VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 12
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Blatt: Irving still has ‘a ways to go’ — Point guard Kyrie Irving has likely been on the minds of many Cleveland Cavaliers supporters even as Mo Williams has done an admirable job holding down the fort in his absence. Irving’s latest Pepsi commercial featuring his alter ego of “Uncle Drew” dropped yesterday, if you missed it, and seeing him put in work — even on a commercial set — had to get Cavs fans excited. Coach David Blatt is here to temper that, though, writes Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. Blatt has seen progress from his point guard but notes he still has a long road ahead:
After practice on Thursday, Cavaliers head coach David Blatt made it sound as if point guard Kyrie Irving isn’t close to a return to action.
“[We’re] not rushing things and not letting up from the day-to-day work, but still a ways to go,” he said. “And how much, I can’t honestly tell you, but he’s working at it every day.”
Irving fractured his left kneecap in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors on June 4. His recovery timetable was set to 3-4 months. It has been a little over five months since he’s played in a live game.
He has yet to participate in a practice session. His daily work includes building up his legs and some on-court work. He will not join the team for their three-game road trip beginning with the New York Knicks on Friday, cleveland.com is told.
Since the Cavaliers are off to a 7-1 start, there’s no sense in activating their three-time All-Star prematurely. In the meantime, he’ll continue to work.
“We’re just taking small steps,” Blatt said. “Small and sure.”
VIDEO: David Blatt talks after the Cavs’ practice on Thursday
No. 2: Report: Wolves owner Taylor in talks to sell minority stake in team — Through the good times and bad, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor has remained committed to owning his team and, more importantly to him, keeping it in Minnesota. He’s heard chatter over the years about how he should sell the team, but just two years ago, he decided not to sell the team to anyone after a lengthy process. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports Taylor is, however, in the midst of selling some minority shares in the team, but that Taylor will continue to be the majority owner of the Wolves:
Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is engaged in serious talks to sell an approximate 20 percent stake in the franchise to a group led by Memphis Grizzlies minority partner Steve Kaplan, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
For the Kaplan group, a significant motivation in purchasing the minority share of the Timberwolves is vested in hopes to position itself to buy the majority stake once Taylor decides to sell in the future, sources said. Nevertheless, whatever its wishes, there’s no assurance Kaplan’s group would have an inside track on eventual majority ownership.
Kaplan is partnering with controversial ex-Memphis Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien and Indonesian billionaires Handy Soetedjo and Erick Thohir, league sources said.
Kaplan, a Los Angeles-based private equity investor, would need to divest its ownership stakes in Memphis to complete a deal with Minnesota.
Kaplan’s group bid unsuccessfully for majority ownership of the Atlanta Hawks in 2014. It lost out to an ownership group led by Tony Ressler.
Levien has been a part of constructing two majority ownership groups, including Philadelphia and Memphis. In these cases, Levien has invested far more in political navigation of the NBA purchase process than his own financial resources, sources said. Through it all, Levien has maintained his ability to navigate the system with strong relationships at the highest level of the league office.
Across brief stays with three NBA franchises, Levien has had a tumultuous run as a front-office executive and minority ownership partner. After leaving the player agent business to become an assistant general manager and general counsel with the Sacramento Kings in 2008, Levien was forced out within 18 months on the job.
No. 3: Kings’ issues may start at the top — If you haven’t been paying attention to the Sacramento Kings’ drama between DeMarcus Cousins, coach George Karl and the front office, you have been in a cave somewhere for a week. The Kings won their last game — a 108-102 decision against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday — but that’s done little to quiet all the talk about what’s wrong with this team off the court as well as on it. SI.com’s Chris Mannix digs into the issue and reports that Sacramento’s on-court (and off-court) issues may have more to do with the front office than the players or coaches:
Cousins wants to win and he knows playing for a fourth coach in the last two years isn’t going to get him any closer to it. He has made it clear to Kings executives that he doesn’t want Karl fired, according to sources. And Karl understands he can’t meet ownership’s expectations without him.
Divac is not only the GM, but he’s a new GM with very few experienced hands around to help him learn on the job. Larry Bird, who served an apprenticeship under Donnie Walsh before taking control in Indiana, was assisted by David Morway and Kevin Pritchard; Pritchard, the former Trail Blazers GM still serves as Bird’s GM today. Divac’s top lieutenant is Mike Bratz, a longtime assistant coach and scout who has no experience running a team.
It was on Divac’s watch that the Kings traded Nik Stauskas (the eighth overall pick in 2014), Carl Landry, Jason Thompson, a 2018 first-round pick and the right to swap picks in ’16 and ’17 essentially for cap space. The Kings wanted Wesley Matthews, Monta Ellis (no matter what Divac says to the contrary) and Rajon Rondo. They got Rondo, bidding against no one to sign him to a one-year, $10 million deal. And it was Divac that thought it was a good idea to be involved in a bizarre clear-the-air meeting with players this week.
Now, some of this isn’t Divac’s fault. Owner Vivek Ranadive (more on him later) has been very hands on in his two years as Kings owner and has been the driving force behind some of the team’s moves, including his relentless pursuit of Rondo. And Divac was put in an impossible situation last summer when Karl—who he didn’t hire—attempted to orchestrate a coup in a power struggle he eventually lost. Still, a more experienced GM would have never made the deal with Philadelphia, a trade that threatens to hamstring the Kings’ ability to rebuild the roster over the next few years. But refusing to allow Karl to suspend Cousins undercuts him in the locker room and Divac never should have involved himself in a meeting with players this early in the season.
Make no mistake: The Kings problems begin with Ranadive, who treats NBA ownership like a fantasy camp. From offering input to the team’s playing style—which ex-Kings coach Michael Malone told me recently—to demanding the Kings pursue Rondo, who wasn’t being pursued by anybody else, Ranadive has become Exhibit A for what an owner should not be.
So what’s next?
If Karl wasn’t owed the balance of the $15 million deal he signed last year—a deal that runs through 2018—there is a good chance that he would be gone already. But that’s a lot of money to swallow for a coach that, in theory, coaches a style that Ranadive wants the Kings to play. Besides, who would Sacramento replace Karl with? One of Karl’s assistants? An outsider? Divac? The truth is, the Kings are not as bad as the 2-7 record suggests.
Right now the Kings are a rudderless mess. A smart move for Ranadive would be to clean house at the end of the season—maybe move Divac into a lesser role—and bring in a sharp young executive (Troy Weaver in Oklahoma City; Gersson Rosas in Houston) and promise to get out of their way. Build an organization the right way, from the ground up. What’s more likely? Ranadive looks for another big splash. Like John Calipari.
VIDEO: Can the Kings’ season be saved?
No. 4: Nowitzki will ‘definitely’ play out his contract with Mavs — Say what you want about the Dallas Mavericks and their place among the Western Conference hierarchy this season. But know this: stalwart forward Dirk Nowitzki isn’t going anywhere this season and beyond. Nowitzki is having a mini-resurgence stats-wise this season as his 18.9 points, 55.3 percent shooting and 7.5 rebounds are all improvements from 2014-15. He has one year left on his contract with Dallas and doesn’t plan on going anywhere until then, writes Sam Amick of USA Today, who caught up with Nowitzki after the the Mavs’ home win against the Clippers on Wednesday:
Still, being a 37-year-old future Hall of Famer in this league means you’re always wondering how much longer you can live this basketball life. The formula that’s always being calculated between those German ears of his isn’t all that complicated: The endless work necessary to make the body do these things is always a huge factor, one that’s weighed against the level of performance and — most importantly — the enjoyment that needs to be there to make it all worth it.
And that, D.J.-in-Dallas game or not, is why Nowitzki had such a look of satisfaction on his face late Wednesday night.
“Once you play and you move and the competing is there, that will always be fun,” Nowitzki told USA TODAY Sports. “But the summers, man. The summers are a beast sometimes. I’m usually in Germany (training), so if I was (in Dallas) working out with four or five guys all summer, that’d probably be easier, but I’m by myself basically, so I’ve got to push myself every day. Get up in the morning, leave the kids (Dirk and his wife, Jessica Ollson, have a two-year-old daughter, Malaika, and a seven-month-old son, Max) and go work out like a maniac for a couple of hours. That’s hard. That’s hard. But the playing will always be fun.”
Even still, it’s quite clear that he’s not done in the NBA just yet. Nowitzki, who made such a significant sacrifice by signing a three-year, $25 million deal in the summer of 2014 so that the Mavericks could contend again, said he’s still unsure when he might retire.
“I always said that when the body is hurting every day, and when you’ve got to do all this extra stuff to just play, I think that’s when it’s time to go,” said Nowitzki, a 13-time All-Star and one-time MVP, Finals MVP and champion. “But I feel good. I feel good right now and I felt good this summer. I mean, we had a five-games-in-six-days for the (Eurobasket), and I got through that just fine. … I felt good. I don’t need to pop a thousand pills to play or practice. So as long as that’s still good, and it’s still fun to go. I’m going to definitely ride this contract out (this season and next). I don’t know. We’ll see what happens after that.”
From the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant likely playing in his final season to Paul Pierce chasing another ring with the Clippers, Kevin Garnett returning to the Minnesota Timberwolves and the San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan pushing for his sixth title, their old-guy experience is a shared one.
“I talked to Pierce a little bit when we were (in Los Angeles on Oct. 29, a 104-88 Clippers win). He asked me how long I got left, and we were talking about it a little bit. I didn’t talk to Kobe when we were there (on Nov. 1). KG is still out there, and Timmy D just signed for three years, so it’s fun to see some of the older guys still sticking around and trying to help their teams win. It’s fun to see for sure.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan says Kevin Durant‘s injury is ‘nothing too serious’ … Chicago Bulls cener Joakim Noah will hopefully suit up tonight against the Charlotte Hornets … The NBA and the NBA D-League are looking to have one-for-one partnerships with NBA teams within the next five years … Milwaukee Bucks coach Jason Kidd is still trying to figure out his bench rotation … Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers is trying to remain patient with injured point guard Chris Paul … Indiana Pacers rookie center Myles Turner (fractured thumb) will be out four weeks …