JON KRAWCZYNSKI, AP Basketball Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Timberwolves coach and president Tom Thibodeau said Tuesday the team is eyeing Lance Stephenson, among others, for its open roster spot.
Thibodeau said no final decision had been made, but indicated that Stephenson is a strong candidate for a 10-day contract. The 26-year-old started the season in New Orleans before needing groin surgery in November.
“He’s one of the guys we’re taking a good, hard look at,” Thibodeau said.
The enigmatic swingman could bring some defensive intensity and toughness to a young team in need of both. His experience as a seven-year NBA veteran could also be a bonus for one of the youngest teams in the league.
Thibodeau knows Stephenson from his best years with the Indiana Pacers, Central Division rivals to the Bulls when Thibodeau coached in Chicago. During his time with the Pacers, Stephenson was a versatile playmaker and a dogged defender who thrived with the ball in his hands, giving Indiana a big, strong scorer and passer that made the team a matchup nightmare.
“He’s shown that he’s been a very good player in this league,” Thibodeau said.
Stephenson signed a three-year, $27 million with Charlotte in 2014, but has bounced around to four teams in the last four years. He struggled to fit in with ball-dominant point guards like Kemba Walker in Charlotte and Chris Paul with the Los Angeles Clippers. He’s been at his best alongside point guards like George Hill in Indiana and Mike Conley in Memphis, who don’t mind deferring on occasion.
In Minnesota, Stephenson would give the Wolves some much-needed depth on the wing after shooting guard Zach LaVine was lost for the season with a torn ACL.
The Wolves are coming off their fourth straight loss, a defeat at home to Miami that prompted Thibodeau to challenge his team to be better on defense. The Wolves gave up 71 points in the first half to the Heat and haven’t shown the same intensity on the glass as they did earlier in the season.
Bringing in a player like Stephenson, who was playing well in New Orleans before he was hurt, could help on that front.
“I think he brings a toughness, a defensive mind, an older guy,” said Wolves center Cole Aldrich, who played with Stephenson last year with the Clippers. “He’s not a real old guy, but he’s played five or six years in the league. He’s been around. He’s got playoff experience. I think he could help us.”
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