Morning Shootaround
Morning Shootaround
Morning Shootaround
Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Oct. 20) -- Minnesota not biting on Ricky Rubio trade offers

NBA.com Staff

Oct 20, 2016 1:04 PM ET

1:58

No. 1: Report: Wolves resisting Rubio trade offers -- When the Minnesota Timberwolves took Providence guard Kris Dunn with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2016 Draft, it seemed to indicate to many observes that incumbent point guard Ricky Rubio's days were numbered. Whether or not Minnesota will trade Rubio remains up in the air, but it's not because the Wolves have lacked in trade offers. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, Rubio is not on the trading block ... for now: 

There is still time until the 2016 NBA draft’s fifth overall selection, Kris Dunn, takes over as the Minnesota Timberwolves’ point guard – which is why the franchise is still resisting trade overtures for Ricky Rubio, league sources told The Vertical.

The Sacramento Kings are the most determined of several teams expressing interest in finding a pathway to a Rubio deal, league sources said, but Minnesota president and coach Tom Thibodeau is reluctant to move Rubio – outside of bringing back a no-brainer package, of course – until Dunn’s progress illustrates this season that he’s ready to fully take over the team.

Thibodeau doesn’t anticipate Dunn becoming the starter until approximately 20 games into the regular season, league sources said.

Dunn has done nothing to diminish Minnesota’s belief that he’s the franchise’s point guard of the future, but the organization hasn’t wanted to rush him into the starting job. Rubio, 25, is well aware of the franchise’s plans with Dunn, but has been welcoming in his attitude toward mentoring and working with Dunn.

Nevertheless, Rubio – who’s owed nearly $43 million over the next three years – has proven to be a starting NBA point guard, and it’ll eventually make little sense for the Timberwolves to keep their highest-paid player as a backup.

The Kings have maintained a consistent interest in Rubio for months, although it’s unclear whether Sacramento has the makings of a trade package that would appeal to the Timberwolves.

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Several teams – including Philadelphia and New Orleans – have shown interest in point guard Tyus Jones, 20, whom the Wolves are more open to moving in the short term, league sources said. Thibodeau has used non-guaranteed veteran John Lucas III – a 33-year-old whom he brought back to his roster several times with the Chicago Bulls – in the preseason point-guard rotation.

Jones’ MVP performance in the NBA’s summer league did improve his standing with teams that have an interest in him as a backup point guard. Jones was the 24th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft, an early entry who left Duke after helping to lead the Blue Devils to the NCAA championship.

Jones and Sixers center Jahlil Okafor were Duke teammates.

Thibodeau is determined to win games and make a run for the Western Conference playoffs this season, which complicates trade discussions that could diminish Minnesota in the short term.

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No. 2: Report: Smart hurts ankle, will miss opener -- The Boston Celtics closed out their preseason slate with a sight just about every team wants to avoid this time of year -- an injury to a significant player. Rising guard Marcus Smart hurt his ankle in the second quarter against the New York Knicks and hobbled off the court. CSN New England's A. Sherrod Blakely reports that Smart will miss the team's season-opener next week because of the injury:

The left ankle sprain injury Marcus Smart suffered in the second quarter of Wednesday night’s game against New York is expected to keep him sidelined for a couple weeks which means he will not play in the season opener against Brooklyn next week, according to league source.

It is the same ankle that Smart has sprained before, but it doesn’t appear to be as bad an ankle sprain as the ones he has had previously.

One of the reasons for it not being as serious is the fact that Smart had the ankle taped up, something he has done for all games since suffering ankle sprains during his rookie season which sidelined him for several weeks.

Smart is certainly frustrated and disappointed that he has suffered yet another ankle-related injury, evident by him smacking the parquet floor moments after he went down.

Within seconds of him being on the floor, he didn’t try to put any weight on it. Instead, he called for help from his teammates and the medical staff who helped him to his feet and from there, back to the locker room.

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With Smart being out for a couple weeks, it’s unclear what impact if any this will have on the Celtics trimming their roster down to 15 players by the league deadline which is Monday at 5 p.m.

The players that have been most linked with the 15th roster spot are R.J. Hunter and James Young, with Young being the more versatile player of the two.

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No. 3: Thabeet going all-in on comeback bid -- Longtime NBA followers will perhaps best remember Hasheem Thabeet as the No. 2 overall pick of the 2009 Draft, a player who was taken one pick after Blake Griffin and one pick before James Harden. While Griffin and Harden have gone on to All-Star careers in the NBA, Thabeet never found his footing in the NBA and hasn't appeared in an NBA game in two years. As the 2016-17 season nears, Thabeet is hoping he can get one last NBA shot, reports Alex Kennedy of BasketballInsiders.com, and is working feverishly to prove he still can help an NBA roster:

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, who was selected ahead of James Harden, Stephen Curry and DeMar DeRozan among others, most recently suited up for the Grand Rapids Drive of the NBA D-League during the 2014-15 season. He fared much better there, averaging 8.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 22.2 minutes. Among all D-League players, he ranked third in total blocks (117), fourth in Defensive Rating (101.3) and fifth in block percentage (8.7 percent).

However, despite producing, Thabeet didn’t get called up by an NBA team.

“I was kind of shocked I didn’t get called up, but it was a situation that I couldn’t control,” Thabeet told Basketball Insiders. “What I could control was being consistent, continuing to work hard and enjoying myself while I was there. It was great to get an opportunity to compete. I have fun being out on the court and letting my presence be felt, trying to dominate on the defensive end. I wanted to show that I can defend at any cost. With the systems now, I won’t be out there trying to be the best scorer or anything; there are other players whose job it is to do that. I’m finding ways to impact the game.”

For the 2015-16 season, Thabeet could’ve played in the D-League again or signed a lucrative deal overseas. He could take either of those routes right now as the 2016-17 season gets underway. But in recent months, Thabeet has instead chosen to work on his game in private and go all-in on salvaging his NBA career.

To do this, he enlisted the help of famed trainer Frank Matrisciano and former NBA executive Milt Newton. He is doing two-a-days and watching film with them in San Francisco, determined to re-join an NBA roster and produce at a high level on basketball’s biggest stage.

“The goal is to make it back to the NBA, so I’ll do whatever it is going to take for me to get accepted by a team,” Thabeet said. “Whatever it takes for me to get back, I’ll do it. The goal is to focus on the NBA right now and I feel I can actually say from my heart that I have worked hard enough this summer to stay over here [rather than go overseas].”

Matrisciano, who earned the nickname “Hell’s Trainer” due to his rigorous workouts, has been Thabeet’s physical trainer. He has worked with the center to reshape his body and improve his strength and conditioning. Prior to working with Thabeet, Matrisciano worked with NBA players like Blake Griffin, Zach Randolph and Gilbert Arenas while also training NFL players, Navy SEALs and triathletes.

“I didn’t know Hasheem and I always give people an opportunity,” Matrisciano told Basketball Insiders. “The stuff that I was told about him was that he was not into basketball, that he was lazy, etc. I met him when he came out here and we had a lunch. I just laid out everything on the table for him. I said, ‘I really don’t care what’s transpired since 2009. I don’t care what people think of you because when someone says to me, ‘He can’t do it with this guy,’ or, ‘He’s done,’ that adds more to what I want to do. That’s when I say, ‘Okay, this is the last stop and we’re going to get it done.’

“He came in and he was very open to everything I said. I was very straightforward with him. I said, ‘Look, you’re coming to me for a reason. You do me no favors. I’m going to change your life – you just have to want it.’ He was like ‘Okay.’ Then I said, ‘You tell me now what you want to do,’ and he laid everything out. He absorbed everything and became like a robot. You can’t have anybody here – there’s no distractions, no friends. Nothing. And I’m nice to people, but I’m very blunt and honest a lot of times. People say I have no filter. But my thing is, if you ask me a question, I’m going to give you the answer… even if you may not like it. I said to Hasheem, ‘Whatever you’ve done, obviously it hasn’t worked. So whatever bullsh** you’ve gone through, it hasn’t worked. This is going to be totally different.’ Listen, my sh** is hard to begin with. Out of every 10 people who start working with me, only three stay. But I give everyone the opportunity because anybody can do this, if they truly want it. He wanted it, and now the old Hasheem does not exist anymore.”

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Three NBA teams – the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Washington Wizards – recently worked out Thabeet because they wanted to see his transformation up close in person. The Knicks (on September 1) and the Wizards (on September 9) sent executives to his training site in San Francisco and worked him out there. The Lakers, meanwhile, brought Thabeet to their facility for a two-day free agent workout on September 19-20.

“When the Knicks came out to see him, they were like, ‘Holy sh**!’” Matrisciano said. “[New York’s Director of Player Personnel] Mark Hughes and others came out, and the first thing they all said was, ‘Holy sh**, look at this guy’s body! He is so muscular.’ They go, ‘Look his legs! Look at his back muscles coming out of his shirt!’ I said, ‘I know!’ Now that’s all well and good, but I knew that would happen; it wasn’t a surprise to me. I said, ‘Now, watch how it translates to the court.’ And when they saw the stuff he did on the court, they were like, ‘Holy sh**.’ He’s moving well, he’s fluid, he’s jumping, he’s showing the athleticism, he’s knocking down shots. I had him at 84 percent shooting, I believe, from the free throw line. It was all documented. It was incredible, and again, that’s why they want to see it. It’s not just about looking great. You may be in the best physical shape of your life, but if you can’t translate it to the court, what good is it? It has translated for Hasheem.

“You’ll see I’m not bullsh***ing. If he sucked, I’d tell you because that’s my reputation. If I said he looked great and then he sucked, I’m putting my name on the line. I’m not going to lie for anybody. He deserves to be in the NBA, because he is talented and he put the effort in. Doing this training, day after day, it wears on you. But he kept getting stronger and stronger, doing things he could never do. He’d be like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I did this.’ To his credit, he did everything I asked him to do and excelled. Everything. He’s done a tremendous job. When someone comes in here and does what he’s done, that’s some big-time respect.”

Thabeet knows that he’s running out of opportunities to prove himself, so he must do well when he makes his NBA comeback. This means he and his camp need to be picky about his next team, ensuring that he’ll have a reasonable opportunity to succeed wherever he lands. The plan, as of now, is to see where teams are at after making training camp cuts and then having Thabeet join a team after the start of the season (perhaps once an injury or trade leaves a squad in need of a rim protector).

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In five years, he played for four different NBA teams and three different D-League squads. That lack of continuity was problematic for a raw big man trying to learn how to operate in the post, bulk up and (perhaps most importantly) gain confidence.

“Ugh, it was very frustrating,” Thabeet said. “Coming from a big program where I started for Jim Calhoun at UConn my freshman year until the year I left, then starting 20 games in the NBA? And even the starts that I had were because the other center was hurt, so they had no choice but to start me. It was hard, but I don’t dwell on that. I have worked so hard this summer and I’m ready to move on. As I grow into the game, I learned to understand that all of that is part of being a pro. You have to be ready at any time, no matter what.”

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Thabeet believes that he’s still capable of being an elite shot-blocker and is determined to get back to the NBA to prove this.

“My offseason has been great,” Thabeet said. “I worked so hard. Physically, I worked on my body and I’m in the best shape that I’ve ever been. I’ve gotten stronger, I’m running better and I worked a ton on my game. I did a lot of reps – hitting left and right hook shots comfortably. It was great. Mentally, I’m in a great place too. I’m way more confident and comfortable now because I’ve learned to work harder and focus more. I know what I need to do while I’m out there, but I also watch film, work on my body and things like that. I’m in the best shape of my life. At first, I was just taller than everyone else and it was almost like I was playing off of adrenaline rush – just young and out there and feeling like so much was coming my way. That’s not the case anymore. I’ve progressed a lot. I’m more mature when it comes the game.

“I got a chance to work with former Timberwolves general manager Milt Newton and he taught me a lot of things. He told me a lot of the things that were said about me [by executives] and I had no idea about them. That helped me grow a lot and I worked on fixing those things through hard work. Off the court, I have grown up. I made some mistakes here and there because I’m human; I was a young man and things happened for me at lightning speed. But I don’t dwell on my mistakes or let them stop me from progressing. Everything that happened helped me mature, and I learned to connect with the community. Now, I have so many projects that I’m doing back home for the youth of Tanzania and I’m proud of that. Off the court, I’m all about doing things for the community and being a professional. I’m aware that I’m not only representing the team that signs me, but also the city where I am playing.”

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