Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders reflects on Sid Hartman, who recently passed away

Here’s the Minneapolis Star Tribune with additional reporting on the passing away of a legend, Sid Hartman:

If it was Sunday morning in the Saunders household and the phone was ringing at 6 a.m., it was usually only one person doing the calling: Sid Hartman.

“He was just looking for the scoop at the house,” Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders said with a laugh Monday. “He didn’t care who was on the other line. He was going to find a way to get that scoop.”

Saunders has fond memories of the relationships he and his late father Flip had with Hartman, the decades-long Star Tribune columnist who died Sunday at 100.

Saunders said his first memory of meeting Hartman came when he was 9 just after the Timberwolves had hired Flip. The Saunders family and Hartman went for a ride on Hartman’s boat on the Saint Croix River.

“You’d go over to his house and I’m picturing it right now, that house, it felt like something out of a movie and you see all those pictures of him shaking hands with so many incredible people,” Saunders said. “You felt like you were in the presence of a movie star, in a way. You knew he was a celebrity. He was more than that.”

Hartman never retired. He just kept going.

Will Timberwolves trade No. 1 pick in 2020 NBA draft?

Will the Timberwolves keep their No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA draft, or trade it? Usually, if a team has the first pick in the entire draft, they use it. But exceptions happen. Here’s the Star tribune noting what one betting site’s odds suggest on the matter:

They are trying to build around [Karl-Anthony] Towns and D’Angelo Russell, the top two picks from that 2015 draft, and timelines are different when your projected cornerstones are in their mid-20s instead of below legal drinking age.

Combine that with the notion that there is no sure thing at the top of the draft and there emerges the notion that the Wolves might trade the top selection instead of keeping it.

It’s rare for a top pick to be dealt before playing for the team that held the pick; the last time it happened, in fact, was when Wiggins came to the Wolves in 2014.

But this year, it’s a intriguing combination of something rare being perhaps more likely to happen than not — at least according to betting markets.

Online bookmaker Sports Betting Dime this week put the odds of the Wolves trading out of the No. 1 spot at 4 to 5 — better than even money. Adding to the intrigue, the site listed Anthony Edwards (3 to 2), James Wiseman (3 to 1) and LaMelo Ball (7 to 1) as the most likely No. 1 picks — hardly a consensus.

If a team with the draft’s first pick loved two or three prospects fairly equally, it makes perfect sense for them to consider trading down a slot or two, just to see what they can get in return.

Timberwolves turnaround could take time

The Timberwolves finished this season with a 19-45 record, which in the Western Conference was only ahead of a very injured Warriors team that should certainly be far better in 2020-21. That leaves the Wolves at the bottom of the West, unless a dramatic roster shift happens. Here’s the St Paul Pioneer Press:

If no progression has been made, you could frame Year 1 of the Gersson Rosas campaign as a waste. Or you could say Rosas and Co. evaluated what they had last year, determined that wasn’t going to work, and decided it was necessary to start fresh with pieces this front office deemed a better fit with the desired direction of the franchise.

There are plenty of people out there who would say a core of D’Angelo Russell, Karl-Anthony Towns, potentially Malik Beasley and the No. 1 overall draft pick puts Minnesota ahead of where it was last October. There are plenty of others who look at another year of evaluation and development and ask, “are we really going to have to watch another year of this?” …

The Wolves like some of what they’ve seen in Jarrett Culver, Naz Reid, Jaylen Nowell, Jordan McLaughlin and Jarred Vanderbilt. What can they count on them to contribute in 2021? To be determined. It’s tough to see this roster contending for much soon.

For now, it seems like the Timberwolves should consider all possibilites in their rebuild. As talented as Towns and Russell are, no one on the roster should be deemed untouchable.

Timberwolves forward Juancho Hernangomez has role in new Adam Sandler basketball movie

The latest Timberwolves news isn’t the usual. Here’s the Minneapolis Star Tribune on a fun development:

Timberwolves forward Juancho Hernangomez won’t be present at the team’s voluntary group workouts the next two weeks. But Hernangomez isn’t injured, nor he is staying away because he’s a restricted free agent. Instead, he’s filming a movie…

A team spokesperson said Hernangomez is filming Adam Sandler’s latest project in Philadelphia. Netflix is producing the film called “Hustle.” It revolves around a basketball scout who searches for talent overseas.. Lakers forward LeBron James is also listed as a producer on the movie.

I haven’t looked into the storyline for this movie beyond much more than the quick description above, but anything involving Adam Sandler and basketball, I’m definitely watching.

James Johnson praises former teammate Jimmy Butler

It’s always fun seeing how NBA players discuss their former teammates. Usually, positive words are said. But even so, it’s always interesting to see the exact adjectives that get used. Here’s the Minneapolis Star Tribune reporting:

Timberwolves forward James Johnson only got to play with Jimmy Butler for a little more than half a season.

But when the Wolves visited Miami on Feb. 26 after Johnson came to Minnesota via trade from the Heat, the 11-year veteran had effusive praise for Butler.

“I loved him,” Johnson said. “I love his work ethic. I love what he stands for. It sometimes can be misconstrued. Me, personally, one of the best teammates I’ve ever had.”

It speaks to how well things were going for the Heat in Butler’s first year with the team. There were no leaks to the media about practice tirades or chewing out coaches in film sessions as there were in Butler’s previous stops with Minnesota and Philadelphia.

Butler and the Heat recently finished off the No. 1 seed Bucks in the second round of the playoffs, and are waiting the winner of tonight’s Game 7 between the Celtics and defending-champion Raptors.

Heat star Jimmy Butler praises new Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau

The Knicks recently made Tom Thibodeau their new head coach. Heat star Jimmy Butler knows Thibs, having spent serious time playing for him in the past. Here’s the New York Post reporting what Butler had to say about New York’s newest hire:

Jimmy Butler sounds ready for another reunion with Tom Thibodeau.

Having played under the new Knicks coach in Chicago and Minnesota, Butler — who has credited Thibodeau with his development from late first round pick to five-time All-Star — said he believes the young core of RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson could make similar progress with Thibodeau’s teachings.

“He’s going to do great. He’s going to turn those young guys into some real players; some superstars, some All-Stars,” Butler said of Thibodeau. “I know he’s been itching for this. I know he’s been preparing for it. When you talk about Thibs and the big stage, I think they go hand in hand.”

Things with Butler didn’t go smoothly in Minnesota, as the rest of the above article details. But his praise of Thibs is the takeaway here.

Butler and the Heat are in Orlando at the Disney NBA campus, where they will face the Nuggets on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Leading Heat scorers this season (PPG)
Jimmy Butler 20.2
Bam Adebayo 16.2
Goran Dragic 16.1
Kendrick Nunn 15.6
Duncan Robinson 13.3

Timberwolves statement on NBA return to play plan

Minnesota Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas today issued the following statement regarding the NBA’s decision to resume the 2019-20 NBA season with 22 teams playing in Orlando, Florida:

“While we are disappointed for our team and our fans that our season is coming to an end, we understand and accept the league’s plan to move forward with 22 teams. It is important that we be a good teammate not only to the NBA, but to the other 29 teams to support the efforts to complete this season and prepare for next season in a healthy and safe manner.

“Our offseason program will be intensive and thorough to make sure our players continue their development and are prepared for the start of the 2020-21 season. Our Head Coach Ryan Saunders, his assistants and our performance staff will be creative, aggressive and proactive to deal with a period of inactivity that we have not dealt with before. We built good momentum as a team following the trade deadline and our basketball staff will diligently continue to work through our team building processes, including the draft and free agency, as we continue to look for ways to improve our team during this pivotal offseason.

“We will also use this offseason to work tirelessly to help our community heal, to influence change and to promote thoughtful actions in response to recent events.”

In-development Timberwolves would benefit if season continues

The NBA is currently deciding how to proceed regarding resuming play, possibly as early as mid or late July. It sounds increasingly likely that at the very least, we’ll hopefully get a 2019-20 postseason.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune:

If the Wolves are part of a restart, though, the main benefit would be a chance for the revamped Wolves — who dramatically made over their roster a month before the shutdown, adding D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and a host of other players — to play together and gather momentum toward next season.

We’re all rooting for NBA play to resume. Which will only happen if the world in and out of sports becomes more and more safe.

Some insight on the state of the Timberwolves

Truly changing a franchise starts at the top. The front office dictates the direction. Then comes roster changes. Then comes player development, team chemistry, etc. Here’s the Minnesota Star Tribune reporting on the Timberwolves:

When Gersson Rosas became president of the Timberwolves, he promised to remake the roster by making it younger and finding talent that could play an up-tempo style of basketball. He added that one of the primary ways he would accomplish that was through trades.

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. “Rosterwise, 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.”

Right now, the Timberwolves core is Karl-Anthony Towns up front and D’Angelo Russell in the backcourt. Roster-wise, there’s much work to be done, and it won’t happen overnight.

Karl-Anthony Towns’ mother Jacqueline passes away due to complications from COVID-19

The Minnesota Timberwolves today issued the following statement regarding the passing of Karl-Anthony Towns’ mother Jacqueline Towns:

“The Timberwolves organization is incredibly saddened to hear of the passing of Jacqueline Towns due to complications from COVID-19. In the four-plus years we were fortunate to know Jackie, she became part of our family. Her passion for life and for her family was palpable. As Karl’s number one fan, Jackie provided constant and positive energy for him and was beloved by our entire organization and staff at Target Center as she supported her son and the Timberwolves. The League, teams, and players have come together in their support of Jackie and Karl and we are grateful for our NBA family. We would like to thank all the doctors, nurses and medical personnel who cared for Jackie during her illness and all of Karl’s fans who sent their support this past month. Our deepest condolences go out to Karl and his family during this difficult time.”

From the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

Karl-Anthony Towns first revealed his mom’s battle with the virus in late March via an Instagram video in an effort to spread awareness about the potential severity of the virus and the need for everyone to take proper safety measure to minimize its impact.

In the days after Jackie and Karl Towns Sr., Towns’ father, first had symptoms of the virus, Towns watched as his mother’s condition continued to get worse. Her cough worsened and her fever was constant.

“She was deteriorating in front of our eyes,” he said.

In that video, Towns shared that his mother was on a ventilator and in a medically-induced coma.