Hard to make sense of Minnesota's decision to fire Thibodeau
There are different levels of dyfunctional NBA franchises, and few have been more inept than the Minnesota Timberwolves, who fired coach Tom Thibodeau on Sunday.
It was a surprising move on a number of levels. Thibodeau was just halfway through a five-year contract worth a reported $40 million to be coach and team president, and he snapped Minnesota's 13-year playoff drought last season.
Certainly, the Jimmy Butler trade with the Bulls didn't work out, since Butler forced another trade early this season. But the Timberwolves seemed to get a decent return in the trade with Philadelphia and had gone 15-12 since Butler left. Center Karl Anthony Towns is playing the best basketball of his NBA career and Minnesota was just two games out of the playoffs on Monday morning.
Zach LaVine spent his first three seasons with the Timberwolves before coming over in the Butler trade.
"I talked to Tyus (Jones) a little bit, just seeing what happened," LaVine said Monday. "They were all a little surprised because they just started to play well but, NBA man. We just had the same thing happen."
The Bulls firing coach Fred Hoiberg last month caught everyone by surprise, but not quite like this. The Timberwolves informed Thibodeau immediately following a 22-point win over the Lakers.
Assistant Ryan Saunders took over the head job -- he's the son of former Minnesota coach Flip Saunders, who died in 2015 -- and at 32, he's a year younger than Taj Gibson.
Hoiberg, who has worked in the Timberwolves front office. has been mentioned as an eventual successor for either head coach or general manager. On Monday, Bulls coach Jim Boylen was asked if Hoiberg deserves another shot.
"Absolutely he does. The best coaches at every level have been let go," Boylen said. "I learned a ton when I was let go at (University of) Utah.
"A tough thing about Thibodeau is I feel bad for him. It's hard to be let go and if you've been let go, you really understand it. But you're also excited for a guy to get his opportunity. So it's a difficult thing on everybody."
Bulls make moves:
The Bulls made some mostly inconsequential moves Monday, including a trade that technically brought Michael Carter-Williams back to the team. Carter-Williams was released once the trade was complete.
Houston was looking to lower its luxury tax bill and basically paid the Bulls to take on the partial guarantee left on his contract. The Bulls had to give something in return, so is sending a heavily-protected 2020 second-round pick to the Rockets.
Before the trade could be made, the Bulls had to free up a roster spot by waiving MarShon Brooks, who was part of the Justin Holiday trade with Memphis.
Monday was the day when all NBA contracts become fully guaranteed for the season. Two Bulls who had partial guarantees fell into that category -- Ryan Arcidiacono and Shaq Harrison.
Portis carries edge:
Bobby Portis has played in just 10 of 40 games this season, because of knee and ankle injuries. He scored 17 points in 20 minutes in his return to action Sunday and coach Jim Boylen hopes Portis will have a positive effect in a variety of ways.
"We miss that competitive edge and a guy who is engaged on every possession," Boylen said. "In-game failure bothers him. He doesn't pout about it. He reacts to it and tries to win the next possession, which is something we've talked about.
"You would hope it's contagious. I know guys like playing with Bobby. He's a guy you like winning with and fighting with and competing with."