Tyus Jones

Latest On Tom Thibodeau, Wolves

Contrary to a report that emerged last night in the wake of Tom Thibodeau’s firing in Minnesota, former Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg is not an “immediate candidate” to become the team’s next coach or president, a source tells Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

Interim coach Ryan Saunders will be given an opportunity to earn the job on a permanent basis, Krawczynski adds, and he has strong support from his players, who respect his work ethic and welcome his approachable nature as a change from Thibodeau. The organization will consider hiring an assistant who has experience as a head coach to help Saunders with the challenges of his new position.

GM Scott Layden was retained last night and will likely remain in place for the rest of the season, but he may need the team to make the playoffs to keep his job beyond that.

While the Wolves have a disappointing 19-21 record, the decision to part with Thibodeau was based on business as much as basketball, Krawczynski writes. The coach had become unpopular with fans, who routinely booed him every time his name was announced in pre-game introductions. Even worse, they were staying away, as Minnesota has dropped to 29th in home attendance after ranking 21st last season. The organization didn’t want to keep an alienating presence in place with a season ticket drive looming.

It’s no secret that owner Glen Taylor was unhappy with Thibodeau and Layden over how they handled the situation with Jimmy Butler before he was traded to the Sixers. Taylor commented several times that he believed both men were dragging their feet on Butler’s trade request and that they let the volatile star hijack the team during training camp and the early season.

Thibodeau has long had a reputation of giving heavy minutes to his starters, and several players complained about poor communication over their roles. Krawczynski reports that Gorgui Dieng, who has fallen out of the rotation after signing a huge contract, was “openly seething” in the locker room after Friday’s game. Tyus Jones, Anthony Tolliver and Jeff Teague have also expressed frustration over their status on the team.

As one of the few remaining coach/executives left in the league, Thibodeau’s standing was also harmed by several personnel decisions that didn’t work out. He was the driving force behind the decision to send Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and a draft pick that turned out to be Lauri Markkanen to the Bulls to acquire Butler. He also convinced Taylor to part with Ricky Rubio in exchange for Teague. And of course, he was responsible for bringing Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, his former players in Chicago, to Minnesota to form the “Timber-Bulls.”

Taylor was in Florida last night as Layden and CEO Ethan Casson delivered the news to Thibodeau. Taylor’s only comment came in an official statement from the organization, saying, “These decisions are never easy to make, but we felt them necessary to move our organization forward.”

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Jones, Korver, Thibodeau

The Nuggets are entering 2019 with the No. 1 record in the Western Conference, sporting an improved defense with their usual stellar play on offense this season. The team has worked for its success despite being hammered with injuries to key players such as Paul Millsap, Gary Harris and Will Barton over the past two months.

“It’s worth enjoying,” Jamal Murray said, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post. “It’s something you don’t want to give up. You drop to second, ‘You’re like, damn.’ Even though we’re not really paying attention to it, it’s in your sub-conscious. We’re the top team in the West for a reason.”

The next challenge for the Nuggets, head coach Mike Malone says, is not becoming complacent and taking the success for granted.

“The moment you come up for air, the moment you become satisfied, you will fall and fall quickly,” Malone said. “That’s how close the Western Conference is. You lose three games, you can drop eight spots.”

Denver owns a 23-11 record this season, but the team is scheduled to play five games in the first eight days of 2019 — including three contests on the road. Their resiliency and attitude toward shuffled rotations have been effective so far, with players such as Isaiah Thomas and Michael Porter Jr. also not seeing any game action yet.

Thomas is expected to return at some point in the coming weeks, while Porter Jr. may be out until the 2019/20 season. Millsap, Harris and Barton are each working to get back to 100 percent after sustaining respective injuries in December.

Here are some other notes from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves guard Tyus Jones has looked comfortable while starting at point, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. With both Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose out to injuries, Jones started for the team on Sunday against the Heat, then again on Monday against the Pelicans. He was able to notch 15 points and 13 assists in 38 minutes during Monday’s contest. “I felt great,” Jones said. “Continue to just try to make the right reads, the right plays and just play my game. Just continue to do so whether that’s shooting, playing off of other guys, getting certain guys going, no matter what it is, make sure we’re in the best position to try to win the game.”
  • Kyle Korver has positively impacted the Jazz one month after being traded to the team, Ryan McDonald of the Deseret News writes.  Utah holds a 7-1 record in games when Korver makes two or more 3-pointers and a 1-6 record when he makes one or less. “Since I have come on, it is a lot of me just trying to find my spot and be comfortable with how we try to play,” Korver said on Saturday, according to McDonald. The Jazz own a 18-19 record on the season.
  • Michael Scotto of The Athletic explores Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau‘s coaching style through his longtime players, including the likes of Rose, Luol Deng and Taj Gibson. Thibodeau is known for being a hard-nosed, disciplined NBA coach who prides himself on tough work and dedication. “His quote is always, ‘The magic is in the work,’” Deng said of Thibodeau. “It just tells you he’s going to put in as many hours as it takes to get it done.”

Wolves Notes: Covington, Jones, Dieng, Towns

During Jimmy Butler‘s final, acrimonious weeks in Minnesota, his ability to communicate with young Timberwolves players like Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins was called into question. Tasked with leading the club, Butler instead berated teammates in practice, questioning their desire to win and their ability to take criticism.

By comparison, new forward Robert Covington, acquired in the deal for Butler, seems to have a better sense of when to talk to teammates and when to lay off, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.

“I know how to read it,” Covington said. “Emotions are flying and everything like that. That’s just part of my character. … I pick the right moments and that’s when I approach guys. I would never want to sit up here and rub people the wrong way because not a lot of people will typically react the right way.”

While Covington has gotten on Towns a little, encouraging him to bring more of a “defensive mindset” to his role, it doesn’t seem to be negatively impacting the relationship between the two, according to Hine, who notes that Covington and Towns are constantly talking and making fun of each other in the locker room. The duo has helped the Wolves win seven of nine games since trading Butler.

Here’s more from out of Minnesota:

  • While Tyus Jones and Gorgui Dieng have been frustrated at times this season due to their limited roles, both players have excelled since Butler’s departure, says Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Within the same story, Krawczynski reports that there’s still no definitive timeline for Jerryd Bayless‘ return to action, though it’s not clear if he’ll have a role in Minnesota even once he’s healthy.
  • In a separate story for The Athletic, Krawczynski explores how Towns is adjusting to his new role as the Timberwolves’ leader, with current teammate Derrick Rose and former teammate Kevin Garnett weighing in on the subject. “He’s not always going to get things right,” Garnett said. “He’s going to have to speak up, voice his opinion. It doesn’t always have to be from a confrontational standpoint. KAT has good leadership skills because he works hard. It’s whether he wants to vocalize those, which is his next challenge as a leader, to me.”
  • While the Butler drama is in the rear view mirror, head coach Tom Thibodeau remains under the microscope, as Frank Isola of The Athletic details. Thibodeau’s long-term hold on Minnesota’s head coaching job is still tenuous, but he has done an excellent job with the new-look Wolves so far.

Extension Roundup: Rozier, Portis, Jones, Russell

 Celtics point guard Terry Rozier turned down a rookie scale extension offer prior to Monday’s deadline and will become a restricted free agent next summer, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston reports. Boston offered Rozier approximately $12MM annually, according to Blakely, but chose to take his chances in free agency. Talks were cordial and the two parties will revisit each other when Rozier hits the market, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.
“I’m in a great situation,” Rozier told Blakely. “My team (representatives) felt it wasn’t good for me to sign an extension right now. It opens my options a little bit, but I’m focused on what’s happening right now.”
Rozier is expected to have multiple suitors even as a restricted free agent, since Kyrie Irving recently announced that he plans to re-sign with the Celtics next summer, Blakely notes. Rozier broke out last season, particularly after Irving went down with a knee injury. He was especially potent in the playoffs, averaging 16.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG and 5.7 APG.
We have more extension decisions:
  • The Timberwolves and point guard Tyus Jones did not reach a rookie scale extension agreement. Jones will be a restricted free agent, and that’s been the expectation all along, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets. Minnesota would have to make a $3,573,205 qualifying offer before free agency next summer, otherwise Jones would be unrestricted. Jones saw action in all 82 regular-season games last season, including 11 starts, and averaged 5.1 PPG and 2.8 APG in 17.9 MPG.
  • The Bulls and forward Bobby Portis couldn’t come to an extension agreement before Monday’s deadline, Wojnarowski tweets. Agent Mark Bartelstein and Chicago GM Gar Forman had lengthy negotiations as the deadline approached, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune tweets, but couldn’t close the financial gap. “We had very positive talks,” Bartelstein told Johnson. “These are hard extensions to get done.” (Twitter link). Portis will be a restricted free agent if Chicago gives him a $3,611,813 qualifying offer. He averaged 13.2 PPG and 6.8 RPG in 73 regular season games after returning from his eight-game team suspension following his well-publicized dust-up with former teammate Nikola Mirotic.
  • Nets guard D’Angelo Russell and forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson did not receive extensions, Michael Scotto of The Athetic tweets. Neither player was aware of Monday’s deadline, according to Scotto, suggesting that the Nets never made a serious pitch to lock them up before free agency. The Nets would have extend a $9,160,706 qualifying offer to Russell to make him a restricted free agent. Hollis-Jefferson’s qualifying offer would be $3,594,369.

Wolves Rumors: Noah, Butler, Jones, Towns

The Knicks’ long-awaited roster move involving Joakim Noah finally happened on Saturday, resulting in a flurry of speculation about the Timberwolves‘ interest in the veteran center. However, league sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link) that Wolves head coach Tom Thibodeau has shown no interest in adding Noah to his roster.

Thibodeau hasn’t hesitated to stack his Minnesota squad with several of his former Bulls players, including Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, and Luol Deng, and reports earlier in the offseason indicated that he might be interest in Noah as well. Apparently that’s not the case though. For now, Thibodeau has his hands full with another one of those ex-Bulls, as he attempts to determine what to do with Butler.

Here’s more out of Minnesota:

  • Asked on Friday for the first time about Butler’s now-infamous performance in practice on Wednesday, Thibodeau downplayed its importance, according to Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “It’s not uncommon when players scrimmage that there will be some talk,” Thibodeau said. “It was competitive.”
  • Thibodeau also offered this assessment on confrontations during practices and scrimmages, per Hine: “It’s OK to confront. That’s not an issue. The way you confront that’s important. But if you do confront, don’t beat down. The big thing is to lift people up. You make other people better.”
  • We haven’t heard much else on the Butler front since reports indicated he was likely to start the season with the Wolves and that the Heat weren’t making an effort to re-engage the Wolves in trade talks.
  • There have still been no rookie scale extension discussions between Tyus Jones and the Timberwolves, Jones confirmed on Friday (link via Hine). “I’d like to be here, but I know it’s a business,” said Jones, who will be eligible for restricted free agency in 2019 if he doesn’t get an extension. The deadline is Monday.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns expressed plenty of frustration following another bad preseason loss on Friday, calling the team’s recent showings “unacceptable.” Chris Herring of ESPN.com has the details and the quotes from Towns.
  • Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN confirms (via Twitter) that Canyon Barry and William Lee received Exhibit 10 deals today and are expected to join the Iowa Wolves, Minnesota’s G League affiliate, after they’re waived.

Wolves Updates: Practice, Butler, Towns, Jones

After a Wednesday practice session that figures to go down as one of the notorious NBA scrimmages of the decade, the Timberwolves have cancelled their Thursday practice, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link).

As Krawczynski observes (via Twitter), head coach Tom Thibodeau complained just last week that the preseason schedule didn’t allow for much practice time for a Timberwolves team that desperately needed it. So the cancellation today is probably more about avoiding another media circus than anything else. After all, following Wednesday’s performance, Jimmy Butler told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols that he planned on being back at practice on Thursday.

Here’s more out of Minnesota, with several notes on the Butler situation:

  • Within his conversation with Nichols, Butler confirmed much of the recent reporting on his situation, acknowledging that he wanted the Timberwolves to renegotiate his contract in the offseason and indicating that he believed he made it clear long before September 19 that he wanted out of Minnesota.
  • According to Jon Krawczynski and Shams Charania of The Athletic, Butler’s return to practice played out just like he frequently promised Thibodeau and owner Glen Taylor it would if they didn’t trade him. The Athletic duo reports that Butler also made it clear he wanted to sit down and discuss a handful of issues with Karl-Anthony Towns in the hopes of challenging Towns to be upfront and honest. It’s not clear whether that meeting has happened or will happen.
  • While Butler claimed that Towns started the trash talk in practice, others in the gym disagreed with that assessment, per Krawczynski and Charania.
  • Here’s what Butler told Nichols about Towns: “Am I being tough on him? Yeah! Yeah, that’s who I am. I’m not the most talented player. Who’s the most talented player on our team? KAT. Who’s the most god-gifted player on our team? Wigs (Andrew Wiggins). Wigs got the longest arms, the biggest hands, can jump the highest, can run the fastest. But who plays the hardest? Me. I play hard. I play really hard. I put my body on the line every damn practice. Every day in the games. That’s my passion. That’s how I give to the game. That’s how I give to you guys.”
  • The reactions to Butler’s performance in practice were mixed, according to Krawczynski and Charania, who suggested some players laughed and enjoyed it, while others in the building were concerned, wondering how Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden could stand for Butler’s conduct. ESPN analyst Stan Van Gundy said on SportsCenter (video link) that he heard from some members of the organization that it was the team’s best practice of the fall, which suggests Thibodeau and Layden weren’t bothered by it.
  • In non-Butler news, the Timberwolves have yet to have any contract extension talks with backup point guard Tyus Jones, per Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN (Twitter link). If the two sides don’t work out a new deal by Monday, Jones will be on track for restricted free agency in 2019.

Suns’ Search For Point Guard Could Overlap With Butler Sweepstakes

The Suns‘ pursuit of a point guard on the trade market could result in them getting involved in the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes as a facilitator, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). Keith Smith of RealGM.com first reported (via Twitter) that the Suns, like the Kings, were open to the idea of helping facilitate a three-team Butler trade.

As Wojnarowski details, if the Timberwolves and Heat were to make a trade involving Butler and Goran Dragic, it could open the door for Minnesota to send Jeff Teague to Phoenix as part of the deal. The Suns are also known to have inquired on backup Wolves point guard Tyus Jones. It’s not clear how interested the Suns would be in landing Dragic – who has already had two stints in Phoenix – as part of a three-team trade with Minnesota and Miami, but that could also be an avenue the team explores.

[RELATED: Heat Now Atop Jimmy Butler’s Wish List?]

The Kings may make a bit more sense than Phoenix as a third team in a potential Butler trade, since they have $11MM in cap room to work with, putting them in a better position to accommodate an unwanted contract. However, Sacramento would likely be after a first-round pick. The Suns are over the cap and would need to match salaries in any deal, perhaps using expiring contracts like Tyson Chandler‘s ($13.59MM) or Darrell Arthur‘s ($7.46MM).

The Suns have been on the lookout for a point guard since moving Brandon Knight to Houston in a trade last month. Besides Teague and Jones, some of the point guards cited as potential trade targets for Phoenix include Patrick Beverley, Cory Joseph, and Spencer Dinwiddie.

Suns Have Inquired On Tyus Jones

12:58pm: The Suns aren’t the only team to inquire on Jones, though they’ve been the most active in trying to acquire him, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN, noting that the Pelicans have liked him in the past.

According to Wolfson, the Timberwolves have told teams they aren’t interested in moving Jones right now. They also haven’t engaged in extension talks yet with the fourth-year point guard.

8:22am: The Suns, who remain on the lookout for possible point guard targets, have asked about Timberwolves guard Tyus Jones, sources tell ESPN’s Zach Lowe. It’s not clear how recently that inquiry happened, or if the two teams engaged in any discussions.

Jones appeared in all 82 games for the Timberwolves last season, averaging 5.1 PPG and 2.8 APG as Jeff Teague‘s backup at the point. However, the club acquired Derrick Rose late in the year and re-signed him in the offseason, raising some questions about Jones’ role. According to a June report, Teague suggested last season that the 22-year-old – who averaged 17.9 MPG – should play more.

That same report indicated that Jones considered requesting a trade, but that head coach Tom Thibodeau “reasserted his support” for the youngster, assuring him his role will increase in 2018/19 despite Rose’s return, due to the departure of Jamal Crawford. Still, Jones is entering a contract year and will be eligible for restricted free agency in 2019, so if Minnesota isn’t certain of his long-term role, it could make sense to gauge his trade value.

As for the Suns, they’ve traded Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight within the last year, leaving them without a clear-cut starting point guard. Patrick Beverley, Cory Joseph, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Terry Rozier are among the other potential Phoenix trade targets named by various reports.

For now, the Suns’ depth chart at the point features Shaquille Harrison, De’Anthony Melton, Elie Okobo, and Isaiah Canaan. Canaan is on a non-guaranteed contract while Melton – acquired in a deal with the Rockets – remains unsigned.

Northwest Notes: Noel, Thunder, Blazers, T. Jones

After four disappointing seasons, former lottery pick Nerlens Noel has a chance to revive his career with the Thunder, writes Ben Nadeau of Basketball Insiders. Oklahoma City was aggressive in its pursuit of Noel, including phone calls from Russell Westbrook and Paul George in the opening minutes of free agency. He agreed to a two-year deal worth nearly $3.7MM that contains a player option for next summer.

Noel has a lot to prove after being the sixth player taken in the 2013 draft. He was stuck in a center logjam in Philadelphia before being traded to Dallas midway through the 2016/17 season. Injuries limited him to 30 games in his only full year with the Mavericks, and he welcomes the chance for a fresh start with the Thunder.

“I really think it’s a great opportunity,” Noel said. “With the athleticism and the pieces that they have now, I think I can really come and make a significant difference to the speed of the game. It’s really been a great last few days, going to OKC, signing and just feeling very welcome from the whole organization — that really means a lot.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The current Thunder roster is heavily imbalanced with wing players, notes Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. This week’s signing of Hamidou Diallo gives OKC 15 players under contract, with eight of them being wings. That includes Kyle Singler, whom Tramel expects OKC to use the stretch provision on if it can’t find a team willing to take him in a trade. Singler has two more years and about $10.3MM left on his contract. The team has just two centers and two power forwards, raising concerns about depth at both positions.
  • Trail Blazers fans deserve an explanation for how the team is handling its assets, writes John Canzano of The Oregonian. The latest puzzling move was letting a $12,969,502 trade exception from last year’s Allen Crabbe deal expire. Canzano retraces a history of questionable decisions, including mega free agent offers to Roy Hibbert, Greg Monroe and Chandler Parsons, who all signed elsewhere, and large contracts for Evan Turner, Festus Ezeli and Meyers Leonard that have clogged Portland’s cap space.
  • The Timberwolves have an extension decision to make this summer on Tyus Jones, notes Derek James of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities. Coach Tom Thibodeau has promised Jones more playing time in the future, but that could be difficult to deliver with Derrick Rose returning and Josh Okogie as the team’s first-round pick.

Wolves Rumors: Butler, Wiggins, Jones, Dieng

Jimmy Butler will have the opportunity to opt out and sign a new contract with the Timberwolves a year from now, but Sean Deveney of The Sporting News hears from sources familiar with the situation that Butler is uncertain about playing alongside Andrew Wiggins in the long term. According to Deveney, Butler had issues last season related to Wiggins’ work ethic and defensive approach.

As Deveney details, head coach Tom Thibodeau has had similar gripes with Wiggins in the past, and had hoped that bringing in a “tough-minded” veteran like Butler would motivate the former No. 1 pick to improve. However, it didn’t seem to help much.

While the Wolves figure to explore the trade market for Wiggins this summer, it will be hard to find a viable deal with his five-year, maximum-salary contract set to take effect, Deveney notes.

Here’s more from Deveney on the Wolves:

  • Thibodeau’s use of his bench continues to be a source of friction in Minnesota, with Tyus Jones among the backups adversely affected. A source tells Deveney that Jeff Teague suggested to Thibodeau last season that Jones should play more.
  • According to Deveney, Jones considered requesting a trade out of Minnesota, but Thibodeau “reasserted his support” of the young guard following the season, assuring Jones that his role will increase next season even if Derrick Rose is re-signed, due to the presumed departure of Jamal Crawford.
  • While the Wolves don’t appear likely to move Jones, they’ll look to deal highly-priced backup Gorgui Dieng, per Deveney.
  • I touched on several of these topics earlier this week in my preview of the Timberwolves’ offseason.