NBA Rumor: Timberwolves Front Office

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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].

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“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.

National Basketball Coaches Association issues statement on Chris Finch hiring

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.”

Gersson Rosas: 'Power forward is probably the position where we've had the most inconsistency'

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: 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: 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.

Scott Layden done with Wolves

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.”

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.”

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.

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

The Wolves are looking for a new President of Basketball Operations, the team confirmed Wednesday morning in a news release. That hire will help make decisions regarding the future of the franchise, including who will be the general manager and who will be the coach. “The future of the Minnesota Timberwolves continues to be very bright,” said Wolves owner Glen Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, in the release. “It’s more important than ever that we find a leader who can build a successful team in today’s fast-paced NBA. We have the cornerstones of a very talented team and need to assemble the final pieces that will elevate us into a playoff team and one that can compete for championships.”

But there is a strong push internally to change the perception of the Wolves franchise, both locally and across the league. They are trying to shed the image of the penny-pinching, bumbling team of yesteryear and go looking for a dynamic leader to help them address the myriad issues they have this summer. Familiar faces like ESPN commentator Chauncey Billups, a former Timberwolves player, and Denver Nuggets assistant GM Calvin Booth, a former Wolves scout, will certainly be mentioned as possible candidates. But the Wolves will also look outside of Taylor’s sphere, sources said, as they search for their next leader.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.
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July 31, 2021 | 12:04 pm EDT Update

James Ennis discusses free agency

With teams and players able to negotiate free-agent deals beginning on Monday at 6:00pm ET, the 31-year-old will enter the new league year as a coveted three-and-D wing. “I’ve been in the league for a while,” Ennis told Hoops Rumors in a phone interview this week. “I’m in the league for a reason, obviously. Good vet, a good locker room guy, good teammate all-around. I just want to win. That’s my biggest thing.”
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The veteran forward will enter free agency armed with a respectable 41-game sample that should make him an appealing under-the-radar target for teams in need of a wing. “I like Orlando a lot. When I first got here, I got an opportunity — and that’s all you can ask from a coach,” said Ennis, who was dealt from the Sixers to the Magic at the 2020 deadline. “I’ve definitely enjoyed the city and I’ve made a lot of good memories with my daughter.”