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Report: Timberwolves want to bring back Derrick Rose

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When Tom Thibodeau signed Derrick Rose — after the former MVP was traded at the deadline when Cleveland cleaned house, then waived instantly by Utah — NBA Twitter was a combination of scorn and derision. Especially Timberwolves fans. The consensus was Rose was going to be wretched on defense and certainly didn’t solve the team’s need for more shooting.

However, Rose was solid, particularly in the playoffs against Houston. In those five postseason games, Rose averaged 14.2 points per game, shot 50.9 percent from the field, and was knocking down his threes. While those numbers are not sustainable over the course of a regular season (or even more playoff games), Rose defended better than expected and showed he can still have a role in the NBA — backup point guard giving a team 15 minutes a night and creating shots.

Thibodeau and the Timberwolves want Rose back, reports Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

No question that they are interested in bringing Rose back. Thibs certainly heard plenty of questions when he first brought Rose in. But in that role as a combo guard off the bench, Rose was good. He played solid defense, scored well and was a great teammate.

The question will be can he stay healthy for a full season? His body just keeps betraying him, and he missed some time with a sprained ankle during his stint with the Wolves.

I have two thoughts here.

First, sure Minnesota wants him back, but at what price? Rose was on a one-year, $2.1 million this season, and at around that number he is an affordable part of the rotation. If another team wants to offer more (or if Rose demands it), the Timberwolves should back away from the table. Rose struggles to stay healthy at this point and he’s the wrong guy to trust to play more than 60 games next season.

Second, re-signing Rose cannot get in the way of minutes for Tyus Jones. At the end of the season and into the playoffs Jones lost his minutes to Rose, but Jones is the future at the backup one spot. His development matters more than just finding a replacement.

Raptors’ reserves rolling, and they don’t plan to let playoffs stop them

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DETROIT – Fred VanVleet remembers sitting on the end of the Raptors bench with teammates like Delon Wright, Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam last season. None held a permanent rotation spot, and they discussed what they would do better if they got an opportunity.

“If you’re made of anything, nobody likes sitting on the bench,” VanVleet said. “So, we’re all kind of pissed off.”

They’ve gotten a chance to channel that frustration into production, and they’ve sure capitalized. Those four and C.J. Miles, who signed with Toronto last summer, lead the NBA’s best bench and comprise one of the league’s top lineups.

“The question has been whether we’re going to keep them in, that group, during the playoffs,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said without even being asked about the postseason, a time most teams shrink their rotation. “And why not? Until they prove us wrong and prove that they can’t perform in the playoffs, that’s our plan.”

Toronto is outscoring opponents by 9.4 points per 100 possessions with mostly reserves in, one of the best marks in the last couple decades. Here are the top benches by net rating since 1997, as far back as NBA.com data goes (with offensive rating/defensive rating/net rating):

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Many productive benches ground overwhelmed opponents into submission with tough defense. The Raptors’ reserves excel offensively and defensively. Their 110.8 points per 100 possessions ranks third among benches since 1997 (behind only the 2012 Spurs and 2018 Rockets).

Other benches are propped up by staggered stars who carry backups. Not in Toronto. The all-reserve lineup of Wright, VanVleet, Miles, Siakam and Poeltl is outscoring opponents by 22.2 points per 100 possessions. Of 43 five-man units to play 200 minutes this season, only the Timberwolves’ Tyus Jones/Jimmy Butler/Andrew Wiggins/Taj Gibson/Karl-Anthony Towns lineup has fared better (+23.4).

Here are the top lineups with at least 200 minutes (with offensive rating/defensive rating/net rating):

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Casey said he has seen opponents juggle their rotations to play more starters against his bench. Yet, the reserves have held up. That’s a big reason he has so much faith in the group for the playoffs.

But Casey didn’t have much choice to entrust these recently deep reserves with bigger roles initially.

The Raptors lost DeMarre Carroll (traded to Nets), P.J. Tucker (signed with Rockets), Patrick Patterson (signed with Thunder) and Cory Joseph (traded to Pacers) last offseason. Shedding that depth was necessary to re-sign Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka and remain under the luxury-tax line.

Of course, Toronto knew it had developing players who might have been ready for larger roles. But the way everything has come together has been incredible.

These players mesh so well. They space the floor and pass willingly. Wright, Miles, Siakam and Poeltl all have the length and mobility to swarm defensively, allowing the pesky, but undersized, VanVleet to aggressively pressure the ball.

They’ve formed an identity without commonality, the outliers adapting to the group.

They like to talk about how they’re young players trying to prove themselves. Wright is 25, Siakam 24, VanVleet 24, Poeltl 22. But Miles is 30 years old and in his 13th season

“The exuberance they have and the way they play the game, it keeps me in it,” Miles said.

They bring how they’ve all been overlooked. Wright and Siakam were drafted in the 20s. Miles was a second-rounder. VanVleet went undrafted. But Poeltl was a top-10 pick.

“I feed a lot off my teammates’ energy, also,” Poeltl said. “I’m the type of guy that, if we all get fired up, I get dragged along with that. And then, at that point, I also bring a lot of energy to the table. That drags my teammates with me.”

Another trait contagious among the group: unselfishness.

Some emanates from Wright and VanVleet. Both essentially point guards, they were competing for a spot on the depth chart a year ago. Now, VanVleet is in a contract year, and Wright will be eligible for a contract extension this offseason. Both admitted some trepidation about playing together.

“It would be easy for me to be selfish going into my contract year,” VanVleet said. “It would be easy for Delon to try to make his mark going forward.”

Yet, they make it work. When VanVleet initiates the offense, Wright cuts. When Wright initiates the offense, VanVleet spots up.

“It was really our first stint of having a role on a team,” Wright said. “So, I don’t think there’s no time to be selfish when you’re just getting your opportunity.”

Of course, that attitude can’t last forever. The Raptors’ reserves are tasting success and hungering for more.

“People are asking why we’re so good. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist,” VanVleet said. “We’ve got good players.

“We know most of us, if not all of us, can start on other teams. And that’s something that we hold to our heart.”

VanVleet probably won’t overtake Lowry or DeMar DeRozan to start in Toronto’s backcourt. But as a restricted free agent this summer, he’ll have the first opportunity to seek a starting job elsewhere. Toronto faces a potential luxury-tax bill next season and might decide not pay VanVleet, especially with Wright there.

For now, the Raptor reserves are just gearing up for the playoffs and enjoying each other’s company.

“The camaraderie we have as a unit is unbelievable,” Miles said. “It’s non-stop laughter, not-stop joking.”

The newcomer, Miles saw that brewing when he arrived over the summer. He recognized a group of young players who bonded over their lack of playing time and thought back to his first few seasons, when he was in the same boat. He told his emerging younger bench-mates he wanted to be part of what they were doing, not an outsider.

Now, they’re dominating.

“It’s really special when you think about it,” Miles said.

Derrick Rose to doubters: “I don’t need your f****** validation”

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There were two consensus reactions to the Minnesota Timberwolves signing Derrick Rose:

1) We’ve been expecting it. It’s Tom Thibodeau and a former player, he can’t resist that urge.

2) It’s okay, as long as they don’t play Rose much.

Forget MVP-level Rose, we aren’t going to see him again (even Rose admits that). However, Rose sat on the free agent market for a month (after being traded to Utah then waived) for a reason — there are questions about how he can help a team in today’s NBA. The knocks are his defense and lack of a three-point shot (25 percent this season). In a league deep with quality point guards, the teams that could use one still were looking for young players to develop first.

Rose, however, speaking to the media for the first time after practice in Minnesota, fired back at his critics. Via Nick Friedell of ESPN:

“I’m 29, they’re acting like I’m 39. I’m still able to push the ball up the floor, they’re acting like I’m in a wheelchair. All these injuries — like even coming here to take my physical [the Timberwolves medical staff] looked at my physical, they couldn’t believe how my body was in good shape. Little things like that push me to go out here and work even harder, because on the outside looking in, you probably think I walk with a limp, you probably think I’m wearing ice bags every day, this and that. Man, it’s totally opposite of that….

“This is how I feel about it, the whole perspective on it,” Rose said. “You could have your perspective on me, as far as I’m a bum, I can’t play, I can’t shoot, this and that, all right, cool, I have no hard feelings with that. I’m cool with that. [If] that’s how you feel, that’s how you feel, but at the same time, I don’t need your f—ing validation. I know who I am, I know what type of player I am. So you respect that and I respect that [point of view] and we should be good. That’s how I feel about it.”

Rose has found his motivation. We’ll see if that translates into much on the court.

Rose has a role in the NBA still as a backup point guard. In a situation where he can run some pick-and-roll, be asked to provide 15 minutes or so of scoring punch, and be covered for defensively, he could help a team. He’s better than some guys getting backup minutes this season. There are several teams out there who fit that bill and might consider reaching out to Rose this summer.

In Minnesota, he provides guard depth with Jimmy Butler sidelined. However, if Thibodeau starts giving Rose minutes that before went to Tyus Jones or Jamal Crawford off the bench, then it’s an issue.

Report: Timberwolves signing Derrick Rose

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The Timberwolves were reportedly hot on Derrick Rose’s tail after the trade deadline, when the Cavaliers traded and Jazz waived him. But there was enough delay that questions emerged whether Rose was finished in the NBA entirely.

Alas, Minnesota went through with it.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Rose is technically a former MVP still in his 20s, but that’s such an inaccurate way to describe him now. Sapped by injuries perhaps lost desire, Rose is barely NBA-caliber anymore.

Minnesota’s rotation point guards, Jeff Teague and Tyus Jones, are far better than Rose. Third-string point guard Aaron Brooks is about as good.

Even with Jimmy Butler injured, the Timberwolves don’t need Rose’s shot creation – perhaps his lone remaining plus skill. They should get the ball more to the ultra-efficient Karl-Anthony Towns. Andrew Wiggins and Jamal Crawford are also comfortable shouldering large offensive loads.

This signing is clearly happening because Timberwolves president-coach Tom Thibodeau previously coached Rose in Chicago.

The opportunity cost of using a roster spot on Rose is bad enough. Minnesota needs help on the wing. But the biggest problem comes if Thibodeau actually plays Rose over Jones.

There’s always a chance Thibodeau taps into Rose’s potential. Gibson is having a resurgent year, after all. But Rose looks finished in ways Gibson never did, and Teague and Jones already provide a formidable 1-2 at at point guard.

The Timberwolves (38-28) have just a 2.5-game buffer over the Nuggets and Jazz for playoff position. Minnesota is trying to end a 13-season postseason drought. The stakes are high there.

The best-case scenario of this signing might be it ending up harmless. The downside is Rose getting a rotation spot and costing the Timberwolves wins that would have gotten them into the playoffs.

Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler lead Timberwolves rally past Lakers, 119-111

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Timberwolves were flat, facing a double-digit deficit for long stretches of the game.

This is why they traded for Jimmy Butler and signed Taj Gibson, for fourth-quarter lifts like these.

Gibson scored a season-high 28 points and Butler added 24, providing the Timberwolves with the production and energy for a 119-111 comeback victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.

Butler and Gibson, the former Chicago teammates, muscled their way to the basket with a fierce determination down the stretch. Butler drove along the baseline and flicked a short pass to Gibson in the lane, where he dropped in a layup and converted a three-point play for a 110-104 lead with 3:59 left.

“What he and Jimmy have brought to the team has really changed things for us,” said Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau, who had them both with the Bulls. “Those guys, they weren’t going to let us lose.”

Jeff Teague pitched in 20 points and Jamal Crawford added 15 for the Timberwolves, who rallied from a deficit as large as 15 points in the second quarter and 12 points late in the third to raise their home record to 24-7 on an emotional evening that started with a tribute to former coach and executive Flip Saunders.

Except the Lakers had the mojo for much of the first three quarters. Julius Randle had 23 points and nine rebounds, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Brandon Ingram each scored 17 points.

“I know how good we can be when we decide to play hard,” Butler said. “But we think that we’re so good on paper that we can just go through the motions.”

Ivica Zubac, who went 8 for 8 from the floor for a season-high 19 points, threw down a dunk for a 99-98 lead for the Lakers, but that was essentially their last momentum-creating play of the game.

“They’ve got some big-time closers on that team, starting with Jimmy Butler,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “He kind of set the tone in the fourth with the way he played.”

Butler blocked shots by Randle and Isaiah Thomas on consecutive possessions in the closing minutes, putting his stamp on yet another winning performance.

“I think that’s what separates him as a superstar,” Crawford said. “Most guys, they do it on one end, but those types of plays, they’re immeasurable.”

This was a win the Wolves badly needed before the All-Star break, after their 13-game home winning streak ended in humbling fashion on Tuesday against Houston. They moved within percentage points of San Antonio for third place in the Western Conference at 36-25. The Spurs are 35-24.

The Lakers shot so sharply to start the game, going 17 for 27 from the floor in the first quarter, that the Wolves produced separate spurts of 23-8 and 21-6 in the first half yet still trailed 65-62 at halftime.

Randle had 10 points in the third quarter as the Lakers again pushed ahead. He drove and scored on Karl-Anthony Towns for an 86-76 lead, and a frustrated Towns was called for an offensive foul on Brook Lopez to erase a spin-move layup on the next possession.

But Crawford got the Wolves and the crowd going early in the fourth quarter, sandwiching a 31-foot swish by Tyus Jones with a pair of 3-pointers of his own. The second one came off a slick crossover dribble that deked Corey Brewer at the top of the key and brought the Wolves within 95-94.