Behind The Smokescreen

Game 5 of the NBA Finals was sprinkled with Timberwolves rumors. Every however many minutes we would see ‘the Timberwolves were actively shopping the 5th pick for Jimmy Butler’ scroll across the bottom line. There would be a ton of fun tidbits that Tom Thibodeau used to coach Jimmy Butler, things that were obvious. The rumors started swirling nationally once everyone got a notification from ESPN on their phones about the rumor and this tweet:

We’ve heard the rumors before. We have seen the photoshopped pictures of Jimmy Butler in a Wolves uniform. This was nothing new. Some may say that ESPN is struggling and they finally got the rumors weeks later. But in the age of the internet, I find that hard to believe. The internet has been the most reliable source of speedy information ever. Just ask Steph Curry’s new ‘Emergency Room’ 2s. The way this story came out, it felt planted.

Over the last couple weekends, I have been absent due to being in class. I was taking a condensed-MBA course that met three times from 8am-5pm called ‘Persuasion & Influence.’ Of course, after taking a class for that long consecutively you not only see everything through the lenses of the class, but you believe everything has do to with the material you just learned. While in the class, I was eager to apply it to everything I could, especially basketball. Well this is one of them. One of the principles of influence, a pretty basic one, is contrast. What the principle says is a way to influence people is through the contrast of one thing to another. There are experiments that prove this to work. One example is having three buckets, one hot, one room temp, and one cold. If you dip your hands in the hot and the cold buckets and then bring both hands into the room temp bucket, your senses will be confused. While both hands are in the same bucket, the hand that was in the hot bucket will feel cold and the hand that was in the cold bucket will feel warm. The contrast principle is used a lot in sales. When selling something expensive, a lot of times a sales person will say in comparison to what.

After that quick lesson in influence, I feel like that is exactly what is happening here for the Wolves. The league knows that the 5th pick will not net Jimmy Butler. Something needs to be added. But what is happening is that the Wolves are essentially raising the stock price on that 5th pick. The 5th pick inherently seems more valuable than it did before the rumors started swirling. Who would ever think that Buddy Hield or Jamal Murray plus another prospect would be worth one of the best two-way players in the league?

This is how the Celtics have gotten into the mix. The Celtics have more assets and a better pick than the Wolves. And a team that just made it to the playoffs, it seems that naturally they would be more inclined to make a deal with the Bulls. If the Bulls were to make Butler available, the first team that would get a call is the Celtics. The only reason they wouldn’t be because they wouldn’t want to send Butler to another team in the East, but when you’re rebuilding that doesn’t really matter. At the same time, chances of the Bulls dealing with Thibodeau are slim to none. The only way the Bulls do a deal with Thibs is if they can ruin his life. The rumors around the deal have mentioned Wiggins plus the 5th pick, which is just about what could ruin Thibs’ life. So unless something crazy happens between now and next Thursday, Jimmy Butler will not be a Timberwolf.

So why? Why did the rumors get thrown out there when it did? Now it’s time to do a lot of speculation. What we do know is the following in terms of draft workouts:

Three tidbits on guys the Wolves will look at in the 5th slot. Jamal Murray was working out in MN the day the rumors came out. Kris Dunn expressed that he will only workout against Ben Simmons, Ingram, or Jamal Murray. Also Buddy Hield hit 85 of 100 threes at a Celtics workout. These are the facts/ credible rumors. Dragan Bender is also coming to work out in MN on Thursday.

Now it is time to take a trip behind the smokescreen. It is time to speculate. There is certainly going to be a lot more that will happen in the next week and a half but for now, we will try to make sense of all this.

First, is there a link between the timing of the rumors and Jamal Murray’s workout? What does this say about Murray’s workout? Was it bad it enough that the Wolves want to move the pick? Is he not worth it there? Could it be an act?

Then there is the Buddy Hield workout with the Celtics. Did Buddy Hield just raise his stock with hitting 85 of 100 threes? Is he a serious candidate for the 3rd pick in this draft? Were the Wolves secretly trying to get him?

I don’t think there is enough there on the Murray or Hield front to speculate that the rumors had to do with them. I do however believe it had to do with Kris Dunn though. Why? Well first, the Wolves were using the contrast influence principle to raise the value of the 5th pick by attaching an All-Star to it like Jimmy Butler. Why you may ask? Because the Celtics or the Suns will want to get equal or greater value now for the 3rd or 4th pick. Now a deal around the troubled Jahlil Okafor doesn’t seem as appealing for the 3rd or 4th pick. The reason that is important is because the Sixers reportedly like Kris Dunn and desperately need a point guard.

Kris Dunn is doing his part as well. After refusing to work out for the Suns and Celtics, he came out and put up conditions that are near impossible to meet, especially a week before the draft. Teams are absolutely going to be concerned about his injuries and how he matches up against other picks in the 3-8 range. The reason Dunn can do this is because he has less to lose. He doesn’t want to go 3rd or 4th. He would be happy to go 5th where he has an opportunity to grow with one of the most exciting franchises and eventually compete for a starting spot if Rubio is to get hurt or demand a trade. The Wolves do have serious interest in Dunn. If he is on the board at 5, I have to believe he is the best player available from the Wolves perspective. The only person I think the Wolves truly consider over Dunn will be Dragan Bender.

If Dunn is the Wolves’ guy behind closed doors, they are putting themselves in a win-win situation. The Wolves are truly interested in Jimmy Butler. If the Bulls bite on a deal, the Wolves are automatically playoff contenders. If not, the value of the pick went up without doing anything. And as the pick’s value is going up, the stock of Kris Dunn is going down as he is an unknown. It will be interesting if this ends up being the scenario that works out because all season long there were jokes about why the Wolves never took Steph Curry in the 2009 NBA Draft. The reason was because Curry refused to workout for the Wolves. It is risky business to draft someone who never worked out for you. The Wolves have already seen Dunn in LA and probably have more information on him in the background.

I am aware there are a lot of Buddy Hield and Jamal Murray fans in Wolves Nation, but the forecast is showing Kris Dunn more and more…

The Timber Rebuilder.

Kevin Garnett’s Farewell Mini-Tour

The 2015-2016 season has been overshadowed by the ‘Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour’ after announcing his retirement. While Kobe is all-deserving, there are many other players that don’t require the attention for their egos. The end is looming for future Hall-of-Famers like Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kevin Garnett, as they represent the end of the Golden Age of the power forward position. Each player has revolutionized the position in their own ways and leaving their own legacies. Kevin Garnett’s road to the end is unique compared to the roads taken by Kobe, Duncan, and Dirk. Garnett is the only one of the four to play for more than one franchise.

While NBA team’s marketing departments capitalize on Kobe Bryant’s arrivals in their respective cities, Garnett’s unofficial tour is seemingly shorter and more intimate. Even though Garnett has  another year on his contract after this season and hasn’t made any indications of retiring, the number of games he has remaining seem more limited than that. Garnett also isn’t putting up the numbers that would infer that he could play beyond this season. KG isn’t going to advertise that the end is near, but seems like he would prefer his retirement party to be amongst those that are near and dear to him. We are calling it the Mini-tour not only because Mini-tour has ‘Minny’ in it (cue the drums), but because Garnett is visiting, maybe for the last time, the cities he spent time in that led him back home.

Garnett is going out of the league the way that he has led his entire career, selfless. KG is spending his final games investing in the future of the games’ of the young Timberwolves core. It’s clear the Wolves are not chasing a championship and Garnett seems fine with that. He isn’t spending the end of his career chasing rings like many other veterans. He is teaching, selflessly. He still plays with the same passion and grit that he always has played with. He still talks smack better than anyone. But what Garnett’s farewell tour represents is more romantic than cinematic.

The Masterminds in the NBA Front Office snuck in back-to-back games against Garnett’s former teams as the Wolves take a quick road trip out East. It didn’t make sense that the Wolves would play in New York one day, come back home, just to fly back to Brooklyn for their next game. There is deep wisdom in it all. The Wolves take on the Brooklyn Nets in an early matchup Sunday at 12pm CT. Then the Wolves take on the Celtics on Monday at 6:30pm. We all know KG rests on the backend of back-to-backs, but the way this is configured, we may see an exception.

First, most back-t0-back games occur with a start time about 24 hours within each other. This one has an added six hours for what it’s worth. The next thing to point out is the Wolves play the Nets first and then the Celtics. KG’s legacy with the Nets isn’t necessarily as historic as his with the Celtics, being that KG won his championship with the Celtics. So it would be odd if Garnett missed the backend game against the Celtics since he accomplished arguably more as a Celtic than as a Wolf, depending on how you measure accomplishments.

Regardless how you measure accomplishments, Garnett has definitely accomplished a lot. Garnett has become the all-time leader in defensive rebounds, a recent accomplishment. To KG’s versatility, he is the only player to ever have 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists, 1,500 blocks and 1,500 steals in their career. He is tied with the making the most NBA First Team All-Defense, being on that team 9 times. Looking at how consistent Garnett has been through his career, he is also the all-time leader in seasons played with 20.

Garnett playing 20 seasons is quite incredible. For many ’80’s babies’, especially Timberwolves fans, Garnett was one of the most influential players to play the game in their generations. Garnett continues to make an deep impact today, regardless of his age and regardless of the stage in his career. While a return to Brooklyn doesn’t seem to be too crazy for Garnett being that he spent a year and a half there, his impact anywhere is something that demands respect. The Wolves still present Garnett last in player introductions, usually reserved for the team’s best player. And while KG doesn’t have the knees to goal-tend shots that come after a whistle from opposing teams, his pre-game rituals have lasted the test of time and are nostalgic.

So will Garnett play both games in the back-to-back? Although we are proclaiming this to be the ‘Kevin Garnett Farewell Mini-Tour’, we have to believe Garnett is thinking about this stretch of games just as much. Well maybe not. But the game to consider the most is definitely the Celtics game. Boston fans love Garnett almost as much as Wolves fans do. There sure will be a lot of encouragement for him to play under the circumstances that Wolves only visit Eastern Conference teams once.

While we want to use Garnett’s quote “Anything is Possible!’ to say he could play the two games on Sunday and Monday, he has missed meaningful games before. Many Wolves fans remember Garnett missing his first game against Minnesota with the Celtics due to an abdominal strain. The game was a sellout and the Timberwolves Organization was forced to send tickets to the fans in attendance to compensate for the disappointment. Garnett isn’t married to the idea that he needs to play in what could be his last time in Brooklyn or Boston. He does what he wants and probably could retire knowing he missed this game for his health.

We will definitely be watching closely. Both cities will likely host tributes for Garnett when they play the Wolves. If he doesn’t play in Boston, it is at least a reminder to appreciate the last few games Garnett will play, in light of all the craziness surrounding this season. It’s a good idea to step back and think what the game may look like without Garnett suiting up again and hitting his head against the basket pads. The game will likely never be the same, so enjoy.

News & Notes

  • While the Wolves have gone 2-8 over the last 10 games, one thing we haven’t discussed in a while is Ricky Rubio’s health. Rubio has played 20 games this season while only playing 22 last year. That is a positive. So Wolves fans, as Ricky says: Change your face, be happy. Enjoy!
  • Andrew Wiggins had 32 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists in the win over the Kings. Wiggins is the youngest player in Timberwolves history to have 30 points, 10 boards, and 5 assists. Yes he did it younger than Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love, and even Ndudi Ebi.
  • Wolves fans voted that the Kings would beat the Wolves in our Twitter poll ( @Timberrebuilder), a first where the homer-Wolves fans didn’t believe we would win.
  • Couple of tweets we liked from other people that are worth sharing:

Big fan of Brad Stevens, head coach of the Celtics. Will take that compliment.

Karl-Anthony Towns is amazing. #NBAvote

The Timber (re)Builder