Tom Thibodeau

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.’’

Northwest Notes: Hill, Burks, Oladipo, Wolves

George Hill, who has been sidelined with a toe injury, could return as soon as Thursday against the Sixers, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com (ESPN Now link). The Jazz traded for Hill during the offseason, but the point guard has only been able to play in 11 contests due to injuries.

Here’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Alec Burks is making strides toward getting back on the court and the Jazz are excited to have the shooting guard back at practice, Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune writes. This week was the first time Burks practiced since breaking his ankle last season.
  • Victor Oladipo remains out of the lineup, but the Thunder are viewing his absence as an opportunity to evaluate the team’s depth, as Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman passes along. “We’ve found maybe different things that we can do that maybe we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to explore, to experiment with,” coach Billy Donovan said. “Hopefully when he gets back, his absence has made us better and helped our team grow in a way that we can continue to move in a positive direction.”
  • Jordan Hill hasn’t played much since joining the Wolves, but he remains optimistic about his role in the organization and the team’s future, as Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune writes. “In a couple years, man, I feel this team will definitely be a surprise,” Hill said.
  • Coach Tom Thibodeau is having trouble finding minutes for Brandon Rush, whom the Wolves signed in the offseason, Youngblood relays in the same piece. “It’s tough to play 10 guys,” Thibodeau said. “We’re settled in a rotation right now. But that doesn’t mean it will stay that way. He’s a good pro, works hard every day.”

Northwest Notes: Thibodeau, Lucas, Oladipo, Blazers

Managing expectations is one of the challenges Tom Thibodeau faces in his first year as coach of the Timberwolves, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Many observers thought Minnesota was poised to become playoff contender with a proven coach joining forces with young stars Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine. But the Wolves have started slow, winning just seven of their first 25 games, and Thibodeau keeps reminding them to ignore outside influences. “Those are all projections,” he said. “Sometimes they’re high and sometimes they’re low. The thing is not to get wrapped up in that and to understand where you are and the improvement you have to make. Also, every year is different. Teams change. Personnel changes on every team and you have to understand what goes into winning.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Veteran Wolves guard John Lucas III is squaring off against his father tonight for the first time in his NBA career, notes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Lucas III earned a roster spot in Minnesota in the preseason, while the elder Lucas serves as head of player development for the Rockets.“It’s good to see him being back doing the thing he loves to do, being around the game. He’s enjoying it. I like seeing him back out there, passing on his knowledge,” Lucas III said.
  • The Thunder’s only plan regarding Victor Oladipo‘s injury is to re-evaluate him every day, according to Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. Oladipo hasn’t played since suffering a wrist sprain Sunday, and no timetable has been set for his return“I think a lot of times people want to know when he’s gonna be back, and to be honest with you, we don’t know,” said coach Billy Donovan. “I’m not saying he’s gonna be out for months. I’m not saying weeks or days. But I think what happens is, if you say, ‘He’s gonna be back this day’ and he’s not, people start to draw conclusions.”
  • The Trail Blazers need to turn some of their frontcourt surplus into a swingman who can play defense or a big man who can score, writes Josh Martin of Bleacher Report. He mentions Mason Plumlee, Ed Davis, Noah Vonleh and Meyers Leonard as possible trade candidates.

Central Notes: Thibodeau, Ellis, Robinson, Pistons

Former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said his experience in Chicago was “90% positive” and he has no bitterness toward GM Gar Forman or executive John Paxson over his firing, relays K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter links). Thibodeau, who now coaches the Wolves, met with the media this afternoon in advance of tonight’s game in Chicago. He had a record of 255-139 in five years with the Bulls before being let go after the 2014/15 season. Thibodeau added that he would like to have a face-to-face meeting with owner Jerry Reinsdorf“Jerry was great to me,” he said. “I’ve got great respect for him. At some point, I’ll sit down with Jerry.” (Twitter link).

There’s more news from the Central Division:

  • It might be time for the Pacers to look for a taker for Monta Ellis, writes Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star. The team was sharp Monday night in a lopsided win over the Hornets as Ellis was sidelined with an injury. Ellis is having his worst season since he was a rookie, but the Pacers have been reluctant to pull him from the starting lineup after signing him to a four-year, $48MM deal in 2015. But Ellis, Paul George, Jeff Teague and Myles Turner all need to control the ball to be effective, and coach Nate McMillan said Monday, “There’s only one ball.”
  • Glenn Robinson III made a strong case to replace Ellis in the starting lineup, according to Mark Montieth of Pacers.com. Robinson scored just three points Monday, but had six rebounds, three blocks and no turnovers. He said his goal is to earn a regular spot as a starter. “It’s sad to see Monta out, you never want to see anyone injured, but I want to take advantage of this opportunity again,” Robinson said. “I definitely want to be a starter in this league and I think I can help this team out, bringing energy and being ready to play every tonight. Energy is the biggest thing we need in the starting lineup.”
  • Pistons owner Tom Gores considered his team “the missing family member” in Detroit sports, relays Harvey Araton of The New York Times. The franchise announced last month that it will leave Auburn Hills and return to downtown Detroit for the 2017/18 season.
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