Jeff Teague

Report: Timberwolves want Ben Simmons punished for Karl-Anthony Towns-Joel Embiid fight

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As Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns and 76ers center Joel Embiid fought last night, 76ers guard Ben Simmons grabbed Towns from behind. Simmons was still holding Towns as the bigs fell to the floor.

Yet, only Towns and Embiid got ejected.

That apparently isn’t sitting well in Minnesota.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

As the NBA’s investigation into the altercation between Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns begins, the Minnesota Timberwolves are rejecting the game officials’ designation of Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons as a “peacemaker” in the fracas, league sources tell ESPN.

Referee Mark Ayotte told a pool reporter Wednesday night that Simmons was “deemed a peacemaker” for an act that included him holding Towns to the floor in what the Timberwolves contend was a “dangerous choke hold,” league sources told ESPN.

After the game, Simmons said, “I always got my teammate’s back.”

NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Good luck determining intent.

Does always having Embiid’s back mean joining the fight against Towns? Maybe.

Does always having Embiid’s back mean trying to pull an attacker off him? Maybe.

With either mindset, Simmons’ actions during the fight would look similar. The league faces a difficult job – especially with the Timberwolves opposing the referees’ determination.

Minnesota opens a slippery slope with this argument, though. With Embiid on the floor, Timberwolves guard Jeff Teague grabbed the 76ers center from behind. Was Teague playing peacemaker or going after Embiid? These interpretations get complicated in a hurry.

Karl-Anthony Towns on Timberwolves: “It’s fine. Keep sleeping on us.”

Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The bottom half of the Western Conference is going to a tight race going into late March and April. Good teams — San Antonio, Dallas, Sacramento, New Orleans — could all be battling for one, maybe a couple of playoff spots (especially if an expected playoff team falls back to the pack).

Karl-Anthony Towns says don’t leave Minnesota out of that mix.

Towns believes that nationally fans and the media are sleeping on the Timberwolves — which is true — and he told Marc Spears of The Undefeated that would be a mistake.

“Everyone always sleeps on people in Minnesota because they don’t hear our name a lot,” Towns, who was named a 2019 NBA Western Conference All-Star, told The Undefeated. “That’s fine. That’s cool. We are going to come from the underground and just find ourselves in the playoffs if we continue to do what we’re doing. …

“It’s fine. Keep sleeping on us.”

The Timberwolves made the playoffs two seasons ago, Jimmy Butler‘s first with the team. Last season, after Butler torpedoed the squad in training camp with a public and messy trade demand, Minnesota never recovered (and Tom Thibodeau lost his job).

If Minnesota is going to make the playoffs Towns is going to have to take a step forward, being more of a facilitator on offense (coach Ryan Saunders needs to get him high-post touches) and more consistent on defense. But that is just the start. Robert Covington, Minnesota’s second-best player, has to lead an improved defense. Andrew Wiggins has to do more than get empty-calorie points (18.1 per game last season), and he’s got to be more efficient.  Josh Okogie needs to take a step forward and rookie Jarrett Culver must contribute. Jeff Teague, Gorgui Dieng, and Jordan Bell all need to fill their roles.

Which is a lot of things that need go right, leading to a lot of that sleeping on the Timberwolves.

It’s up to Towns and company to prove us all wrong.

Jarrett Culver enlivens Timberwolves’ otherwise-quiet offseason

Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Timberwolves are the only team with two max-salary players under age 29. Heck, they’re the only team with two max-salary players under age 25.

But Minnesota isn’t set.

Far from it.

Though Karl-Anthony Towns (23) is already a star and sometimes looks like a budding superstar, Andrew Wiggins (24) has stagnated on his max extension. Add expensive contracts for Jeff Teague and Gorgui Dieng, and the Timberwolves have limited cap flexibility. With veterans too good to allow deep tanking, Minnesota also has limited means to upgrade through the draft.

New Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas was likely always bound to limit his impact this summer. Minnesota faced few clear pressing decisions. Any big moves would start the clock toward Rosas getting evaluated on his prestigious job. In one of his main decisions, Rosas retained head coach Ryan Saunders, an ownership favorite.

Yet, in this environment, Rosas still found a simple way to add a potential long-term difference maker.

The Timberwolves entered the draft with the No. 11 pick – right after a near-consensus top 10 would’ve been off the board. They left the draft with No. 6 pick Jarrett Culver.

All it took to trade up with the Suns was Dario Saric, who would’ve helped Minnesota this season but probably not enough to achieve meaningful success. He’ll become a free agent next summer and is in line for a raise the Timberwolves might not wanted to give.

Culver is not a lock to flourish in the NBA. But Minnesota had no business adding a prospect with so much potential. This was a coup.

Otherwise, the Timberwolves remained predictably quiet, tinkering on the fringe of the rotation. They added Jake Layman (three years, $11,283,255) in a sign-and-trade with the Trail Blazers. They took Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham off the hands of the hard-capped Warriors, getting cash for their trouble. They signed Noah Vonleh (one year, $2 million) and Jordan Bell (one year, minimum). They claimed Tyrone Wallace off waivers.

With their own free agents getting bigger offers, Minnesota didn’t match Tyus Jones‘ offer sheet with the Grizzlies (three years, $26,451,429) and watched Derrick Rose walk to the Pistons (two years, $15 million). For where the Timberwolves are, the far-cheaper Napier should handle backup point guard just fine.

Minnesota is methodically gaining flexibility. Teague’s contract expires next summer, Dieng’s the summer after that. The big question is how to handle Wiggins, but that will wait.

With Towns locked in the next five years, Rosas has plenty of runway before he must take off. Nabbing Culver was a heck of a way to accelerate from the gate.

Offseason grade: B-

Timberwolves, including Karl-Anthony Towns, reportedly meet with D’Angelo Russell

Associated Press
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The Minnesota Timberwolves are looking for the second star to put next to Karl-Anthony Towns. (Don’t bring up Andrew Wiggins and his contract, it just makes Timberwolves fans glow red with rage.)

How about All-Star D'Angelo Russell?

The Timberwolves — with Towns and aggressive new president Gersson Rosas in the room — are going to meet with the Nets’ restricted free agent, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

The Minnesota Timberwolves will meet with Brooklyn Nets restricted free agent D’Angelo Russell when free agency opens on Sunday, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Timberwolves contingent expected to be present at the meeting: president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, head coach Ryan Saunders and franchise player Karl-Anthony Towns, sources said.

Russell is a restricted free agent, however, if Kyrie Irving commits to Brooklyn as is widely expected, the Nets would rescind their qualifying offer to Russell, making him an unrestricted free agent. (Otherwise, Brooklyn can match any offer, although whether they would match a max is a matter of debate.)

Russell’s agent has been looking everywhere for a team willing to give his player the full $27.5 million max, after finding many teams think his value is a little below that ($22 million to $25 million). Minnesota is going to go all in according to friend-of-PBT Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports.

However, to get that much cap space one of two things needs to happen.

The buzz around the league for a while has been Minnesota had a new home for Andrew Wiggins and his remaining four years, $122 million. There certainly would be sweeteners (picks and/or players) in that deal, but if the Timberwolves can get off Wiggins’ salary they would have the cap space to sign Russell to the max.

The other option is to move both Jeff Teague and Gorgui Dieng to teams that can absorb their salaries and send nothing back. Getting Wiggins out of Minnesota would be the preferred option.

As ESPN’s Zach Lowe has noted, Minnesota was “up to something” and suggested Charlotte as a potential dumping ground for Wiggins after Kemba Walker bolts to Boston.

Russell will have a lot of suitors, but the top two picks in the 2015 NBA Draft could be teaming up in Minnesota.

Rumor: Is Minnesota in play for D’Angelo Russell?

Associated Press
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Coming off an All-Star season where his game took a step forward, D'Angelo Russell is a restricted free agent. The man is about to get paid. If the Brooklyn Nets sign Kyrie Irving as a free agent — which is considered the most likely outcome — then they are going to let Russell walk (or just renounce his rights) rather than pay him the $20+ million annually it’s expected to take to keep him (not max money, but not that far off it).

If all that happens, where might Russell land? Phoenix has been mentioned in league circles a lot and it needs a point guard (plus Russell and Devin Booker are friends). Indiana and Orlando have long been mentioned as teams that could chase him (as was Utah, although after the Mike Conley trade just cross them off the list). A reunion with the Los Angeles Lakers is rumored.

Minnesota also has been mentioned as interested, although that often gets dismissed because they are over the salary cap already. ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on his podcast that there is something there (hat tip Real GM).

“There has been a lot of Minnesota /D’Angelo Russell noise, and it’s not all Karl Towns commenting on Instagram because they’re friends. Minnesota has communicated to the league, not the NBA league, just the league at large that they believe they have a pathway to get D’Angelo Russell.

“I can’t see what it is because they’re capped out and they have all of these contracts nobody wants, but they’ve communicated that.”

The question is simply how Minnesota would come up with $20 million or more in cap space. The team is right at the salary cap line in guaranteed contracts, and when you throw in the option on Tyus Jones and cap holds (for empty roster spots) they are will over it.

Next season the Timberwolves will pay Andrew Wiggins $27.5 million, and he has four total fully guaranteed seasons left on his contract at a little over $123 million. Jeff Teague is owed $19 million on an expiring deal. Gorgui Dieng will make $16.2 million and has another season after the next one locked in. The Timberwolves would love to shed any and all of those contracts, but good luck with that. Wiggins is almost unmovable right now, Dieng would require a serious sweetener (like a couple first round picks) to be thrown in.

Still, it’s something to watch just because this rumor isn’t just new to Lowe, There seems to be something there, just nobody can figure out what.