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The Toronto Raptors’ Norman Powell and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns today were named the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Rookies of the Month, respectively, for games played in April.

Powell helped the Raptors to a 6-2 record behind averages of 15.3 points (tops in the Eastern Conference), 4.4 rebounds (seventh), 2.5 assists (tied-fifth) and 1.4 steals (third). He scored in double figures in six of eight games and shot 54.8 percent from the field. In Toronto’s regular-season finale, Powell scored a career-high 30 points on 12-of-18 shooting (including 5-of-6 from three-point range) and added nine rebounds and five assists during the Raptors’ 103-96 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

Towns becomes the first player to sweep a season of Kia NBA Rookie of the Month awards since the Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard in 2012-13. In April, Towns helped the Timberwolves to a 4-3 mark as he led all rookies in scoring (18.9 ppg), rebounding ( 11.7 rpg), blocks (1.7 bpg) and minutes (35.6 mpg). Towns capped his first NBA season with his 51st double-double (third most in the NBA) when he tallied 28 points and 14 rebounds during Minnesota’s 144-109 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on April 13.

Other nominees for the Kia NBA Eastern and Western Conference Rookies of the Month were Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay, New York’s Jerian Grant, Phoenix’s Devin Booker and Utah’s Trey Lyles.

Paul Millsap, NBA Players of Week

Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap and Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns today were named NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, April 4 through Sunday, April 10.

Millsap helped the Hawks to a 3-0 week, which included wins over the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics. He averaged 19.0 points, led the league in both rebounds (15.7 rpg) and blocks (4.33 bpg), and posted point-rebound double-doubles in all three contests. On April 9, Millsap’s 31-point, 16-rebound, five-block performance lifted Atlanta to a 118-107 win over Boston and moved the Hawks one game ahead of the Celtics for the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Karl-Anthony Towns wins nba player of week

Towns led the Timberwolves to a 3-0 week, which included wins over the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers. He averaged 21.3 points (seventh in the Western Conference), 10.3 rebounds (tied-sixth) and 1.67 blocks (tied-sixth). On April 9, Towns made the game-winning shot with 1.8 seconds remaining during the Timberwolves’ 106-105 win over the Trail Blazers.

Other nominees for the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week were Atlanta’s Jeff Teague, Detroit’s Reggie Jackson, Golden State’s Stephen Curry and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Jamal Crawford.

josh richardson

Miami Heat guard Josh Richardson and Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns today were named NBA Eastern and Western Conference Rookies of the Month, respectively, for games played in March.

Richardson helped the Heat go 10-5 in March by ranking second among East rookies in scoring (12.0 ppg) and assists (2.1 apg), and leading the conference’s first-year players in field goal percentage (53.7), three-point field goal percentage (58.9) and steals (1.3 spg). He averaged 29.1 minutes for the month and scored in double figures in eight of 10 games from March 9-28. His versatility was on full display March 14, when Richardson posted 17 points (including 4-of-5 shooting from three-point range), four rebounds, three blocks, two assists and two steals in a 124-119 win over the Denver Nuggets.

karl-anthony towns

Towns, the West winner for the fifth month in a row, ranked second among rookies in scoring (21.9 ppg) and led all first-year players in rebounding (10.5 rpg) and field goal percentage (58.2). He scored in double figures in all 15 of Minnesota’s games and posted 11 games with 10 or more rebounds, adding to his franchise rookie record for double-doubles, which now stands at 48. On March 23, Towns accounted for 26 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks during a 113-104 win over the Sacramento Kings.

Other nominees for the Kia NBA Eastern and Western Conference Rookies of the Month were Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay, New York’s Kristaps Porzingis, Phoenix’s Devin Booker and Toronto’s Norman Powell.

The Minnesota Timberwolves today signed forward/center Greg Smith for the rest of the season. Smith was originally signed to a 10-day contract on March 2, then signed to a second 10-day contract on March 12.

Smith is used sparingly, and in 10.3 minutes per game is averaging 2.3 points, on 56.3% shooting, and 1.6 rebounds over nine games for the Wolves this season. He scored four points and grabbed six rebounds in 18 minutes Mar. 4 at Milwaukee and tallied six points and four rebounds in the Wolves’ win over Mar. 5 vs. Brooklyn.

The 25-year-old Smith also appeared in 16 games with the Raptors 905 in the NBA D-League this season, averaging 12.4 points, on 51.0% shooting, and 8.3 rebounds in 27.9 minutes per game.

Smith spent three seasons with the Houston Rockets (2011-14) before joining the Dallas Mavericks in 2014-15. He holds NBA career averages of 4.2 points and 3.4 rebounds in 12.5 minutes over 131 career games (12 starts).

The Minnesota Timberwolves have promoted three staff members to leadership positions, including two to vice president positions.

Mike Welch has been promoted to Timberwolves and Lynx Vice President of Corporate Partnerships, Lindsay Milne to Timberwolves and Lynx Vice President of Marketing and Charlie Romans to Timberwolves Director of Membership Sales.

“We are extremely proud to announce the promotions for these three outstanding individuals,” Timberwolves President Chris Wright said. “As we look ahead to our future and what lies ahead, we are very excited to have Mike, Lindsay and Charlie leading three critical areas of our organization. They are passionate about our brands, are vested in who and what we are and they help drive our culture every day.”

In his new role, Welch will lead the day-to-day operations of the Corporate Partnership Sales and Activation teams.

As Timberwolves and Lynx Vice President of Marketing, Milne will oversee Timberwolves and Lynx branding, advertising, digital media, creative services, merchandising and events.

As Director of Timberwolves Season Memberships, Romans will oversee the day-to-day operations of the season membership team with an emphasis on growing the team’s season membership numbers.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have signed center Greg Smith to a second 10-day contract.

Smith signed his initial 10-day contract with the team on March 2. In a limited role, he has averaged 2.8 points and 2.2 rebounds in 10.7 minutes per game over six contests with Minnesota.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have signed forward/center Greg Smith to a 10-day contract. With the signing, Minnesota’s roster now stands at 14 players.

Smith, 25, has appeared in 16 games with the Raptors 905 in the NBA D-League this season, averaging 12.4 points, on 51.0% shooting, and 8.3 rebounds in 27.9 minutes per game. In 47 career games in the D-League, he has averaged 14.8 points on 60.6% shooting and 8.1 rebounds.

A four-year NBA veteran, Smith spent three seasons with the Houston Rockets (2011-14) before joining the Dallas Mavericks in 2014-15. He holds career averages of 4.2 points and 3.4 rebounds in 12.5 minutes over 131 career games (12 starts).

Smith will wear No. 4.

Timberwolves arena renovation update

Part of the live NBA experience is the arena: how it looks, feels to be there, the views of the court, the sound system, everything. The venue matters. While of course the main point of attending a game is to actually watch the court, an awesome arena makes the experience better. Here’s the Minneapolis Star Tribune blog reporting the latest Timberwolves arena renovation news:

A Minneapolis City Council committee is expected to vote Tuesday on the final design, contractor costs and budget for the $129 million Target Center renovation project.

The city, which owns the building, will pay $74.5 million for the overhaul. The Minnesota Timberwolves and operator AEG will pay the balance.

Contractors M.A. Mortenson and Thor Construction have agreed to a guaranteed maximum price (GMP) of $102.8 million.

Timberwolves waive Andre Miller

The Minnesota Timberwolves waived guard Andre Miller today. Their roster currently stands at 14 players.

“Andre was a consummate professional and set a good example for our younger players on what it takes to be a pro in this league,” said Timberwolves general manager Milt Newton. “We wish him the best.”

Miller, in his 17th NBA season, played in 26 games for the Wolves this year, averaging 3.4 points, on 62.1% shooting, and 2.2 assists. He has career averages of 12.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 6.6 assists in 1,291 games.

The Philadelphia 76ers are an improved basketball team lately. Still, a loss to them can put some teams over the edge. Not to be over-dramatic; the Minnesota Timberwolves have been searching for an identity all season. But after falling to Philly yesterday, the Timberwolves (12-23 record, tied for 25th in the league) decided today was going the time for some good honest conversation. Here’s the Minneapolis Star Tribune reporting:

Instead of a regular practice Tuesday, the Timberwolves did a little housecleaning.

Interim coach Sam Mitchell and the players watched some film. Then players and coaches went out onto the practice court, stood in a circle near midcourt, and spent about 90 minutes clearing the air.

“We talked about what we wanted to be as a team,” Mitchell said. “Normally the coach is the one who’s always talking. But we let the players talk. What are the goals for the year, as a team, individually? And I think it was good for us.’’

Mitchell encouraged everyone to talk, both veterans and young players.

Some of the themes?

According to Mitchell, much of the talk was about sacrifice. What sacrifices – both great and small – that each player needs to make to make the team better. The need for the young players to learn to focus for the length of a game was talked about, too.

Porzingis

New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis and Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns today were named the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Rookies of the Month, respectively, for games played in December.

This is the second consecutive NBA Rookie of the Month award for Porzingis, who ranked second among East rookies in scoring (12.6 ppg) and rebounding (6.4 rpg) and first among all rookies in blocked shots (2.20 bpg). Porzingis posted four point-rebound double-doubles and blocked three or more shots in six games. He also shot 36.6 percent (15-of-41) from three-point range for the month. During a 91-84 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Dec. 23, Porzingis made 4-of-5 from three-point range en route to 23 points and added 13 rebounds and four assists.

karl anthony towns

Towns, who also earns his second straight NBA Rookie of the Month award, led all first-year players in scoring (18.6 ppg) and rebounding (9.5 rpg) and ranked second in blocks (1.56 bpg). He recorded eight point-rebound double-doubles in December and produced eight games with at least 20 points. Towns shot 55.3 percent from the field for the month and made at least half his shots in 14 of 16 games. During a 123-122 overtime win against the Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 9, Towns posted 26 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks.

Other nominees for the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Rookies of the Month were Charlotte’s Frank Kaminsky, Denver’s Nikola Jokic, the Los Angeles Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell, Miami’s Justise Winslow and Philadelphia’s Jahlil Okafor.

Andrew Wiggins is averaging 21.0 points and 3.8 rebounds per game for the Timberwolves (9-12). Here’s the Minneapolis Star Tribune reporting that teams have taken notice of Wiggins’ skills and are putting more help defenders around him:

Andrew Wiggins drawing more defensive attention

It happened again to Andrew Wiggins a couple of times Wednesday night.

The Wolves guard got the ball, dribbled into the paint and went to that spin move he has used so effectively this season. But when he turned, there was a wall of Lakers defenders waiting for him.

“I tell our players all the time,” interim coach Sam Mitchell said. “They watch film, too.”

They, in this case, are Wolves opponents. And the film they’ve been watching clearly includes Wiggins, whose game has taken a quantum jump this season.

He has scored in double figures in 18 of his 20 games, scored 20 points or more 11 times, 30 or more three times.

And he is becoming a marked man.

The Minnesota Timberwolves, led by 21.5 ppg from Andrew Wiggins, 16.0 ppg from Karl-Anthony Towns, 13.9 ppg from Zach Lavine, and 13.3 from Kevin Martin, are 0-6 at home and 5-2 on the road. Unusual. Overall, they’re 5-8 and in need of a boost. Here’s the Minneapolis Star Tribune reporting the latest on Martin, who has started just one of the 12 games he’s played this season:

Kevin Martin moving into Timberwolves starting lineup

Some have been waiting for it for a while, but Sunday Wolves coach Sam Mitchell said he’s ready to make the change. Starting with Monday’s game against winless Philadelphia at Target Center, Mitchell is going to move Kevin Martin into the starting lineup, move Tayshaun Prince to the bench and ratchet up Shabazz Muhammad’s minutes.

“It was never my mentality for Tayshaun to play this amount of minutes,” Mitchell said of Prince, who has started and averaged 22.2 minutes, 3.2 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. “It was just to get us off to a start. I need to increase Bazz’s minutes. He’s been playing well. So I’m going to decrease Tayshaun’s minutes.”

No home wins for Timberwolves yet

Here’s the Minneapolis Star Tribune reporting on the Timberwolves, who haven’t won a home game yet and host the Detroit Pistons tonight:

One thing becomes clear after talking with a few Timberwolves players after today’s morning shootaround:

This team wants very much to end this zero-for-home thing. The Wolves enter tonight’s game with Detroit at Target Center at 5-7 overall, with all five victories coming on the road. At home the team is 0-5 at home. And while both emotions and injuries might have played into that, it has gotten old quickly.

“I hope tonight is the night,” Andrew Wiggins said.

The Pistons come into the game with an impressive victory over Cleveland Tuesday, a victory that ended a four-game losing streak. That came after Detroit started the season 5-1.

Timberwolves

The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced that the team will wear a commemorative patch on their jersey during the 2015-16 season in honor of recently passed President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach Flip Saunders.

The patch will be worn for the first time on Monday, November 2, as the Timberwolves open the home portion of the 2015-16 season against the Portland Trail Blazers at Target Center. The team will wear the patch for all home and road games for the balance of the season beginning on November 2.

Tragic: Flip Saunders has died

Announcement from the Timberwolves:

It is with extreme sadness that the Minnesota Timberwolves today learned that Phil “Flip” Saunders, who served as the team’s President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach, in addition to being a minority owner of the team, passed away today at age 60.

The organization will follow up with more information as it becomes available.

The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced the team has waived guard Lorenzo Brown, center Kleon Penn and guard Nick Wiggins. With the moves, the Wolves training camp roster stands at 15 players.

Brown, originally signed by the Wolves to a 10-day contract on January 28, registered averages of 4.2 points, 1.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 13.1 minutes over five preseason contests. The 6’5 guard appeared in 29 games last season for the Wolves averaging 4.2 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 18.9 minutes per game. Brown was Minnesota’s second round selection (52nd overall) in the 2013 NBA Draft.

Penn, signed on September 18, appeared in three preseason games totaling one rebound in nine minutes.

Wiggins was signed by the Wolves on September 18. He played in four preseason contests registering seven points in 14 minutes.

Andrew Wiggins a shooting guard?

Here’s the Minneapolis Star Tribune reporting interesting stuff on one of the Timberwolves’ most important young talents:

Andrew Wiggins a shooting guard?

In a game gone small, Timberwolves interim coach Sam Mitchell is playing the contrarian.

While playing two point guards in the same lineup becomes more common in the NBA, Mitchell has turned to reigning Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins — all 6-8 of him — to start at shooting guard and be Ricky Rubio’s backcourt partner after an experiment to nurture Zach LaVine at that spot lasted but three preseason games.

While coaches such as Phoenix’s Jeff Hornacek and Dallas’ Rick Carlisle have taken to playing two point guards in recent years, Mitchell likes Wiggins’ move from small forward to shooting guard precisely because of his size and the benefits Mitchell believes it presents on both ends of the court.

“You know the NBA,” Mitchell said. “You’ve got to [create] some matchup problems when you go out there. I like Andrew at the 2 [shooting guard]. I think it gives him an advantage because of his size.”

The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced the team has exercised the third-year options on guard Zach LaVine, forward Adreian Payne and forward Andrew Wiggins, along with the fourth-year options on center Gorgui Dieng and forward Shabazz Muhammad.

Dieng, 25, owns career averages of 7.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22.6 minutes per game over 133 contests, all with Minnesota. The Wolves acquired the draft rights to Dieng, along with Muhammad, from the Utah Jazz on June 27, 2013.

LaVine, 20, posted averages of 10.1 points and 3.6 assists in 24.7 minutes per game over 77 games in his rookie season, eventually being named to the 2014-15 All-Rookie Second Team. Minnesota drafted LaVine with the 13th overall selection in the 2014 NBA Draft.

Muhammad, 22, has played two seasons with the Wolves, averaging 8.7 points and 2.8 rebounds in 75 career contests, including averaging 13.5 points in 22.8 minutes per contest last season. Minnesota acquired the draft rights to Muhammad, along with Dieng, from the Utah Jazz on June 27, 2013.

Payne, 24, averaged 6.7 points and 5.1 rebounds in 32 games last season, including averaging 7.2 points and 5.4 rebounds in 29 games with Minnesota. Originally selected with the 15th overall pick by the Hawks in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Wolves acquired him from Atlanta on February 10, 2015.

Wiggins, 20, registered averages of 16.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game last season en route to being named the 2015 KIA NBA Rookie of the Year. Wiggins was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft and was acquired by the Wolves on August 23, 2014.

Future of Timberwolves on display

Here’s the St. Paul Pioneer Press reporting on the young and fun Minnesota Timberwolves:

The future of the Timberwolves was on display in Wednesday’s exhibition opener, with the debut of No. 1 overall draft pick Karl-Anthony Towns and fellow rookie Tyus Jones joining a starting lineup that included talented second-year players Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins.

There were glimpses of potential, but the Wolves showed they still have a long way to go.

After all, Minnesota was playing an offensive juggernaut in the Oklahoma City Thunder. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka combined for 47 points in the Thunder’s 122-99 victory in front of 8,601 at Target Center.

“We found things we need to work on,” said Towns, who had an impressive debut with 18 points, five rebounds and two blocks. “It was kind of bittersweet. I wanted to do a lot more on both sides of the basketball. I’m just getting my feet wet.”

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