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NBA Notebook: Ben Simmons digs in his heels

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September 24th, 2021

A whole lot happened this week in the Association. We'll get you caught up in the latest edition of our NBA Notebook.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES FIRE GERSSON ROSAS 

With training camp mere days away, the Minnesota Timberwolves made the shocking announcement that they had fired general manager Gersson Rosas on Wednesday. Rosas was a disciple of Daryl Morey with an analytics background, and had only been hired by the Wolves in 2019. While the timing may have been surprising, Rosas’ record was far from spotless in Minnesota.

The D'Angelo Russell trade was costly and it has not paid dividends with on-court performance, and the Jarrett Culver pick was a complete miss. But the core issue seemed to be growing dissension among staffers and other league power brokers that trickled back to Wolves ownership in the past few weeks, as well as accusations that Rosas was carrying on an inappropriate relationship with another staff member.

Jake Fischer has reported that Elton Brand is the front runner to replace Rosas. Brand has arguably done a worse job than Rosas, his signature decision being to sign and trade Jimmy Butler to Miami and pay Tobias Harris $180,000,000.

For now, Sachin Gupta has been promoted as interim general manager, the first person of Indian descent to have the top job in basketball management. The Wolves are better off giving Gupta a real shot than going with Brand, whose track record as an executive is not particularly inspiring.

DAVID GRIFFIN IS RUNNING OUT OF TIME

Rosas wasn’t the only basketball executive feeling the heat this week, as a report by Christian Clark of The New Orleans Advocate painted a fairly damning picture of New Orleans Pelicans general manager David Griffin. Among other things, the report indicated that many staffers are unhappy with the disconnect between Griffin’s words and actions, nicknaming him "Griffin Krause", in honor of famously disliked ‘90s Chicago Bulls executive Jerry Krause.

The report also noted a number of clumsy, forced attempts by Griffin to try and forge a bond with Zion Williamson, including Griffin playing piano for the Pelicans All-Star. Zion was also reportedly unhappy with his return to the team's injury program his rookie year, feeling he was misled about the steps he would need to take to return to the court full time.

Griffin enters year three on thin ice, with two coaches fired, a series of disappointing offseasons, and most importantly, no indication that he has earned buy-in from his franchise player. All eyes are on New Orleans to see if Williamson will be the first player to turn down a rookie max extension and become an unrestricted free agent. The clock is ticking for Griffin and the Pels.

BEN SIMMONS DIGS IN HIS HEELS

Adrian Wojnarowski reported this week that Ben Simmons is reinforcing his claims that he will not report for training camp and will never again play a game for the Philadelphia 76ers. It does little to change the situation on the ground, as trade conversations centered around the mercurial All-Star have seemingly gone quiet. 

The NBA league office as well as agents, players, and teams around the NBA are watching anxiously to see if Simmons will actually go through with his threat to sit out despite having a four-year contract on the books. 

WIGGINS' VACCINE STANCE PUTS WARRIORS IN JEOPARDY

Reporting by Shams Charania this week noted that over 90% of NBA players are now vaccinated, with that number steadily rising as we approach training camp. But one player who isn’t is Andrew Wiggins of the Golden State Warriors, which due to San Francisco mandate, would make him ineligible to play in any of the Warriors home games this year. 

Despite the team's best efforts to convince Wiggins, he is refusing to get vaccinated. In addition to jeopardizing public health, if he doesn’t change his position, the Warriors stand to lose their starting small forward for at least half the season in a year when they have serious title aspirations. Wiggins’ stance is particularly disappointing when you consider that the NBA player who was perhaps most personally devastated by the virus, Karl-Anthony Towns, was his friend and teammate for many years.

JJ REDICK HANGS ‘EM UP

After a 15-year career, 3-point sharpshooter JJ Redick announced his retirement on his podcast this week. To some Redick will be best known for his work as a WWE-level heel on Duke University’s teams from 2002-06. But unlike so many college stars, Reddick made the difficult transition to the NBA to become the consummate NBA role player.

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