Transactions in sports (and other pursuits, I suppose) often come about because of the familiarity of relationships. Those relationships can create self-limiting options, but they ultimately come down to trust.
The Vikings have targeted (and sometimes landed) defensive players who had previously worked under Mike Zimmer. Part of the appeal of Nelson Cruz was how Twins GM Thad Levine saw first-hand the impact he had in Texas. There are countless examples of two teams that have made multiple trades with each other, buoyed by connections built over time.
New Timberwolves President Gersson Rosas surely has connections throughout the NBA. But if there’s one organization he knows the best, it’s undoubtedly Houston — where he spent almost all of his career before landing the top job with the Wolves this spring.
For as much as Rosas has correctly insisted he will not turn the Wolves into “Houston North” because every situation is different, his depth of knowledge of the Rockets and familiarity with so many key members of that organization make it natural to wonder if the Wolves might want to do business with Houston.
The possibility is even more interesting given recent developments in Houston that suggest major change is coming.
You’ll recall that Houston reportedly offered as many as four first-round picks to the Wolves during the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes last fall — a move that signaled a go-for-broke attitude but an offer that ultimately wasn’t accepted.
But now, after a second-round playoff exit, the Rockets are said to be willing to trade anyone on the roster aside from James Harden.
It’s hard to imagine a whole lot of trade fits between the Wolves and Rockets, but you never know.
The more intriguing development in Houston is the volatility on the coaching staff. Mike D’Antoni broke off extension talks with the Rockets and looks, for now, like he’ll be coaching in the final year of his deal in 2019-20.
Even more potentially interesting to the Wolves: assistant Jeff Bzdelik, largely credited with turning the Rockets into a much better defensive team as essentially their defensive coordinator, was not brought back.
Now, Bzdelik is 66 and had to be talked out of retirement last year by Houston in midseason. But if I’m Rosas, I’m making the hardest push possible to get Bzdelik in Minnesota and into what is suddenly a much more stable environment than Houston.
As Rosas said when Saunders was hired as the permanent coach last month: “Ryan’s going to be the leader of the program. And he’s going to have input in every area. So for me, we’re going to get the best offensive coordinator. We’re going to get the best defensive coordinator. We’re going to get the best player development coordinator. They’re going to execute our vision together. And Ryan will manage that program as a whole.”
The Wolves are actively working to fill out their coaching staff. Marc Stein of the New York Times reported that Saunders wanted to hire Sidney Lowe as his top assistant but that Rosas refused him.
Stein also tweeted two names as possible assistants, saying both Chad Forcier (Memphis) and David Vanterpool (Portland) have interviewed to be on Saunders’ staff. (Darren Wolfson locally had previously reported both of them as names to watch). Vanterpool in particular has a reputation for defensive acumen.
But so does Bzdelik. And he has that familiarity. If Houston North means the Wolves could upgrade their defense, nobody would complain.