Tom Thibodeau

Northwest Notes: Butler, Hernangomez, Lillard

A comprehensive feature on Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler has shed some light on how the 30th overall draft pick has changed over the course of his ascent to stardom. Michael Pina of Vice Sports spent a day with the swingman, who describes himself as a difficult person to be around.

This season Butler has been reunited with former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, the man at the helm in Chicago when Butler evolved from a fringe roster player to a key rotation piece into a star. For the last two years, however, Butler played under a different coach.

I’m confrontational. I feed off of confrontation. It makes me go,” Butler said. “Not everybody’s like that. [Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg] is not that coach, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There are different coaching styles and people are gonna say—which is what they did say—’It’s gonna be Jimmy’s team or it’s gonna be Fred’s team.’ Two total opposite ends of the spectrum.

Be sure to check out the long-read for fresh perspective on the Timberwolves guard’s backstory and mentality heading forward.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division tonight:

Western Notes: Jackson, Harden, Muhammad, Wolves, Clippers Arena

Rumors of the Suns trading promising rookie Josh Jackson for Kyrie Irving should be put to rest, writes Greg Moore of AZCentral.com. Moore writes that Jackson and Devin Booker each create a sense of “awe and wonder,” making anyone who watches them dream of the future.

The Arizona-based scribe argues that the manner in which coach Earl Watson talks about Jackson comes off much more as genuine optimism for the future than big talk to boost trade value.

“I love Josh Jackson,” Watson said Monday. “Something about him is just uncommon.” Devin Booker, meanwhile, “always had that edge.” “(Those) two together are going to be great young guys who can push other guys to become better because they’re so inner competitive,” Watson said.

Watson joked in response to being asked about a rumor that Jackson had grown two inches since being drafted:  But “if he did, we love it, and even if he didn’t … let’s build the legend. Yeah, he grew. Absolutely. He’s like 7 feet now … anyone coming up against him should be intimidated by his constant growth vertically, in height, and ability to play above the rim.”

In a recent interview, Jackson addressed the trade talk, saying, “I think if that was going to happen, it would have happened by now.” However, he also said: “I’m going to make the best of whatever situation that I’m presented with. If I’m traded to China, whatever, I’m going to come out, and I’m going to be happy and just try to make the best of it.”

Here are more notes from the Western Conference:

  • James Harden is more fit and fired up than ever, writes Sam Amick of USA Today.  “I know how exciting this season is (going to be, and) I know how important it is, so I’m going to take full advantage of it. I have a lot of charity (events), a lot of things going on, but when I’m in that gym that’s kind of my getaway. That’s kind of when I’m locked in,” Harden said. The Rockets‘ 2017 postseason ended with concerns over Harden’s fatigue and stamina.
  • Shabazz Muhammad may have to settle for a short-term “prove-it” deal for next season, writes Michael Rand of The Star Tribune. Heading into the offseason, coach Tom Thibodeau used the word “optimistic” when discussing re-signing Muhammad. However, in July, the wing’s rights were renounced. On Wednesday, Timberwolves signee Jamal Crawford tweeted Muhammad, “c’mon back home.”
  • The mayor of Inglewood and the four other council members unanimously approved a revised agreement with a Clippers-controlled company to shrink the four-block area where an arena could be built so homes and a church aren’t displaced, reports Nathan Fenno of The Los Angeles Times. More than a dozen citizens had raised concerns about the potential arena before the vote took place.

Timberwolves Rumors: Wiggins, Thibodeau, FAs

The Timberwolves’ trade offer for Kyrie Irving doesn’t include Andrew Wiggins, and that appears unlikely to change. According to Sid Hartman of The Star Tribune, team owner Glen Taylor has “made it clear” that the club intends to lock up Wiggins to a five-year, max extension in the near future. Hartman adds that the former top pick “is not available to anybody in a trade.”

While that news doesn’t come as a huge surprise, it’s hard to imagine the Wolves being putting together a viable package for Irving without including Wiggins, so Minnesota looks to be a long shot to acquire the Cavaliers’ star point guard.

Here’s more from out of Minnesota:

  • Taylor owns about 70% of the Timberwolves, and while a pair of minority stakeholders are looking to sell their shares in the franchise, that’s not the case for Taylor, as Hartman details. “We have a couple of my limited [owners] that have indicated that they’re going to sell, and we have another limited [owner] that is going to buy them,” Taylor said. “I won’t be selling any of my stock. Whatever I have, I’m keeping.”
  • Although Taylor would have liked to see the Timberwolves play better in 2016/17, he remains confident in Tom Thibodeau‘s long-term vision for the team, per Hartman. “I brought him in here for the long run,” Taylor said of Thibodeau. “We tried it with the young players, and it appears that we need more experience on the team to get where we want to get. [Thibodeau] is flexible and he’s trying his best to bring in the quality guys we need to get to the championship, so I’m happy.”
  • Taylor’s sights for 2017/18 are set higher, according to Hartman. “Well, of course we have to get into the playoffs,” Taylor said. “And where we get into … the playoffs is probably very important for us. To get into fourth place so you have home-court advantage would really be the super position.”
  • The Wolves expect to sign three more players to veteran minimum contracts, according to Taylor, via Hartman. Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News indicated earlier this week (via Twitter) that the club had a contract offer out to a shooter.

Tom Thibodeau Talks Offseason, Western Conference

The Wolves arguably had one of the best offseasons in the league, adding Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, and Taj Gibson to a core of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. Executive/coach Tom Thibodeau recently sat down with Nick Friedell of ESPN.com to discuss the team as well as several topics from around the league. Here are the highlights:

On Coaching Butler And Gibson Again:

I think they fit our team very well. I think what Jimmy can add to our team, some of the things he’s just gone through, both Karl and Andrew are going through themselves. So I think Jimmy can share that with them. I think having a defensive wing like Jimmy will be great to have next to Andrew.

And I think when you look at Taj, he’s probably the best switching big man in the league. He’s got great feet, can guard multiple positions, adds a lot of toughness to our team. Put him next to Karl, that adds a lot.

On What He’s Expecting From Butler:

Just do the right things each and every day. Put everything you have into each day. Be a good leader, be a good teammate, and play. We didn’t bring Jimmy here just for leadership. We brought him for his ability, his talent and all the things that he adds to a team. Same for Taj, Jeff and hopefully Jamal as we get that wrapped up. But I think that experience will be invaluable to us.

On His Expectations For This Season And Beyond:

There’s really good teams that we’re chasing. So we know that there’s going to be a lot of work that has to go into it. And you do it day by day, you do the necessary things, you win and build and improve.

But we’re excited about our opportunity and that’s the way we’re approaching it. As we always say, you don’t want to look ahead, you don’t want to look back, you want to focus in on exactly what’s in front of you, and we think the future is real bright, but we got to do the work day to day. And that’s what we’re locked into.

On The Stacked Western Conference:

You’d like to see more balance, but there’s always going to be certain teams that have the opportunity to attract elite players, and when that happens it could create an imbalance. I think players look around and they look at the teams that they’d like to join and it’s usually teams that already have good players on those teams.

Draft Notes: Monk, Wolves, Bell, Knicks

Selecting Malik Monk is the Sixers‘ best option at No. 3, Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer contends. While taking Monk so high may be considered a reach, Ford doesn’t see it that way. He argues that front office should disregard expert rankings and pick the player who would fit in best with the team.

Only five teams were worse than the Sixers from long-range last season, as I mentioned in the franchise’s offseason preview. The Sixers’ greatness need may be shooting and Monk, who Jonathan Givony of Draft Express ranks as the eighth best prospect in the draft, made 39.7%  of his attempts from behind the arc during his lone season in Kentucky.

Here’s more on the upcoming draft:

  • Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said other teams have been trying to acquire the No. 7 overall pick, ESPN’s Nick Friedell tweets. Thibs added that he believes there will be high demand for many picks in the draft.
  • Jordan Bell had an impressive workout with the Sixers, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer“For a Dennis Rodman-like player who has the ability to play across a few positions, mainly defensively, we sat with him, had a great interview as we’ve learned more about him,” Sixers executive Brandon Williams said. If Bell falls in the draft, Philadelphia could be a team to watch out for since it has four selections in the second round.
  • The Knicks worked out Ike Iroegbu and Trevor Thompson, Marc Berman of the New York Post passes along (Twitter link).
  • Elie Okobo worked out for the Sixers today, Jessica Camerato of Comcast Sports relays (Twitter link). Okobo previously worked out for the Jazz and he plans to meet with the Nets and Hawks.

Northwest Notes: Eighth Seed, Denver’s Defense, Towns

Jazz coach Quin Snyder is receiving contributions from seldom-used players Jeff Withey and Raul Neto, Jody Genessy of Deseret News writes.

“To be honest, we’ve been in these situations a lot, so there are different guys each night,” Snyder said. “When you have the right spirit, the game rewards you and that’s what happened with those two guys tonight. It’s easy to say, ‘Stay ready,’ and we say that stuff as coaches, but it’s hard to do. For those guys to literally be ready and contribute like they did, it was pretty good.”

The Jazz have won seven of their last 10, enjoying a successful 2016/17 campaign despite occasional injuries to George Hill, Derrick Favors, and Gordon Hayward.

“It’s tough because you never know when your name will be called, so you have to be ready,” Withey said. “On days off, I’m always in the gym running, trying to stay in shape, get shots up and stuff. It’s tough mentally also. It’s part of the business. It’s part of the job.”

More from the Northwest…

  • The Nuggets still hold the eighth seed of the Western Conference, but the team’s defense must improve to sustain a playoff run, Nick Kosmider of the Denver Post writes. Denver’s opponent field goal percentage ranks 28th in the league since the All-Star break, Kosmider writes, and 24th in defensive rating. Coach Michael Malone is well-aware of the problem. “You go back to the start of the regular season, and we were playing good defense the first 10, close to 15 games. Obviously, the wheels have fallen off,” Malone said. Interestingly, Darrell Arthur was hesitant to blame his teammates for the defensive shortcomings: “We’re still learning. We’ve got a young team. It takes a while to go from a mediocre team to a good team to a great team. We’re trying to be great. We’re right there around good, but not so consistent.”
  • Karl-Anthony Towns has taken charge of the “desperate” TimberwolvesJon Krawczynski of the Associated Press writes. Towns has been the key to Minnesota’s recent playoff push; winning seven of their last 10, climbing to within two games of the eighth seed. Following tonight’s crucial win over the Warriors, hopes are high for the young Wolves. “Desperation makes you do a lot of things you couldn’t normally do,” Towns said. “Being so close to the playoffs, I have a lot of desperation trying to play the best that I can so I can try to help us get to the playoffs and get that eighth spot.”
  • Tom Thibodeau praised his team’s defensive improvements, saying they’ve taken a “quantum leap” in the right direction. “We’re not where we need to be, but when you look at the past couple of years and where we are now, (the point differential) says we’ve made a big jump,” Thibodeau told AJ Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today. “I believe we’re down to 13th now in points allowed (on the season), so that’s a quantum leap, and it’s still not where it needs to be, and we have to understand that.”

Wolves Notes: Rubio, Muhammad, Thibodeau, Wiggins

Now that the dust has settled from the trade deadline, Ricky Rubio has high aspirations for the 22-35 Timberwolves.

“I believe this team can make the playoffs and we can make a push,” Rubio told Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune (Twitter link). Minnesota will have a tough road ahead to forge a postseason run. The Wolves entered Friday three games behind the Nuggets for the eighth-seed of the Western Conference, and two teams ahead of them- the Pelicans and Mavericks- made stellar deadline acquisitions to boost their chances.

Rubio spoke to reporters, including Jon Krawczynsk of the Associated Press, about the human element of being mentioned in trade rumors.

“As pros, we know what’s the deal,” Rubio said. “But yeah, this time felt a little different. It’s all rumors. Until it doesn’t go down, you don’t believe it…I know this is a business and it has to be like that.”

More from Minnesota…

  • Shabazz Muhammad will hope to stick with the T’Wolves in restricted free agency. “Come this summer I want to be Timberwolf,” the former UCLA Bruin told Darren Wolfson of KSTP Eyewitness News (Twitter link). Minnesota was “determined” to move Muhammad during the trade deadline, according to David Aldridge of TNT. Despite being linked to the Wizards at one point, Muhammad ultimately stayed put. With the assurance of staying with Minnesota through the season, Muhammad is focused on helping the Wolves enter the playoff picture. “It’s a great opportunity for us,” Muhammad said. “We’re going to finish this season out strong, and we’ve still got a lot to show.”
  • Coach Tom Thibodeau had a measured view of the trade deadline, claiming no trades really came close. “If something made sense, we would have done it,” Thibodeau told the Associated Press. “But it had to make sense and make us better. If it didn’t, just be patient, continue to work.” With trade talks in the rear-view mirror, Thibodeau discussed his approach following the All-Star break. “Before the break we laid out what we wanted them to do when they were away,’’ Thibodeau told Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune. “The first day back (Wednesday) was more activation, just to get the bodies going again. And then we had a really good practice Thursday, and shootaround today. Again, the big thing is to make sure you have a routine established in terms of how you prepare to play.”
  • A playoff chase would benefit the young Timberwolves, Jace Frederick of Twin Cities writes. While FiveThirtyEight currently gives Minnesota a 2% chance of making the postseason, it’s a breath of fresh air for Wolves fans to see their team involved in the playoff picture. “It’s a good feeling knowing that we’re in the mix,” Andrew Wiggins said. “And if we put in a good stretch, we can put ourselves in a really good position. We’re getting better every game. Some games we play bad and there’s a little setback, but we keep playing hard, practicing hard, learning a lot of new things.”

Western Notes: Mavs, Kings, Wolves, Jazz

We’re less than 17 hours away from the trade deadline. While we wait to see what unfolds, check out some notes and rumors out of the Western Conference:

  • Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut are rumored to be on the move and the Mavericks held both of them out of practice today, Earl K. Sneed of Fox Sports relays via Twitter“With the trade deadline tomorrow, you can read a lot into that,” coach Rick Carlisle said.
  • If the Mavericks make a deal involving Williams or Bogut, it’s likely to occur right before Thursday’s deadline, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News writes. The team is looking for picks in the upcoming draft in exchange for their veterans.
  • The Kings are likely to move someone in their backcourt, Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee tweets. Voisin hears that the Pacers have interest in acquiring Arron Afflalo.
  • The Jazz have had conversations with other teams regarding a Derrick Favors trade, but a source told Spencer Checketts of 1280 KZNS (Twitter link) that the team doesn’t view any offer as “even close” to being fair.
  • Wolves executive/coach Tom Thibodeau said the team is still looking at trade possibilities, but as of right now, he doesn’t see any deal that makes sense for the franchise, Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press writes. “If there’s something that makes sense that can make you better, then you take a look at it. If not, I’m happy with the team we have. I like the guys we have. I like the approach we have,” Thibodeau said.
  • Clippers coach Doc Rivers said Chris Paul has been medically cleared to return to the court and he may play as early as Thursday, Andrew Han of ESPN.com relays.

Wolves Discuss Point Guard Swap With Knicks, Pistons

10:30 PM: The Knicks have discussed adding Ricky Rubio in talks with the Wolves, Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com reports (video link). Windhorst adds that Minnesota has had discussions with the Pistons regarding a Ricky Rubio-Reggie Jackson swap, but the Wolves are not interested in bringing Jackson aboard. A three-way trade that sends Rose to Minnesota, Rubio to Detroit and Jackson to New York could be in play, Windhorst adds. He notes that Rubio and Jackson are two of the players most likely to be traded before the deadline.

Minnesota doesn’t necessarily view Rose as a long-term fit, as the team wants to clear space for Kris Dunn and would like to get out of Rubio’s deal. The Spanish point guard has three years remaining on his contract, while Rose will be a free agent after the season.

10:14 PM: Several teams have reached out to the Knicks regarding a Derrick Rose trade, Ian Begley of ESPN.com reports. Begley adds the Wolves are among the teams to have discussions with the franchise.

It’s unclear what the Knicks would receive in return should they send Rose to Minnesota. New York acquired the point guard in the offseason with the hope that he would help the team get to the playoffs this season. The team is currently 23-34 after losing seven of their last 10 games and it appears the franchise will have a hard time achieving that goal.

Rose is averaging 17.7 points per game this season and he hasn’t missed any games because of the knee issues which plagued him over the past few years. He previously played for Wolves executive/coach Tom Thibodeau in Chicago for seven seasons.

Northwest Notes: Jokic, Kanter, Blazers, Thibodeau

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic will undergo an MRI today to determine the damage caused to his left hip in a collision Thursday night, according to Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. X-rays taken after the game were negative and the injury has been diagnosed as a hip strain. The Nuggets, who currently hold the eighth seed in the West with a 20-25 record, would have a hard time withstanding a prolonged absence by Jokic, who is averaging 15.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. “It’s good news for us,” teammate Will Barton said of the X-ray results. “He’s been playing out of this world for us, our best player. It would be tough to see him go down for a long time. I’m just happy he’s fine.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The loss of Enes Kanter will create an even greater burden for Russell Westbrook, notes Royce Young of ESPN.com. Kanter is expected to be sidelined six to eight weeks after breaking his right forearm by punching a chair Thursday night. The Thunder center was third in the Sixth Man of the Year voting last year and has become even more valuable this season by improving his passing, Young writes. His absence robs the bench unit of a player who can create his own offense.
  • The Trail Blazers have one of the best backcourts in the league in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, but they may need to break it up to build a contender, writes Michael Pina of RealGM. He suggests dangling both players in trade talks to see what kind of return they might bring, mentioning Andre Drummond, Jimmy Butler and Nerlens Noel as possibilities.
  • Tom Thibodeau’s style is starting to work with the Timberwolves, contends Jim Souhan of The Star-Tribune. Thibodeau can be loud and profane on the sidelines, but he is said to be fair and even-tempered with players behind the scenes. The Wolves are 17-29, but are only 3 1/2 games out of a playoff spot that would be the first for the franchise since 2004. “He’s honest,’’ Andrew Wiggins said after a recent Thibodeau press conference. “He said we were flat but he likes the way we fought at the end.’’
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