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Alston hasn’t played in the NBA since 2010, never made an All-Star Game or won a championship. But he still stands out in a crowd because as much as people remember Rafer Alston, they never forget “Skip To My Lou.” Alston has spent his entire basketball life reinventing himself at every turn. The trail-blazing streetballer. The college vagabond who eventually became a disciple of Jerry Tarkanian at Fresno State. The seldom-used rookie in Milwaukee. The invaluable floor general in Miami, Houston and Orlando. ... Now that his playing days are over, Alston has found a new calling that he didn’t expect. After wanting to get into coaching, he took a scouting job with the Minnesota Timberwolves last season. Just as he has his entire career, Alston is changing and adapting to make sure that he is not so easily dismissed.
“He’s a legend in the streets and he did a great job in the NBA,” said Wolves guard Jeff Teague, who grew up in Indianapolis trying to mimic the slick moves Alston showed on those mixtapes. “Now he’s a scout and is able to teach the game, see the game. It’s amazing to see and just from watching mixtapes I became a huge fan.”
Though Layden is not one for being in front of the cameras, behind the scenes he is well-liked as a person and has endeared himself to owner Glen Taylor in the months since Thibs was dismissed. Ryan, of course, has a lot of his father’s charm and feel for people. He is easy to like.
Rumbles persist that Glen Taylor, the Wolves’ owner, remains interested in bringing his former point guard Chauncey Billups back to town to run the front office. Yet skepticism also persists about Taylor’s ability to make an offer attractive enough to lure Billups from his analyst job at ESPN. Calvin Booth, a Denver executive who the Nuggets hired away from the Timberwolves before the 2017-18 season, is increasingly mentioned as a strong candidate to replace Layden if Taylor does make a change.
Minnesota is sorting through what's left in Butler's wake. Taylor considered firing Thibodeau and Layden in the summer -- well before the Butler situation escalated -- and has continued to consider possibilities to eventually replace both of them, league sources said. There's immense pressure on Minnesota's management structure to see dividends on this trade.
It​ was​ nearly​ midnight​ inside the Citizen Hotel in downtown​ Sacramento on​ Friday,​ and Minnesota Timberwolves​ general​ manager​​ Scott Layden was the only one in the crowded room still working. ... It was time to put the Jimmy Butler saga out to pasture. I had no clue at the time that the Timberwolves had reached their breaking point. Layden was clearly focused on his conversation, and so I waved from a distance and offered a thumbs up as a way of saying hello in the most placid way possible. To my surprise, Layden — who had spent these past two months giving thumbs downs to every trade offer that came their way — offered a thumbs up in return. Little did I know: The T-Wolves were finally going to say yes.
Once the Wolves finally came to the conclusion that a deal had to be made, owner Glen Taylor spoke personally with Sixers owner Josh Harris to push it through, sources said. The Wolves were in a difficult position from a bargaining perspective given all of the negativity, and losing, that had enveloped the franchise. The Wolves were eyeing three offers from different teams, but made the decision on Saturday to go forward with Philly’s package, sources said.
Shortly after that meeting, Butler had a conversation with Taylor to get the ball rolling on an exit strategy. Taylor was more open to the idea than Thibodeau was initially and promised to pursue all avenues to grant his request, sources said. The owner told Thibodeau and Layden on Sept. 22 to be proactive in seeking out possibilities to bring to his desk, but what followed was a mind-numbing process filled with mixed messages. Thibodeau and Layden took hard-line stances in negotiations, according to team sources who entered into the talks. Several owners reached out to Taylor directly, and while those conversations felt more productive, Taylor resisted calls to make a unilateral move.
There are people close to this situation who strongly believe that Thibs’ time in Minnesota is already unofficially over. That being said, two key factors will be taken into consideration: Money, and timing. While the $24 million he’s still owed obviously pales in comparison to what the T-Wolves’ young cornerstones are hauling in, it’s still … $24 million. Thibodeau’s arrival in April of 2016 was a big moment for this franchise that had been in the dark for quite some time, and let’s not forget that — dysfunction be darned — it was his team that broke the 14-year playoff drought.
The general feeling on that front is that he’d probably be more inclined to pursue a different, less toxic, coaching chair. As for the question of whether or not he should be having a voice on a trade here, the reality for Taylor is that he’s not a basketball man, per se, while Thibodeau and Layden are the hoops experts here.
Disgruntled Minnesota Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler’s emotional, profanity-laced tirade Wednesday was directed primarily at Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, as well as members of the franchise’s front office, during an unexpected practice session appearance, sources told Yahoo Sports. “I ain’t never seen some [expletive] like that. Jimbo showed out,” one of Minnesota’s players told Yahoo Sports.
Butler showed up to practice late and just subbed himself into the scrimmage on the third team to go against the starting group, league sources said. Throughout the practice, Butler verbally bashed Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, president of basketball operations/coach Tom Thibodeau and general manager Scott Layden, league sources said. Screaming from the top of his lungs, Butler uttered taunts at his teammates such as “They ain’t [expletive]!” and “They soft!”, league sources said. Most of the players knew the invectives were directed at Towns and Wiggins, league sources said.
Neither Towns nor Wiggins confronted Butler at any point, league sources said. Some players were motivated by Butler’s theatrics, but others were distraught and speechless, and most notably Towns, league sources said. When practice concluded, Butler stormed out of the facility without stretching with the rest of his teammates, league sources said. However, before he departed, Wiggins gave him a hand dap, league sources said.
Adrian Wojnarowski: At one point in a scrimmage, sources said, Butler turned to GM Scott Layden and screamed, "You (bleeping) need me. You can't win without me." Butler left teammates and coaches largely speechless. He dominated the gym in every way. Jimmy's back.
If anyone in the league would give it a try, Thibodeau rolling the dice with Butler would rank pretty high on the gambler’s list. The Wolves front office of Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden have been known for two years as one of the most difficult to engage with, according to agents and executives around the league. So in many ways they are staying on brand in this scenario.
The Minnesota Timberwolves today additions to the team’s basketball staff for the upcoming season, promoting Todd Checovich to Scout/General Manager of the Iowa Wolves, Nick Restifo to Senior Basketball Operations Analyst and Troy Sutton to Head Strength and Conditioning Coach. The team has also named Cole Fisher as Basketball Operations Analyst, Kurt Joseph as Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach and Danny Wilson as Assistant Equipment Manager.
Team owner Glen Taylor has engaged in discussions with teams about a possible trade, but those teams have been rebuffed by Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden when contacted directly, a bizarre dynamic that has several executives around the league scratching their heads. Given the chaotic nature of the situation, Butler sought and has been granted permission not to appear at the team’s media day on Monday, when every player on the roster answers questions from the media and poses for photos with teammates.
Players on the team have been searching for answers, but Thibodeau has held firm to this point, sources said. Teams continue to reach out to the Wolves to gauge their interest and begin trade talks, only to be told that Butler is not available. If this is some kind of renegade negotiating strategy aimed at causing confusion and muddying the waters, it’s working. Members of other front offices don’t know whom to contact or what to believe. But nearly all of them expect Taylor to eventually shepherd a deal to the finish line.
A meeting set between Minnesota Timberwolves four-time All-Star Jimmy Butler and president of basketball operations/coach Tom Thibodeau is expected to set the tone for Butler's final season under contract -- and his impending free agency in July, league sources told ESPN on Saturday. Just days before the start of training camp in Minneapolis, Butler and his agent, Bernie Lee, are planning to meet with Thibodeau on Monday in Minneapolis for what's expected to be a serious conversation on the franchise's fragile state, sources said.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Jimmy Butler's meeting w/ Minnesota management early next week as @ Jon Krawczynski reports. Butler, Tom Thibodeau have had a strong relationship for years, but there are organizational issues that need to be sorted. Source on meeting: "Whatever needs to be communicated...will be."
There were even doubts internally, so much so that Rose needed assurances that the organization was on board with the move before he made the final agreement to come to Minnesota, league sources told The Athletic. Through it all, questions about Rose’s character, his health and his state of mind, Thibodeau has never flinched. “He’s got great instincts,” Thibodeau said as the regular season drew to a close. “You’re just seeing the tip of it. This year has been basically a lost year, but he’s super-talented. That’s why we picked him up. He’s played very well for us.”
Jerry Zgoda: Thibs on the Wolves doing about as well as they could have hoped to do Friday by getting the 20th pick in the June draft. "Yeah, Scott (Layden) was pleased. We’re not thinking about that, we’re thinking about the playoffs."
At some point, Wolves coach/pres­i­dent of basket­ball op­er­ations Tom Thib­o­deau, General Man­ag­er Scott Lay­den and, of course, own­er Glen Tay­lor must de­cide how much they can af­ford and with whom they can sur­round three play­ers earn­ing max con­tracts. “We’ve been plan­ning,” Thib­o­deau said. “We’re wor­ried a­bout not only now, but we have to be sure we put the best team on the floor we can. That’s a big part of this. The big­gest thing is ev­er­y­one con­cen­trat­ing on us win­ning. We don’t want to get lost in any­thing but chas­ing ex­cel­lence.”
Jon Krawczynski: Rafer Alston has joined Timberwolves as a scout, league sources tell The Athletic. Skip to My Lou reunites w/Thibs, who coached him in HOU
The latter has since been a consultant for some NBA teams and now has emerged as a serious candidate for the Milwaukee Bucks’ vacant assistant general manager’s position. Newton, who had been Washington’s vice president of player personnel before working in Minnesota, met with Bucks officials earlier this week in Las Vegas. Among the Bucks’ contingent was recently-hired general manager Jon Horst and head coach Jason Kidd. Newton is one of several individuals under consideration for the assistant GM job, which became vacant when the Bucks fired Justin Zanik.
WHEN YOU WENT BACK TO THE TIMBERWOLVES, YOU TALKED ABOUT HAVING A BIGGER ROLE IN THE ORGANIZATION. GETTING A STAKE IN THE TEAM, HAVING A ROLE IN THE FRONT OFFICE, MAYBE EVEN ONE DAY BEING THE MAJORITY OWNER. IS THAT STILL A GOAL OF YOURS? Kevin Garnett: It seemed like it was perfect for how Flip organized and put it together and designed it. Obviously when he left us, Glen saw differently and wanted to go a different way. I’ve always said I wanted to be a part of an organization that is about winning more progressively, in that direction. Minnesota seemed like a perfect fit for that. That has changed. I don’t see myself doing that any time soon, but that still is a goal of mine. I would like to be part of an organization that is part of winning, that I can help the young guys progress. So that’s still a dream but not a priority at this point.
Taylor said that Pekovic, who at one point was one of the more unique and bruising big men in the league, might have played his last game due to long-term injuries. “I don’t think so,” he said when asked if Pekovic would play again. “I mean, that’s for him and his doctors but just listening to what the doctors have told me and what he has said, I’m not expecting it in our plans going ahead. We won’t rely on him.”
The Minnesota Timberwolves begin a new chapter in their franchise history by unveiling a new team logo as part of Fan Appreciation Night at Target Center on Tuesday, April 11. The Wolves will conclude the home portion of their regular season schedule that evening by hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder at 7 p.m. The logo will be unveiled during a special halftime show and all fans in attendance will receive a commemorative t-shirt with the new identity featured.
Chris Haynes: Minnesota hires Noah Croom for assistant GM role, sources tell @clevelanddotcom. Former Vancouver Grizz exec leaving Goodwin Sports Mgmt.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Sources: Minnesota hiring Spurs' Brian Pauga as Player Personnel Director. Pauga worked w/ GM Scott Layden w/ Spurs. Well-regarded riser.
When I talked to Thibodeau on the phone Thursday, he verified that he didn’t talk to the search firm hired by Wolves owner Glen Taylor until Wednesday. … He also said he was not going to hire any assistants until he visits with the current Wolves staff. All of the assistant coaches under him in his last year coaching the Bulls got NBA jobs after Thibodeau was fired. His 2014-2015 staff included Adrian Griffin (now with Orlando), Andy Greer (Toronto), Ed Pinckney (Denver) and Mike Wilhelm, the only assistant Fred Hoiberg, Thibodeau’s successor, kept with the Bulls.
“Scott Layden brings over 30 years of experience in the NBA to his new role within our organization, including several years in basketball operations leadership positions with Utah, New York and most recently San Antonio. His decades of front office experience will be integral as we head into an extremely exciting time for our organization. In getting to know Scott, he has impressed me with his not only his basketball acumen, but also his character and integrity. Tom and Scott will work in concert together in shaping our roster moving forward. We are confident this partnership gives us the best chance possible of winning an NBA title.”
Jeff Zillgitt: Feel for Milt Newton, who has family in the Twin Cities area. Could he end up in DC again if Eversley heads to Philly?
Jeff Zillgitt: Have been/were discussions to keep Milt as GM. Doesn't look like that will happen. - RT: Jabari Young: Milt Newton is the GM in Minny & should remain the GM. Bring in Scott Layden, but as an assistant. Why does he deserve it? #Timberwolves
Sam Amick: This Thibodeau/Layden combo is great for Minny from front office angle. Too much work for a coach/GM on his own. Should keep Milt Newton too.
Marc Berman: According to Woj, Thibodeau-Scott Layden tandem could happen in Minnesota. Worked together with #Knicks. Layden still has place in Manhattan
Thibodeau wants to have final say on player personnel, organizational philosophy and hirings, league sources said, and that’s only available with the Minnesota opening now.
Taylor is expected to be willing to pay a $7 million-a-year package to an elite candidate, comparable to Stan Van Gundy’s deal with Detroit, league sources said.
Korn Ferry has already started to identify possible general manager candidates to pair with a new president and coach in Minnesota, including San Antonio Spurs assistant GM Scott Layden and Memphis Grizzlies executive VP of player personnel Ed Stefanski, league sources said. Layden (Utah and New York) and Stefanski (Philadelphia) each have GM experience in the NBA. Milt Newton is the Timberwolves GM now, and it is unclear how – or if – he would continue in any organizational role if Taylor goes through with the hiring of one of his top two candidates.
Jon Krawczynski: Glen Taylor told Milt Newton and Sam Mitchell at the beginning of the season that he would give both of them the year in these roles and then re-evaluate it at the end of the season. He wants to see how they both respond to the increased responsibility and the moves they make. Newton did play a major role in shaping the vision of the franchise, assembling the roster and evaluating talent while Flip Saunders was still around. So he’s done a lot of the work already. Now it’s his show. And it’s up to him to show Taylor, and the new minority ownership group that is negotiating to buy 30% of the team, that he is the right man for the job going forward for the foreseeable future. That he’s already had a hand in assembling a lot of the young talent on the roster will certainly work in his favor.
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