ORLANDO – As teams around the NBA hurried to make last-minute deals before Thursday’s 2 p.m. deadline, the Timberwolves remained silent, as no chance materialized for General Manager Scott Layden to pull the trigger on a deal he hoped would allow the Wolves to remain competitive for a playoff spot while acquiring future assets.
“It’s critical to us to win,” Layden said. “There’s no doubt about that. Our No. 1 focus is to put a winning team on the floor. So, that was on our mind constantly during the whole process.”
The negotiations by teams around the Wolves in the standings — such as the Clippers trading Tobias Harris to the 76ers or the Lakers’ unsuccessful pursuit of New Orleans’ Anthony Davis — didn’t affect how the Wolves approached the deadline, sources said. A source said one deal came close to being done.
The Wolves weren’t going to sell off players with expiring contracts to the detriment of trying to make a playoff push — something owner Glen Taylor wanted when he replaced Tom Thibodeau with interim coach Ryan Saunders on Jan. 6. Nor were they offered any assets desirable enough for them to send away such veterans as Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose and Anthony Tolliver. The Wolves entered Thursday four games back of the No. 8 seed of the Western Conference.
“It is amazing at how fast everything is and how many things and how many opportunities there are,” Layden said. “We just didn’t see it this time as to see if we could get assets.”
The Wolves were trying to move the contracts of center Gorgui Dieng and guard Jeff Teague, league sources said, but there wasn’t much interest from other teams to take on those salaries. Teague has a player option for $19 million next season that he might take, given he has been injured most of this season. Dieng has two years remaining on a four-year deal worth nearly $63 million.
Tolliver and Teague tried not to let the trade talk bother them before Thursday’s game against Orlando.
“It don’t really bother me too much,” Teague said. “Earlier in my career, yeah, when I was in Atlanta, because that’s all I knew. I would be hurt. Now it’s whatever.”
Said Tolliver: “You’ll drive yourself crazy trying to control things you can’t. I just sit back and let the people who make those decisions make those decisions.”
The Wolves have four contributors on the injury report — Teague, Rose, Robert Covington and Tyus Jones — who should be back this season. Their return should provide a boost and could present an opportunity to Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, to fully evaluate Saunders with a full roster.
“We haven’t had our full complement of players in a long time,” Saunders said. “That’s where you have to work guys back into things and work guys back into a rhythm. We like how our group is in terms of how we’re built with things.”
The front office showed that by not making any moves as deals swirled around it.
• Teague mentioned that further testing he had done on his left foot “found things that we didn’t know were there” but said he was hopeful those issues wouldn’t affect him long term. He did take part in shootaround and his plan was to be back before the All-Star break.
• LeBron James selected Karl-Anthony Towns to be on his team for the All-Star Game in Charlotte, N.C., on Feb. 17. Towns will be a reserve.