Posts Tagged ‘Flip Saunders’

LaVine delivers more than dunks in Vegas

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Rookie Zach LaVine from UCLA tore up the Samsung Summer League in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS – Zach LaVine jumps really high and talks really fast. He exudes a brash confidence like Russell Westbrook and plays with a chip on his shoulder the size of Bill Walton.

This latest UCLA product is headed either for a stunning rookie season with the Minnesota Timberwolves or cold, hard NBA reality.

“I’m a very confident person, I always hold myself to high standards,” LaVine said Friday after scoring 22 points with four assists in the Wolves’ sixth and final Summer League game. “You know, there’s a lot of doubters on me. I feel  always like changing peoples’ minds, you know, ‘He’s not NBA-ready, why’d he come out?’ and different things like that. So I just come out here and always try to prove my point. I think I fared well for myself.”

There was little not to like about the 6-foot-5, 19-year-old’s debut in the Las Vegas Summer League. Everybody was aware of his athleticism coming in, but many were skeptical about his decision-making and the durability of his 180-pound frame..

“I definitely have to get in the weight room and let my body mature. But if they can’t touch you, you know, strength really isn’t a factor,” LaVine said. “I feel I’m a pretty physical person, just not the strongest yet, so I definitely have to get into the weight room. But I use my speed to my advantage.”

He averaged 15.7 points a game and more than five free-throw attempts per game in the Summer league. Twice he got to the line 10 times.

Fans mostly will remember a dazzling array of dunks. He’s already nominated himself for the dunk contest when February’s All-Star weekend props up its big tent in New York City.

“I’m definitely going to be in the dunk contest, know that,” LaVine said  “I haven’t lost a dunk contest for a long time, maybe since I first started dunking. So I have some dunks in my package.”

The Wolves are more intrigued by the 13th overall pick’s size at the shooting-guard position, his ball-handling and his higher-than-expected court IQ at point guard. He bounced between the two positions during Summer League.

He scored in double figures in all six games. In the final three games he averaged 19.3 points, 3.3 assists and 3.7 rebounds. He had two games with five turnovers, but averaged just 3.6 turnovers in 32.2 minutes a game, a good rate considering he was playing with little practice time and with unfamiliar teammates, most of whom won’t sniff the NBA.

“We knew he had talent, we knew he was good, but he exceeded all our expectations thus far,” Wolves assistant coach Sam Mitchell said. “He’s smart, he’s athletic, he can handle the ball, he can shoot the ball, he’s a sponge, he learns. We threw a lot at him. We’ve run a lot of NBA sets, we’re doing a lot of things defensively and he just picks it all up.”

The Wolves could have playing time available. Behind point guard Ricky Rubio is the diminutive J.J. Barea, who is in the final year of his contract and has seen his shooting percentages drop the last two seasons. Behind shooting guard Kevin Martin is young Russian Alexey Shved, who took a step back last season after a promising rookie campaign.

“I feel like I’m player,” LaVine said. “Wherever he [team president and coach Flip Saunders] needs to play me at; if that’s the 1, I feel like I can handle the ball and run the team, to a point where I’m still learning the position, but I feel like I can handle it. I like scoring the ball as well, so whatever he needs me to do, facilitate, shoot, defend, anything he needs me to do.”

There’s a chance LaVine could be one of two 19-year-old talents in Minnesota. If the Wolves deal Kevin Love to Cleveland for Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota could be set up with two tremendously gifted athletic wings for years to come.

For now, LaVine is headed back home to Seattle to train. The league will have to wait to see if he builds on his Summer League success. But Timberwolves fans should know that they will hear from their newest addition.

This is Love’s world, 366 days out


VIDEO: The NBA TV crew analyzes the Wolves’ draftees and the instability surrounding Kevin Love

Three hundred sixty-six days.

That’s all that stands right now between Carmelo Anthony, the darling of Day 1 of NBA Free Agency 2014, and Kevin Love, the presumptive No. 1 target a year from now.

On Tuesday, Anthony was the guy getting the VIP red-carpet treatment – along with the Photoshopped marquee images and multiple king-sized shout-outs plastered on the building – when he visited Chicago’s United Center. Anthony’s free-agent smoochfest tour was due to continue with stops in Dallas and Houston on Wednesday and Los Angeles on Thursday, no doubt with similar grandiose greetings in store, varying by budget and technology.

Love, meanwhile, was about as off-the-radar as he has been in months. His dissatisfaction in Minnesota, the leverage he holds in the form of an opt-out clause next summer, the many trade packages that teams could offer to pry him loose a year early, his high-profile getaway weekend in Boston – all of that reached a crescendo a few days before last week’s Draft.

Since then, almost nothing.

Love hasn’t Tweeted since June 26, as of midday Tuesday. He hasn’t updated his blog since Feb. 1. He was in the Philippines in June and has been making the rounds for his sponsors. But he’s not trending, not the hot topic he had been previously.

Not even in Minnesota, where the Timberwolves drafted a couple of prospects, Zach LaVine and Glenn Robinson III, and now are prepping for their Summer League entry. Even if the Wolves weren’t staying up late to field and concoct Love trade scenarios, you might expect them to be scrambling in the free-agent marketplace to find and sign players to perhaps convince the All-Star power forward to stay. But no. Quiet there, too.

“Are we going to be very active in free agency? Probably not,” Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders told Twin Cities reporters the other day. “I feel very comfortable where our roster is at right now.”

Minnesota has 14 players with guaranteed contracts, counting LaVine and Robinson. Already capped out, the team hasn’t made a priority of the mid-level exception either. “Right now, there are not a lot of guys who are out there,” is how Saunders put it. “If there are not guys out there who are better than guys on our team, we’re not just going to spend it because we have it. If someone pops down and we think it’s worth it, we’ll do it.”

This is, of course, calm-before-the-storm stuff. Something is going to happen with Love, the Wolves and the proper dance partner once identified and properly motivated. It might happen as soon as these door-buster days to start free agency calm down. It could come before Love heads to training camp with Team USA in Las Vegas and faces a barrage of media again at the end of the month.

Ideally it will happen before the Wolves open camp in October and everyone is forced to lie about the good vibrations they’ll manage. That awkward situation would turn sour quickly, with fans venting nightly from Target Center’s cheap seats and the media poking and prodding right up to the February trade deadline.

Sooner than later, hopefully, Saunders will accept the best offer he can find – maybe Houston, maybe the Lakers, maybe Boston, maybe Golden State (in some talked-about combination of Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee, Steve Blake, the unloading of Kevin Martin‘s contract and draft picks) – and move forward. Both teary goodbyes and good-riddances naturally will follow. Love either will opt-in, Chris Paul-style, through 2015-16 so his new team will feel better about what it gives up, or he’ll keep his cards close and maintain maximum leverage for next summer.

Love at least can put this time of limited pestering to good use by taking notes. Does he really want a grand tour, a là Melo? Would he rather land with his preferred team sooner and commit without much fanfare? Which teams should he rule out? Which clubs figure to be top contenders not just in 2016 but for another five years beyond that? How much money would he need in balancing current roster against dredged cap space?

Quiet or not over the past 24, 72 or 128 hours, Love’s and the Wolves’ yesterdays are done. Their todays are dwindling. This is all about tomorrows, 366 days out.

Morning Shootaround — June 22


VIDEO: The Inside crew has another nuanced discussion about Carmelo Anthony’s future

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Carmelo weighing salary against winning with his decision | Love deal on hold, Thompsons smiling | Report: Bulls pursuing trade for Magic’s Afflalo | Embiid fits Lakers’ needs

No. 1: Carmelo weighing salary against winning – As cold and crass as it might sound, the fact is Carmelo Anthony‘s potentially career-defining decision about whether to opt in for another year in New York with the Knicks or to bolt in free agency is really about trying to win titles or trying to cash in on one last huge payday. Because no one is convinced he can do both by staying with the Knicks. His decision is due Monday, giving Anthony one final night of restless sleep to figure out his future. His options, as Benjamin Hoffman of The New York Times details, are set in stone both ways:

If Anthony does nothing with his contract and chooses to stay with the Knicks for the 2014-15 season, he will earn $23.3 million. If he opts out and signs a maximum contract with the Knicks, he can earn about $129 million over five seasons, depending on the final salary-cap ceiling. If he signs a maximum contract with a team other than the Knicks, he can get up to $95 million over four years. If he forgoes his rights to re-sign with the Knicks and wants to form a Big 4 in Miami with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, it is hard to envision a way in which he could earn more than $58.8 million over four seasons.

It is that cold, hard reality that has Pat Riley, the Heat’s president, calling the idea of obtaining Anthony a “pipe dream” — even if he did not specifically use Anthony’s name.

The question now, with the deadline for Anthony to opt out of his contract coming Monday, is how much he values winning. The Knicks seem unlikely to contend next season, and Anthony will be voting with his own money if he chooses to walk away from the rebuilding franchise.

At 30, and with more than 800 games played, including the playoffs, Anthony will probably never again have as strong a case for demanding a gigantic payday. He just had one of his best all-around seasons, even if it came in a frustrating season for his team, and any team looking to sign him can reasonably expect the durable Anthony to be productive for the length of the contract.

The prospect of playing with the Heat’s threesome, all of whom he has shared time with on the United States men’s national team, would certainly be enticing, but the Heat’s ability to manipulate the salary cap can go only so far.

With nearly every contract on the roster involving some form of option, the Heat are currently committed to more than $80 million in salary next season, which is far in excess of the estimated $63 million salary cap. In a highly unlikely move, the team could reduce its salary commitments to $8 million if it declined all its team options and if every player eligible opted to become a free agent. That $8 million would have to fill 10 roster spots, leaving roughly $55 million to sign Anthony, James, Wade and Bosh. Split evenly, they would each earn less than $14 million next season. Anthony last made that little money in 2007-8 and would potentially be leaving $70 million on the table over the duration of the contract.

As good as the Big 4 would be, the Heat would need more than them to re-establish themselves as title contenders.

(more…)

Morning shootaround – June 21


VIDEO: David Aldridge with the latest NBA news

NEWS OF THE MORNING
LeBron the next Rocket launcher? | Joel Embiid out 4-6 months | Love on the rocks | President Obama calls Pop | Lakers want Klay Thompson

No. 1: Rockets aiming for strike at LeBron — The Rockets still haven’t made it out of the first round 2009, but they’ve become very good at winning the summer. Two years ago they traded for James Harden and last summer signed Dwight Howard. Now they are reportedly prepared to chase hard after four-time MVP and two-time champion LeBron James if he opts out of his contract with the Miami Heat. How could the Rockets possibly afford another max salary? Howard Beck of Bleacher Report delivers the goods:

Given the extreme constraints imposed by the 2011 labor deal, it will be nearly impossible for any franchise to replicate the Heat’s roster-building feat of four years ago.

However, one franchise is quietly plotting to at least try to revive the Big Three model. And before you dismiss its chances of doing so, consider the fact that it’s the same team that stunned the NBA in each of the last two summers.

Now, Rockets officials are aiming for the trifecta, with their sights set on the biggest prize of all: LeBron Raymone James.

A long shot? Perhaps. But the Rockets have defied expectations before.

League sources say that Houston is preparing to make an all-out push to land James when free agency opens on July 1, assuming James opts out, as expected. If the Rockets miss out on James, they will turn their full attention to Carmelo Anthony. Chris Bosh is also on the radar.

The competition for James’ affection will be fierce, but Houston’s pitch may be tough to beat.

The Rockets already have the league’s best guard-center tandem (Harden-Howard), solid young role players (Chandler Parsons, who is set to become a restricted free agent, Patrick Beverley and Terrence Jones) and an owner (Les Alexander) who is willing to spend. Houston also has all of its first-round picks for the next couple of years as well as a knack for finding talent late in the draft.

Like Florida, Texas has no state income tax, negating Miami’s advantage on that front and giving the Rockets a big selling point in their pursuit of Anthony. (A player pays about 10 percent more in taxes in New York than in Texas.)

What the Rockets don’t have is salary-cap room. But they could clear about $19 million by unloading a few players, starting with Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, who are taking up a combined $16.7 million in cap space.

However, their contracts are unique and potentially difficult to move: Asik and Lin are each due a massive $15 million balloon payment next season, although they count as $8.37 million each for cap purposes. Then again, their contracts expire in 2015, so the commitment is minimal.

Sources say the Rockets are confident they can trade both players to teams with cap room and thus take back no salary in return.

 

***

No. 2: Joel Embiid to miss 4-6 months after surgery — Now there is a timetable. Joel Embiid, the one-and-done center out of Kansas, who missed the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments with a back injury, will need four to six months to recover after having two screws inserted into the navicular bone of his right foot during surgery Friday. The injury has seemingly thrown the entire portion of the draft into chaos. Embiid was expected to be the No. 1 pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers, but now he is expected to drop, with possible trade rumors also cropping up. ESPN.com provides more details on Embiid’s recovery:

Embiid’s agent, Arn Tellem, said in a statement that the former Kansas star underwent the procedure at Southern California Orthopedic Institute.

The surgeon, Dr. Richard Ferkel, said that Embiid “tolerated the surgery without difficulty” and claimed that the 7-foot center should “be able to return to NBA basketball.”

“Two screws were inserted into the navicular bone in Joel Embiid’s right foot,” Ferkel said in the statement released by Tellem. “The surgery went very well and I’m confident that after appropriate healing he will be able to return to NBA Basketball. Joel tolerated the surgery without difficulty and will begin his rehabilitation in the near future.”

Embiid is not attending Thursday’s NBA draft because he can’t fly for 10 days to two weeks post-surgery, Tellem said Thursday. Embiid was projected by many to be the first pick before the announcement of the surgery.

A native of Cameroon, Embiid already was dealing with health questions regarding his back, which forced him to miss the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments this past season.

He worked out earlier this month for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, and sources said he fared well and that the medical testing also came back without much concern.

Embiid also participated in a one-on-none workout in front of NBA teams in Santa Monica, California. He was scheduled to work out for the Milwaukee Bucks, who hold the second overall pick, later this week.

Embiid averaged 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks this past season as a freshman at Kansas.

If Embiid slips significantly in the draft, he wouldn’t be able to recoup the money he’d lose. His total disability insurance policy was purchased through the school, according to Jim Marchiony, an associate athletic director at Kansas.

Marchiony confirmed that the school purchased a $5 million policy, the maximum allowed under the NCAA insurance program, through the NCAA Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund, which allows schools to apply for need-based assistance on behalf of its players.

The policy purchased through the NCAA program does not allow for loss-of-value insurance, a rider attached to insurance policies that permits athletes to collect if they fall far enough in the draft from their projected position at the time they sign the policy. Athletes can get loss-of-value policies, but they have to go outside the NCAA program to do so.

***

No. 3: No clear path for Love — Clearly Kevin Love is no longer in love with the Timberwolves. And Timberwolves president and coach Flip Saunders is not necessarily in love with the bounty teams are offering for the All-Star power forward. While it seemed Minnesota might trade the double-double machine before the draft, they might keep him around and wait out better offers around next season’s trade deadline. Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk.com fleshed out the ongoing saga:

For Minnesota these talks are in a negotiation phase and they are in no rush to move on to the next steps.

Kevin Love’s agent Jeff Schwartz is serious and pushing to get his star moved sooner rather than later and to a destination Love wants to be long term. That’s where the pressure comes from. But it’s not just me saying Saunders doesn’t feel rushed.

Part of that is spin — the guy with the strongest positioning at any bargaining table is the guy willing to just walk away. Saunders wants everyone to think he will get up from the table. For now.

The only thing that has become clear is that Minnesota would prefer established players to picks and prospects — they don’t want to just rebuild, they want players who can help now.

Saunders is milking this as best as he can. In what are fluid talks with Golden State the Warriors had been hesitant to include Klay Thompson in a deal (although they should because it could be crippling against the cap for them to pay him what he’ll make on the open market). There is no deadline yet no reason to agree to anything right now. If the Warriors are offering David Lee and Thompson, ask for Draymond Green too. Or Harrison Barnes.

Saunders should do the same things with Denver and Boston and Chicago and anyone else interested in getting Kevin Love in a trade.

And if Saunders doesn’t get everything he wants on draft night, he can wait.

***

No. 4: President Obama congratulates Popovich — Here’s another interesting tidbit when it comes to the Spurs’ success under coach Gregg Popovich: He took a congratulatory phone call Friday from President Barack Obama, the third U.S. president since San Antonio won its fifth title since 1999. Bill Clinton was in office when the Spurs started their run and they made three trips to the White House to visit George W. Bush following championships in 2003, ’05 and ’07 championships. The San Antonio Express-News has details of Obama’s call:

President Barack Obama gave coach Gregg Popovich a ring on Friday to laud the Spurs after crushing Miami in the Finals for their fifth NBA championship, the White House announced.

This afternoon, the President called San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich to congratulate him on his team’s resounding victory in the NBA Finals. The President praised the selfless teamwork, clear focus, and steadfast determination displayed by the Spurs and noted how impressed he was by the record-setting scoring by the team. The President called Popovich one of the nation’s finest coaches and a role model for young men across the country, and he is looking forward to hosting the team at the White House.

It was no doubt a warm conversation given that Popovich contributed to Obama’s last campaign. As noted, the two will meet in person during the upcoming season when the White House hosts the Spurs.

***

No. 5: Lakers offer No. 7 for Thompson — The Lakers, desperate to engage in a quick rebuild around Kobe Bryant, are interested in prying shooting guard Klay Thompson away from the Warriors in exchange for the No. 7 overall pick in the Draft. The proposed deal would be part of a bigger three-way trade that would send Minnesota’s Kevin Love to Golden State. Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times has the story:

The Lakers are interested but the deal has been put on hold because of a difference in opinion within the Warriors’ organization whether or not to keep Thompson while trying to obtain Love.

The Lakers are debating what to do with the pick if they hang onto it. They have sold or traded every first-round pick they’ve had since 2007 and do not have one next season because of the Steve Nash trade.

They are pondering whether to go with a power forward or point guard. They have narrowed their focus to big men Aaron Gordon, Julius Randle and Noah Vonleh or point guards Dante Exum, Marcus Smart and Elfrid Payton.

When free agency begins July 1, the Lakers will have only three players making guaranteed money next season — Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre. Point guard Kendall Marshall has one year left on a non-guaranteed contract.

A player on the rise such as Thompson would obviously provide more immediate return than an amateur player with no NBA experience.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Greek team Panathinaikos to make run at Jimmer Fredette? … Lakers would consider drafting EmbiidAndray Blatche opts out of his contract with Nets … Clippers assistant coach Alvin Gentry will join WarriorsClippers trio will opt out of final year … DeMarcus Cousins urges Rudy Gay to opt in and stay with Kings.

Ego doesn’t block Mitchell’s return as Timberwolves assistant coach


VIDEO: Sam Mitchell talks about his days with the Wolves

Mark Jackson never would deign to do it. You look around the NBA and you don’t see George Karl, Jerry Sloan, Avery Johnson, Scott Skiles, Vinny Del Negro or either of the Van Gundys doing it.

But Sam Mitchell is about to move 18 inches over – 18 inches down, in terms of career trajectory – and he’s fine with it.

“It looked like that was the only way I was going to get back in. You do what you’ve got to do,” Mitchell said this week, after the official announcement that he was joining the Minnesota Timberwolves as an assistant coach on Flip Saunders‘ staff. “I said to myself, if I’m ever going to coach again and I’ve got to come back in as an assistant coach, it doesn’t get much better than this.”

It doesn’t get much more rare, either.

It’s uncommon enough to find former NBA head coaches working as assistants, for several reasons. The move can be perceived as going backwards in their coaching careers – a CEO settling for a VP’s job – and knocking them the lead horses on the league’s long-established coaching carousel. Some head coaches don’t like having right-hand men who are too qualified. And the guy himself can struggle in a role where he only suggests after time spent being the one who decides.

It’s even more rare that a former NBA Coach of the Year would make such a move.

Of the 309 men who have been NBA head coaches (per basketball-reference.com), 42 of them have won the league’s 52 COY awards. Yet over the past 20 years, only Del Harris (COY 1995, Lakers) worked again as an assistant, filling slots in Dallas, Chicago and New Jersey after his head coaching jobs in Houston, Milwaukee and L.A.

Karl? Johnson? Mike D’Antoni? Mike Brown? Byron Scott? Rick Carlisle? Larry Brown? Mike Dunleavy? Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope and nope. Never mind Phil Jackson or Pat Riley.

Mitchell won his COY in 2007, after his third season with the Toronto Raptors. Hired in 2004 by former GM Rob Babcock – their connection dated to Babcock’s personnel days in Minnesota while Mitchell still was a player there – he had been on the job for only a few months when Toronto traded its star, Vince Carter, in a reluctant rebuild. Six months later, the Raptors drafted Charlie Villanueva and Joey Graham. A year after that, Andrea Bargnani.

But Mitchell helped that 2006-07 team improve from a 27-55 finish the season before to 47-35, good for first place in the Atlanta Division and a playoff berth. Toronto went from a 112.7 defensive rating to 106.0, a climb of 17 spots in the rankings. It ranked 29th in offensive rebounding and 23rd in free throw attempts, but 11th or higher in points, assists, turnovers, 3-pointers and field-goal percentage.

“A lot of people said we didn’t run,” Mitchell said, “but we were so efficient, we didn’t have to run up and down the court 100 miles an hour. That’s how we played.” (more…)

Morning shootaround: June 13


VIDEO: Daily Zap for June 12

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Duncan breaks two records | Higgins out as Hornets president | Sterling hires investigators | LeBron’s decision won’t hinge on title

No. 1: Duncan rewrites postseason history — Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said his all-time great power forward Tim Duncan won’t care about the two postseason records he set in Thursday’s Game 4. He might not just yet, but once he leaves the game — whenever that will be — those records will probably be quite meaningful to him. Duncan passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most career minutes in postseason history (he now has 8,869) and he moved ahead of Magic Johnson for most career postseason double-doubles. Duncan’s 10 points and 11 rebounds gave him his 158th. Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express News has more:

While Duncan is far more concerned with securing the last victory the Spurs need to earn their fifth championship, he admitted to being honored after passing a pair of all-time greats in Thursday’s 107-86 victory over Miami: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most career minutes in NBA postseason history, and Magic Johnson for the most playoff double-doubles.

Duncan, who scored 10 points with 11 rebounds, now has 8,869 minutes and 158 double-doubles in 233 playoff games.

“I can appreciate you saying the names and having passed them in anything,” he said. “It’s an honor to be in that position. Having won (Game 4) helps, obviously, but the focus is on winning one more, and once that is done I can look back and say hey, that’s truly an honor.”

Abdul-Jabbar feels similarly about Duncan, sending a congratulatory note via Twitter: Congrats to #TimDuncan on passing me for the most minutes played in the NBA Finals – I appreciate the fact that you did it with class!

***

No. 2: Higgins out as draft approaches — A story literally hot off the presses, the Charlotte Hornets issued a press release shortly after midnight on Friday stating president of basketball operations Rod Higgins “has stepped down.” The strangely timed press release, coming not long after the Spurs wrapped up Game 4 in Miami, said general manager Rich Cho will continue in his position. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer has more details as much more will be learned today:

In an odd and ill-timed press release, the Hornets announced past midnight Friday that president of basketball operations Rod Higgins has “stepped down” two weeks before the Hornets make the ninth, 24th and 45th picks in the draft.

Higgins has effectively run the Bobcats/Hornets basketball ops since June of 2011. He was a key figure in the decisions to sign free agents Al Jefferson and Ramon Sessions.

The Hornets noted in their press release that general manager Rich Cho will continue to report to Michael Jordan and vice-chairman Curtis Polk.

***

No. 3: Sterling hires private investigators — The shamed owner of the Los Angeles Clippers has apparently decided to turn his fight against the league ugly. Donald Sterling‘s team of lawyers have hired four private investigators to dig up dirt on the NBA’s 29 other owners, plus former commissioner David Stern and new commissioner Adam Silver. The Associated Press has the details:

Investigators were given a six-figure budget over the next 30 days to examine the league’s finances, allegations of previous discriminatory conduct and compensation to past commissioner David Stern and current commissioner Adam Silver, said the person who spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday night on condition of anonymity. The person wasn’t authorized to talk publicly.

The person said the investigators also are looking into whether other owners made any off-color jokes, or racist or sexist remarks.

“The gloves are off, as they say,” the person said. “Have them dig up all the dirt they can find.”

The person who spoke to the AP said Donald Sterling reluctantly agreed to hire private investigators after this week’s legal proceedings in probate court. The NBA submitted a legal filing Wednesday urging a judge to confirm Shelly Sterling‘s authority to sell the team.

***

No. 4: Finals outcome won’t sway LeBron’s decisionLeBron James can opt out of his contract by the end of this month, but his decision won’t be swayed by whether his Miami Heat win or lose the NBA Finals. If they win they will make history as the first team to ever come back from a 3-1 hole. Game 5 is in San Antonio on Sunday night. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com was in Miami:

The Miami Heat would have to make history to come back from a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit, but the future of their best player doesn’t hinge on that happening.

The Heat’s success or failure in these Finals will not affect LeBron James’ decision on whether to opt out of his contract by the end of this month, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

James and the Heat would be the first team in NBA Finals history to overcome a 3-1 series deficit and come back and win a title. This is the 32nd time the Finals have been 3-1 after four games.

James, [Dwyane] Wade and [Chris] Bosh can all opt out of their contracts and become free agents after this season. ESPN’s Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst reported Wednesday that discussions have begun within the organization about creating sufficient financial flexibility to make an ambitious run at adding New York Knicks scoring machine Carmelo Anthony this summer in free agency.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Sam Mitchell finalizing deal to join Flip Saunders‘ staff in Minnesota … Top European coach David Blatt is headed to the NBA, just not yet sure whereMetta World Peace accepts assistant head coach job — on a high school girls basketball teamCavaliers coaching search kicks tires on Mark JacksonKurt Rambis could join Derek Fisher‘s staff in New York, but remains a top candidate to coach the Lakers.

Morning Shootaround — June 8


VIDEO: The Heat and Spurs are all geared up for Game 2 of The Finals

NEWS OF THE MORNING

LeBron should be fine for Game 2 | Spurs defend, don’t whack | Eyes on Heat, Spurs bench guys | A Love-Rondo package?

No. 1: LeBron should be fine for G2 — No matter is more pressing in The Association than LeBron James‘ fitness for Game 2 of the 2014 Finals. The extreme heat in San Antonio’s AT&T Center caused the Miami Heat superstar to lock up from painful cramping in the left side of his body, and he missed the decisive minutes at the end of the championship series’ opener, when the Spurs closed in a 16-3 rush. Monitoring James’ recovery has been top priority for the vast media mob covering these Finals, so know this: As much as the 72-hour layoff between games might have been a bummer for entertainment’s sake, it could end up being vital to James’ capabilities Sunday night. As our man Fran Blinebury chronicled off Friday’s availability:

There was no latest update on the bags of IV fluid taken in by LeBron James, no count on the bags of liquids he’s ingested and, thankfully, no longer a step-by-step total of the trips he’s made to the bathroom.
James appeared less tired, more confident, more chipper and even channeled the ghost of Allen Iverson when teammate Dwyane Wade chided him for spending too much time chatting with media.

The four-time MVP has been resting and working with the Miami medical staff since he was forced to sit out the last 3:59 of Game 1 on Thursday with severe cramps.

“I’m going to get some work done today,” James said before the Heat’s practice on Saturday afternoon. “But there is no way to test my body for what I went through. The conditions are nowhere near extreme as they was, unless I decide to run from here to the hotel, that’s the only way I would be able to test my body out.

“But I’m doing well, doing a lot better. The soreness is starting to get out. I’m feeling better than I did yesterday and with another day, I should feel much better (Sunday).”

James said he will not go into Game 2 with any mental burdens from the incident, won’t wonder if and when his body might give out again.

“Well, for me and the situation that happened in Game 1 is like you don’t know it’s going to happen,” he said. “Obviously I felt the extreme measures, but I wasn’t the only one out there on the floor. So you just play and you worry about the results later. You can’t think about what may happen in the third or fourth quarter, live in the moment. And for me, whatever I can give my teammates if it happens again, hopefully I can make an impact while I’m on the floor and that’s all that matters to me.

“I can live with the results. If I’m giving my all and playing as hard as I can, I’m putting my body and my mind on the line for us to win, you know, for that guy back there in the back, it’s all that matters.”

***

(more…)

Rubio will make his pitch for Love to stay


VIDEO: Ricky Rubio talks about the changes on the Timberwolves and Kevin Love’s future

TREVISO, Italy – First, the jokes.

Ricky Rubio said he saw the reaction to Timberwolves teammate-until-further notice Kevin Love visiting Boston, noted that he, Rubio, is flying to Los Angeles on Monday for typical offseason training sessions and quickly added, smiling, “I’m not going to L.A. to visit the Lakers.”

Oh, and “I’m here in Treviso. That doesn’t mean I’m going to sign for Benetton,” an Italian team.

Through the smirks, though, through the belief that a lot of the speculation surrounding Love’s escape route out of Minneapolis is overblown media reports, there is a genuine concern from Rubio about the crater a Love exit would leave and what it would mean for his own career path.

Rubio is planning those L.A. workouts to visit with a new shooting coach, similar to his offseason practice routine so far in his native Spain. But Rubio said one of the first things he will do upon returning to the United States is call Love and try to convince the All-Star power forward to keep an open mind about the Timberwolves.

“He’s my teammate and I want to know how he feels and if he wants to stay or whatever,” Rubio told NBA.com on Sunday at La Ghirada Sports Complex in an appearance as part of the adidas Eurocamp, the real reason he was in Treviso. “But it’s something that I think we had a good relationship and we can talk as friends.

“Of course I want him to stay.”

Are you going to tell him?

“Yeah,” Rubio said. “I don’t want to convince him if he doesn’t want to stay. But I want him to stay and I’m going to tell him what I think, which is we’ve been improving every year and he’s a great player, he helps us a lot. I think we need to make the next step. … The media says it’s pretty settled, but I don’t know what he thinks. What I’ve been hearing is from the media, not from him, so I don’t trust that. It can be an opinion from you guys. I just really want to talk to him as a teammate.”

Rubio obviously won’t get Love to commit to staying when he becomes a free agent in July 2015. But Rubio is hopeful of either finding out Love is not desperately tunneling out of Minnesota, as is the perception, or that he can convince Love to keep an open mind about the future under new coach Flip Saunders and, thus, not force the Timberwolves into dealing their best player before the February trade deadline (rather than lose him for nothing after the season).

If Love does continue to signal he has no intention of staying and Saunders, also head of basketball operations, does do a deal, there will be new implications. Rubio, while saying he wants to stay, made it clear his own future in Minnesota would be in play. He, too, could take a similar tact and try to force a trade if a Love deal meant gathering picks and prospects.

“No,” Rubio told NBA.com when asked if Love’s departure would prompt him to want to leave. “I like Minnesota. But I want to win too. Of course when a big guy like him leaves you’re thinking about what’s going to be happening with the team. Are we going to lose a lot? Before I came to Minnesota, the season before they won like 17 games. I was a little scared when I went there. I’m coming from Europe, where I was playing in Barcelona. I think we lost six games or seven games in two seasons and every loss was a disaster. I don’t want to go through a process like every win is something special.

“If he leaves, it’s going to be painful because he’s a main guy. But it depends what we get back for him. We’ll see what we can do. I don’t think going through a rebuild year is going to help us because we’ve been improving every year and now we’re so close to making the playoffs that it doesn’t make sense to rebuild it again. It’s not continuing what we were doing.”


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew discusses what move might be best for Kevin Love

Morning Shootaround — June 7


VIDEO: Popovich discusses Finals opener, looks toward Game 2

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Spurs look to get sharper for Game 2 | LeBron knows he’s an easy target | AT&T Center air is working | Utah Jazz hire Quin Snyder | Kings to give Rudy Gay full-court press

No. 1: Spurs look to get sharper for Game 2 — Even though the Spurs ended up winning Game 1 of The Finals by a whopping 15 points, 110-95, there were several facets of their game that could be tightened up in Game 2. And don’t you just know that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is going to be all over the little things?

Right at the top of the list were 23 turnovers, an amount that almost always spells doom against the Heat. Indeed, Thursday’s game marked just the fifth time in 52 games they’ve lost when forcing at least that many since signing LeBron James and Chris Bosh before the start of the 2011-12 season.

“For us, that’s always a bad sign,” said Popovich, even though his team is 12-6 this season when committing 18 or more miscues. “We escaped last night by shooting the ball the way we did, I guess. So if that continues, we’re going to have a big problem.”

Every bit as galling were the wide-open 3-pointers conceded by a defense that allowed the fewest makes from long range in the NBA this season. The Heat still made 12-for-29 beyond the arc, but it could have been far worse had they capitalized on more looks.

In particular, Ray Allen missed three open 3s in the span of two possessions. They were among nearly 30 Miami jumpers classified as open by NBA.com’s player tracking data, the type of breakdowns that gave Popovich the sweats even beyond the sweltering temperature at the AT&T Center.

“I thought they missed some wide, wide open shots that they had, that scare you to death once you watch the film,” Popovich said. “That’s not just blowing smoke or an exaggeration.  There were about seven or eight wide-open threes they had that just didn’t go down.”

The Heat helped mitigate those mistakes by suffering similar breakdowns. In addition to committing 18 turnovers of their own — leading to 27 points for the Spurs, one more than Miami scored on their miscues — they pitched almost no resistance at the 3-point line as the Spurs made 13 of 25 from long range.

***

No. 2: LeBron knows he’s an easy target — LeBron James was carried off the court with cramps toward the end of Game 1, and despite suffering from an injury where he couldn’t really move, LeBron was still on the business end of a lot of jokes. In an interview with ESPN’s Michael Wilbon, LeBron said he understands that the criticism goes with the territory.

“For me, all I can control is what I control,” James told Wilbon. “For me, as one of the leaders of our team, one of the biggest competitors of our team, and knowing what it takes to win, for me, I’ll maintain my focus and get ready for Game 2. (There’s) anger in the sense that I wasn’t able to be out there for my teammates to possibly help them win Game 1 of the Finals. But what I can control is what I do to prepare myself mentally going to the next game.”

Heading into the 2011-12 season, James made it a point to start attempting to enjoy his life more, and to do that he stopped consuming as much media. After seeking the advice of Hall of Famers Isiah Thomas and Jerry West, James said that he started to focus on enjoying the process and the journey instead of focusing solely on the end result.

In the three seasons since, James said he has gotten more comfortable and become more immune to attacks.

“I can’t play the game of basketball and live my life on what other people expect me to do or what they think I should do, that doesn’t make me happy,” James said. “What makes me happy is being able to make plays for my teammates, to be able to represent the name on the back of my jersey. That’s what makes me happy. What everybody else thinks? That doesn’t really matter to me.”

***

No. 3: AT&T Center air is working — Big news for everyone playing in Game 2, not to mention all the fans and media who will be in attendance: The Spurs say the air conditioning inside the AT&T Center has been fixed and is working! Probably a good idea to go ahead and hydrate, though, just in case.

The Spurs issued a statement during Thursday’s humid, cramp-inducing game that pinned the blame on an electrical problem. Friday morning the Spurs announced the problem — whatever it was — had been fixed.

“The electrical failure that caused the AC system outage during Game 1 of the NBA Finals has been repaired,” Spurs spokesman Carlos Manzanillo said in a written statement released Friday morning

“The AC system has been tested, is fully operational and will continue to be monitored,” Manzanillo continued.

“The upcoming events at the AT&T Center, including the Romeo Santos concert tonight, the Stars game on Saturday night and Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, will go on as scheduled. We apologize for the conditions in the arena during last night’s game.”

***

No. 4: Utah Jazz hire Quin Snyder — As the Jazz continue their rebuilding campaign, they’ve hired a coach working to rebuild his own reputation. Quin Snyder was once the fast track to a career as a college coach, but when that didn’t work out he ended up bouncing around professional basketball and working his way up. Now he will be the eighth head coach in Jazz franchise history.

One ‘n’ in his first name. Two majors and advanced degrees from Duke University. Three Final Four appearances as a point guard with the Blue Devils. Four previous jobs in the NBA, including with the Clippers, Sixers, Lakers and Hawks.

Five on the list of Jazz coaches since the franchise moved to Utah in 1979, following in the footsteps of Tyrone Corbin, Jerry Sloan, Frank Layden and Tom Nissalke.

Six gigs in the past five years, including this new one and stops in Atlanta, Moscow, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Austin, Texas.

And the list of accolades, accomplishments, trivial tidbits, flowing hair references and, yes, questions about his past go on for this former Missouri coach, who will be formally introduced to Utah in a Saturday morning press conference.

“The opportunity to join the Utah Jazz and to be part of such a highly respected franchise with an incredibly bright future is a great honor,” Snyder said via a statement released by Jazz PR. “I approach this opportunity with gratitude and humility and am committed to doing everything I can to help the Jazz become a championship-caliber team.”

If that last phrase sounds familiar, it might be because Snyder had a working relationship with Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey from 2007-10 when they both worked for the San Antonio organization. “Championship-caliber team” is a phrase Lindsey has repeated often since he was hired as the Jazz general manager since leaving his assistant GM position with the Spurs two years ago.

After deciding to not renew Corbin’s contract following the 25-57 rebuilding season of 2013-14, Lindsey and Jazz ownership believe Snyder is the guy who can best help get this franchise back to that level. Not only is he well known for being a bright basketball mind, but he’s also been credited for developing talent and being a motivating leader.

***

No. 5: Kings to give Gay full-court press — Sacramento forward Rudy Gay has a few weeks to decide whether he’ll use an opt-out clause that could make him an unrestricted free agent. On the one hand, if he hits free agency he could sign a long-term deal. On the other hand, if he doesn’t opt-out, he will make a reported $19 million next season. Seems like an easy choice, but the Kings intend to make sure Gay stays a King by putting together a high-tech presentation that will include virtual reality glasses.

Hall of Famers Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond, a former Kings star, are expected to join Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, general manager Pete D’Alessandro and head coach Michael Malone when they meet with Gay.

Gay was originally expected to have the meeting in his offseason home of Memphis, but preferred to have it in Sacramento.

When asked recently about his decision process, Gay told Yahoo Sports: “I’m just taking my time. That’s all.”

If Gay opts into his contract for next season, it could pave the way for future extension talks. During the meetings, the Kings also will have Gay wear a headset with eyewear that will give him a complete virtual digital tour of the inside of the new Kings arena, including the locker room and arena floor. The new Kings arena is expected to open in September 2016.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Donald Sterling still hasn’t signed the papers to complete the sale of the Clippers … Scott Brooks will be back next season in OKC … Before hiring himself as head coach, Flip Sanders tried to hire Jeff Van Gundy in Minnesota … This guy tracks every tattoo in the NBA … 76ers are looking into building a waterfront practice facility in New Jersey … Jabari Parker might be a nice fit in MilwaukeeAlvin Gentry is still in the mix for the Cavs’ coaching gig … But Derek Fisher is not in the mix in Los Angeles

Morning Shootaround — June 6


VIDEO: The Daily Zap from Game 1 of The Finals

NEWS OF THE MORNING

A new referendum on LeBron | Spurs Way rises in the heat | Green burns the Heat … again | Jackson-Fisher set to talk

No. 1: A new referendum on LeBron The Alamo won’t go down as one of the favorite places LeBron James has been during his worldly travels. The Miami Heat star wilted under the intense heat at the AT&T Center in Game 1 of The Finals Thursday night, sparking a new round of criticism from folks who question his mental (and now physical) toughness. And as Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports points out, the LeBron debate once again snatches the spotlight from The Finals itself and a Spurs team that put together a monster and record-setting fourth quarter shooting barrage to win the game:

Fair or not, this NBA Finals is now very much about LeBron James because no matter the reality of how a propensity to cramp is the sole known downside to having a 6-foot-8, 265-pound body capable of playing all five positions on the court, no one was spending any time postgame defending him.

“Look,” Heat coach Erik Spolestra said, “both teams had to do it, we’re not making excuses.”

Instead Miami pointed to poor defense (the Spurs shot 58.8 percent from the floor), bad defensive rotations in crunch time sans-LeBron, and its 16 turnovers. The heat, they actually reveled in. LeBron’s faltering, after scoring 25 points and grabbing six rebounds, was shrugged off. Who needs AC? Ray Allen said it reminded him of his non-air conditioned high school gym back in Dalzell, South Carolina.

“I loved it,” Allen said. “… I felt right at home. Keeps my body loose.”

Shane Battier pointed to his college days at Duke, where Cameron Indoor Stadium at the time was left to the elements – and heated by tightly packed Cameron Crazies.

“It didn’t bother me,” Battier said. “It was that hot in Cameron Indoor every single game. It was a huge, huge advantage. Ten thousand people on you, no AC.”

The Spurs’ Tony Parker went with his days back in France and across the European leagues.

“We never have AC in Europe,” Parker said, “so it didn’t bother me at all.”

Even Dwyane Wade just shrugged. Heat and humidity isn’t normally part of the NBA these days, but the game is the game.

“If you play basketball,” Wade said, “you play basketball where it’s hot like this. I think everybody has done it before.”

This sounded like a parade of tough guy talk radio callers wanting to bolster themselves with the illusion of being stronger than LeBron. Only it was James’ teammates and peers, and that’s why this won’t be easy to shake.

Physically, with Game 2 not coming until Sunday, LeBron will recover. Image wise, he’s back to getting bashed like back before he became a champion.

“Everybody was tired,” the Spurs’ Danny Green said. “Everybody was sluggish.”

No sympathy. Just high stakes.


VIDEO: The Game Time crew discusses LeBron and his cramping up late in Game 1

(more…)