The Minnesota Timberwolves made major strides this season in ending their 13-year absence from the NBA playoffs after a franchise-altering trade for All-Star Jimmy Butler.
With cornerstones Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins in their early 20s and veterans Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague coming off productive debuts in Minnesota Adrian Amos Jersey
, there is a sturdy starting lineup in place around Butler to ideally take the Timberwolves deeper in the next postseason.
Advancement is easier stated than consummated.
The Wolves, even with coach Tom Thibodeau’s preference to give his first-teamers heavy minutes, need to add depth this summer with defense and 3-point shooting atop the skill-set wish list. There is no clear way to acquire more of it, though, after making the logical first moves by drafting versatile wing players Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop last week .
Wiggins will begin playing on his maximum contract in 2018-19, with a $25 million-plus salary that will account for more than 20 percent of the team’s cap and push the Timberwolves close to the luxury tax threshold. That means they won’t be spending aggressively in free agency, with the negotiation period set to start on Sunday. They’ll have to find some candidates on the market willing to sign for less, perhaps for the veteran minimum, to fill out the bench.
”With some players they may not have the deal that they initially wanted,” Thibodeau said, ”but this may be the best opportunity in terms of the playing and the winning and then that sets it up for the following year.”
With Towns and Butler beginning the final year of their deals Pernell McPhee Jersey
, salary cap management is going to be a challenge, too. Butler has to be convinced, too, that the cast in place will be strong enough for him to chase a championship with in the rugged Western Conference. Thibodeau said he’s comfortable if Butler plays the upcoming season without an extension in place, as several of the league’s stars did in 2017-18.
”Every day we work at it. We know how important he is, and we feel he’s one of the best players in the league,” Thibodeau said. ”I know he loves living here. The winning is important to him, I know.”
Thibodeau said the Wolves have options for extending Butler, staying under the tax level and continuing to enhance the roster, but he predictably declined to be specific. So what about another headliner deal, using Wiggins to clear cap space and bring back some valuable players in return?
”Good players Charley Taylor Jersey
, they’re always going to be talked about as a possibility, but when you look at who Andrew is and what he’s accomplished at a very young age, we think he’s critical,” Thibodeau said. ”So we’ll always talk to people, but we like Andrew a lot here.”
Nemanja Bjelica (restricted), Jamal Crawford (unrestricted) and Derrick Rose (unrestricted) are set to become free agents, leaving only Gorgui Dieng and Tyus Jones as reserves who regularly played last season and are assured of returning unless they’re traded. Given his history with Butler and Thibodeau, Rose could be one of those veterans the Wolves would court with a team-friendly contract.
Even if there’s more money to be made elsewhere, Thibodeau and general manager Scott Layden spoke confidently this week of what they’re selling: a vibrant city, a winning track and popular teammates.
”We feel we’re in good position there,” Thibodeau said Xavier Woods Jersey
, ”and we’ll have some good opportunities.”
Oakland Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley is dealing with another training camp injury and is expected to miss at least two weeks because of a hip strain.
Conley has not practiced since the first day of training camp last week and only made a brief appearance Monday while the rest of the team worked out in pads.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden did not specify how long Conley's recovery will take, but it seems certain that the 24th overall pick in 2017 will at least sit out the team's first preseason game against Detroit on Aug. 10.
"I don't have a time frame," Gruden said. "I think that (two weeks) would be a fair assessment, yes."
For the 23-year-old Conley, it has to feel like deja vu after missing all of training camp as a rookie because of shin injury that lingered into the regular season.
Oakland's first-round draft pick a year ago, Conley played in only two games last season and showed his potential when he made a stellar leaping breakup of a pass against the Jets in Week 2. But he never fully recovered from the injury and was placed on injured reserve in November.
Conley arrived in Napa last week hopeful of claiming a starting spot in Oakland's revamped secondary. In a tweet the night before the first practice, he wrote: "Praying for a healthy camp and a healthy season for me and all my brothas."
Conley got off to a good start, making an athletic play Friday to break up a pass in 7-on-7 drills after initially getting beat on an inside move. He left practice not long after that and has yet to return.
His absence comes as the Raiders are installing a new system under defensive coordinator Paul Guenther.
Guenther said he was optimistic that Conley won't be out too long and noted that his absence has opened up opportunities for other players.
"We have a lot of guys working out there at corner. It's going to be a good battle to see who come out of it," Guenther said. "We're going to try to get him back on the field and make sure he's in the meeting room taking notes and understanding that he's not getting behind with the techniques of what we're teaching."
While Conley recovers, Daryl Worley has been practicing at right cornerback with the starting defense. Veteran Rashaan Melvin is on the left side.
Asked if he was concerned about Conley's injury, Gruden paused.
"I don't know if concerned is the word. I think disappointed is the word Denico Autry Jersey
," Gruden said. "He comes out to start training camp, he's in superb shape, he makes a great play and he gets a setback. Hopefully he comes back sooner than later. Disappointed is the big word I think. His heart is broken. He's put a lot into this and he knows he has to stay healthy and get out there for us because we need him."
NOTES: RB Jalen Richard missed a second consecutive practice with a calf injury, although it's not considered serious. ... G Ian Silberman got extensive work at right tackle with both the first- and second-team offenses. ... RT Donald Penn, second-round pick P.J. Hall, DT Eddie Vanderdoes, RB Chris Warren and G Cameron Hunt were held out of practice. Authentic Womens Avonte Maddox Jersey