better job of clogging the lane and not relying so much on Gobert.

“There’s not a rim protector in the world who can just face live-ball dribbles all game,” Connelly said. “It’s not going to work. We have had moments of that where, ‘Hey Rudy’s back there so I can play olé defense.’”

Connelly paid a high price to acquire Gobert, so he understands why fans are impatient. The Wolves parted with three players who were instrumental to last season’s success — Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt and Patrick Beverley — along with a collection of draft picks that stretch all the way to 2029.

One of the issues raised by those who questioned the trade was how Gobert would fit alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and whether having two big men on the court at the same time could be effective in today’s NBA. Krawczynski notes that Towns was adapting to Gobert as well as anyone before being sidelined with a calf strain. Towns has more assists to Gobert than anybody else on the team does, and his enthusiasm for making the pairing work is one reason that Connelly remains optimistic.

“We’re not going to bury our head in the sand and pretend it’s been flawless,” Connelly said. “We never expected that. When we made the trade, it wasn’t done without a lot of conversation, a lot of watching of tape.”

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.”