NBA Rumor: Timberwolves Front Office

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Dell Demps joining Timberwolves front office

Jon Krawczynski: The Timberwolves are finalizing an agreement with Dell Demps to join Tim Connelly’s front office staff, sources tell @Shams Charania and me. Demps will work closely with Connelly, Sachin Gupta, Matt Lloyd, Joe Branch and Manny Rohan as the draft looms

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Connelly’s coming in here not looking to make the sweeping changes that a lot of the times a new president does make. I think that’s what stood out in the press conference. Tim is a guy who makes connections and works with the people around him, and wants to empower. I think he’ll eventually bring in some of his own people, but there’s a strong foundation here that he wants to do as much adapting to the Timberwolves as he wants the Timberwolves to adapt to him.

The term “equity” has been thrown around all week in the wake of Minnesota’s hiring of Tim Connelly as its new president basketball of operations. The implication is that Connelly received some sort of ownership stake on top of a reported five-year, $40 million deal to leave Denver and take over the Timberwolves’ basketball operations. Sources with knowledge of the deal said this week that the equity piece of Connelly’s deal has been overstated.

“To be able to go get a guy like that when these guys don’t just grow on trees because of availability, and I think Minnesota targeted Connelly,” he said. “At $8 million per year over the next five years. We talked about ownership equity— it’s still unclear how that will come to fruition, but I’m told the opportunity to capitalize on that will be if Minnesota sells one day… when you package all that together from base salary to ownership equity, this is one of the most lucrative landmark contracts and in for an executive in the NBA. It just became an offer that was too lucrative and too good to pass up overall.”

The new contract more than doubles his salary with the Nuggets, sources said, and the equity component is a unique structure within the NBA that potentially makes the deal far more lucrative. Lore and Rodriguez, the partners who plan on succeeding Taylor as majority owners in 2023, knew the Timberwolves had to push hard to offer a compensation package that would get Connelly to leave a city he loves, an ownership group he trusts and a team he built over the last nine years into a potential Western Conference contender next season.

The decision to leave was particularly difficult for Connelly considering how close the Nuggets are to title contention and the deep relationships he’s established inside the organization with players and coach Michael Malone. Under Connelly’s watch, the Nuggets have reached the second round of the playoffs in three of the last four seasons, which had only been done once since 1994. Connelly, according to multiple sources, wasn’t eager to leave Denver and wasn’t searching for a new organization to help develop.

Nuggets president Tim Connelly to meet with Wolves ownership

Nuggets president Tim Connelly is heading to Minnesota this weekend as the next step in the Timberwolves’ recruitment of him, a league source confirmed to The Denver Post. Connelly, who’s overseen the Nuggets since 2013, is planning to meet with Wolves owner Glen Taylor. ESPN first reported the development. With a stable organization, a reigning two-time MVP and a place where his family is comfortable, Connelly has no reason to leave the Nuggets. The only X-factor? Compensation. It’s believed the Timberwolves’ offer is more than double his current salary. Minnesota’s interest didn’t come out of nowhere. In fact, it was discussed when Connelly, team governor Josh Kroenke and coach Michael Malone all went to Serbia to surprise Nikola Jokic with his MVP trophy. News of Minnesota’s interest in poaching Connelly from Denver got out on Wednesday. Publicly, it’s been more than 48 hours since Denver’s ownership has had a chance to counter or ensure Connelly doesn’t even listen to Minnesota’s proposal. Privately, they’ve had far longer than that.

Denver Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly is traveling to meet with Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor this weekend in the next step in the team’s pursuit to hire Connelly and make him one of the NBA’s highest-compensated executives, sources told ESPN. Connelly has discussed the job extensively with Timberwolves minority owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez in the past week, and meeting with Taylor is next in the process, sources said.

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.

Tim Connelly leaving Nuggets to lead Timberwolves front office?

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.

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. 

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.”

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.
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July 5, 2022 | 9:54 am EDT Update

Knicks to be fined for tampering on Jalen Brunson deal?

Fred Katz: People I talk to around the league expect the Knicks to get dinged for tampering. They started dumping salary for Brunson on draft night. They continued their offloading five days later, 48 hours before free agency even began. They had let go of almost $33 million by the time they could talk to Brunson. You reported two days before free agency that he was heading to New York.
Fred Katz: From what I’ve gathered, the Mavericks are quite frustrated with the Knicks — and not just because reports of a finished deal came out before New York was even allowed to speak with Brunson (though I am not sure how tampering rules account for father-son relationships, and this situation involves two of those). Dallas wasn’t thrilled about Knicks executive William “World Wide Wes” Wesley showing up courtside to a Mavs-Jazz playoff game, either.
July 5, 2022 | 8:55 am EDT Update
July 5, 2022 | 5:38 am EDT Update

Sasha Vezenkov close to deal with Kings?

The Sacramento Kings looked back at a player selected in the 2017 NBA Draft with only the 57th pick. The Brooklyn Nets chose this player, but his rights were transferred to the Cleveland Cavaliers during the blockbuster James Harden trade. No other team was as excited as the Kings. Talking with BasketNews, Vezenkov admitted – he’s the closest to the NBA he’s ever been. “I knew the Kings were interested in me, they watched me play during the season,” Vezenkov said. “I wasn’t sure when or how this was going to turn out. I’m telling everybody now that all I know and all I’m happy about is that my rights belong to a team that is interested in me. The Kings show the attention and want to see me.”