VIDEO: Relive the top 5 plays from the USA-Slovenia exhibition game
No. 1: Taylor, Love exchange words over trade — Tuesday afternoon, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers either moved on from or moved into their respective eras with Kevin Love. The All-Star big man was officially introduced the the Cleveland media yesterday, while the Wolves introduced the haul they got from the Cavs and Philadelphia 76ers — Thaddeus Young, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett — in the offseason mega-deal. Now that the move is in the past, Wolves owner Glen Taylor opened up to the media about trading his superstar and his regrets in not signing him to a longer contract a few years ago. Derek Wetmore of ESPN1500.com in Minneapolis has more:
Afterward, Taylor spoke freely about the blockbuster Kevin Love trade that landed the Wolves this year’s No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young. He said that his preference would have been to keep Love, but after it became clear that would not happen, the Wolves accommodated the disgruntled star and got a nice haul in return.
Still, if he could do it all over again, Taylor said he would have signed Love to the five-year maximum contract in 2012. That way Love would have three seasons left on his contract and the team’s outlook would be considerably different. With the benefit of hindsight, it appears safe to say the contract was a mistake. Love made it known that he wanted out and would exercise the opt-out clause that would make him a free agent following this season. So the Wolves once again have hit the reset button.
“I spoke the truth when I said if Kevin [Love] would stay here then we would have the best season. Inside I knew Kevin wasn’t giving us that alternative even though it’s what I wanted,” Taylor said Tuesday. “So now you have the thing where Kevin kind of said, ‘trade me or you’re going to pay the fine next year if you don’t trade me.’ I think once we got going on that, we had about four teams that came to us with significant offers. But this one truly had the biggest upside. Flip [Saunders] pushed it and negotiated it the best he could so I’m really happy with it.”
“Kevin and I have always had a good relationship. Kevin always said, ‘I want to win.’ I said, ‘I do, too. Stay here, let’s win together.'”
In the end, that didn’t happen of course, and the Wolves settled on a backup plan that may end up working out for the team. That’s yet to be determind. As for Love, Taylor said he questions if Cleveland is the right landing spot for him, where he’ll play alongside the best player in the world, LeBron James, and point guard Kyrie Irving. Taylor also nitpicked portions of Love’s game.
“I question Kevin if this is going to be the best deal for him because I think he’s going to be the third player on a team. I don’t think he’s going to get a lot of credit if they do really well. I think he’ll get the blame if they don’t do well. He’s going to have to learn to handle that.
“I think he’s around a couple guys are awful good. Now I’m not saying that Kevin’s not good, but I think where maybe he got away with some stuff, not playing defense on our team, I’m not sure how that’s going to work in Cleveland. So I would guess they’re going to ask him to play more defense. And he’s foul-prone,” Taylor said.
After these comments surfaced, Love had his say about them and basically told Taylor to worry about his own team, not him:
Love, appearing on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike” on Wednesday morning, responded to Taylor’s comments about how he may get exposed for his play on the defensive end and that Love may wind up being the scapegoat if the new-look Cavs struggle.
“I think emotions are definitely running high right now,” Love told “Mike and Mike” on Wednesday. “For Glen to say that, I just think that he should be focusing on the players that he just received. I mean, he has two of the No. 1 picks in the last two drafts: Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett. He has another guy who can really play in Thaddeus Young.
“I think he got a lot for me. So I’d be focusing even more on that. More than anything, I’m just excited to start my time in Cleveland, get to work with my new teammates, and start with this new family here.”
VIDEO: GameTime’s crew talks about the Minnesota Timberwolves’ new faces
No. 2: USA still hasn’t lost since 2006 — The U.S. Men’s National Team has impressed throughout the exhibition portion of its schedule as it warms up for the FIBA World Cup in Spain that tips off this weekend. Our John Schuhmann was on hand yesterday for Team USA’s 101-71 rout of Slovenia and has some takeaways from the win, which keeps the team undefeated since the semifinals of the 2006 World Championships:
- So … many … fouls. The officiating in this game was a stark contrast to that of Friday’s game against Puerto Rico at Madison Square Garden, when both sets of guards got away with a lot of contact on the perimeter. Hand checks were called on Tuesday, with the two teams combining for 53 fouls in 40 minutes.
- The U.S. was the bigger beneficiary of the whistles, getting to the line 46 times. But they shot just 29-for-46 (63 percent), leaving several points at the stripe. They had shot 81 percent through their first three exhibition games.
- At the other end of the floor, the U.S. paid for its aggressiveness on the perimeter. Stephen Curry fouled out in the first minute of the fourth quarter after just 14 minutes of playing time. Klay Thompson picked up two hand-check fouls on the first possession he was on the court. And Kyrie Irving and James Harden each picked up three fouls apiece. The Americans have depth in the backcourt, but not as much as they’d have if they hand’t brought four centers on the roster. The guards are going to have to do a better job of adjusting to the way games are being called.
- We got a basic look at the U.S. rotation. Derrick Rose (or Irving when Rose starts), Thompson and Rudy Gay were the first guys off the bench. DeMarcus Cousins backed up Davis, and DeMar DeRozan was the 10th man. Andre Drummond and Mason Plumlee only played garbage time.
- The U.S. starters had huge plus-minus marks, while the reserves were a mix of low pluses and minuses. In fact, in 14:23 with four or five U.S. starters on the floor, the score was USA 45, Slovenia 8. In the other 25:37, with three or fewer American starters in the game, Slovenia outscored the U.S. 63-56.
- Thompson shot well (3-for-5 on threes) and Gay was active on the offensive glass, but the bench was otherwise disappointing.
- Rose did not play well. He showed flashes of his quickness, but did not finish plays. He shot 0-for-3 and committed three turnovers in 20 minutes of action.
- The U.S. halfcourt offense still needs work. There was some real sloppiness on Tuesday, especially in the fourth quarter.
No. 3: Ilgauskas’ agent denies talk of client’s comeback attempt — Kevin Love is in the fold in Cleveland. Shawn Marion should be inking his deal soon. Ray Allen remains another household name that may be Ohio-bound as well. Retired Cavs All-Star center Zydrunas Ilgauskas was also said to be reportedly weighing an NBA comeback after three seasons out of the league, but according to his agent, that isn’t the case. RealGM’s Shams Charania has more:
Zydrunas Ilgauskas has been retired for three seasons and the Cleveland Cavaliers retired his No. 11 last season, but he could be considering a comeback.
ESPN Cleveland radio host Tony Rizzo first talked about an Ilgauskas return on Sunday and reiterated the possiblity on Monday.
Ilgauskas and LeBron James have remained close friends and the Cavaliers have a clear need at center.
Ilgauskas’ agent, Herb Rudoy, told RealGM’s Shams Charania that speculation on a comeback is a “false rumor.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams still hasn’t been cleared for five-on-five drills … Sam Smith details Derrick Rose‘s play in the USA-Slovenia game … Steven Adams‘ emergence last season led to the Thunder trading their third-string center, Hasheem Thabeet … Could Carlos Delfino be looking at the end of his career? … Knicks guard Iman Shumpert has been working hard all offseason to strengthen his surgically repaired left knee …