Associated Press

New Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas vows aggression, collaboration

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Gersson Rosas has firsthand experience with success from unconventional strategy from his 17-year run with the Houston Rockets.

An outside-the-box approach might be necessary if the Minnesota Timberwolves are going to catch up in the cutthroat Western Conference.

“We’re going to question the norm with everything that we do,” Rosas said.

The first Latino to lead an NBA front office has landed with a 30-year-old franchise defined by bad-luck setbacks and self-induced dysfunction as much as any accomplishments on the court. The hiring of Rosas as president of basketball operations was greenlighted by Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor as the remedy to one of the latest backfires, the hiring of Tom Thibodeau three years ago for the dual role of president and coach.

As Taylor and chief executive officer Ethan Casson narrowed their search, they couldn’t help but notice Rosas appeared as confident and eager about joining them as they were about offering the job to him. The Timberwolves used an outside search firm to hire Thibodeau. This time, Casson directed an interview process that included several members of the organization from various levels and departments.

“I wanted someone that could work with the entire staff,” Taylor said. “Not only the players, but the whole organization. Somebody that felt like they were part of the team and knew what teamwork meant.”

The Timberwolves averaged the third-smallest crowd in the league last season, an announced figure of 15,305 fans per game, while missing the playoffs after a spirited postseason return in 2018 that ended a 13-year absence. The midsized market of the Twin Cities is as crowded as ever for attention and revenue. There’s just as steep of a climb facing the business side, then, as the basketball operations.

One of the reasons Rosas stood out among the four finalists – Chauncey Billups, Trajan Langdon and Calvin Booth were the others – was his holistic vision of a collaborative and innovative culture. During the Thibodeau era, the environment was more fractured than not.

“The organizations that have figured that out, and we hope to be one of them, I think will in fact not just win but win at a high level,” Casson said.

Rosas briefly left the Rockets in 2013 to become the general manager of the Dallas Mavericks, only to return because he decided the fit was not ideal. This time, with his wife, Susana, and 3-year-old fraternal twins, Giana and Grayson, in tow, the opportunity felt right.

“When the resources are in place, this is a great market not only for the organization and the players, but for my family,” said Rosas, who was introduced at a news conference in the Target Center lobby on Monday. He added: “Not only were they interviewing me, but I was interviewing them. And as I’ve talked to different organizations in this league, they stood out.”

Rosas moved with his family from Bogota, Colombia, to Houston, where learned to love basketball in high school and began coaching after college. He started with the Rockets as an intern, immersed himself in the scouting world, and worked his way up to executive vice president of basketball operations, the title he largely held for the last seven seasons.

“He’s been way overqualified for his job for a while here,” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said. “He’s more than earned his shot, although I wish he would’ve gone East. We’re going to have an extremely tough competitor in the West.”

The first order of business for Rosas will be to determine whether Ryan Saunders, whom Taylor has wholeheartedly endorsed, will remain as coach. General manager Scott Layden, who also added responsibility when Thibodeau was fired on Jan. 6, has been in limbo, too. Rosas said there were no preconditions established by Taylor about their status.

Rosas credited Thibodeau for leaving behind a competitive roster, a team led by center Karl-Anthony Towns with plenty of young talent and unrealized potential. The greatest immediate challenge to improvement, beyond the competition in the West, will be the salary cap. Maximum contracts for Towns and enigmatic sidekick Andrew Wiggins have helped push the Timberwolves close to the luxury tax threshold.

The most practical changes, then, could first come in the playbook. The MIT-educated Morey led a data-driven overhaul of the Rockets more than a decade ago, with current coach Mike D’Antoni more recently steering the innovation on the court in the pace-and-space era of the NBA. The Rockets have led the league in 3-point attempts for three straight seasons, with the Wolves ranking 26th this season after finishing last in each of the previous two years.

“We want to be strategic, and we want to play to our strengths,” Rosas said. “A lot of it has to do with the players we have on our roster and how we can operate out of that, but I think you’re going to see a lot of similarities with how the modern game is being played.”

Report: Dell Demps bypassed Rob Pelinka for Magic Johnson in Anthony Davis trade talks

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It appears that Anthony Davis is headed to the Los Angeles Lakers. The trade was announced this weekend between L.A. and the New Orleans Pelicans, but won’t be completed until July 6. Earlier this season, it was thought this trade could never happen. Tensions between the two teams were high, and negotiations had broken down.

That was perhaps due in some part to the odd back-and-forth between the teams’ front offices. According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, one peculiarity was that former Pelicans GM Dell Demps wouldn’t deal with Lakers GM Rob Pelinka. Demps would only discuss things with Magic Johnson.

Via ESPN:

Now, calling those discussions in February “negotiations” is a bit of a stretch. The Pelicans were never serious about dealing with the Lakers then. They didn’t like being forced into this position by Davis and his representative, Rich Paul. And they probably weren’t going to let former general manager Dell Demps make this big of a decision anyway.

So the Lakers — really just Johnson, because Demps wouldn’t talk to Pelinka — would call and Demps would write names on the board without giving them any feedback. Those names would leak publicly and do damage to the Lakers’ team chemistry. But eventually, Johnson and the Lakers got the hint and stopped banging up against what had become an incredibly self-destructive wall.

It’s possible that Demps wanted to deal with Magic simply because he thought he had ultimate authority. That, or maybe Demps thought Johnson would be easier to manipulate?

There’s also the idea that Demps could have had a poor relationship with Pelinka from when he was an agent. For example, Pelinka client Eric Gordon had a restricted free agent saga wherein he tried to leave New Orleans for the Phoenix Suns in 2012. The Pelicans matched, and the shooting guard never played more than 65 games in a season. This is conjecture of course, but it’s not as though Demps hadn’t dealt with Pelinka in the past. There’s been reports that Pelinka is unliked by some GMs around the league from his days as an agent.

I think we’re going to keep seeing information about the inner workings of the Lakers and former Pelicans front office like this over the next several months. This one is pretty odd, but it’s not entirely surprising.

Magic Johnson congratulates Lakers, Rob Pelinka, on Anthony Davis trade

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Magic Johnson left the Los Angeles Lakers under inauspicious terms. Turn the last game of the season, the Lakers great announced that he would be resigning his position effective immediately. In an extended hallway interview, Johnson said that he hadn’t even informed close friend and Lakers owner Jeanie Buss.

Now Magic is back to his old tricks, flashing his pearly white smile on television and tweeting banal observations about the NBA.

Johnson was supposed to be part of the team that got New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis to Staples Center. He couldn’t get the deal done, and things reportedly got testy between the two organizations during the regular season.

The Lakers were able to finally trade for Davis in an agreed-upon deal on Saturday. The trade reportedly won’t be completed until July 6th, but all indications are that Davis will be a Laker.

To that end, Johnson is apparently quite happy. He took to social media to congratulate Buss and the organization on Saturday. Eventually — surprisingly — he even gave props to Rob Pelinka.

Via Twitter:

The Pelicans got a great haul for Davis, and the Lakers got what they wanted in another star to pair with LeBron James.

It’s unclear if Los Angeles will be able to build a roster around their two stars enough to contend deep into the Western Conference playoffs. That’s still up for debate, and health will be a serious question as they try to rely on an aging James and a shaky Davis.

Still, the Lakers are headed in the direction they would like and with the West now more in question than ever. We don’t know what’s happening with the Golden State Warriors, and the Houston Rockets could be in full teardown mode as they look to ditch Chris Paul.

We’re headed into the summer and there’s a bit of daylight for fans in L.A.

Report: Celtics wouldn’t include Jayson Tatum in Anthony Davis trade talks

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Anthony Davis is headed to the Los Angeles Lakers. The New Orleans Pelicans got a significant haul in exchange for their beleaguered star, and LeBron James is openly happy his team finally got the player they wanted all along.

Other favorites to land Anthony Davis this offseason were the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks. Danny Ainge had to wait until after July 1 to make a trade for Davis thanks to some special CBA rules regarding Kyrie Irving‘s contract.

But that no longer appears to be on the table, in part because Boston decided not to offer Jayson Tatum in any deal for Davis. Thought to be the crown jewel of any potential Celtics-Pelicans trade, there was also concern by Ainge that Davis would not re-sign in Beantown.

Via Twitter:

This runs contrary to everything we’ve heard about Boston going after Davis. Ainge has always been one to leverage his assets in a way that’s less conservative than other team execs. Plus, the reports have been that the Celtics were not concerned about Davis re-signing. Perhaps Davis gave them a little extra information, telling them directly that he would not re-sign? Davis’ agent Rich Paul said as much publicly, but what’s posturing and what’s negotiating isn’t one in the same.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Pelicans and Lakers will complete the deal on July 6. There’s a lot of time before we hit that date, and Pelicans leader David Griffin won’t back out of his deal with L.A. But the fact there’s still time on the table and the Celtics didn’t change their tune on Tatum tells us all the information we need to know.

Rumor: LeBron James hoping Kyrie Irving might join Lakers despite Nets talk

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The Anthony Davis trade saga is finally over. The deal between the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers hasn’t been completed yet, and is expected to be done on July 6.

For now, L.A. can move its attention elsewhere to look for another star. The Lakers will have significant cap space — $23.7 million, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks — and they’ll need another star.

Talk recently has been that former LeBron James running mate Kyrie Irving is headed to the Brooklyn Nets. But no deal is officially in place, and free agency hasn’t started. According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, there are folks in LeBron’s camp who are hopeful that Irving could still join L.A.

Via The Athletic:

Just days before the Davis deal was done, a source close to James indicated some optimism that – Nets noise be darned – Irving was still in play for the Lakers.

Remember, Irving and James had a heart-to-heart talk earlier in the season. They hashed out what happened in Cleveland, with Irving apologizing to James for how he acted as a younger man.

That sparked speculation that Irving could be looking to join LeBron with the Lakers this summer when he had the ability to opt out of his contract with the Boston Celtics.

We haven’t even reached the 2019 NBA draft yet, and already free agency is ramping up and getting crazy. This July is going to be wild, and until the music stops and the butts are in the seats, don’t count anyone as being a sure thing for any team just yet.