NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Wolves’ owner not planning on Love trade — ICYMI the last few days, Minnesota All-Star forward Kevin Love has put the Timberwolves in a situation they didn’t think they’d be in: discussing the trade desires of their superstar. Yesterday’s rumors had the Knicks and Celtics hot on the trail of Love and more and more teams seem to be joining the fray daily. While all of this buzzes about (and be sure to check out the great, measured response our Sekou Smith had), Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is trying to provide a voice of reason. Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press has more on the Love situation:
Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor told the Pioneer Press on Monday that he has no intention of trading Kevin Love and that he expects the all-star power forward to play for the Wolves again next season.
Love, 25, can opt out of his Wolves contract after next season. Sunday, the Associated Press reported that the Wolves are willing to trade Love for the right offer.
Love’s representatives, according to Sunday’s New York Daily News, reiterated to the Wolves this past week that the 6-foot-10 forward will not re-sign with Minnesota and definitely will leave in 2015.
Asked Monday if he would say he’s not going to trade Love, Taylor said, “I should never say never because who knows what might come up? But that’s not our plan.
“I’m not in a position where you would say absolutely I wouldn’t do it, because what if something that I can’t even speculate (on) happens? You’d say, ‘You’re nuts, Glen.’ Maybe some team puts a value on him that’s different than we suspect.”
The worst-case scenario for the Wolves would be watching Love walk away as a free agent while receiving nothing in return. So if they’re convinced Love has no interest in staying, trading him before or on the day of the June 26 NBA draft makes sense. This year’s crop of prospects is considered deep, and they’d likely also demand a veteran ready to start.
Love is a three-time all-star and averaged a career-high 26.1 points plus 12.5 rebounds last season.
“At this point, we’re not talking to any teams,” Taylor said. “I haven’t heard from Kevin or his agents or anything like that. We’re assuming that Kevin will be here next season, and we’re working with that scenario. This isn’t the time for us to do anything but to prepare for next year.”
Taylor said he isn’t happy about media reports that Love wants out of Minnesota.
“Kevin came here, played here, became an all-star here … I mean, what a wonderful environment. The fans have been great and support him. I’m not sure that could have happened at other places,” he said. “To be in a position where we have to defend that he might leave or not leave when he’s under contract, it’s difficult.”
No. 2: Report: Ibaka hoping to return during West finals — In this very space yesterday, we reported that some of the San Antonio Spurs had their reservations about whether or not Oklahoma City Thunder power forward (and shot blocker extraordinaire) would truly be out for the entire West finals. After a Game 1 loss in Texas, Thunder coach Scott Brooks emphatically affirmed that Ibaka won’t play the rest of the series, but according to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, there remains a chance Ibaka could play after all:
Far from the beginnings of these Western Conference finals, far from these unfortified Oklahoma City Thunder, Serge Ibaka is defiant and determined for the world to witness his Willis Reed moment. Ibaka, so proud, so professional, is respectively raging against his injury diagnosis.
Ibaka is back in Oklahoma City for Games 1 and 2 – ruled out of the playoffs with a lower leg injury – but his willingness to play with pain, his loyalty to the championship cause, has him thinking about starting some stationary shooting late this week, a league source told Yahoo Sports on Monday.
How the ever-conservative and protective Thunder will react to Ibaka’s eagerness is uncertain, but coach Scott Brooks repeated over and over late Monday: “He’s not coming through those doors. … He’s not coming back.”
Deep down, Ibaka understands his medical timetable couldn’t possibly include a return to these conference finals, but no one has yet talked him out of the belief he’d be back in the lineup if the Thunder advanced to the NBA Finals, a source said. The Thunder believed this injury would be a one-to-two-month recovery period. Without a tear in that plantaris muscle, though, Ibaka wants to believe it can be sooner.
People have long underappreciated Ibaka, underestimated his importance for Oklahoma City. Some thought the Thunder should’ve kept James Harden on a max contract, and let Ibaka and his four-year, $48 million deal go. Yet, the Thunder need a rim-protector, need his athleticism on the backline and his agility to control the point of attack on the pick-and-roll. Duncan destroyed the Thunder, and this problem doesn’t go away easily for them.
General manager Sam Presti‘s and Brooks’ directive is clear: The Thunder can’t count on Ibaka, so they need to get him out of their minds and out of their excuses. Whatever their instincts, they have to come to terms with the fact Ibaka won’t be waiting at the rim to change shots, change the game.
No. 3: Hairston: D-League tougher than NCAA — Few college players can speak about the challenge of playing at both a high level in Division I of the NCAA and at a professional level in the same season. Former UNC standout P.J. Hairston, who is seen as a late first-round/early second-round pick in this year’s Draft, is one such person who can comment on those topics, though. In an interview with BasketballInsiders.com’s Joel Bingham, Hairston says that the defenses he faced in the NBA D-League were much tougher than those he saw as a collegian:
P.J. Hairston has not taken the traditional road to the NBA Draft’s first round, where he is expected to be selected next month in Brooklyn, NY.
He didn’t play a single game at the University of North Carolina this season, nor did he notch a single minute overseas. Rather, Hairston followed up a falling out with UNC by catching on with the NBA Development League’s Texas Legends, and what happened next was enough to put the D-League in national headlines almost immediately.
That’s because in Hairston’s first handful of games with the Legends he scored 40 or more points twice, proving his prowess as a scorer against defenders that are more accomplished than the ones he would have faced at Chapel Hill.
“Playing against [D-League players] really prepares you for that next level,” Hairston said at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. “You play against other pro guys, guys that have played in the NBA that were sent down to play in the D-League a few games. For example, I had Bernard James, Jae Crowder and Shane Larkin come down and play on our team. Just playing with those guys, you can tell how their mentality was and how they have such a pro outlook on things.”
In other words, despite the stigma that D-League defenders are no good and points scored in D-League games don’t matter, Hairston’s belief is that the defenders there are even better than in the NCAA, meaning his scoring binge was even more special in the NBDL than if he had done something similar in the NCAA.
That, he believes, is what will make him the first player to be selected in the first round coming out of the D-League.
“It’s professional,” Hairston said. “It’s not college. You don’t have anyone holding your hand telling you not to shoot this or not to shoot that. It’s basically up to you.”
No. 4: Wall: Wizards — not Warriors — have best backcourt — There are plenty of stellar backcourt tandems around the NBA — Steph Curry and Klay Thompson in Golden State, Wes Matthews and Damian Lillard in Portland, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan in Toronto, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson in Brooklyn and other such groups round out a lengthy list. The rise of the Washington Wizards this season was led by All-Star John Wall and his shooting guard teammate, Bradley Beal, as Washington reached the East semifinals. Most NBA observers seem to regard the Thompson-Curry duo as the league’s best backcourt pairing, but Wall thinks otherwise. J. Michael of CSNWashington.com has more:
Wall, prompted by a question if there was a better backcourt than the one he occupies with Bradley Beal, compared the sides Monday before his exit interview: “No, not in my opinion. I don’t think we shoot the ball as good as the guys from Golden State but that’s all they do better than us to be honest. We play better D, attack the paint. I think we do everything better, except for shooting.”
After a short pause, Wall clarified that of the four he’s clearly the weakest when it comes to the jump shot. “I’m the only one not in that shooting category,” Wall said to a bunch of laughs, including his own. “Brad is right there with them. Other than that, I don’t think so.”
The teams split their season series 1-1, with each winning on the opposing team’s floor. Wall fared better in the point-guard matchup among the first-time All-Stars:
Curry shot 32.5% combined (13 of 40), including just 3-for-12 on three-pointers to average 18.5 points, 7.0 assists and 4.0 turnovers. Wall compiled 10 of 30 shooting overall that included 5 of 9 from long range for 14.5 points, 9.0 assists 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 3.5 turnovers.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Don’t expect to see Kevin Ollie coaching an NBA team anytime soon as he and UConn are closing in on a new deal … Ex-Jazz guard Earl Watson really wants a crack at Utah’s coaching vacancy … Check out this typically solid read on the Heat-Pacers series from Grantland’s Bill Simmons … Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis has reportedly been invited to tonight’s NBA Draft lottery … Is it time for the Celtics to think about trading Rajon Rondo? … Charlotte is giddy to finally make the official transition back to being the Hornets today
ICYMI(s) of the night: Kawhi “Sugar K” Leonard was all over the place with dazzling moves in Game 1 of the West finals, but we have to say his driving dunk over Reggie Jackson and his 360-degree spin layup are the best ones …