Tom Thibodeau

Northwest Notes: Thibodeau, Nurkic, Katsikaris

There is no chance that the Timberwolves trade Karl-Anthony Towns, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes, despite the fact that there’s room for the relationship between he and the front office to improve.

Although that bond is far from irreparable, it pales between that of head coach Tom Thibodeau and All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler. Butler, of course, played for Thibodeau as a member of the Bulls and the two share similarly passionate approaches to basketball.

With the 2018/19 season on the horizon, however, Thibodeau will need to find a way to bridge the gap between himself and players on the roster that weren’t exposed to him in Chicago, a problem that Krawczynski writes traces back to a lack of communication.

There’s more out of the Northwest this afternoon:

  • The Thunder are hoping to hit big with their two late draft picks, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes, noting that the fact that they’ll fall so late in the draft (No. 53 and No. 57) means they’ll come with less of a financial burden and less pressure to pan out.
  • The Trail Blazers need not rush out and blow up their roster, Bobby Marks of ESPN writes, suggesting that the team shouldn’t be punished for overachieving last season and ultimately getting overpowered in the postseason. Marks also adds that Portland fans can expect a long drawn-out restricted free agency process for Jusuf Nurkic, unless he decides to sign his $4.8MM qualifying offer.
  • The Jazz are “in discussion” to hire Greek coach Fotis Katsikaris to serve as an assistant under Quin Snyder, Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News. If hired, Katsikaris would fill the void left by Igor Kokoskov. It had been previously reported that Katsikaris had already been hired to a contract but those reports, Woodyard tweets, were premature.

Wolves Notes: Butler, Towns, Thibodeau, Wiggins

Last summer’s Jimmy Butler trade was a good move for the Timberwolves even though they parted with several promising young talents, writes Britt Robson of The Athletic. Minnesota swung a draft night blockbuster with the Bulls, giving up Kris DunnZach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen for Butler and Justin Patton.

The deal paid dividends for the Wolves, who reached the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, and Robson contends that Butler has already become the second-best player in franchise history, trailing only Kevin Garnett.

On the down side, Butler missed 23 games because of injuries and was a steadfast defender of coach Tom Thibodeau, creating a rift with some of his young teammates. Robson advises the front office to delay renegotiating Butler’s contract, which pays him nearly $20.5MM next season with a $19.8MM player option for 2019/20, to see how the situation plays out.

Robson passes along more info from Minnesota in his mailbag column:

  • Rumors that Thibodeau could get fired this summer are premature, although the locker room has become increasingly divided between loyalists who previously played for Thibodeau in Chicago and younger players who are turned off by his abrasive style. However, replacing Thibodeau now would anger Butler and Taj Gibson and leave the team at a disadvantage heading into the draft and free agency. Robson believes Thibodeau, who still has three years left on his contract, could be in danger if the Wolves don’t move up the Western Conference ladder next season.
  • It will be surprising if Karl-Anthony Towns is put on the trade market this summer, even if the rumors about his unhappiness in Minnesota are true. Towns is just 22 and is under team control for at least two more seasons. A suggested deal for the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard wouldn’t work for the Wolves because there’s no good way to replace Towns in the middle. Towns reportedly wants a bigger role in the offense and less “tough love” from Thibodeau and Butler.
  • Minnesota probably should have passed on an extension for Andrew Wiggins last summer and dealt with him as a restricted free agent. Robson suggests Thibodeau may have been forced into the move by owner Glen Taylor, but adds that a trade is unlikely now because it would be difficult for the Wolves to get equal value in return.
  • The team would almost certainly have to surrender a first-round pick to unload the contract of Gorgui Dieng, who is owed more than $48MM over the next three years. Thibodeau lost confidence in Dieng during the season and his playing time was cut nearly in half.

Timberwolves’ Brunson Resigns Amid Allegations Of Misconduct

3:46pm: The Timberwolves have issued a statement regarding Brunson’s resignation, as Krawczynski relays at The Athletic.

“Our entire organization – made up of the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Minnesota Lynx and Iowa Wolves — is deeply committed to creating a safe work environment for our employees, partners and fans,” the Wolves’ statement reads. “Our teams strive to have our actions reflect our values each and every day. We work to maintain high standards of conduct and expect our staff to lead by example. We did not believe Mr. Brunson’s conduct was consistent with those standards.”

Sources tell Krawczynski that the most recent incident involving Brunson occurred during the playoffs, when a woman who doesn’t work for the Timberwolves lodged a complaint with the team after Brunson made “several unwanted advances” toward her.

2:50pm: Veteran NBA coach Rick Brunson has resigned from his position as an assistant coach on Tom Thibodeau‘s staff in Minnesota, per Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link).

It’s the fourth coaching change this week for the Timberwolves, who also cut ties with player development coach Vince Legarza, shooting coach Peter Patton, and assistant video coordinator Wes Bohn, as we relayed on Monday. However, Brunson’s departure appears to fall into a different category.

According to Jon Krawcyznski of The Athletic (Twitter link), Brunson was facing allegations of “improper interactions with several women while on the job.” Wolfson and ESPN’s Chris Haynes confirmed as much, with Haynes tweeting that one of those women is a member of the media.

A former NBA player, Brunson began his coaching career in 2007, and has also served as an assistant in Denver, Chicago, and Charlotte. He has run into legal troubles in the past, having been arrested in June 2014 and indicted on criminal sexual assault charges following an encounter with a massage therapist. Brunson was later acquitted of those charges.

While the Timberwolves, who hired Brunson in 2016, were willing to give him a second chance two years after that incident, he seems unlikely to catch on with another NBA team anytime soon.

Northwest Notes: Thibodeau, Exum, Hood, George

Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau shook up his coaching staff Monday by cutting ties with three assistants, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic reports. The most notable of the cuts is player development coach Vince Legarza, who worked closely with center Karl-Anthony Towns. Shooting coach Peter Patton and assistant video coordinator Wes Bohn are the other coaches who will not return. Towns was not given prior notice of Legarza’s departure, Krawczynski continues. Thibodeau may not replace all of those coaches since he has told some people that he’d like to downsize, Krawczynski adds.

In other notable developments around the Northwest Division:

  • Jazz point guard Dante Exum has a strained left hamstring and his status for the remainder of the series against the Rockets is uncertain, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweets. Exum underwent an MRI and further evaluation Monday after he suffered the injury in Game 4. Exum and Ricky Rubio, who also has a hamstring injury, will not play in Game 5 on Tuesday, the team tweets.
  • There’s no chance guard Rodney Hood will return to the Jazz as a free agent, Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets.  Hood will be a restricted free agent if he receives a $3.47MM qualifying offer from the Cavaliers. Otherwise, he’ll be unrestricted.
  • The Thunder are willing to pay the steep cost of retaining free agent Paul George, according to Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman.  George will likely sign a max contract in free agency this summer. The team wants to remain competitive, even if it means footing the bill for $260MM in salary and luxury-tax penalties, Dawson adds.

Northwest Notes: Thibodeau, Rose, Anthony, Lyles

The Timberwolves broke their 14-year playoff drought because coach/executive Tom Thibodeau was willing to trade away the future to get better now, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Thibodeau signaled a new direction for the franchise last June when he shipped Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the seventh pick in the draft to Chicago in exchange for Jimmy Butler. He followed that up by signing veteran free agents Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford, Aaron Brooks and more recently, Derrick Rose.

“Look, when you’re trying to erase 14 years of losing, you have to bring in some people who have won before,” Thibodeau explained. “That was a big factor in that. These guys have won in the playoffs, and I knew the hole we had to get out of. When you looked at the number, the numbers said we had to do a lot of improving and I think we’ve done that.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Rose’s overlooked defensive abilities could be important in the playoff matchup with Houston, Zgoda notes in a separate story. Defense was one of the areas Thibodeau considered when he decided to sign the former MVP in March. Rose, who had a frustrating start to the season in Cleveland before being acquired and then waived by Utah, is happy with where he has landed. “Going through free agency, it’s all about being strategic,” Rose said. “I wanted to go to a contender. I wanted to go somewhere where I was familiar with the coach, and being here was the perfect situation.”
  • Carmelo Anthony is preparing for his first playoff appearance in five years, but he’s headed there in a much different role, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. Anthony was an MVP candidate when the Knicks last reached the postseason in 2013. Now he’s a complementary player after an offseason trade to the Thunder. “My approach is not any different,” he said. “My situation is different. My team is different.”

Northwest Notes: Timberwolves, Anthony, Nurkic

The Timberwolves are in the middle of the playoff pack and enjoying their best campaign in years but there have been several concerning elements at play through the first two months of the regular season, which Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype has discussed in a recent feature.

Four Timberwolves fall on the league’s top-ten list for minutes played. That inevitably comes at the cost of bench player minutes and potentially even team chemistry.

Another potentially problematic trend is how little involvement Karl-Anthony Towns is getting within the Timberwolves’ set offense. While Towns has quickly established himself as one of the league’s prized young stars, he’s running all over the court and getting little opportunity to score in the paint to show for it.

The 22-year-old Timberwolves center, Kalbrosky writes, has logged more miles than any other five in the league but gets the 23rd-most touches in the paint among big men.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Among Timberwolves players who’ve seen their playing time shrivel under the tutelage of head coach Tom Thibodeau is Jamal Crawford, Sam Amick and Michael Singer of USA Today write. The three-time Sixth Man of the Year has played just 17.5 minutes per night this season versus the 26.3 he saw last year with the Clippers.
  • The Thunder haven’t exactly hit the ground running since pairing Carmelo Anthony and Paul George with Russell Westbrook. Now Anthony, the elderstatesman of the trio, has started coming to terms with the fact that his days of being the undisputed No. 1 option may be behind him. “For the most part, it’s just accepting the fact that you’re not going to be the man every single night or have to be the man every single night,” Anthony told Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “So for me, I’ve accepted that.”
  • Big man Jusuf Nurkic has been out of action for the Trail Blazers since injuring his ankle on Tuesday but X-rays have come back negative, an ESPN report says. There is currently no timetable for his return.

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 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 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.