Morning Shootaround — Feb. 19

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Reunion for Wolves, Garnett? | Jerome Kersey, Blazers great, RIP | Kanter not signing Jazz tune on deadline | Ainge and Celtics will take your calls

No. 1: Reunion for Wolves, Garnett? — He spent the meat of his certain Hall of Fame career in Minnesota, often frustrated, always brilliant, and in the end was thrilled to leave. Now, well in his twilight, and perhaps staring at the end of the road, will Kevin Garnett‘s journey finish up where it started? On the eve of the trade deadline, there apparently is enough of a thaw, at least on the Wolves’ end, to make this happen. The Wolves have struggled since Garnett left, never making the playoffs or having a winning season. And of course, they’ll struggle even if they bring him back for a curtain call because they’re loaded with young players. But from a sentimental standpoint, this would be heartwarming. Garnett remains a sports icon in the Twin Cities and the applause for him in a Wolves uniform would be thunderous. But nothing happens unless he wants it to happen. He must approve any trade, and with precious little left in the tank, wouldn’t Garnett rather be someplace warm and with a chance to win a title, like, with old friend Doc Rivers in LA? Anyway, here’s Marc Stein of ESPN:

Garnett has insisted in recent weeks that he is not in the market for an in-season exit from Brooklyn, largely because he does not wish to displace his family ‎in the middle of the season.

But the Wolves, sources say, are hopeful that the chance to play out what might be his final NBA season as a member of the team that drafted him out of high school in 1995 — and under longtime coach Flip Saunders — could lead Garnett to reconsider. Such a trade, of course, would also mean the hypercompetitive Garnett has to leave the Eastern Conference playoff race to join a team at the bottom of the West.

Saunders remains close with Garnett and is said to covet a reunion to bring back the most popular player in Wolves annals as a mentor to the many youngsters on the current roster, headlined by 2014’s No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins.

And in Young, Minnesota possesses a player the Nets have coveted for some time. Brooklyn GM Billy King drafted Young in Philadelphia and would presumably welcome his addition now as the Nets try to fortify their roster in search a playoff berth in the East.

The Los Angeles Clippers and coach Doc Rivers have been openly hoping Garnett would seek a buyout from the Nets before March 1 to become eligible to play in the playoffs for another team. But Garnett has left the impression he has little interest in a buyout.

“I haven’t thought too much of my own personal [situation],” Garnett recently told Nets beat writers. “When that road comes, I’ll cross it and I’ll deal with it. A lot of things with [my] family situation and things, it’s not just convenient to get up and move, to change things. It’s not as convenient as it once was when I was younger. I have a lot more responsibilities and things to take into account.”

In the same interview, Garnett insisted he was all-in with the 21-29 Nets, despite the fact that close friend Paul Pierce left Brooklyn over the summer to sign in free agency with the Washington Wizards.

‎In November, Garnett told Yahoo! Sports that he wants to buy the Timberwolves someday. But he has said little about how much longer he intends to play beyond this season, which is Garnett’s 20th as a pro.

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No. 2: RIP Jerome Kersey, Blazers great — Sad day for Blazermaniacs and really, for the rest of the NBA. Jerome Kersey was a fixture in Portland, first as a hard-working overachiever on some great Blazer teams in the 80s and 90s, and then in the Portland community, which loved him. The cause of death Wednesday wasn’t immediately known, but it was sudden and unexpected. The team announced Kersey had passed at age 52. The day before, Kersey was part of a team-sponsored panel including former teammate Terry Porter that spoke at a local high school, and he often appeared on Blazer broadcasts in retirement. Kersey was a tremendous wing player who hailed largely unknown from Longwood College and quickly became a fan favorite for his thunderous dunks and also a very reliable mid-range jumper. Plus, he worked hard and often guarded the other team’s biggest scorer. Here is Jason Quick of The Oregonian on a man who died far too young:

 Kersey played 11 of his 17 NBA seasons in Portland, the starting small forward on some of the most celebrated Blazers teams. While Clyde Drexler provided the flair, and Terry Porter the big shots, it was Kersey who often created those opportunities by diving on the floor, or fighting for a rebound. And when it came time for him to be in the open court, his speed, size and leaping ability made him one of the more powerful dunkers in franchise history.

Eventually, those dunks and those clutch plays would lead longtime radio voice Bill Schonely to say “Mercy, mercy, Jerome Kersey” and many still recall him as Mercy Kersey.

“My role was to do all the dirty work,” Kersey said in 2010. “Get on the fast break, dive for loose balls, grab the rebounds.”

He never made an All-Star team, but he was an integral part of the Blazers teams that made it to the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992, and posted a franchise record 63 wins in 1991.

“A tremendous loss for the Blazers family and the city of Portland because everybody loved him,” Drexler said on Wednesday. “On the court, because of the way he played: just that all-out energy, and he gave you everything he had. And off the court, because he was so gregarious and such a great guy.”

In a statement, Blazers owner Paul Allen said Kersey’s passing was a “terrible loss.”

“Today we lost an incredible person and one of the most beloved players to ever wear a Trail Blazers uniform,” Allen said.

An unheralded 6-foot-7, 225-pound small forward out of tiny Longwood College in Virginia, Kersey was a late second-round pick (46th overall) in the 1984 draft. He wasn’t given much of a chance to make a Blazers team that already had wing players in Kenny Carr and Kiki Vandeweghe, an opinion that even then-coach Jack Ramsay held.

In the summer of 1984, Ramsay summoned five rookies to Portland after the team had completed its summer league action in San Diego.

Ramsay held a five-day mini camp, with Kersey, Steve Colter, Bernard Thompson, Tom Scheffler and Victor Fleming. At the end of the five days, Ramsay had the players circle around him, after which he gave each player advice for the summer.

“He got to me and said ‘I don’t think you are quite ready for my team yet. Let’s get you overseas,”’ Kersey remembered in 2010.

Kersey said he went back to Virginia and worked as hard as he ever had — running, lifting, shooting. And when he reported for training camp, he played every minute as if he was in the NBA Finals.

“I didn’t think he was going to make the team,” Drexler said. “But he came in and out hustled every man on the team. And he was like a sponge. He took everything in that was taught.”

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No. 3: Kanter not singing Jazz tune on deadline day — There was silence in the air when the Jazz held a workout yesterday with regard to Enes Kanter, who may be on his way out of town today. Kanter has expressed public dissatisfaction with his role and playing time in Utah and would welcome a trade. He’s a restricted free agent this summer so the Jazz can keep him and deal with him this summer, or if the price is right, trade him now. Here is Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake Tribune:

Jazz coach Quin Snyder said he spoke with Kanter on Wednesday, and remained positive when asked about Kanter’s role on the team.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’ve enjoyed coaching Enes … the whole time I’ve been here,” Snyder said. “I think our whole group is committed to continue to improve the best we can, Enes included.”

The source of Kanter’s frustrations stem from what he feels has been an inconsistent role with the Jazz since being drafted in 2011. Kanter is averaging 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds in a career-high 27 minutes per game. But he is splitting time in a frontcourt rotation with Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert and Trevor Booker, which has limited his time in some cases.

“We all want everything to be perfect,” Snyder said. “That’s not the case with me, with Enes, with Derrick, Gordon [Hayward]. Like I said, I like where we are. I like Enes. I think Enes is one of the guys who over the course of the first half of the year has really, really improved. I’d like to see that continue.”

Kanter’s request came as a surprise to his teammates.

“I don’t think anybody had conversations like that with Enes,” Hayward said. “Enes is around us a happy-go-lucky guy. We came in and practiced together and played games and moved on. Didn’t talk about it.”

The NBA’s trade deadline is 1 p.m. Thursday.

Behind the scenes, the Jazz front office remained active Wednesday. The Jazz were said to be seeking a young player and a first-round draft pick in any deal involving Kanter, and multiple media reports pointed to the Milwaukee Bucks as a potential landing spot. Bucks head coach Jason Kidd was said to be extremely interested in Kanter, who had 23 points and 16 rebounds when the Jazz played in Milwaukee on Jan. 22.

Kanter will be a restricted free agent in July, where he could command an eight-figure deal on the market. The uncertainty surrounding his contract going forward could make a trade difficult.

But the Jazz also value Kanter and believe in his potential.

So if he remains on the Jazz’s roster after Thursday’s deadline, will that change things in the locker room?

“I don’t think so,” said point guard Trey Burke. Enes is a good guy. He has a great heart. No one on the team dislikes him. So if he’s still here, it definitely wouldn’t be any hard feelings. It’s going to be the same.”

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No. 4: Ainge and Celtics will take your calls — As the Celtics forge ahead with their rebuilding plan, they’re not willing to sit pat. Their active general manager, Danny Ainge, remains willing and able to make deals. Ainge knows his roster is flexible and pretty much anyone is expendable with the possible exception of rookie Marcus Smart. Plus, Ainge is loaded with draft picks which will come in handy in any package deal, and the Celtics have ample cap room to add a big salary if necessary. Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe did this assessment:

Ainge is in a rather interesting and enviable position. He doesn’t have to make a move to upgrade his roster because he has so many assets for negotiation during the NBA Draft and free agency period.

The only way Ainge would make a move is to significantly upgrade the roster down the road. He has made so many deals over the past few months, he has placed the Celtics in a position to become big-time free agent players for first time in nearly two decades.

What happens in Phoenix could be important to the long-term future of the Celtics. If the Suns decide to trade high-scoring guard Isaiah Thomas to appease Dragic, who has a player option in his contract this summer that Dragic will reject, then the Celtics would be quite interested.

Ainge called Thomas at midnight of free agency, knowing the Celtics did not have the salary cap space to sign him. Still, it made an impression on the young guard, who was the 60th and final pick in the 2011 draft.

“It was crazy because I was playing in a basketball game that night, I checked my voice mail and it was Danny Ainge,” Thomas told the Globe in November. “I was tripping because that’s big right there. That’s Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics, all of that. It really hit me like dang, [free agency] is about to start. He sent me a voice mail and sent me a text message. He brought up Avery [Bradley] and all the guys who have been [in Boston] from the [Seattle/Tacoma] area.”

Thomas wants a chance to play major minutes and the green light to score. His biggest issue during his career is being a one-dimensional player, but in Boston that likely would be welcomed. Marcus Thornton, who is playing on an expiring contract and could be included in a deal with Phoenix, has flourished in his bench-scoring role and also has responded with more defensive effort.

The Celtics want to add pieces and Ainge acknowledged that he has to devise more unusual ways to acquire players since Boston may not be a free agent destination. One of those ways may be to acquire an impending free agent through trade and encourage him to stay with a lucrative extension.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: One of many issues facing Nuggets coach Brian Shaw when Denver resumed practice was the absence of Ty Lawson … It’s going to be that kind of season for Jrue Holiday, now dealing with a stress fracture. … What’s the deal with Reggie Jackson and the Thunder? …

6 Comments

  1. harriethehawk says:

    Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Scotty Brooks have to be singing and humming right now. Imagine them in the 1st round against the Flake Warriors.

  2. d.g. says:

    please fix typo in your post from Jersey to Kersey.

    Jersey was a tremendous wing player who hailed largely unknown from Longwood College and quickly became a fan favorite for his thunderous dunks and also a very reliable mid-range jumper.

    thanks

  3. AGN says:

    What is the Lakers (Jim & Mitch) doing ? Enjoying Jim’s late dad success. We’ll see how they respond to the new CBA rule. We are watching.

  4. mike says:

    Garnett is in full control of what he does on the court. One thing that’s sure is that he does not lack for confidence. He’s one of the most consistent, dependable, and sure handed players in the paint, and is somewhat of an automatic defence. He’s more than capable of averaging more than 30pts a game, and he’s done it more than once. He’s an immovable force in this league, not a haphazzard charicature the NBA seeks to portray him as. We know Kevin Garnett, and he’s NOT the player you are describing.