On Tuesday, Timberwolves coach and chief executive decisionmaker Flip Saunders seemingly aimed his franchise firmly at the future by suggesting in a post-practice media address that his team is transitioning from a “retool” to a “rebuild.”
So where does that leave the Wolves’ veteran players whose time is now?
“They’ve got to play better,” Saunders said before Wednesday’s home game against Portland. “This is a no-excuse league. You go and you deal with the hand dealt you and you play. … We live in the present. Management worries about the future, not the players or anyone. It’s always in the player’s best interest to perform because when you perform well, it gives you opportunities, whether it’s for the team you’re with or future teams.”
A rebuild very well could lead Flip the Executive to deal any or all of his veterans — Corey Brewer, Kevin Martin, Thad Young, Mo Williams, Chase Budinger, to name five — for draft picks, young players and/or salary relief by the February trade deadline.
Brewer has one more season — a $4.9 million player option — left on his contract after this one. Contending teams interested in him would prefer Brewer agree to opt out of that guaranteed money so they have salary-cap flexibility next season. Brewer probably would have to negotiate with any such team to see just how much it is willing to guarantee him next season should he agree to walk away from the option.
“It’s tough for me, I’m not going to lie,” Brewer said about being a veteran in the midst of a youth movement. “When I came back here, I wasn’t expecting this, to rebuild again. It comes with the territory. It’s business. It’s basketball. It’s what I love to do. So I wake up every day and I come to work.”
Young spent his first seven seasons in Philadelphia. He knows all about adapting.
“It’s kind of easy for me to adjust to different situations, seeing that I’ve had so many different situations in my career,” said Young, who this summer can opt out of his contract’s final season.
Adrien stays on
The Wolves have requested — and received — another 10-day hardship roster exception to keep forward Jeff Adrien on as a 16th man.
Saunders said he considered adding a point guard to help rookie Zach LaVine now that Williams has missed the past four games because of back spasms. But he said the team needs a big man more, in case starting center Gorgui Dieng is unavailable. Adrien played a valuable role Wednesday defending LaMarcus Aldridge.
“Let’s face the facts: Corey’s not the ideal point guard,” Saunders said, referring to Brewer, the current backup. “But if something, heaven forbid, happened to Gorgui, we have no center on our roster at all.”
Making a statement
Several Blazers players — including stars Aldridge and Damian Lillard — wore “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts before Wednesday’s game, just as NBA stars Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Kevin Garnett and others have done in recent days to show support for the family of Eric Garner. Garner died July 17 after a police officer in New York placed him in a chokehold while he was being arrested.
“Obviously, it’s part of the national discussion,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “I think it’s good our players have a social conscience and they’re able to express it.”