The short-handed Minnesota Timberwolves were in desperate need of a versatile forward to help make up for an injury to key role player Nemanja Bjelica.
As luck would have it, a replacement was waiting right there for them when they arrived in New Orleans to play the Pelicans this weekend.
The Timberwolves agreed to terms with free-agent forward Omri Casspi on Sunday, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press. The deal will cover the remainder of the season and does not carry over into next season, according to the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not officially announced the deal.
The Wolves arrived in New Orleans on Saturday to finish a three-game road trip. Casspi accompanied DeMarcus Cousins from Sacramento to New Orleans in the blockbuster trade just before the deadline. But he suffered a broken right thumb in his first game with the Pelicans, who were forced to cut him to add another healthy body to the mix as they tried to chase down a playoff spot.
But Casspi's injury started to heal more quickly than initially anticipated, and the veteran forward met with Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau in New Orleans as several other teams also inquired. The plan was for Casspi to accompany the Timberwolves on the team flight back to Minnesota and finalize the contract on Monday.
The Wolves started the day 4 1/2 games behind Denver for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. The odds got even longer when Bjelica suffered a season-ending left foot injury in Boston last week. The Wolves looked tired in a loss at Miami on Friday night, and Casspi should be able to give them some much-needed minutes off the bench for a team that has given its starters heavy playing time all season long.
The 6-foot-9 Casspi can play small forward and power forward and is a career 37-percent shooter from 3-point range, which should help them atone for Bjelica's absence. Bjelica had been playing very well over the last month before he was injured, giving the Wolves rebounding, shot-making and some defense at power forward.
ESPN first reported discussions between the Wolves and Casspi.