Kurt Helin

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What will Tom Thibodeau bring to Minnesota? A strong foundation.


Tom Thibodeau spent his year on coaching sabbatical on a learning quest.

Sure, he took in a bunch of movies (he’s a filmophile) and he did some analyst stints on television, but what he mostly did was travel from team to team to team, watching them practice and talking to coaches with very different mindsets than his own. He asked questions, he watched how they worked. That includes time spent with Steve Kerr and the Golden State Warriors.

It’s one of the things that should make Timberwolves fans jubilant today.

Owner Glen Taylor opened up his pocketbooks and went big, bringing in Thibodeau in the dual role of coach and team president. Scott Layden will come in as the team’s GM and handle the day-to-day of that job, but Thibodeau will have the ultimate hammer on player/personnel moves.

What will that mean for Minnesota?

A strong foundation.

One that could take this team to the mountaintop in the future.

This is not about the Timberwolves making the playoffs next season — although that is not out of the question, depending on their offseason moves (and countless other variables). This is about three seasons from now. Five seasons from now.

What Thibodeau will do is establish a culture of working hard every game. He will demand defensive effort and focus each possession. He will bring attention to detail and will hold his players accountable to it. He will bring a genuine passion for the game. Thibodeau talked about this in his statement on the hiring.

“I started my NBA career with the Minnesota Timberwolves and it is an incredible opportunity to rejoin the organization at a time when they have what I believe to be the best young roster in the NBA. Together with a great owner in Glen Taylor and a terrific basketball partner in Scott Layden, I look forward to building a winning culture that Minnesota sports fans can be proud of.”

The guy who could benefit the most from this may be Andrew Wiggins. Karl-Anthony Towns is a special player who will be the cornerstone of whatever the Timberwolves ultimately become — and he already has a drive that Thibodeau will love. Wiggins could be the wing KAT will need around him — if Wiggins brings more focus nightly. If he defends like he’s capable on a consistent basis. If he is a professional and pays attention to the little things. You know, all things Thibodeau will demand.

The question is what kind of offense Thibodeau will bring to Minnesota? His Bulls teams ran a lot of 1/3 pick and rolls — “let’s put our two best players in a lot of pick-and-rolls together every game” — and isolation sets. It wasn’t creative or groundbreaking, but it fit with the roster he was handed with a young Derrick Rose. And it worked fairly well. That said, Thibodeau should not be pigeonholed on his offensive style based solely on what we saw in Chicago.

This is where that sabbatical tour could manifest itself. Thibodeau should use Towns in a pick-and-pop situation and let him stretch out to the three at times. The sets need to be creative to minimize the impact of Ricky Rubio’s lack of a jumper and other weaknesses. Thibs has spent a year looking at a wide variety of offenses, exposing himself to different philosophies, thinking about the game. His offense is not going to be revolutionary, but don’t believe that it will be predictable and simplistic, either.

Bringing in Thibodeau as a coach and GM invites some risk. He is unproven at team building, and coaches can be hit and miss in the big chair. He’s a guy who has worn players and teams down — something the Timberwolves do not want to do to their impressive young core. He has been hostile to analytics at points.

Has his year off and tour broadened his perspectives on the use of players? On taking in some information from the analytics side and giving it consideration? Has his hard-driving personality have some softer edges at times?

Whatever the answers to those questions, whatever the risks, they pale in comparison to what we know the Timberwolves will get. This was the best hire Minnesota could have made for the future.

What the Timberwolves ultimately will get a young core steeped in a culture that could benefit them greatly down the line (even if Thibodeau is not part of that future). They will get a foundation built in the next few years that will be needed to reach the heights they want.

Minnesota also will get a lot of wins.

They just became maybe the most interesting team in the NBA.

Pacers remain hopeful about Ian Mahinmi’s availability in Game 3

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The Indiana Pacers are hopeful injured center Ian Mahinmi will play in Game 3 against Toronto on Thursday night.

Mahinmi did not finish Monday night’s game after hurting his back, which has been a problem this season for the 6-foot-11, 262-pound starter.

After Wednesday’s practice, Mahinmi told reporters he intended to play through the injury. Coach Frank Vogel said the Pacers are planning for him to play and would adjust if Mahinmi can’t go.

Foul trouble has limited Mahinmi to combined totals of six points and eight rebounds of the first-round playoff series that is tied 1-1.

The next two games will be played in Indianapolis.

Grizzlies GM: “We are going to re-sign Mike Conley”


While Kevin Durant is the big name potentially on the market, you’d be hard to find any other player more coveted by other general managers — and smart basketball fans — than Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley. He’s one of the best defenders in the league at the position, a smart floor general, he can knock down the three (36.3 percent), and he knows when and where to get his guys the ball.

All of those are reasons the Grizzlies want to keep him — and they should be the frontrunners to do just that. That said, there have been reports that he is “expected” to leave Memphis this summer.Which raised a lot of eyebrows because “expected” is a strong word that doesn’t seem to fit here.

Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace tried to shoot that latest rumor down, appearing on the Chris Vernon radio show in Memphis.

If the Grizzlies offer a five-year max deal — as they should — I’d put my money on Conley staying put. Conley worked hard to recruit Marc Gasol to stay last summer, and Conley said it would be very hard to do that then bolt town.

However, he will have options. The Knicks are rumored to have interest if he wants to go where there are bright lights and a big market (but also the triangle offense, the foe of many a point guard). A host of other teams are expected to get involved. The bidding will start at a max salary.

Don’t be shocked if Conley takes a meeting or three — who doesn’t like to be recruited? Then, in the end, I’d bet on him staying near Beale Street.

Tom Thibodeau signs five-year contract to be coach, head of basketball operations in Minneosta


Minnesota had the most desirable open coaching vacancy on the market this summer.

They just landed the biggest name coach.

As has been rumored for the past 48 hours, Tom Thibodeau is the new coach and head of basketball operations for the Timberwolves. Minnesota-based Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press had it first.

The team has since confirmed it.

Layden is a Spurs assistant GM who will handle the day-to-day duties of being the general manager in Minnesota. Layden is known as a hard worker and is respected around the league. He will have a lot of influence, but Thibodeau will have the ultimate hammer on decisions.

The Timberwolves had the most coveted of coaching vacancies because of their impressive your roster – Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, and more. What’s more, owner Glen Taylor had been enamored with the coach-as-president model seen in Detroit (Stan Van Gundy) and with the Clippers (Doc Rivers). That combination gave the small-market Timberwolves the clout to get in the conversation with the top available coaches.

Thibodeau is the biggest name of those available (you can make your case for Jeff Van Gundy in the comments if you want, I lean Thibs.

This is a move that comes with risk — will Thibodeau be any good at roster building? He’s a hard-driving coach and a yeller, how will that sit with the young Timberwolves core?

That said, Minnesota was going to get better next season anyway and bringing in Thibodeau accelerates that process — you know their defense is about to get good. This might even be a playoff team in the West next season now.

Report: Wizards are pushing to close deal with Scott Brooks before other teams enter picture


There are teams that have not yet fired their coach but who are expected to have serious interest in Scott Brooks as a potential successor. The Houston Rockets are widely reported to be one of them (they are still alive in the playoffs for at least a couple more games) but I can tell you for certain they are not alone.

Which is why the Wizards are making their push now to get Brooks off the market, before other teams get in on the bidding. From Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports, and Marc Stein of ESPN.

Brooks has been mentioned in connection with the Rockets’ job, which still technically belongs to J.B. Bickerstaff. Again, the Rockets are not alone in that line.

You can be sure Brooks and his well-known agent have had contact with the teams interested in his services who have not yet declared an opening. It’s all done back channel, not unlike free agent feeling out processes that start before July 1.

The question becomes how much does Brooks like what Washington offers vs. these other teams? That conversation starts with money, but includes the team’s roster, how well he can work with the GM (are they on the same page), organizational stability, weather, taxes, where his wife wants to live, and on down the line. The decisions coaches make are not unlike the big life decisions you and I make about our careers or changing jobs — money matters, but it’s not the only thing on the table.

If Grunfeld and the Wizards do not close the deal in the next couple days, it would suggest Brooks has his eyes elsewhere.