Just over seven months ago, Roy walked away from the game, due to his degenerative knees. At the time, he was just 27 years old and had played just five seasons in the league. Six days after the news broke, the Blazers used the amnesty clause to waive Roy, who had three years and $49 million left on his contract.
But at some point this year, Roy decided to see if he could play again. In fact, he says he never really closed the door on a comeback.
“For me, it was never that I was retired,” Roy said at his introductory news conference in Minnesota on Tuesday. “My knees were a situation that I was going to have to think about if I wanted to continue playing. After a few months of sitting out, I decided, ‘Hey, I don’t want to stop playing basketball.’ It’s something I want to continue going forward with. It’s never a situation where I said, ‘I’m done forever.’ It was more of a pause.”
After two months of working out and undergoing the regenicin procedure that Kobe Bryant had last year, Roy felt good enough to get back in the league. And now, he joins a Timberwolves team that showed some promise last season and has also added Chase Budinger, Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved this summer. (more…)
HANG TIME, Texas – You can never say that Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn lets the grass grow under his feet. If he delivers on the rumor of sending Wesley Johnson to Phoenix as part of a three-team trade that also includes New Orleans, he’ll have dealt away five first-round picks in just two years.
More important, he could bounce back after losing out on the offer sheet to Nicolas Batum by bringing forward Andrei Kirilenko back to the NBA from Russia.
According to the relentless Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, there would be a sign-and-trade deal that sends Robin Lopez and Hakim Warrick to the Hornets and also a lottery-protected first-round draft pick to the Suns.
The teams were still finalizing details, but sources said that Lopez, a restricted free agent, was returning soon from a vacation to take a physical for the Hornets. New Orleans had been working diligently for weeks on acquiring a center to play alongside No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis, and give Davis some inside support.
Kirilenko has a buyout in his CSKA of Moscow contract that allows him to return to the NBA. He ruled out the Brooklyn Nets and Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov on Tuesday because the Nets simply couldn’t pay him beyond the veteran’s minimum of $1.2 million, sources said. Kirilenko has been searching for a deal that would pay him in the vicinity of $8 million annually, and Minnesota could have the cap space to do so.
Minnesota is signing another Russian, point guard Alexey Shved, to a free-agent contract. The T’wolves signed Portland restricted free agent Nicolas Batum to a $45 million offer sheet, but the Trail Blazers matched the money to retain him.
Kirilenko, 31, is eight years older, but would fill many of the same needs the Timberwolves were chasing when they went after Batum. After playing 10 NBA seasons with the Jazz, Kirilenko spent last season with CSKA Moscow, where he was named Euroleague MVP.
It’s said that a two-year, $18 million offer with a player option for a third season could close the deal for Kirilenko. It’s a far cry from the $17 million he was paid by the Jazz in 2010-11, but would be money well spent for a Wolves roster that could use a defender on the front line.
Love would have been, of course, had he opted to play the 2012-13 season on a one-year qualifying offer of about $6.1 million, rather than accept a four-year, $61 million contract extension in January that was frustrating in its own right to the Wolves’ leader and inside-outside punisher. If Love were 12 months away from unrestricted free agency rather than 36 (his deal has an opt-out after three years), you can bet both Minnesota management and the team’s fan base would be heeding — and probably convulsing — over every dissatisfied thing he said.
As it is, Love has no actual hammer to hold over president of basketball operations David Kahn’s and owner Glen Taylor’s heads. He’ll have to settle for the less-tangible weapons of public relations and threatened crankiness by a star player.
That’s not nothing, though. So with just a little less clout behind it, Love’s message remains the same: Something has to happen in Minnesota. (more…)
HOUSTON – It sure doesn’t look like the Timberwolves will be content to just tread water until Ricky Rubio returns from his ACL injury. The promising team that appeared headed for a playoff berth when their star point guard went down in March is aggressively attacking free agency.
The Wolves are evidently getting ready to extend a four-year, $50-million offer to Portland swingman Nic Batum. But that’s just a start in Minnesota.
The team also has plans to meet with Lakers free agent power forward Jordan Hill and are said to be trying to put together a trade with L.A. that could land Pau Gasol. Boston center Greg Stiemsma was flown into Minneapolis for a visit on Sunday morning.
ORLANDO – Few men love point guards the way Minnesota Timberwolves general manager David Kahn does. He is, after all, the man who selected three in the first round of the 2009 NBA Draft (Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn and Ty Lawson) and has taken the heat from us over the years for his fetish.
Kahn’s acquired (and traded) a few point guards during his tenure as well. And Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman routinely deploys three (Rubio, Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea) at a time late in games.
We’re not ready to proclaim this a playoff team, but with a bevy of options in the backcourt and All-Star Kevin Love, promising rookie Derrick Williams and surprise talent like Nikola Pekovic to flesh out the frontcourt mix, this team is well on its way to becoming a legitimate factor in the playoff race for seasons to come.
HANG TIME MIDWEST BUREAU – Sometimes, less really is more. That motto of minimalists and Hoarders Anonymous resonated Wednesday morning with the news of forward Kevin Love’s decision to sign a contract extension with the Minnesota Timberwolves for less than the maximum deal he could have received.
Rather than a “max-max” offer that never came — a maximum salary for the full five years, worth about $80 million — Love agreed to a four-year deal that includes an early-termination option after three seasons. So besides getting a guarantee of approximately $61 million should he decide to stay all four seasons, Love and his agent Jeff Schwartz got the double-doubling power forward a free look after the 2014-15 season.
I asked Love about that flexibility in a conference hook-up set up by the Wolves Wednesday from Dallas:
“Yeah, early-termination option after the third year is definitely keeping my options open,” Love said. “I want to see where this team is gonna head. I want to continue for us to keep getting better. I feel that we are and that we will get better. But at the same time, [with] the early-termination, I can still extend as well. So I can be a part of this team for a long time. I’m not really thinking about that too much. I’m looking at it as a four-year deal and we’ll go from there.”
Is that as good as the five-year deal his pal from UCLA, Russell Westbrook, got from the Oklahoma City Thunder? Or draftmate Derrick Rose inked in Chicago? In sheer dollars, no. But in this particular case, Love might be better off. Remember, the tricky part about locking in for five years is that he’d be committing to the Timberwolves for as long as they’d be committing to him. And right now, Love is more of a sure thing at 24 points and 13 rebounds nightly than the intriguing-but-hardly proven basketball team in Minnesota and the civilians that operate it.
Look for the Timberwolves to offer Kevin Love a $60 million, four-year contract extension within the next eight days.
Love, 23, who is playing for $4.6 million this season, can become a restricted free agent after the season unless he signs an extension before Jan. 25. If he opts for free agency, the Wolves would have the right to match any outside offer. Love also can return to Minnesota in 2012-13 for $6.1 million and become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Wolves President David Kahn isn’t commenting on contract talks, and Love says he’s unaware of the status of negotiations. The Wolves, though, want to get Love signed by next week.
Love, one of five players in NBA history to start a season with 13 double-doubles (points-rebounds), is the Wolves’ fifth-highest-paid player.
*** HANG TIME HQ, ATLANTA — It’s a big man’s game, always has been and always will be, and if you doubt that, just check out the number of zeros on Kwame Brown‘s paycheck.
And yet: The season of the point guard is taking shape quite nicely. With few exceptions, the majority of championship contenders and playoff hopefuls are getting strong play from the point and in some cases, two point guards. This isn’t a surprise, though; we all saw this coming, because of the number of point guards taken recently in the Draft who have developed quickly and efficiently.
Let’s take a quick sampling:
The Wolves are flourishing with Luke Ridnour starting and Ricky Rubio finishing games. Coach Rick Adelman is doing the right thing by bringing Rubio along slowly and keeping all pressure to a minimum. The kid’s going to be special, why rush it?
Ty Lawson has come into his own in Denver, and the quality of play at the point doesn’t suffer when he’s replaced by Andre Miller. The Nuggets are getting 12.5 assists a game from the duo and are off to a credible start.
While they aren’t challenging for a title anytime soon, the Bobcats are giving heavy minutes to both D.J. Augustin and rookie Kemba Walker, who often are on the floor together; arguably, they’re the Bobcats’ best hope for the future. That is, if Charlotte doesn’t trade one of them (Augustin most likely) in the future.
Chauncey Billups and Chris Paul have been the starting backcourt for the Clippers all season. This is an ideal situation because the Clippers are loaded with finishers, primarily Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, so it helps to have a pair of guards who know how to deliver the ball. Lob City, you know.
Oklahoma City has Russell Westbrook in contract drive, and then with Eric Maynor lost for the season with a torn ACL, Reggie Jackson had 11 points and four assists off the bench against the Spurs on Sunday.
In Miami, rookie Norris Cole has been a big discovery, and he has lit a fire under Mario Chalmers, who was big (29 points, eight assists, seven rebounds) without LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Atlanta last week.
Of course, there’s also the returning MVP, Derrick Rose; Rajon Rondo and Steve Nash are among the league leaders in assists and Kyle Lowry is having a career season in Houston. And we should mention the No. 1 pick in last summer’s draft, Kyrie Irving, is beginning to blossom with the Cavs.
Interestingly, point guard was a big topic Sunday in D.C., where Rubio had 14 assists and outplayed John Wall, the No. 1 pick a few years ago. This was a curious case because the Wizards gave Minnesota the No. 1 pick that became Rubio. Here’s how it happened: Back in 2009 the Wizards were in the lottery, but when they drew the No. 5 pick, they decided to ship it to new Wolves GM David Kahn for immediate help. Kahn sent Randy Foye and Mike Miller to the Wizards, who figured Foye (the No. 7 pick in 2006) was ready for a breakout and would be better than anyone available at No. 5.
Kahn then took heat for drafting two point guards, Rubio and Jonny Flynn, back-to-back. And Rubio’s people were very hesitant to send him to the Wolves, a perennial loser; Rubio subsequently re-signed with his team in Spain. Meanwhile, the Wizards were expecting a big 2009-10 season, with Gilbert Arenas back from knee surgery and ready to regain the form that made him dangerous at both ends.
Well, we know what happened. Gilbert brought his guns to the arena five months later and the Wizards crumbled. At least they grabbed the No. 1 pick in the next lottery, and Wall had a promising rookie year. But Wall has regressed, especially his shooting. He made only 3-of-10 against the Wolves and two of those were dunks. Plus, the Wizards fell to 0-8. Rick Kamla of NBA TV had an interesting question: If you were starting an NBA team today, would you want Rubio or Wall?
Afterward, Wolves coach Rick Adelman was asked when Rubio — who has started the season by playing every second of every fourth quarter — was going to be promoted to starter.
“I get real tired of answering that,” he said. “He’s doing just fine.”
Fine enough that one Verizon Center press room wag commented on how Rubio, at first glance, makes his teammates better while Wall doesn’t. The Wolves, by the way, have seven players on their roster who were top-six lottery picks. The Wizards’ only other player chosen that high is last summer’s No. 6 pick, Jan Vesely.
“If it had been Rubio, who knows, John Wall might not have been here,” Washington coach Flip Saunders said, referring to that 2009 trade the Wizards hoped would bolster a team that at the time included Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. “There were a lot of things that went into the whole equation.”
Rubio said Sunday he is happy where he is.
“I don’t know, Minnesota was the team that drafted me and I don’t think anything else,” Rubio said. “They were the ones who trusted me and I’m so glad they did.”
Rubio is only a month younger than Wall, but he was just 17 when he started for the silver-medal-winning team from Spain in the 2008 Olympics. He also won a Euroleague title with FC Barcelona in 2010 and won the Spanish League title last season. Rubio didn’t put up great numbers in Europe or in the European championships last summer, but he has found an NBA game that is more compatible to his style of play.
“Here, you can find more space to penetrate and for passes,” Rubio said. “I don’t want to say I played bad last year. My team won almost everything, so I did something well, right? So that’s teamwork and sometimes you don’t need to shine for your team to win.”
Oh, and speaking of teams off to a poor start, the Nets are still optimistic about re-signing Deron Williams next summer, when he becomes a free agent. And if Williams does sign up, would Dwight Howard follow? That’s a good bet, because while this is a big man’s league, Howard wants and needs a point guard to make him look even better.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – So, DeMarcus Cousins is involved in another snit? And this is news, how? Everyone knew Cousins was maturity-challenged when the 2010 draft arrived, and yet the Kings took him anyway because it’s hard to find 6-11 players with soft hands and decent footwork. They figured they’d just ride out the emotional bumps, which were sure to come, and hope he’ll figure it out before it’s time to extend his contract.
But while it might be fashionable today to dismiss Cousins as a permanent head case, it’s best to take a wait and see approach. It’s too early to tell if the Kings made a draft mistake. The 2009 draft, however, is a different deal. The results are slowly pouring in and we have a fairly decent idea who screwed up and who didn’t.
Here’s a Hang Time take on the first 15 picks, in retro:
1. Blake Griffin, Clippers: No-brainer pick is the only All-Star of the bunch so far.
2. Hasheem Thabeet, Grizzlies: He’s already on his second team — or third, if you count the D-League stint. Sometimes when you reach for a raw 7-footer, you end up with a raw 7-footer.
3. James Harden, Thunder: Sharp shooter was a nice pickup by Sam Presti, although others drafted lower might wind up better in the long run.
4. Tyreke Evans, Kings. Hasn’t he regressed since his rookie year? Is that due to coaching, or is Tyreke just going to be an OK player?
5. Ricky Rubio, Wolves: Ding. Ding. He might save David Kahn‘s job.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – One of our most cherished traditions here at the hideout is coming to an end and we didn’t even realize it until just now.
All those days spent joking at the expense of the Minnesota Timberwolves could soon be a thing of the past. That laughing at Timberwolves GM David Kahn for something he either said or did might be over.
And it has everything to do with the fact that the Timberwolves had arguably the best pound-for-pound offseason of any team in the league. Rick Adelman comes aboard as coach. Heralded rookies Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams join the rotation along with solid veteran pick up and Adelman fave Brad Miller. And All-Star Kevin Love (the bearded, slender gentleman in the video above) shed a few pounds and looks like he’s in All-Star form heading into the start of training camp.
After a couple of years of trying to fit the right players into the wrong system, Adelman will bring a talent-friendly scheme to a deep and promising roster that needed just the right fit in a head coach.
While it’s far too early to set foot on thin ice and predict this team will rise into the ranks of Western Conference playoff contenders, it is fair to say that they’ve got our full attention right now.
Much like the Wolves were faced with a franchise-defining decision whether to break the bank to sign a youngster named Kevin Garnett 14 years ago, the Wolves soon will have to decide whether the face of the franchise right now will become THE centerpiece worthy of such a deal.
If the Wolves don’t sign Love to a contract extension in the coming weeks, he could become a restricted free agent next summer.
If someone offers him a max contract then, the Wolves simply could choose to match the offer then and keep him.
If Love decides not to sign an offer sheet with another team then, he could play the 2012-13 on a $6.1 million qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2013.