A year after the Timberwolves brought Kevin Garnett home to so much fanfare with only moments to spare, the NBA’s annual trade deadline passed quietly at Target Center on Thursday afternoon.
With 28 games left in the season, Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and everybody else remains on a team that is 17-37.
Saying “We’re not in the business of giving players away,” Timberwolves General Manager Milt Newton said he listened to other teams’ inquiries but vowed he didn’t shop his team’s starting point guard.
“Not once did we call a team to engage them on Ricky,” Newton said. “But when your phone rings, you have to answer it and hear what they have to say. If it makes your team better, it’s something you consider. If it doesn’t make your team better, well, thanks for the phone call. It rang quite a bit.”
New York and Milwaukee, among others, are believed to have discussed a trade involving Rubio with the Wolves. Rubio declined interview requests Wednesday and Thursday before the 2 p.m. Central time deadline passed.
The Wolves sought to trade Martin before he can exercise a player option this summer that will guarantee him $7.4 million next season. They could still buy out his contract to eliminate that chance. If they do so by March 1, Martin could sign as a free agent in time to be included on a contending team’s playoff roster.
Newton said he has not had such discussions, but said “that’s probably something we may have as we go forward.”
Martin has not played since Jan. 23, sidelined by what the team called a sore right wrist. He practiced fully Wednesday and Thursday and is considered ready to play Friday at Memphis. Whether he does or not regularly going forth is a decision Newton and interim coach Sam Mitchell will make.
“He’s here and we expect him to continue to be a professional and be ready to play when called upon,” Newton said.
Martin said by text message Thursday, “Not an ounce of disappointment in me that I wasn’t traded.” He said Wolves owner Glen Taylor and the team have treated his family “first class,” said he has enjoyed taking the team’s young players “under my wing” and called “being with my brothers” through a rebuilding process that started 15 months ago “enough for me!”
Martin declined a question asking whether he will pursue a contract buyout.
Tayshaun Prince and Andre Miller have veteran-minimum contracts that expire this summer. Newton said he likes having those veterans lead his team’s young players, but left open the possibility of a buyout with each, too.
“If something presents itself, we’d have to look at it,” Newton said. “Right now, this is the team that we have to finish out the season.”
Newton said he wants to see his team play these last two months like it did when it won three of their four games before the All-Star break. He also said he wants to see the Wolves use their youth and athleticism to run the court and defend. “Throw the ball ahead and let’s get the thing moving,” he said.
Young star Andrew Wiggins said his team has set a .500 record or better in the final 28 games as its goal. That would mean at least a 31-victory season.
“That’s our motivation,” Wiggins said. “That’s what’s going to push us.”
Bjelica stays home
Nemanja Bjelica did not travel to Memphis and stayed behind to have exams/tests on his right foot. He did his normal workouts while in San Diego over the seven-day break, but he felt pain when his flight landed back in the Twin Cities.
The rookie forward was on crutches the past two days. “I’m angry,” he said. “I don’t know how this happened, really.”