NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Celtics leading pack for Love? — Just yesterday, Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that Minnesota Timberwolves might be getting used to the idea that Kevin Love might not want to stick around after the 2014-15 season and exercise his early termination option. Once that bit of information came to the NBA forefront, the knowledge of which suitors are most after Love has become more and more known. According to Wojnarowski, the Boston Celtics might present an appetizing deal to the Wolves and as the New York Post‘s Marc Berman reports, new Knicks boss Phil Jackson could be plotting for a way to bring Love to New York.
The Boston Celtics have emerged as an increasingly intriguing destination for Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star forward Kevin Love, and the Celtics’ draft position coming out of Tuesday night’s lottery could be telltale in determining the feasibility of a trade, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
If the lottery percentages hold to form, Boston would draft in the No. 5 slot, which could hold appeal to Minnesota in this talent-rich draft. If Boston moves up and cracks one of the top three spots, general manager Danny Ainge would have a more difficult decision to make on using the pick in a deal for Love.
Love’s representatives with Excel Sports are pushing Timberwolves president Flip Saunders to find a trade acceptable to them before the beginning of summer free agency in July – preferably by the June 26 NBA draft, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Love, 25, wants a chance to play for an immediate contender, but has an open mind about multiple destinations in the league, sources said. In six NBA seasons, Love has yet to reach the playoffs in Minnesota.
The Houston Rockets also plan to make a run at a trade for Love, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Officials believe Love’s close relationship and respect for coach Kevin McHale could give the Rockets an edge. Golden State, Phoenix, the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago are among those also planning to pursue Love deals with an eye on signing him to a long-term extension.
Love has no veto power over a trade, but it is unlikely any team will unload significant assets for him without an assurance he’ll re-sign a max contract.
Houston doesn’t have the draft picks to offer Minnesota, but does have appealing young players in Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik to include in packages. McHale acquired Love for the T’wolves with a draft-night trade and coached him. Beyond McHale, Houston could offer Love an immediate chance to be part of a contender.
Love’s agent Jeff Schwartz and Ainge have a strong relationship and a good working history. Ainge helped another Schwartz client, Paul Pierce, get to a preferred trade destination in Brooklyn a year ago. The Celtics believe they can sell Love on becoming the next big Celtics star, and all the adulation that comes with that for a franchise that has won 17 NBA championships.
According to an NBA source, Knicks president Phil Jackson has been plotting to be involved in making something happen with Love via a trade.
However, the report stated rather than the Lakers and the Knicks being Love’s top two choices, the power forward is more interested in Golden State and Chicago. It’s unclear if Steve Kerr knew Love’s preference when he chose to coach the Warriors, but it’s very possible.
Adding Love to the Knicks’ mix with their 2015 cap space is one of the selling points for Anthony to stay in New York. It’s doubtful a team would trade Love for just a rental. Another source said the Lakers also will make a monster push at trading for Love, who played at UCLA.
The Knicks believe they have the expiring contracts — Tyson Chandler and Iman Shumpert in particular — the Wolves might want so Minnesota can keep cap space to go after the star-studded 2015 free agent class.
What do they Wolves have to say about all this chatter? Team owner Glen Taylor told Jerry Zgoda of the Star-Tribune that Minnesota has no plans to deal Love anytime soon:
Amid renewed media reports that three-time All-Star Kevin Love intends to leave Minnesota in July 2015 and the Timberwolves are reconsidering their position, Wolves owner Glen Taylor reiterated on Sunday the team doesn’t intend to soon trade him.
The Associated Press, citing two unnamed sources, reported Sunday that, with Tuesday’s draft lottery and the June 26 draft approaching, the Wolves are softening their position that they won’t trade Love and are open to the idea of doing so for the right deal.
“Not by the draft,” Taylor said before Sunday’s Lynx home opener at Target Center about such a possibility.
Saunders told WCCO Radio on Sunday morning that he hasn’t talked to Love’s representatives since the season ended in mid-April.
“We’re proceeding the same way, that Kevin is part of our team, that we have,” Saunders told WCCO. “You’re always trying to get your team better. There have been reports we’re actively trying to trade him, which isn’t true. What we’re actively trying to do is get our team better. When you do that, you look to see what’s out there no matter what it is or for anybody. We’re a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in 10 years. We’ve got to get better.”
No. 2: Bulls to start talking Mirotic buyout — Back in the 2011 Draft, the Chicago Bulls picked up the rights to Spanish league star Nikola Mirotic from the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for the 28th pick (which became current Heat guard Norris Cole) and the 43rd pick (former Minnesota Timberwolves guard Malcolm Lee). The Bulls kept tabs on Mirotic as his game progressed overseas with the hopes they could buy him out in the future and add him to a young core that includes former MVP Derrick Rose and All-Star Joakim Noah. It appears that buyout date is nearing, writes K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:
Mirotic, the Bulls’ 2011 draft-day acquisition, is widely considered the best international prospect not in the NBA. Though he finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, he struggled defensively throughout the final and to finish at the rim occasionally.
The Bulls will begin negotiations for the first time this offseason with Mirotic, who has a buyout this summer. Though Real Madrid made noise about possibly signing Mirotic to an extension beyond the one year remaining on his deal, that could contain an out clause should Mirotic opt for the NBA.
“We have built a relationship with him,” general manager Gar Forman said at last week’s NBA draft combine. “We feel confident he will come over at some point. Whether that’s this summer or next, we don’t know.”
No. 3: Spurs don’t think Ibaka will miss all of West finals — The Oklahoma City Thunder have designs on making their first NBA Finals since the 2011-12 season, but doing so will require beating the San Antonio Spurs in the West finals without power forward Serge Ibaka. News came out Friday that Ibaka will miss at least the West finals as he recovers from a Grade 2 strain of his left calf. That loss would seem to make the road easier for the Spurs, but the players aren’t buying that Ibaka will miss the series, writes Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News:
Oklahoma City announced on Friday that forward Serge Ibaka, one of the NBA’s best shot blockers and defensive anchors, will miss the remainder of the playoffs with a calf strain.
The Thunder followed that up by telling the media on Sunday that Ibaka would not travel with the team on their flight to San Antonio in advance of the Western Conference Finals, which begin Monday.
And still, the Spurs remain skeptical to the point of paranoia.
“I don’t really believe it,” said point guard Tony Parker, who has been cleared to play in the opener after straining his left hamstring in the second round. “I’ll believe when I see tomorrow he is not on the court. It’s hard to believe. We’ll see tomorrow.”
Said Kawhi Leonard, “We’re still not sure if he’s going to play or not, but it doesn’t matter. The Thunder are still a very good team.”
Given yet another opportunity to collect their fifth championship, the Spurs aren’t about to let their guard down in the absence of a player in Ibaka who jammed up their precision-based offense almost by himself as the Thunder won the regular-season series 4-0.
The sweep extended Oklahoma City’s run of success against the Spurs to 10-2 dating back to the last postseason meeting, when the Thunder rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win 4-2. Ibaka played in all 12 of those meetings, and almost always well with at least three blocks in nine, and double-doubles in six of the past seven.
The Spurs have no doubt considered every possible contingency in how the Thunder might adjust without him — including, it seems, the extreme unlikelihood that he might actually play. (Again, appropriate fear.) Not that coach Gregg Popovich would ever admit to such planning to the media.
“It’s really a waste of time,” Popovich said. “When the game starts, everybody will know what’s going on and everybody will adjust both ways.”
No. 4: Report: Knicks want to talk with Fisher; Dunleavy, Shaw also on list — The Knicks continue to search for their next coach and, as you’d expect, some familiar and big names continue to be attached to the rumors as to who will get the gig next. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne report that the team is interested in talking to Derek Fisher, Oklahoma City’s backup point guard and a former L.A. Lakers player under new Knicks boss Phil Jackson when both were in California. As well as the interest in Fisher, ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard reports that the team has former NBA coach Mike Dunleavy on its short list, too:
New York Knicks president Phil Jackson continues to send out signals that he’s in no rush to hire a coach until he can seriously discuss the position with Oklahoma City’s Derek Fisher, according to sources close to the process.
Sources told ESPN.com on Sunday that Jackson is planning to proceed with a deliberate coaching search after the Knicks, convinced they were getting Steve Kerr, watched their runaway No. 1 candidate choose the Golden State Warriors instead.
Fisher’s interest in coaching remains a matter of debate, with Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks telling the New York Daily News over the weekend that it wouldn’t surprise him if the 18-year-veteran decided to play on for one more season. Either way, Fisher is trying to deflect all questions about his future — as a coach or front-office executive — until after the playoffs, hoping to limit distractions as the Thunder prepare to face the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals starting Monday night.
Sources say that in addition to Fisher, the Knicks still have interest in Denver Nuggets coach Brian Shaw but do not currently plan to ask the Nuggets’ permission to speak with him. Because league rules restrict teams to offering only cash or draft picks as compensation for coaches, and not players, sources say New York fears it likely can’t meet the Nuggets’ demands if it were to try to get Shaw out of his contract.
Jackson’s preference since ousting Mike Woodson has been hiring a coach he’s worked with in the past, either as a player or a former assistant like Shaw. But sources say that the limited options at his disposal after missing out on Kerr could prompt the 11-time champion coach to start broadening his approach.
ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard reported over the weekend that Jackson has discussed the vacancy with veteran NBA coach Mike Dunleavy. Sources say Jackson has not ruled out a sit-down with Knicks fan favorite Mark Jackson, who has rejoined ESPN as a broadcaster after his dismissal by the Warriors.
No. 5: Bosh disappears in Game 1 loss — Chris Bosh‘s final stat line in Game 1 of the East finals read as follows: nine points (on 4-for-12 shooting), 0-for-5 on 3-pointers, four assists, two rebounds and a minus-16 overall. Not exactly what the Heat were hoping for from their All-Star forward and as our John Schuhmann details, his horrible game was a large reason why Miami finds itself in a 1-0 hold against Indiana:
The Pacers have not been a great team over the last few months. But they survived the first two rounds and seem to bring their best against the Heat, in part because they match up well. The Pacers have the size to punish the champs inside. The key is to just get their bigs the ball in position to score.
That happened early and often in Game 1. Though the Heat outscored the Pacers 54-38 in the paint, Indiana attempted 22 more free throws. They scored 107 points on just 88 possessions, by far their best offensive performance of the postseason.
“Our defense was unacceptable,” Bosh said afterward. “They got everything that they wanted and we need to fix that.”
Miami suffered breakdowns all over the place. Bosh was certainly not the only guilty party. But as one of the Heat’s primary defenders on pick-and-rolls, it’s his job to set the tone defensively. When the Miami defense is at its best, Bosh’s activity is the biggest reason.
Not only was he a step slow in recovering to the Indiana bigs on Sunday, but they often outmuscled him in the paint. Bosh defended Roy Hibbert (5-for-13) in the post well enough, but his weak-side help on David West‘s rolls left something to be desired.
As a roll man, West usually has to try to beat the Heat from mid-range. In the regular season, 21 of his 47 shots against Miami were from outside the paint. But on Sunday, nine of his 11 shots came from inside the paint.
Bosh didn’t meet West far enough from the basket, giving the Pacers’ power forward too many quick and easy looks. West capped his afternoon by pump-faking Bosh out of his shorts and strolling by him for an easy dunk to put the Pacers up 16 with less than three minutes to go.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Might the Cavs be looking to move big men Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao this summer? … Pacers coach Frank Vogel expects Evan Turner (strep throat) to be OK for Game 2 … After getting out to a 1-0 start in the East finals, the Pacers’ locker room had a pretty chill tone to it …
ICYMI of the night: Even though the Heat fell in Game 1 of the East finals yesterday, this was a pretty amazing and-one 3-pointer from LeBron James late in the game …