The Minnesota Timberwolves have emerged as a potential threat to poach Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly, league sources told The Denver Post. The Timberwolves identified a list of four big-name GMs — Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti, Golden State’s Bob Myers, Toronto’s Masai Ujiri and Connelly — to fill their vacancy, according to a person with direct knowledge of discussions. And the Nuggets’ long-time president was deemed the most “gettable,” from a financial standpoint, according to another source.
Dane Moore: A key negotiation factor in the Timberwolves trying to attract Tim Connelly to be the new president of basketball operations is a stake in ownership, sources say. Connelly has been on the Wolves list of “top 5” POBO candidates dating back to last summer, sources say.
The Timberwolves identified a list of four big-name GMs — Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti, Golden State’s Bob Myers, Toronto’s Masai Ujiri and Connelly — to fill their vacancy, according to a person with intimate knowledge of discussions. And the Nuggets’ long-time president was deemed the most “gettable,” from a financial standpoint, according to another source. Connelly, according to sources, is in an option year of his contract.
Dane Moore: Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez put together a list of five POBOs to target shortly after purchasing the Timberwolves, sources say. Originally Pat Riley was on that list. These are the most recent five names, sources say: Tim Connelly Masai Ujiri Daryl Morey Bob Myers Sam Presti
Michael Singer: The phrase I'd heard from two different people in the last few days was that Connelly was the most "gettable," from a financial standpoint. I believe that's what we're seeing with Minnesota emerging.
Darren Wolfson: My words from Sunday. Tim Connelly-#Timberwolves buzz has been out there for a bit. @ShamsCharania + @JonKrawczynski reporting Wolves now in serious talks w/ him, but nothing is imminent. 1 person very close to Connelly: "I don't see it unless they give him $10M per and equity."
Ryan Blackburn: There's a lot to unpack with the Tim Connelly report, and as surprising as it is, there have been some signs. Notably, Calvin Booth, Denver' current general manager (under Connelly at POBO) spoke to media at Denver's post-season press conference a couple weeks ago.
The Timberwolves are in serious talks with Denver Nuggets president Tim Connelly about the franchise’s vacant President of Basketball Operations role, sources tell The Athletic. The Timberwolves recently requested permission from the Nuggets to speak with Connelly, and the sides have moved beyond exploratory conversations, sources said. There have been no agreements reached yet, and nothing appears imminent, sources said.
Connelly has emerged as a serious target for the Timberwolves and marks the first known external candidate for the organization’s lead basketball department position. Sachin Gupta, the Timberwolves’ executive vice president, remains a significant part of the organization’s long-term vision and is a candidate to continue overseeing basketball operations, sources said.
Timberwolves majority owner Glen Taylor said Gupta would be evaluated after the season to determine if they would go forward with him or look elsewhere. The Wolves have not ruled out the possibility that Gupta will remain in charge, sources said. But the talks with Connelly represent a real consideration of hiring someone above Gupta.
Dane Moore: With the NBA lottery tonight and draft conversations heating up, Sachin Gupta remains in charge of the Timberwolves front office while, sources say, new ownership remains focused on hiring a “top 5” president of basketball operations to work with Gupta in the front office.
Darren Wolfson: Late Friday night #Timberwolves news: Hear that assistant general manager Gianluca Pascucci is no longer with the organization. #RaisedByWolves
Perhaps there's an alternative avenue in Los Angeles, where the franchise retains Pelinka under his current title of vice president of basketball operations and general manager, and hires another executive as president, similar to how Magic Johnson originally held the president position alongside Pelinka. That arrangement has become increasingly common in NBA front offices, like how Philadelphia anointed Daryl Morey atop the Sixers' front office, previously helmed by general manager Elton Brand. Or how Danny Ainge was named Utah Jazz CEO despite having Justin Zanik operating as general manager. Along those lines, league sources continue mentioning the possibility Minnesota brings in a president above interim general manager Sachin Gupta.
Scott Agness: Moses Ehambe, who was on Nate Bjorkgren’s Indiana staff last season, has joined the Minnesota Timberwolves as the director of player programs, league source told @FieldhouseFiles.
Gupta has spent his first days trying to connect with as many people in the organization as possible. He has spoken with every player to assure them that the goals for this season have not changed. He is meeting daily with coach Chris Finch in a partnership that both say has been seamless and has already forged a strong relationship with the ownership group, which has assured him that he will have all of the authority necessary to make any deals he thinks will help the team. “The first thing is I just wanted to make sure that, after the shock of it all, that people felt reassured that what happened was in no way a reflection on anyone else, that we have stability and that we just move forward,” Gupta said. “That was the big thing. I think everyone here knows who I am and knows what I’m about. I think people are just excited with the start of the year and knowing that with me there’s always an open ear that truly will be a collaborative process going forward.”
Gupta is much quieter by nature. He prefers to listen rather than dictate in meetings and wants to empower those underneath him. He also figures to be less of a presence in the locker room, giving the coaches and players more of their own space to operate, with the understanding that his door is always open if anyone wants to talk. “I’m not going to be in the middle of the huddle at center court giving a rah-rah speech. But I’m always available,” he said. “I’m a listener. I believe in servant leadership and I just want to be available. I view my role as helping everyone, players, staff, to put them in the best position possible to succeed as individuals, as a team, on the floor and off the floor.”
One of Gupta’s first moves in charge was to bring back Zarko Durisic, a very popular and respected scout who has been with the team since the 1990s but did not have his contract renewed by Rosas earlier this summer. Durisic was walking around the practice facility again this week, a little morale boost for a front office that had been put through the wringer in recent months.
Dane Moore: Karl-Anthony Towns on the consistent instability in Minnesota: "What happened last week, it just adds to the list. It’s the same thing every single time. It’s something that always leads to instability… I’ve been through I feel like almost everything.”
Gersson Rosas came to work on Wednesday morning like it was any other day. On the Timberwolves practice facility courts, players were going through informal workouts to prepare for the beginning of training camp, which was less than a week away. Rosas gathered the players on the court, sources told The Athletic, and delivered a message to them about the importance of the work they were putting in. The pep talk of sorts was common from Rosas, a president of basketball operations who enjoyed making his voice heard. Players had grown used to these moments in Rosas’ two-plus seasons on the job, so the feeling throughout the gym on Wednesday was one of business as usual.
He was one of the most visible lead executives in the league, regularly conducting interviews to articulate his vision. Within the team, Rosas blurred the lines between the front office and locker room, addressing the team regularly and making his expectations clear. He held an unwavering belief in his plan and faith that the pains the team experienced in the short term would one day pay off.
At the time that plan was put into place, it was hard to envision having to fire Rosas this quickly. But sources say the deep dive Lore and Rodriguez were doing into the franchise started to raise concerns to them about the disenchantment in the front office earlier this summer. That coupled with the team’s lack of success led Lore and Rodriguez to believe a change was going to have to be made eventually. When more details surrounding Rosas’ relationship with another member of the Wolves staff emerged this week and they learned that people in the organization were becoming more and more uncomfortable, the timeline on that decision-making sped up. Taylor agreed and ultimately made the drive to tell Rosas face to face.
Now, after the relationship grew strained this summer, he finds himself as the lead basketball decision-maker. Gupta was named as the immediate successor, but the Wolves did not bestow the “interim” label on his job title that often comes in situations where firings happen quickly either in season or, in this case, right before it begins. He has quickly formed some strong relationships with the ownership group, sources said, and will go into this season with a chance to win the job outright.
The emergence earlier this month of Rosas' consensual romantic relationship with a female team staff member, after Rosas' tense dealings with eventual successor Sachin Gupta over a Houston offer to Gupta that he was prevented from accepting, gave Taylor the needed justifications to make the change now. Photographic evidence of Rosas in a romantic clinch with his co-worker was widely circulated across the league on Wednesday after his dismissal and promptly usurped even the Simmons situation as the No. 1 topic on the NBA grapevine.
Example: During the Las Vegas summer league, word circulated that Lore and Rodriguez would have loved to have made a run at Toronto's Masai Ujiri to lead Minnesota's front office. Ujiri recently signed a lucrative contract extension to stay with the Raptors — and the Wolves realistically had no shot at him — but the whispered interest only reinforces the notion that Lore and Rodriguez want to make splashy hires.
League sources insist that Gupta will have every chance to impress as the Wolves' interim head of basketball operations.
Ownership was made aware of Rosas' transgressions with the staffer when team officials were provided with photographic evidence of their connection, sources said. It seems few if any in Minnesota and around the league had general knowledge of Rosas' relationship until Wednesday, when the news quickly spread throughout the organization, and to rival team personnel, like wildfire. Rosas and the woman, each of whom is married, were seen kissing in a suite during a Minnesota United FC game last Saturday at Allianz Field, sources said. The soccer club was told to reserve luxury seating for several Timberwolves players and personnel, including assistant coach Pablo Prigioni. Two seats were filled by Rosas and the staffer.
Those pictures have been obtained by Bleacher Report. One photograph is a close-up shot, clearly showing Rosas and the woman sitting beside one another in light blue cushioned seats, behind the suite's protective plexiglass. A second photograph follows, where the two have leaned towards one another for a romantic embrace. Minnesota's statement announcing Rosas' departure provided no further context behind its decision, and as word of his affair swirled around the league Wednesday, several executives noted how Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor did not thank Rosas for his time atop the team's basketball department, as is customary in the business.
The revelation of Rosas' relationship comes after a series of tense staffing dynamics within his front office, and a level of discontent from some Timberwolves staffers pertaining to Rosas' leadership style, which has been described as isolationist. Any lead executive is privy to make final basketball decisions as they see fit, but several Minnesota figures told B/R they were dissatisfied by Rosas' penchant for disregarding consultations from his front office.
When the Timberwolves co-hosted a group predraft workout in July for 48 players over four days, it was open to attendance for all 30 teams, and rival team officials observed how Rosas never joined his own Minnesota staff during the event. While they all congregated in a section of the Target Center, sources said, Rosas instead spent the majority of the time on the opposite sideline with then-Jazz executive vice president Dennis Lindsey, a mentor dating back to their shared days in Houston and whose Jazz co-hosted the event. "[Rosas and his team] couldn't have been farther apart. It was extremely evident there was tension. It was really almost uncomfortable," said an Eastern Conference executive.
John Hollinger: Rumors of discontent from the staff in Minnesota had been bubbling up for at least a year, notably when then-VP of basketball operations Sachin Gupta wanted to take a job with Houston and was prevented from doing so. Having worked in a front office, I can tell you that, technically, teams can block any move by staff under contract unless it’s contractually specified they can’t (i.e. some execs have it in their contract that they can’t be prevented from taking a higher position someplace else).
Gersson Rosas’ dismissal just days before the Minnesota Timberwolves opened training camp is stunning on its face, a change at the top of basketball operations as the team begins a critical season and is in discussions to try to trade for a disgruntled star to bolster its chances.
It is also the culmination of months of evaluation by ownership and the franchise’s high-ranking officials about the state of Rosas’ leadership and the direction of the franchise under his watch. Ownership has listened to a vocal contingent of staffers express concern about the way Rosas conducted his business, sources told The Athletic, and finally came to the conclusion that they could not wait any longer to address the situation.
Rosas’ reign was described as dysfunctional, with tension rippling through the front office, according to some sources. Outside of it, rival team executives and agents would complain about how Rosas treated relationships and negotiations. The complaints reached as high as the ownership level over the last several weeks, lending a perception of inevitability to the end of Rosas’ tenure.
Sources said Taylor made the 90-minute drive from Mankato to team headquarters in Minneapolis to take part in the meeting with Rosas personally on Wednesday, notable for an owner who has in the past sometimes left moves like this to those who work underneath him. Text messages were left by The Athletic for Rosas seeking comment that have not yet been returned. The Athletic also reached out to Taylor for further comment.
The Timberwolves named executive vice president of basketball operations Sachin Gupta as their new overseer of basketball operations, making him the first person of Indian origin to run a franchise’s basketball operations. Minnesota is expected to have a full search process, but team officials are fond of Gupta and will provide him a chance in the No. 1 role, sources said.
Prior to the announcement, The Athletic had spent the last several weeks investigating the working environment under Rosas and interviewed numerous sources on the current staff about the situation after learning of mounting discontent. Some said Rosas worked his staff long hours without giving much input into the decision-making process. Others took issue with decisions made on personnel moves and trades, including the light protections on a first-round draft pick that landed them D’Angelo Russell from Golden State, Rosas’ signature move.
One person who said he had no qualms with how Rosas led and thought there was a collaborative environment did say that the overall vibe in the front office was tense. Some of that, he believed, was due to the disenchantment of other members of the staff, but he also believed the pandemic played a role. “It is not a root cause, but it’s an accelerant,” the source said in August just before the staff left for vacation. “It’s not the spark that lit the flame, but it’s something that makes the flame burn hotter. We haven’t had a day off in basically two years.”
Over his two seasons in Minnesota, several player agents privately had issues with Rosas’ negotiating tactics. Rosas had a responsibility to his organization and ownership, but scenarios would arise where representatives expected better treatment. Just this offseason, Rosas reneged during negotiations with restricted free agent Jordan McLaughlin and misled him about his role, according to a source directly involved in the talks. “Rosas was the cause of mishaps and pulled his promises,” the source said.
Many of the complaints reached Taylor, Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez, the newly minted minority owners. There were major concerns about what they were hearing, sources said, and a belief among some in the organization that the working environment that was created by the tension was not sustainable and ran counter to the visions they have for how things should be run.
With a handful of days before the start of training camp, people across the NBA were stunned by the Timberwolves parting ways with Rosas. It was clear the heap of issues, from office morale to the lack of success, had decayed the Timberwolves’ front office and sources say those were the driving force behind the move. But why now? In recent days, the organization discovered that Rosas, who is married, had a consensual intimate relationship with a member of the organization, The Athletic has learned from multiple sources. It made several people within the organization uncomfortable, sources said. While this was not the reason for Rosas’ dismissal, it certainly impacted the timing. “This decision was made for performance reasons,” one high-ranking Timberwolves source said.
Now everyone, those who were disenchanted with Rosas and those who were in his corner, have little time to adjust after the sea change at the top. Gupta has solid relationships with those still on staff and believes in Finch as the coach the team needs, sources said.
Marc Stein: Today’s firing was announced by Glen Taylor, who is not scheduled to transfer operating control of the Wolves to Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez until after the 2022-23 season. Reminder as we await an explanation for the timing: Minnesota has made the playoffs once in 17 seasons. pic.twitter.com/LWB7NBF9U7
Jake Fischer: In wake of Gersson Rosas' departure, word has circulated among league sources since Summer League that incoming Minnesota Timberwolves owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez have communicated they are fond of Sixers general manager Elton Brand. A name to keep an eye on here.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Minnesota has dismissed GM Gersson Rosas, team says.
Dane Moore: For quite some time now there has been dissension in the Timberwolves front office and organization, sources say. Moving on from Gersson Rosas is not an out of the blue development. In a critical year, with new ownership, the Wolves decided to act now rather than delay.
Jeff Zillgitt: Statement from Timberwolves on dismissing Gersson Rosas: “Today, the Minnesota Timberwovles parted ways with President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas. As an organization, we remain committed to building a winning team that our fans and city can be proud of.”
Marc J. Spears: Timberwolves and Lynx announce the promotion of Tru Pettigrew to Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. Pettigrew will oversee the organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy including all franchises – Timberwolves, Lynx, Iowa Wolves, and T-Wolves Gaming.
Per Eurohoops, “Juancho wants to play in the Olympic Games, but Juancho won’t be able to play,” Garbajosa said in a statement. “We’ve had countless medical meetings and we’ve never received a ‘no’. We have a received a ‘yes’. We don’t have a problem with the [Minnesota Timberwolves] or the NBA. It’s a problem of people – not medical personnel – who have personally decided that Juancho couldn’t play. I’m talking about their president of basketball operations [Gersson Rosas].
“Four hours before the game against USA, there was a meeting between the doctors of the national team and the doctors of the Timberwolves franchise who congratulated Juancho and the national team on the recovery,” Garbajosa said. “The answer about whether Juancho could play was a ‘yes’ and that the next evaluation will be after the Olympics. From that moment until Minnesota told us that he won’t play, there were a series of facts that showed that the decision isn’t of medical nature. Even the Timberwolves coach congratulated Juancho for being in Tokyo. No one doubted that he could play.”
How involved is Rudy Tomjanovich in the day-to-day operations with you guys? Gersson Rosas: He's a personnel consultant for us. He does a ton of scouting for us. He's been involved in draft and pro personnel. He was with us last year during the draft when we initially brought him in. And he's a guy that has incredible perspective. I mean, he was an All-Star and on a Hall of Fame career on the court, and then off the court, the guy's done every job in the NBA. He's scouted, he's coached internationally, an Olympic gold medal-winning coach, a ton of knowledge and a ton of perspective for us, and a very talented individual that we're very blessed to have as part of this organization.
There are currently seven Black head coaches in the NBA. Vanterpool, who interviewed this offseason for head-coaching openings with the Pelicans, Rockets and Bulls, appeared to be knocking on the door to become the eighth Black head coach in the league. “It’s wrong in many facets,” oneexecutive told HoopsHype. “It’s wrong with what’s going on in the world with social justice. To me, it just comes down to a relationship thing. Gersson is the man in charge and he knows who he wants. I think it needed to be handled differently. I think even if you hire Finch, you have to do your due diligence and you make David your guy for at least until the end of the season. What’s the point of keeping them on if they were part of the problem?”
One assistant coach who spoke to HoopsHype was disappointed that Vanterpool was passed over for the job again. The assistant questioned whether one day he’d also be able to get a head-coaching job partly because of his skin color. “It’s a slap in the face,” the assistant coachtold HoopsHype. “We don’t even get a chance to fail. Just give us the opportunity. We’ve got to be a proven commodity. How many times have you seen a young dynamo that’s a Black coach get an opportunity? Some of these white guys they hire are middle age or early 30s. Some of these GMs are too. Vanterpool’s been successful, he’s been in a quality program for several years and had success there. I just don’t get it. I think David is going to be okay, but it’s going to a weird situation with him being at work every day.”
“I’m sure Vanterpool feels cheated,” a second assistant coachtold HoopsHype. “He went there to take the next step as anassociate head coach, leaving a great job in Portland to be the clear cut No. 2 guy. It would’ve been a great opportunity for both sides to see what he’s capable of. They could always turn to Finch after the season if there’s no momentum. Who was scooping Finch ahead of them?” “I was surprised they’d hire an assistant from another team mid-season,” a secondexecutive told HoopsHype.
“I’d say they spent enough time around Vanterpool to feel that he wasn’t the guy leading the show that they wanted, and they clearly felt Finch was,” a fourthexecutive told HoopsHype. “There are 90 front of the bench assistants in the NBA, and most of them will not be head coaches,” the third assistant coachtold HoopsHype. “Obviously, it’s frustrating and seems like this would be David’s chance, but they interviewed him before Ryan got the job and then brought him on as an assistant.
In both instances, the executive disagreed with the backlash Marks and Rosas each received for hiring a white coach instead of a Black one. “If somebody’s going to say something like that, then go ask Masai Ujiri why he hired Nick Nurse instead of a Black coach,” theexecutive told HoopsHype. “Go ask Arturas Karnisovas why he hired Billy Donovan instead of a Black coach.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: The National Basketball Coaches Association issues statement on the Minnesota Timberwolves’ process in hiring new coach Chris Finch: "It's always bittersweet when one coach is fired and another is hired. But this is not about individual coaches. We would be remiss not to acknowledge a deeper concern and level of disappointment with the Minnesota head coach hiring process. The NBCA understands and respects each organization's right to hire and fire whomever and whenever it chooses. But it is also our responsibility to point out when an organization fails to conduct a thorough and transparent search of candidates from a wide range of diverse backgrounds."
Adrian Wojnarowski: NBCA: "During this past off-season, we saw many NBA head coaching vacancies where teams led searches that were both diverse and transparent. This must be the standard. We must establish a level playing field and equal access to opportunity for all coaching candidates. The NBCA has been working closely with the League Office on a wide range of initiatives that will improve future coaching searches. In partnership with the NBA, we look forward to sharing details in the weeks to come."
Is the number one need just a little bit more size, maybe that's a four but maybe that four can also guard threes, you know, maybe has some position flexibility, but would that be about your number one need? Gersson Rosas: I would say it's pretty close. I mean, like anything, the number one need is to always get the best player available on the market and that's our focus. Number two, I do think we have some options there at the four, we want guys that have the opportunity to compete and play better, but if there are clear upgrades, we're always looking for that in any way so we can help move the program forward. And that's probably the position where we've had the most inconsistency in the most need defensively and in terms of rebounding.
Gersson Rosas on trades: Conversations are ongoing, especially in our situation, we want to make sure we're being aggressive, and evaluating all options. Any way we can upgrade our team, we want to do it. We have some needs that we have to address on both sides of the ball.
Gersson Rosas on trades: The reality is we're not going to take shortcuts, we're not going to skip steps, just because we want you know... I'm not going to make a trade for the sake of adding another win. We do need more improvement, we do need to be more consistent.
Gersson Rosas: I'm confident in those guys, I'm confident in our vets, I'm confident in D'Angelo, in Ricky, in Juancho, and those guys that have started off slow, it's just gonna take more time. And unfortunately, the schedule is not kind to get in a rhythm. And those guys are rhythm guys, but we've got to find a way to get them as healthy as possible with the most juice as possible so we can move forward and they can play better, and we can play better because they're big parts of what we're doing.
Gersson Rosas: We need more of it. We've got even though we've had injuries and COVID and everything else, but we have enough on this roster to have a better record. And I know coach and his staff and me and my staff are doing all we can to make sure we get to that point, we need some consistency, and we need more identity on both sides of the ball.
Gersson Rosas: And when we're not winning, the fans shouldn't be happy. We're not happy. I'll tell you, nobody's more frustrated, disappointed and upset than the people in this organization because they want to put the best product forward. They want to put the best team together and we want to be successful. So I welcome that. I want them to be tuned in to understand what's going on. And if they're not happy, they're not happy and they should voice their displeasure. And we hear it, we feel it. But I guarantee you, nobody is going through it as hard as we are.
The Timberwolves and general manager Scott Layden have parted ways, sources told The Athletic, a move that brings an end to the last vestiges of the Tom Thibodeau era in Minnesota. The two sides reached an agreement earlier this week, just two weeks before Layden would have started his fifth season as a member of the Wolves front office. Layden had one season left on the contract he signed in 2016 and remained an involved member of the front office even after Thibodeau was replaced by Gersson Rosas as president of basketball operations. But several factors and an upcoming season complicated by COVID-19 combined to make this the right time to part, sources said.
But Layden is based in New York, and given the NBA’s strict tiered worker protocol, which is designed to try to limit the exposure of players, coaches and staff to COVID-19 this season, it would have been difficult for him to be able to travel to the Twin Cities and be around the team without going through cumbersome isolation procedures each time. There was also a contractual matter that had to be resolved, sources said. His existing deal was set to expire in April, but the new season has been extended into May before the playoffs begin. All of that would have made this season all the more difficult to navigate, and so Layden is moving on, as was expected to eventually happen when Rosas first took over.
What most are aware of is that throughout his 2 1/2 seasons in charge, Thibodeau was in charge. There was a level of communication with Layden and his staff. But ultimately Thibodeau made most decisions, from the return for Butler to the color of the benches in the weight room. Taylor hoped that Layden would be another strong voice in the room, but his loyalty and support for Thibodeau never wavered. That is what made it so surprising when Layden was one of the people, along with CEO Ethan Casson, who had to deliver the news to Thibodeau that he was fired.
On any given day, 14 to 16 people — scouts, analysts, coaches, even medical personnel — gather in that room. They all undergo daily testing for the coronavirus, then study game film before engaging in spirited but congenial debate. “Let’s say we study a group of players over several days,” Gupta said. “At the end of that, everyone will do their rankings and we’ll have a voting exercise, and we’ll compile that and discuss that some more. Generally, it’s a democracy.”
Branch has had to lean on every bit of his experience, personal and professional, to emerge as a pivotal part of the Timberwolves’ march forward through such harrowing circumstances. The adjunct professor in him has helped put together team meetings featuring guest speakers on the subject of law enforcement interaction with people of color. The youth mentor in him has tried to shift the focus from the anger generated from watching Floyd die at the hands of Minneapolis police to resourcefulness in finding solutions to the problems with which they are confronted. The agent and executive in him has helped do all of that while continuing to evaluate talent for the draft and give input on the team’s path forward after a 19-45 first season that ended prematurely due to a global pandemic. “The guy has been a godsend for us,” Rosas said.
When Branch first decided to take the job last summer, he knew he would be helping Rosas to rebuild a basketball team. Now he finds himself trying to rebuild a community as well. They are doing it all while preparing for the draft, free agency and a crucial second season in charge. If they can get things on track on the court, the opportunities for Branch will keep coming. “I believe in him a ton and believe he’s going to be a star in this league,” Rosas said. “We have to continue to hire high-caliber people in our organization because I believe guys like Sachin, Gianluca and Joe are going to be running their own programs at some point.”
Rosas wasn’t hiding much in those statements, because as Rosas marks his one-year anniversary on the job, the Wolves roster looks nothing like the one he inherited — and even nothing like the one he assembled after his first free-agent cycle. Just Josh Okogie and Karl-Anthony Towns remain from the roster Rosas inherited. Several came in the days preceding the trade deadline: Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, James Johnson and the apple of Rosas’ eye from the moment he took the job, D’Angelo Russell. “Building an organization, building a foundation, the DNA and the values of who we’re going to be, I feel like we’ve done that in a very tangible way after Year 1,” Rosas said in a phone interview. “Roster-wise, our front office staff deserves a ton of credit because as we sit here, we’ve changed over 13 out of 15 roster spots. … That typically takes organizations two to three years. That we were able to do it by the trade deadline was quite an achievement for our staff.”
Along those lines, Towns offered his support of the front office and said he didn’t want to interfere on personnel matters, leaving it to Rosas. But when the subject came around to the Wolves potentially trading Robert Covington, one of Towns’ best friends on the team, Towns expressed his desire for Covington to remain a Timberwolf. First, after the Wolves’ 113-109 loss to the Kings, Towns was asked if he was going to have a voice in what Rosas may decide to do this week. He said he wasn’t going to have one, nor did he want one. “My stand on that is they get paid to do that,” Towns said. “I get paid to be on the court and make the things happen. So I’m going to do the best I can for my job. My job title is to be a basketball player, be a leader and take whatever guys I’m blessed to play with, share this locker room with and try to get the best out of them while getting the best out of me. That’s my job. My job is not to make decisions roster-wise or anything like that.”
Rosas was invited to Capitol Hill by a friend of his, political consultant Larry Gonzalez, who works closely with lawmakers on the all-Democrat caucus. The two met through a Google Next Generation leadership group that focuses on minorities. When Gonzalez read that Rosas was the first Latino general manager in NBA history, he wanted to make sure the members of the caucus heard his story and what he’s trying to do to advance their community. “They want to hear and see that there is opportunity,” Gonzalez said. “There are, unfortunately, some situations where some folks make it and don’t necessarily put the ladder back down for others to get up. I think that’s a big part of his story.”
“It was an opportunity to show that especially in this day and age the positive aspects of [being an immigrant], how we contribute to this country,” Rosas said. “And for me specifically to this great league and game that’s taken me all over the world, just how important that is to me. Not only having the role I have but being able to give back and motivate others as a result.”
Gupta may not have the same kind of name recognition that Morey or Hinkie have earned during their envelope-pushing tenures leading front offices, but chances are he has had a more direct impact on NBA fans than either one of his more well-known bosses. Before he joined Morey in Houston, he was an engineer at ESPN.com and was assigned to work on parsing data for the NBA and college basketball that came in through third-party providers. While there he wrote the code for the Trade Machine, the incredibly addictive online tool that synthesized a byzantine set of rules and regulations and helped make amateur GMs out of anyone with an internet connection.
In some ways, the Timberwolves present Gupta’s biggest challenge yet. They have a franchise player in Karl-Anthony Towns, but a capsheet that is stuffed with bloated salaries that make finding a path back to relevance in the loaded Western Conference anything but easy. Constructing a winner in Minnesota has proven to be a daunting, complicated endeavor. On the scale of difficulty, it probably lies somewhere between pulling a calf into a ring in the middle of a football stadium and constructing an online trading tool from scratch.
Like he always does, Gupta will look at the problem and try to simplify it as much as possible. In Rosas, he has a leader he trusts and admires. In Ryan Saunders, he has found a coach open to collaboration, so much so that Saunders has a member of the analytics staff behind the bench this season. In Towns, he has a perennial All-Star who hasn’t yet reached his prime. It doesn’t guarantee success. But it’s a start. “Every place I’ve worked, I’ve loved it and it’s been great people,” Gupta said. “But the alignment here is pretty special in a way that I haven’t seen before. I’m really excited about the integration we’re going to have with the coaching staff. It’s been special.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: Sources: Minnesota hiring ROC Nation agent Joe Branch as assistant GM. Branch completes a front office transformation under Gersson Rosas. Branch’s clients included Caris LeVert, Justise Winslow and Josh Hart. His resume includes Nike, league office and Northwestern basketball.
Your name remains associated with front-office openings. This past offseason you were a finalist for the top Timberwolves post. What are your aspirations currently? Chauncey Billups: “I liked the Minnesota situation. They have some good people. I love (owner Glen Taylor) so I was attracted to the situation. Interviewed well, but obviously they went with Gersson Rosas, who was a very good candidate and I’m sure will do a terrific job. But even with that situation, they reached out to me.”
Zach Lowe: Gersson Rosas has taken another big step re-shaping Wolves. Sources say MIN has hired Robby Sikka to revamp its sports science infrastructure. Sikka is CEO of the Sports Medicine Analytics Research Team + has consulted for teams in NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL. Very well-regarded. Sikka will serve as Minnesota's Vice President of Basketball Performance and Technology, sources say. He will give up consulting gigs to focus entirely on the Wolves and have authority to hire staff. Signal that MIN will go all-in on an increasingly important area.
Jon Krawczynski: Timberwolves have promoted Ryan Tanke to Chief Operating Officer. Started in the franchise at an entry level and has risen up the ranks
The Minnesota Timberwolves have hired former Brooklyn Nets director of global scouting Gianluca Pascucci as their assistant general manager. The team made the announcement on Thursday. He’s the first significant front office hire under new president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas. Pascucci will be involved in all player personnel matters and lead pro scouting efforts around the NBA, the G League and the international leagues.
Shams Charania: The Minnesota Timberwolves are finalizing hiring Detroit Pistons assistant GM Sachin Gupta as Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, league sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. Gupta and Gersson Rosas worked together in Houston.
Rod Beard: A league source has confirmed that Sachin Gupta is going to become the EVP of basketball operations for the #Timberwolves. Gupta had spent the past year as an assistant GM in charge of analytics for the #Pistons. @Shams Charania was first to report it.
Jon Krawczynski: It's my understanding that Sachin Gupta will be the new No. 2 under Rosas in the revamped front office. There has been nothing official on Scott Layden, but most expect him to stay on board.
Dane Moore: Gersson Rosas said he has spoken with Andrew Wiggins. The Timberwolves new POBO seems very committed to Wiggins and developing a 24-year-old who has played for numerous coaches in numerous systems over his five-year career. Rosas on Wiggins: pic.twitter.com/gkKqDZltOI
August 12, 2022 | 7:41 pm EDT Update
Marc Stein: The first draft of next season’s NBA schedule has Lakers at Dallas/LeBron James at Luka Doncic on Christmas Day, league sources tell me. Changes are still possible before the full schedule officially drops next week but Christmas games usually hold. More NBA from me: marcstein.Substack.com
Although all of the rules and dates are in place, it’s an extremely open secret that there are no rules that truly govern free agency or trades. “There’s not a team in this league that follows the tampering rules to a T,” one front-office executive said. “But there are 30 teams in this league that find ways around the rules every day.”
One person from the league office, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said if a better solution was presented the league would jump at it, but there’s no hope that any such solution exists. “The threat of harsher penalties and random audits doesn’t even make teams flinch,” the source said. “And at this point, if we investigated every possible instance of tampering, the whole league would come to a screeching halt and nothing would ever get done.”
Grant Williams said he has been in contact with Brown since the rumors began gaining steam this summer. “It’s a significant rumor,” said Williams who added, “It’s something you want to take for a grain of salt. I feel like JB is mature in his mindset; he knows that. I’ve talked to him, texted him…it’s one of those things, this league is a business. It’s one of those things you can’t be discouraged by.”
NBA Central: Kyrie and Russ in the lab 👀 (h/t @LakersDailyCom | via integrityhoops) pic.twitter.com/LST041ZNXI
August 12, 2022 | 5:50 pm EDT Update
Tony Jones: Sam Merrill received a two year deal from the Sacramento Kings, League Sources tell The Athletic. The deal comes with a partial guarantee, so he will have to make the roster. But the Kings currently have spots available. @Chris Haynes first reported an agreement
Chris Haynes: Free agent forward Justin Tillman who made All-NBA G-League First Team last season has reached an agreement with the Denver Nuggets, his agent Daniel Hazan of @hazansportsmgmt tells @YahooSports.