The Timberwolves saved newly signed Anthony Tolliver a seat courtside next to team owner Glen Taylor and limited partner Meyer Orbach at the team's NBA Summer League game on Monday night in Las Vegas.
Hours after they signed him to a one-year, $5.75 million deal, Wolves coach/president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau explained why he essentially swapped one "stretch" power forward for another after the team withdrew Nemanja Bjelica's qualifying offer and agreed to terms with Tolliver.
They didn't want to still be standing when free agency's music stopped playing.
A member of the Wolves for the past three seasons, Bjelica later last week agreed to a one-year, $4.4 million salary exception with Philadelphia.
"We liked Bjeli a lot, too, but we were looking at what the possibilities were, and we didn't want to get caught short," Thibodeau said. "So we were trying to get something done. He was the player we got traction on. We felt rather than take a chance, let's be sure."
Thibodeau called Tolliver an unselfish player and consummate pro who has received praise from teammates, coaches and management wherever he has gone and at age 33 continues to get better. He called Tolliver's three-point shooting "terrific" and predicted his defense will upgrade the team's second unit.
"We wanted to address the defense of the second unit, and we think he'll be a great fit," Thibodeau said. "Whatever he's asked to do, he does it. He always stars in his role. We can't have enough guys like that."
Thibodeau praised Bjelica as well. A 2010 second-round draft pick and 2015 EuroLeague player of the year, Bjelica became a restricted free agent after three seasons in Minnesota and then became unrestricted after the Wolves withdrew his qualifying offer to sign Tolliver.
Monday was the first day the Wolves were able to extend a four-year contract extension worth $110 million to All-Star guard Jimmy Butler, and they were expected to do so swiftly with his agent. It's unlikely Butler will accept such an offer because he's eligible to earn almost $190 million from the Wolves if he waits to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
"We know how important Jimmy is to our team," Thibodeau said. "We don't talk about contract negotiations or anything like that. Just get ready for the season."
When asked about Butler's relationship with the team and teammates, Thibodeau mentioned young big man Karl-Anthony Towns as well.
"We know how important both guys are to our team," Thibodeau said. "We're just getting [ready] for next year."
The Wolves signed unrestricted free-agent guard Derrick Rose to a veteran's league-minimum salary in free agency's opening hour July 1.
"That's something we talked about right from the beginning," Thibodeau said. "We knew how important he was. The way he finished up the season. He's a great fit for us. The big thing for us is his health, and this is the first season he hasn't had to do any rehab stuff. He's already into basketball. What he brings to our team, you want guys who can go downhill and attack. I think we saw that, how he fit in."