Tom Thibodeau

Surprise! Celtics have a former MVP to deal with tonight

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A. Sherrod Blakely

Surprise! Celtics have a former MVP to deal with tonight

MINNEAPOLIS – One of the great things about this Celtics coaching staff is how they have been able to pivot in whatever direction is necessary when an unexpected factor enters the game-preparation equation like, say, an opponent signs a former league MVP whose best years came with the coach of the team he just signed with.

On Thursday, the Minnesota Timberwolves announced the signing of Derrick Rose. who spent six of his nine-plus seasons playing for current Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau in Chicago.

In that time, Rose was a three-time All-Star and 2010-11 MVP – accolades he has not accomplished anywhere else.

With that kind of resume and the familiarity with Thibodeau and a number of ex-Bulls on the Timberwolves roster, what impact does that have on Boston’s preparation for tonight?

Not a whole lot, for several reasons.

For starters, it’s not an absolute that Rose will play tonight, although the fact that Rose mentioned in his presser about being given a small package of plays to work with, leads you to believe he’ll be given a starter's kit of plays to go with tonight. 

Even if Rose does play, he won’t play a large chunk of minutes and like most new guys, he’ll likely be looking to feel his new teammates out rather than try and take over and control the game’s flow.

And it’s not like the Celtics have not seen Rose play this season.

In his lone game against Boston this season with the Cavs, Rose had 14 points, four rebounds and two assists.

He was solid, but far from spectacular.

The Celtics are more likely to try and take advantage of his unfamiliarity with his new team, on the defensive end of the floor. It isn’t as much about him knowing or not knowing what the Celtics want to run, as it is how his teammates handle various situations.

Having had one shoot-around which is what Rose went through Thursday morning, isn’t going to be enough.

It is going to be a process, one that the Celtics should take advantage of when the opportunity presents itself – and it will at some point tonight.

While Rose is quite familiar with the Timberwolves system that has some similarities from Thibodeau’s time in Chicago, there are some significant differences in terms of the personnel and how Thibodeau uses them.

And when Thibodeau coached Rose, he was one of the top players in the NBA.

Now, he’s 29 and a role player trying to help a team that’s focused on getting to the playoffs.

It won't be an issue tonight, but it is worth keeping an eye on going forward. 

But with his return, there are still questions about his health, as well as his desire to play the game.

While in Cleveland, Rose once again had his share of injuries and wound up leaving the team in November to reportedly re-evaluate whether he wanted to continue playing the game.

He re-joined the team the following month and reportedly got married during his leave of absence to his longtime girlfriend Alaina Anderson. who recently gave birth to their child.

But it does bring into question how would he handle another physical setback.

Rose feels as though he still has a lot of basketball left in him to play.

The Celtics will get a glimpse of that tonight.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE


 

Celtics-Timberwolves preview: Thibodeau has Minnesota on right track

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Celtics-Timberwolves preview: Thibodeau has Minnesota on right track

BOSTON – The Minnesota Timberwolves are doing the seemingly unthinkable when it comes to Tom Thibodeau-coached teams – they’re getting buckets.

Boston’s defense will indeed be put to the test tonight against a Timberwolves team that ranks among the league’s top scoring clubs.

Minnesota is averaging 108.4 points per game which ranks seventh in the NBA, a significant improvement from the teams he coached in Chicago.

One of the keys to Minnesota’s improved play has been the addition of Jimmy Butler who played for Thibodeau in Chicago.

This season, his first with Minnesota, Butler is averaging 21.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game.

“He’s just entering his prime,” Thibodeau told NBC Sports Boston, referring to Butler. “He’s a complete player, plays both sides of the ball. And his veteran leadership … he’s already gone through a lot of the things Karl (Anthony-Towns) and Andrew (Wiggins) are just starting to go through. That’ll be very beneficial to those two guys.”

In addition to Butler, Minnesota also added former all-star Jeff Teague and veteran sixth man Jamal Crawford.

Having more proven veterans has provided some much-needed stability to a franchise that’s clearly turning the corner towards respectability and has them on track to making the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

However, they still have this nasty habit of letting late-game leads slip away from them.

Last season, only Charlotte (14) and Philadelphia (14) blew more leads going into the fourth quarter of games, than Minnesota (12).

This season, the Timberwolves have lost seven such games which is tied with the Chicago Bulls for the most blown leads going into the fourth.

“We definitely have to do a better job of finishing games, for sure,” said Thibodeau, a former Celtics assistant coach. “I think having more guys who have been in those situations, found success in those situations, is really going to help us, hopefully, get over the hump this season.”

Getting over the hump has been one of the Celtics’ strengths most of this season.

Boston (31-10) has the best record in the Eastern Conference ,partly due to the ability to overcome some pretty steep deficits to some quality foes.

Of Boston’s 31 wins, seven have come after trailing by at least 13 points. That includes a 99-98 win over Houston on Dec. 28, a game in which Boston fell behind by as many as 26 points in the third quarter before rallying for the win.

A big part of Boston’s success has been the relatively steady play of their defense, which has been aided by having a roster that has more players than past years whose strength lies in their length and athleticism. 

"It's really important," said coach Brad Stevens. "It's all about being versatile and switch."

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

30 teams in 30 days: New faces have T-Wolves poised to end playoff drought

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30 teams in 30 days: New faces have T-Wolves poised to end playoff drought

We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The Minnesota Timberwolves. 
 

The days of being young, on-the-rise Timberpups seem to be giving way to a more experienced, battle-tested group that should be good enough to get the Minnesota Timberwolves in the playoffs this season after more than a decade.
 
“We knew going into the offseason we had a lot of holes to fill,” Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau, told CSNNE.com. “We were pleased with our young players have developed. We wanted to surround them with the right kind of players.”

Thibodeau, who doubles as the team’s president of basketball operations, made one of the biggest offseason splashes in trading for one of his former players in Chicago, Jimmy Butler.
 
Not only did Minnesota add one of the best two-way players in the NBA, but a bona fide leader for a team that’s long on talent but painfully shallow when it comes to experience in this league.
 
“He’s just entering his prime,” Thibodeau said of Butler. “He’s a complete player, plays both sides of the ball. And his veteran leadership … he’s already gone through a lot of the things Karl [Anthony-Towns] and Andrew [Wiggins] are just starting to go through. That’ll be very beneficial to those two guys.”
 
Indeed, Towns and Wiggins showed great promise last season.
 
But the lack of experience Thibodeau spoke of really stood out at the absolute worst time – the fourth quarter - in a lot of games.

Of those 14 teams that didn't make the NBA playoffs last season, only Charlotte (14) and Philadelphia (14) blew more leads going into the fourth quarter of games, than Minnesota (12).
 
“We definitely have to do a better job of finishing games, for sure,” said Thibodeau, a former Celtics assistant coach. “I think having more guys who have been in those situations, found success in those situations, is really going to help us, hopefully, get over the hump this season.”
 
In addition to Butler, the Timberwolves added point guard Jeff Teague and one of the game’s all-time great sixth men in Jamal Crawford.
  
It all adds up to a Timberwolves team that’s growing up before our eyes, a team that’s poised to end a 13-year playoff drought.
 
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Jimmy Butler (Chicago); Jeff Teague (Indiana); Jamal Crawford (Atlanta); Taj Gibson (Oklahoma City).
 
Key losses: Ricky Rubio (Utah); Zach LaVine (Chicago); Kris Dunn (Chicago).
 
Rookies of note: Justin Patton.
 
Expectations:
50-32 (2nd in the Northwest Division, fifth in the West).