Posts Tagged ‘Glen Taylor’

Love’s knuckle pushups, twist of fate

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: News on Kevin Love

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Kevin Love‘s passive-aggressive ploy to leave the Minnesota Timberwolves and get to “a place that I can win,” will happen, although likely not until at least Aug. 23 when the Cleveland Cavaliers can, under NBA rules, trade their newly signed No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins.

Wiggins can’t be traded for 30 days after signing his contract, which he did Thursday. It instantly put a halt on a Minnesota-Cleveland trade (at least in terms of making one official before then). It also compelled Love, a three-time All-Star, to pull out of Team USA — on grounds of injury risk and scuttling a potential trade — which is now gathered in Las Vegas and will compete in the World Cup in Spain.

Other than missing out on the trip abroad, this does feel like a fortuitous Summer of Love in the making. LeBron James‘ surprise return to Cleveland opened the door for Love to walk in as a supporting star rather than a leading man somewhere else. Nobody imagined a LeBron-Love coupling before James’ announcement on July 11, and what could be more attractive to Love, who had already, it seemed, mentally checked out of Minnesota?

While attending a video game conference in Los Angeles on June 11, Love, who played at UCLA and has long been thought to want to play for the Lakers, was asked about joining the purple and gold. Above all, he said, he wants to go to where he can win. In the same interview with Fox Sports, Love was asked the Wolves’ chances for making the playoffs next season. His answer, whether conscious of his wording or not, clued everybody into his state of mind: “If they’re healthy,” Love said, “they can do a lot of damage.”

The omission of “we’re and “we” was easily interpretable as Love viewing himself as a free agent and not a player under contract next season with the Wolves for $15.7 million. Imagine the firestorm had Carmelo Anthony or Dwight Howard committed such a gaffe.

And what of Love suggesting the Wolves, if healthy of course, “can do a lot of damage?” If it’s true without him, what’s their potential with him? Seems exactly the situation Mr. Double-Double desires.

Since that interview, Love has gone silent. His representatives, citing a scheduling conflict, pulled him out of a July 13 celebrity softball game prior to Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game at Target Field. The likelier conflict had more to do with a questioning Minneapolis-St. Paul media and a predictably hostile hometown greeting.

There’s plenty of blame to go around for this mess, starting with the franchise’s bungling of Love’s contract extension in January 2012. Owner Glen Taylor and former general manager David Kahn refused to give Love the maximum five years he wanted and offered four, adding a player option after Year 3. Management’s unwillingness to commit angered and offended Love.

Love, meanwhile, has gone diva. Some fans sympathize with his dealing of years of organizational dysfunction. Mostly, the Minnesota fans have soured on him and his tactics. If current team president and coach Flip Saunders somehow doesn’t do a deal prior to the start of the season, there’ll be some awkward moments at Target Center.

History will show that Love’s botched contract to his now distancing from the franchise are only the bookends in a string of unfortunate events that truly sabotaged an era centered around Love and point guard Ricky Rubio before it could begin in earnest.

The year 2012 will go down as a debilitating one. Six weeks after Love’s contentious contract, Rubio tore the ACL in his left knee. He played just 41 games in the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season, a promising rookie start in which he averaged 10.6 points and 8.2 assists. He wouldn’t return until Dec. 15 of the 2012-13 season, but the injury, admittedly, rattled Rubio and severely curtailed his progress.

The death knell for the anticipated 2012-13 season, however, occurred well before Rubio’s return. In October, Love broke his right hand while away from the team’s facility. How did it happen? The team announced he broke it doing knuckle pushups at home. As odd as it may seem for a basketball player to include knuckle pushups as part of his workout routine, Love claimed he had always done them.

He missed three weeks of the season, less time than anticipated. But in his 18th game back, Love broke the hand again. The Wolves were only 9-9 with him, but Rubio had just come back and there was optimism. Now Love’s season and the Wolves’ playoff hopes were done.

Team dynamics became more complicated when then-coach Rick Adelman left a team besieged by injury for stretches starting in January 2013 to tend to his wife, who was seeking medical answers related to unexplained seizures. Adelman contemplated retirement after the season, but returned. Minnesota continually lost close games and numerous times failed frustratingly to scratch above .500.

We’ll never know what might have been if Love had gotten a five-year deal, or if he had never taken up knuckle pushups, or if Rubio had never torn his ACL.

And now Love seems determined not to explore what still could be in Minnesota.

Wolves, Love, suitors all on clock


VIDEO: Wolves owner Glen Taylor discusses hot topic Kevin Love

Poker generally is played without a clock. NBA trades are made, always, against one.

That time element adds one more moving part to all the others in the Minnesota Timberwolves decision to trade Kevin Love, the franchise’s best player since another All-Star power forward named Kevin roamed Target Center.

Call it a calendar if you like – Love can opt out of his contract 338 days from now and hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2015 – but for all practical purposes, the time intervals are tighter and more urgent than that.

  • The Wolves have only 82 games to convince Love to re-sign another five seasons in Minnesota or lose him without compensation. (Note we’re not counting playoff games, since Love never has appeared in one).
  • Fans in the Twin Cities have only 41 home games remaining to cheer or to jeer the 6-foot-10 power forward as one of their own. (He’ll be back one or two times annually after that, for accuracy’s sake).
  • Any team that traded for Love would be giving up assets for one season’s worth of his services. Two seasons (if Love were to commit to opt-in for 2015-16) or five seasons (if he gave assurances of re-signing that the new team could trust) might entice that team to boost the assets it sends to Minnesota – as long as it avoided a Carmelo/Nuggets/Knicks transfer of talent so great that Love’s new team would suffer in the exchange.
  • Intermediate deadlines are already looming: The Wolves have until the end of September to move Love or open training camp with a potentially unhappy star. The league’s trade deadline is in February, by which time Love and his teammates all might be sick of answering questions about his future whereabouts (and of each other).
  • Potential suitors face deadlines of their own, as far as preparing for the coming season, adding Love and subtracting current players on the fly. Will Golden State up its offer to include Klay Thompson? Will Cleveland back off its resistance to including No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins? Their value can change every 24 hours.
  • Flip Saunders is on the clock, too, as head coach because owner Glen Taylor wants Saunders sooner rather than later to return full time to his duties as president of basketball operations.

So time is of the essence already in Minnesota’s decision to draw, hold or fold in Love trade talks.

The latest development in the saga – a closely watched one in NBA circles, what with free agency’s biggest names having settled in for the summer – came courtesy of Taylor Wednesday in Las Vegas, where he took on the foregone conclusion of many league insiders and media outlets that Love definitely would be traded soon. On the contrary, the Minnesota billionaire said while sitting in on NBA TV’s summer league broadcast of his team’s game.

“Our plans are he’s going to stay and we’re going to prepare for him and have him as part of our season this year,” Taylor said. “There’s a lot of speculation that he wants to go to another team and I guess my response to that is, we’re going to look at anything that makes sense that would make our team better. But we’re not going to just move a superb player like that without getting equal or more value back.”

As Taylor sees it, Minnesota’s 40-42 finish was due largely to its 6-13 record in games decided by four points or less. It outscored its opponents by 2.6 per game, an unusually fat margin in NBA history for a team missing the playoffs.

Keeping Love as the anchor of a team that has added lottery pick Zach Lavine, with the development of last year’s rookies Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad and the play of point guard Ricky Rubio and center Nikola Pekovic, is Taylor’s stated vision. It’s LaMarcus Aldridge changing his mind on Portland, Upper Midwest style.

Whether it’s a bluff or not isn’t clear. But they’re all playing Beat The Clock.

“I’d like to have Kevin back and play under Flip and just see how the coaches utilize him with the other players,” Taylor said. “What Kevin has said to me, he wants to win. I’ve said back to him, ‘That’s all I want too!’

“My preference is that Kevin will come to camp – and I’m sure he will – and plays with the team, with the roster we put around him. And that we win. I think he’ll find out Minnesota has the same thing that he wants, and that is a chance to win and to make it to the playoffs.”

What Love wants isn’t clear, because he hasn’t addressed it head-on. There was his springtime interviews in which he tangentially talked about his preferences. Then a highly publicized long weekend in Boston, home of the pursuing Celtics. But he bowed out of the celebrity softball game Sunday in Minneapolis during MLB All-Star festivities there.

Love, who will turn 26 on Sept. 7, hasn’t issued any ultimatums. If he starts the season with Minnesota and plays hard, up to his All-Star past, fans might be won over from, or at least tire of, razzing him. Then again, if he either stonewalls the media or engages them too fully – he’s a bright guy capable of acerbic responses – or worse, comes down with a “blue flu” at some point during the season, it all could become untenable and another Wolves season might be lost.

Golden State and Cleveland, rightfully, would be loath to send out Thompson or Wiggins, respectively, without the guarantee of at least two seasons of Love. Saunders would be wise not to peddle his power forward for lesser packages, but has to know that his asset – not Love per se, but one season of him – will decline with each game.

There also are voices within the Wolves who are prepared to (gasp!) lose Love for the proverbial “nothing,” preferring to shed his $16.7 million from next season’s salary cap over taking on contracts of mediocre players.

Right now, it’s more sundial than stopwatch. But the clock be tickin’, as Micheal Ray Richardson might say. Time, like Love, is fleeting.

Morning shootaround — July 17


VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played July 16

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Pistons, Kings still talking trade for Smith | Spoelstra: No ‘regrets’ over LeBron leaving | NBA may rethink Draft lottery | Taylor opens up on Love trade talk

No. 1: Report: Kings, Pistons re-open J-Smoove trade talks — A few days before the 2014 Draft, there was buzz that the Pistons had engaged in trade talks with the Sacramento Kings with forward Josh Smith being the top name shifting from one team to another. In the weeks since, there hasn’t been much chatter on that front … until now. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports that the teams have started talking about a J-Smoove swap once again:

The Detroit Pistons and the Sacramento Kings have resumed trade discussions on a deal that could send Josh Smith to Sacramento, according to sources with knowledge of the talks.

Sources told ESPN.com the Kings have continued to express interest in Smith and the parties are on the hunt for a third team that could help facilitate the deal.

As ESPN.com reported last month, Detroit and Sacramento have engaged in trade discussions that would potentially land Smith in the same frontcourt with DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. Initial talks called for Sacramento to send Jason Thompson and either Derrick Williams or Jason Terry to the Pistons for Smith, but those discussions reached an impasse and were pushed into July along with the rest of both teams’ free-agent business, sources said.

Sources said the Pistons also seriously discussed various sign-and-trade scenarios this month that would have landed restricted free agent Greg Monroe in Portland, but the Blazers ultimately pulled themselves out of the race for Monroe by signing free-agent big man Chris Kaman to join Robin Lopez in the Blazers’ center rotation.

Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, furthermore, is known to be fond of splashy moves. And trading for Smith, given the lukewarm reviews of his first season with the Pistons, would certainly qualify as bold.

Another potential bonus is Smith’s close relationship with Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, whom Sacramento has been targeting in trade talks for some time.

The Kings, sources say, prefer to trade Terry rather than buy him out of the final year of his contract valued at nearly $6 million, while Terry has said he’s interested in a return to the Dallas Mavericks if he’s ultimately released and can get to free agency.


VIDEO:
Relive some of Josh Smith’s best plays as a Piston last season

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Love more likely to go, not less, with Flip’s return to Wolves bench


VIDEO: The Starters discuss possible future destinations for Kevin Love

SAN ANTONIO – Been there, done that.

No, that’s not shorthand for the decision by Minnesota Timberwolves president Flip Saunders to add head coaching duties to his fancy executive position, a move that had been anticipated for months (including here), was reported by multiple outlets Thursday and will be made official at a news conference Friday. Saunders, 59, has been there, done that; he is the winningest coach in Wolves history (411), leading the team to its only eight playoff appearances in a 10-plus season stint on the sidelines.

But the been there, done that in play now is the sentiment among some that Saunders will be dedicating 2014-15 to a season-long smoochfest aimed at convincing All-NBA forward Kevin Love to stay with the Wolves long-term. Love is expected to opt out of his contract next summer, with speculation already rampant as to his future whereabouts: Golden State, Chicago, Houston, Boston, the L.A. Lakers or some destination still to emerge. Notice that Minnesota is not on that list.

That’s the mistake in interpreting Saunders’ grab at the coaching reins. He and the organization already spent most of 2013-14 catering and currying favor with Love. To no apparent avail.

With Love’s favorite Rick Adelman around for his final season, the Wolves featured the 6-foot-10 power forward him prominently on the court and off. Love was his usual double-double self, a possible MVP candidate if only Minnesota had managed to a) finish .500 and b) qualify for the postseason. Saunders talked up Love’s game, value and leadership all season and consulted the player on all sorts of team issues, including suggestions for its new downtown practice facility across from Target Center.

Only it didn’t work. In fact, near the end of the regular season, as the Wolves were eliminated practically first and mathematically second from the playoffs, Love withdrew and unplugged. Saunders and others within the team, several sources have said, were disappointed. Over the past two months, they became convinced that Love intended to leave – the free look Love has next summer was a booby prize from former Wolves president David Kahn and owner Glen Taylor when they declined to give him a fifth year in his contract extension.

So now Saunders is stepping in as coach, Wolves insiders say, to manage the return and impact of whatever package of players and draft picks Saunders the executive can get from an NBA trading partner.

The time for winning over Love, in other words, has passed. It’s time now to cash him in, however reluctantly, and move on.

Some in the team’s increasingly cynical fan base – impatient over a playoff drought that dates back to 2004 – see Saunders’ move as driven by ego and emboldened by Detroit’s hire of Stan Van Gundy in a double role and Clippers coach Doc Rivers adding executive powers to his sideline work. After all, the former University of Minnesota point guard was a career coach for most of four decades, with NBA stints most recently in Detroit and Washington, before being hired back by Taylor last spring in his front-office capacity.

But Saunders did conduct a proper search for Adelman’s replacement since the regular season ended and even settled on Memphis’ Dave Joerger as his choice – until Joerger got reeled back in by Grizzlies owner Robert Pera despite apparent internal strife within that organization.

Saunders was said not to favor veteran NBA possibilities such as George Karl or Lionel Hollins, partly because he was wary of butting heads with a strong coaching personality. College prospects Tom Izzo of Michigan State (a close Saunders friend), Fred Hoiberg of Iowa State and Billy Donovan of Florida had reservations of their own, the coaches uncertain of the Wolves’ direction (Love? No Love?).

As candidates came and went, it became increasingly clear that the Wolves needed a transitory coach for their transitory situation. Reports online Thursday had Saunders assembling a staff that could include his eventual replacement, with Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt, a coaching star on the international scene, and former NBA Coach of the Year Sam Mitchell (another back-to-the-future former Wolf) mentioned prominently. There was also talk, however, of Saunders’ son Ryan, now on Randy Wittman‘s staff in Washington, reuniting with his pop in the Twin Cities.

It’s possible that Saunders the coach might find it too tempting to lose a player of Love’s caliber – there aren’t many like him in the first place – and will shift back into selling the scoring-and-rebounding star on a future in Minnesota. More likely, though, Saunders the executive will focus his salesmanship on the suitors for Love, and get the best package possible sooner rather than later.

Morning Shootaround — May 20



VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played May 19

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Taylor: Wolves not planning to trade Love | Report: Ibaka hoping to return in West finals | Hairston says D-League tougher than NCAA | Wall says Wizards’ backcourt better than Warriors’

No. 1: Wolves’ owner not planning on Love trade — ICYMI the last few days, Minnesota All-Star forward Kevin Love has put the Timberwolves in a situation they didn’t think they’d be in: discussing the trade desires of their superstar. Yesterday’s rumors had the Knicks and Celtics hot on the trail of Love and more and more teams seem to be joining the fray daily. While all of this buzzes about (and be sure to check out the great, measured response our Sekou Smith had), Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is trying to provide a voice of reason. Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press has more on the Love situation:

Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor told the Pioneer Press on Monday that he has no intention of trading Kevin Love and that he expects the all-star power forward to play for the Wolves again next season.

Love, 25, can opt out of his Wolves contract after next season. Sunday, the Associated Press reported that the Wolves are willing to trade Love for the right offer.

Love’s representatives, according to Sunday’s New York Daily News, reiterated to the Wolves this past week that the 6-foot-10 forward will not re-sign with Minnesota and definitely will leave in 2015.

Asked Monday if he would say he’s not going to trade Love, Taylor said, “I should never say never because who knows what might come up? But that’s not our plan.

“I’m not in a position where you would say absolutely I wouldn’t do it, because what if something that I can’t even speculate (on) happens? You’d say, ‘You’re nuts, Glen.’ Maybe some team puts a value on him that’s different than we suspect.”

The worst-case scenario for the Wolves would be watching Love walk away as a free agent while receiving nothing in return. So if they’re convinced Love has no interest in staying, trading him before or on the day of the June 26 NBA draft makes sense. This year’s crop of prospects is considered deep, and they’d likely also demand a veteran ready to start.

Love is a three-time all-star and averaged a career-high 26.1 points plus 12.5 rebounds last season.

“At this point, we’re not talking to any teams,” Taylor said. “I haven’t heard from Kevin or his agents or anything like that. We’re assuming that Kevin will be here next season, and we’re working with that scenario. This isn’t the time for us to do anything but to prepare for next year.”

Taylor said he isn’t happy about media reports that Love wants out of Minnesota.

“Kevin came here, played here, became an all-star here … I mean, what a wonderful environment. The fans have been great and support him. I’m not sure that could have happened at other places,” he said. “To be in a position where we have to defend that he might leave or not leave when he’s under contract, it’s difficult.”


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew discusses the Kevin Love rumors

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Adelman retires, Wolves focus on successor (and keeping Love)

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com

Rick Adelman won more than 1,000 games in a 23-year NBA coaching career. (Noah Graham/NBAE)

Rick Adelman won more than 1,000 games in a 23-year NBA coaching career. (Noah Graham/NBAE)

The residue of another season of expectations not met continued to build in Minnesota, where Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman announced his retirement Monday morning.

Adelman, 67, exits via an option on the fourth year of his contract. The Wolves had targeted a .500 finish and a postseason berth as their goals this season and fell short of both; they posted a 40-42 record and missed the playoffs for the 10th consecutive spring.

“It’s time. It’s time for me to step aside,” Adelman said at a news conference, accompanied by Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders. “I think when we came here, we really tried to see if we couldn’t turn things around. I think we made some strides … not as much as we would like.

“It’s time for someone else to come in.”

Adelman’s departure as coach — he will take on a consultant’s role with the organization  — had been the subject of speculation for weeks, after it became apparent the Wolves would miss what would have been their first playoff berth since 2004. His wife Mary Kay‘s health issues — she began fighting a series of seizures last season, causing him to miss 11 games in 2012-13  — are ongoing, though the veteran coach said they did not lead to this decision.

“If anything, my wife is the one who pushed me. She said, ‘You need to continue doing this,’ ” Adelman said. “Certainly it had an impact but the whole organization has been so great.”

In his three seasons with the Wolves, they went 97-133 and failed to reach .500 all three years. It was the least successful stretch of his 23-year NBA coaching career, during which his teams in Portland, Golden State, Sacramento, Houston and Minnesota compiled a record of 1,042-749 (.582) with 16 postseason appearances. He ranks eighth all-time in NBA coaching victories, and with two trips to The Finals with the Blazers in 1990 and 1992, likely will be enshrined soon in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

While Adelman heads off to his home in Portland without a championship ring, no one should think he didn’t put the work and the urgency into chasing one in Minnesota. Saunders spoke of the coach’s competitiveness.

“He comes across as very even-natured and you might not think he gets excited. But he’s got a burning passion to win,” Saunders said. “Being with him on a daily basis, you could see when we didn’t perform well that it really ate at him.”

Said Adelman: “It’s not that far away [in Minnesota]. Sometimes you want it to happen in a year, sometimes in two years. Sometimes it takes longer than that.

“I wish I could have done more, but I really enjoyed my time. … There’s some sadness but I also think, some relief.”

Saunders said he and owner Glen Taylor have “no timeline” for naming Adelman’s successor. Because this departure isn’t a complete surprise, names of possible replacements have been floated; Iowa State (and former Wolves guard) Fred Hoiberg; Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, a Saunders friend; current Washington assistant coach Sam Cassell, another former Minnesota player; oft-coveted Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, based on alleged friction with the Bulls front office; and Saunders himself.

Prior to his return this season to Minnesota, Saunders had been the winningest coach in Wolves history — 411-326 from 1995-2005 — and later coached in Detroit and Washington, bumping his career mark to 638-526 (.548), with 11 playoff appearances.

The next Wolves coach, whoever it is, will face a top priority of featuring — and courting — All-Star forward Kevin Love, the team’s best player. Love, an MVP-caliber performer (25.9 points, 12.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists per game in 2013-14), can opt out of his contract after next season to become a free agent.

Silver open to tweaks of draft, playoff structure, ‘virtually everything’

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com


VIDEO: Adam Silver explains the talking points at the Board of Governors meeting

NEW YORK – With a new NBA commissioner flexing his distinctly collaborative style, working without crises at a “peace time” Board of Governors meeting, the league’s leadership took no significant votes and made no major decisions this week during their two-day Manhattan conclave.

But they sure did a lot of brainstorming and spitballing.

Talk of tweaks carried the day when Adam Silver, not quite three months into the job that David Stern held for three decades, shared Friday with reporters some of the topics in play at this BOG. In committee reports and in general discussion of the full board, they ranged from the pros and cons of a proposed 20-and-under eligibility rule (two years of college, in other words) to new ways of seeding, re-seeding or otherwise modifying the playoffs bracket.

The owners talked about further transparency, both in officiating itself and in the process that oversees the league’s referees. They kicked around ideas great and small related to the draft and the lottery – the “wheel” concept that would have each team picking at each spot in the first round over a 30-year period, as well as a play-in tournament for the No. 1 pick – without pushing toward any conclusion.

Overall, as described by Silver, the tone seemed to be: Things are good. Anyone have any ideas on how we can make them better?

“The league is doing so well right now, I just want to be very deliberate and cautious any major changes,” Silver said, both directly and in various guise underlying a half dozen other comments. If Stern’s effectiveness as commissioner often boiled down to persuasion, arm-twisting and – when all that failed – swift, autocratic management, Silver publicly so far has come across as a facilitator and delegator, seeking out others’ expertise and respecting the work of the BOG’s committees on matters of competition, finance and other league business.

Oh, there were a few clear developments Friday. The NBA entered into a partnership with USA Basketball and the U.S. Department of Defense to support soldiers and their families “through basketball,” with an emphasis on transitioning the armed forces members back to civilian life.

Also, there was a change at the top: San Antonio owner Peter Holt stepped down as chairman of the Board of Governors after 18 months, because of personal commitments. Minnesota’s Glen Taylor, who held that post from 2008 to 2012, takes over again on an interim basis, with a vote for Holt’s successor to be held by the board’s October meeting.

No vote was taken on the Milwaukee Bucks’ pending sale for a whopping $550 million to New York hedge-fund billionaires Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens – the league’s vetting process is underway. But current Bucks owner Herb Kohl introduced the two prospective owners to the board Thursday. Silver said he knows Lasry personally – Lasry owns a small share of the Brooklyn Nets, from which he’d have to divest – and added: “I don’t anticipate there will be any issues, but we’re not there in the process yet.” The sale could be approved without a formal owners meeting, as quickly as in a month or so.

Silver is diligent about process, and why not? The league sets up committees to study its various issues and make recommendations, so there’s value in their findings. The new commissioner also has tapped into leaders from related fields as resources. This time, NCAA president Mark Emmert and Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with the owners.

Dempsey’s presence pertained to the “Hoops for Troops” partnership, obviously. But Emmert was there to discuss the NBA’s age-limit for draft prospects and its impact on college basketball and the players.

Silver, at All-Star weekend and in interviews, has talked repeatedly about his preference for raising the eligibility age – he said Friday “a majority” of the owners share that view. He and the league, for practical purposes, have gotten out in front of the NBA players’ union on the topic. After all, it would have to be collectively bargained – written into the existing CBA as an addendum if an agreement were reached, Silver said – and much of the NBPA’s business is on hold while its search for a new executive director grinds on.

But Silver introduced a third party into the coming discussions. “What Dr. Emmert and I agree on is that the NCAA needs to have a seat at the table,” the commissioner said. “If we are going to be successful in raising the age from 19 to 20, part and parcel of those negotiations go to the treatment of those players on college campuses [and] closing the gap between what their scholarships cover and their other incidental expenses.”

Silver didn’t get into any specific incentives, financial or otherwise, that might affect the issue. But he didn’t rule anything out – kind of the theme of the afternoon. Blow through the conference divide to have 10 West playoff teams vs. six East? Open up the instant-replay process to give referees discretion to rule not just on an out-of-bounds possessions but also an unseen foul?

Silver wasn’t ruling anything out.

“This seems like a good time,” he said at one point in Friday’s news conference, “when you have a transition in leadership to take a fresh look at virtually everything.”

Here are some further details on the above:

  • The partnership supporting armed forces members will include exhibition games, clinic, speaking engagements and game tickets, though its primary focus will be the “thousands of service members returning from overseas duty.” Why the NBA? Dempsey, Silver said, ” told us was that basketball is the most popular sport among his troops, and it’s also a highly popular sport among the families of the troops.”
  • Silver had high praise for the league’s competition committee, which is studying playoff structure and other areas of the game with more than the hit-and-run approach of the past. It has moved “towards what I would call an NFL‑style format, where it’s a multi‑day meeting, focused attention from a cross‑section of coaches, general managers [and] owners,” Silver said. “We have a player representative there, as well, and these are the kind of issues where the last thing we wanted to do is make them based on one meeting, owners hearing arguments for the first time.”
  • While not tipping his hand on any tweaks that might blow across traditional conference lines, Silver did mention a factor cited in reverting The Finals this year to a 2-2-1-1-1 format. “You have a system that was designed before all teams traveled by charter,” he said, “and as travel becomes easier, it opens up more windows of opportunity for change.”
  • It is the competitiveness of NBA general managers that underlies the one-and-done scenarios and issues, Silver said. “It doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “If these great young players are available, our teams will draft them. Whether they’ll ultimately turn out to be wise draft picks is a whole separate issue.” Requiring two years after high school – in NCAA hoops, in the D League, in Europe, wherever – would get NBA scouts out of high school gyms, boost the college game, deliver to NBA teams more developed rookies and put players in a pro environment when they might be a little better equipped to thrive. But the NBPA still has to weigh in.
  • Silver wasn’t asked directly about “tanking” or, er, rebuilding teams whose seasons now are done. But he did take a question about playoff teams in the final days of the schedule manipulating their rotations in what appeared to be playoff-positioning. “I’d just begin by saying it’s the last area I think the league should be legislating, and that is minutes players play,” he responded. “I mean, we have some of the greatest coaches in the world in this league and highly sophisticated teams, and so it’s part of managing player time.”
  • Who’s to say that rest and recuperation aren’t the driving forces in the final week, Silver suggested. “We have a long playoffs,” he said. “It’s part of the drama over a seven‑game series. It’s the match‑ups, it’s the reactions. Again, it’s the pairings of particular players against each other. It’s sort of the chess playing among our coaches, and I think resting players becomes all part of that.”
  • Silver said that Milwaukee’s Kohl – who has owned the Bucks since 1985, has included in the sales agreement that the team remain in town, and has pledged that he and the new owners each will contribute $100 million to a new arena – was lauded by the board. “The owners were amazed at the personal contribution [former U.S. Senator] Kohl announced to the city of Milwaukee,” Silver said. “It’s unprecedented for an owner to make a $100 million contribution to his community.”

The round of applause Kohl received in the room reflected that, the commissioner said. Establishing a price of $550 million for what historically has been the NBA’s least valuable franchise might have had a little to do with the clapping, too.

McHale, Saunders Face Off In Role Reversal

A hot Houston Rockets team will play the banged up-and-sputtering Timberwolves on a cold Monday night in Minnesota (8 ET, NBA TV). Three of the Western Conference’s 12 All-Stars will be on hand – Dwight Howard and James Harden for the Rockets, Kevin Love for the Wolves if he’s able to play through the thigh bruise that sidelined him Saturday. And the visitors who have won five in a row will challenge the hosts who have lost five of their last six.

Pretty straightforward stuff – except there will be a subplot in play, too, one that seems bounced off a funhouse mirror to those familiar with the history:

Kevin McHale, NBA coach vs. Flip Saunders, CBO (chief basketball officer).

“I don’t think anyone anticipated, 37 years out of college, that’s how it would be,” Saunders said.

Clear early path for duo

Minnesota Timberwolves

Ex-Wolves GM Kevin McHale (left) and ex-coach Flip Saunders led Minnesota to new heights of success in the 2000s.

For a decade – from 1995 to 2005 – the two were partners in the best stretch in Wolves franchise history, stringing together eight playoff appearances and advancing to the Western Conference finals in 2004. They traveled together to Kevin Garnett‘s first audition/workout in Chicago and walked out of the gym mapping their draft strategy.

McHale and Saunders pulled long hours on Draft nights, at least when they had their full set of picks – the Joe Smith salary-cap scandal in 2000 happened on their watch, costing the team three first-rounders as part of the penalties. And the pair, despite some differences in temperament and style, generally presented a unified front.

Always, though, it was McHale sitting upstairs, Saunders working the sideline.

McHale never had wanted to coach. Saunders never seemed to want to do anything but. The former, upon retiring in 1993 after his 13-season Hall of Fame career in Boston, served as color man on Wolves broadcasts until new owner Glen Taylor hired him as VP of basketball operations in 1995. McHale had done the day-to-day grind of NBA life. He had a family to raise, a lake home in Minnesota and an NBA team to run but at something less than a frenetic pace.

Saunders aspired to be a coach from the start, taking the job at Golden Valley Lutheran College right out of school – he was McHale’s point guard for a year (1976-77) at the University of Minnesota – rather than hold a clipboard on some other coach’s staff. He did spend a chunk of the 1980s as an assistant at Minnesota and the University of Tulsa but was in the CBA from 1988-95 in Rapid City (S.D.), La Crosse (Wis.) and Sioux Falls (S.D.). Saunders won two championships, two Coach of the Year awards and 253 games in seven seasons.

His hiring by McHale in 1995 was a foregone conclusion and the realization of a dream that flickered on about the time Minnesota got its expansion franchise. You get the VP job, I’ll come in as coach. Or I’ll hire you to coach when I take get my shot in the front office.

Either way, it was the the natural, logical order of things.

Until the Wolves slipped badly from their 2003-04 peak. On Feb. 12, 2005, at 25-26 after a lifeless loss at Utah the night before, McHale fired Saunders and took over as interim coach.

The move was a stunner but triggered a 19-12 finish and a narrow miss of the playoffs that Minnesota hasn’t had since. McHale went back upstairs for four years before doing the interim thing again in December 2008. This time – with less talent provided by architect McHale but an intriguing rookie named Love – the Wolves went 20-43.

When Taylor turned to David Kahn in spring 2009 to run the basketball operation – an odd hire that got worse from there – McHale was out.

Duo enjoys new life in new roles


VIDEO: Flip Saunders is introduced as the Wolves new GM

Saunders during all this time had kept landing on his feet, his thick offensive playbook accompanying him to Detroit and Washington. The Pistons won 176 games in three seasons for him, reaching the East finals each time before president Joe Dumars canned him. The Washington gig changed beneath him when Gilbert Arenas went outlaw in the locker room, and the Wizards’ plan of contending got turned by a swift purge of knuckleads into a rebuild.

That led to two more stunning moves: McHale returning to coaching and Saunders returning to the Wolves.

Both had strong elements of righting wrongs.

McHale’s wit and personality were serving him well as an analyst for TNT and NBA TV, but all the jokes and chatter felt like riding the team bus without any real games. Larry Bird came back this season with a competitive itch and that’s what his old Celtics teammate is scratching these days too.

“I think the years out of it, he missed the fight,” said Rockets assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who also was on McHale’s Minnesota staff in 2008-09. “He missed the competition. I think that pushed him. You sit in meetings with him, you hear the stories about what it was like competing for championships. And you can see it in him every day.”

Howard appreciates the Top 50 big man who tutored Love and Al Jefferson. “He’s been through the battles,” Howard said. “He understands the grind of an NBA season. So when we have those games where we’re not making shots, he doesn’t come in and off on us. He says what we need to do.”


VIDEO: Kevin McHale talks with GameTime about the challenges of coaching

Said McHale: “It’s more taxing but it’s more fun. You live and die it when you’re a GM, too, really. Now you’ve got more control. I really enjoy it. We’re having a great time in Texas. I really enjoy the guys.”

In Minnesota, Saunders’ return in essentially McHale’s old job – with a sliver of minority ownership – came through his skill in never burning bridges and, frankly, Taylor’s desperation to bring in someone he knew after the Kahn debacle. The Wolves owner was on the brink of selling before Saunders convinced him they should recommit together.

This job isn’t what he loves most about basketball – Saunders often has said of coaching, “There are no highs that are as high and no lows that are as low” – but it’s one that suits him now. And it has way better job security, as Dumars continues to demonstrate in Detroit.

“What makes this more frustrating is that you really don’t have control,” Saunders said, offering the, er, flip side of McHale’s comment. “The coach is the one who watches the film and decides, ‘What do we have to do to get better?’ People ask if I miss it. What’s happened is, we’ve had so many things since I took over to change our vision.”

Friendship frays over the years

Saunders inherited a Hall of Fame-worthy coach, Rick Adelman, with his own proven system and a team still relying on three McHale acquisitions: Love, Nikola Pekovic and Corey Brewer, the 2007 draft pick back for a second stint. Saunders’ own first draft went sideways when the players he eyed at No. 9 were off the board; in an audible, he picked and shipped Trey Burke to Utah for what became Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, neither of whom have shown much in limited roles.

Injuries (Love, Pekovic, key free-agent addition Kevin Martin) are a problem lately, and at 24-27 in the West, the goal of a postseason berth looks lofty, even as Love’s 2015 opt-out makes it urgent.

Saunders’ and McHale’s paths crossed a few times when they were in their previous positions – McHale upstairs, Saunders in Detroit or Washington – and once with both on the sidelines. The Rockets beat the Wizards at the Verizon Center, 114-106, a week before Saunders’ got fired and turned to an ESPN TV job for a spell.

At Target Center Monday, besides the role reversals, there will be another big change: the loss of their friendship. Maybe it’s as simple as what can happen when one pal becomes another pal’s boss, but little or no niceties pass between them anymore.

“We talk,” Saunder said earlier this season. “When I got the job, he reached out and congratulated me. [The friendship] is not the same, more than anything else, because of where we’re both at. It’s an awkward istuation for someone in my position to be calling and talking to another team’s coach. Even though I talk a lot to Doc [Rivers].”

Asked about it over the weekend in Milwaukee, McHale shrugged.

Two friends who came a long way together have grown quite a ways apart, doing what they love in the other man’s role.

Pek Gets Five, Love Got Four, So Do The Timberwolves Get Some Angst?

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Helicopters presumably are hovering over Kevin Love at this moment, “Goodfellas”-style, anticipating some sort of cut-and-run, Bronco-chase reaction to the Minnesota Timberwolves’ re-signing Wednesday of center Nikola Pekovic.

Pekovic, you should know, reportedly received a deal worth $60 million over five years. Which, rather famously, is one more year than the extension to which the Wolves signed Love in January 2012. Since-fired exec David Kahn was adamant in not using the designated-player mechanism available to a player coming off his rookie deal to bump Love’s deal (four years, $61 million) to five years. The All-Star power forward took that as a slight, on top of a pure business setback.

Instantly, the opt-out that Love did get built into the extension after the 2014-15 season was seen throughout the NBA as his escape hatch from an unhappy work situation. It’s a perception that continued right through the spring after Love made some comments in a Yahoo! story suggesting he was less than a happy Wolves camper.

So when Flip Saunders, Kahn’s replacement, talked with reporters Wednesday about the Pekovic signing, he was asked about the potential that Love might feel neglected anew, what with the big man next to him – who trails Love in All-Star selections, 2-0, and in Olympic gold, 1-0 – getting a guarantee until the summer of 2018.

“We talked about a lot of things,” Saunders said of his recent conversations with Love. “What I’ve been impressed about Kevin Love, more than anything, Kevin wants to win. As we talked about Pek, he just said, ‘You have to do what you have to do.’

“I think he really understands and he believes that I don’t have a certain way I’m going to do things. I don’t know what’s been done in the past – I really don’t care. So as he said, we’re just moving forward, both on the basketball court and every other thing.”

The Wolves do have that to explain any inconsistency in negotiating tactics. Kahn was Kahn, with whom Love did not click for a variety of reasons, and he’s gone now. As a restricted free agent, Pekovic didn’t have much leverage but then, coming off his rookie deal, neither did Love.

Also, there’s nothing to prevent Love and the Wolves locking the double-double machine in for five seasons with his next extension. Nothing either now, frankly, from the Wolves — with owner Glen Taylor’s needed blessing, of course — using the designated-player slot on Ricky Rubio so that all their main guys are together for the long term.

It might also help sell Love that his agent, Jeff Schwartz, happens to be Pekovic’s guy too. It wouldn’t be cool if Schwartz, in a couple of years, were to turn around and point to the Pekovic deal as a reason for Love’s opt-out exit.

“This signing of Pek,” Saunders said, “will in no way hinder anything having to do with Ricky down the road or with Kevin Love. … This league has proven you have to have, quote-unquote, three star-type players. Three players at their respective positions who are going to be considered probably in the top five in the league.”

As for Love, who is expected to return with a vengeance this fall to delete bad mojo of his 2012-13 lost to a twice-broken hand, Saunders said his inside-outside threat is hitting the offseason hard.

“He’s looking to come in at about the same weight as he did when he had his big breakout year,” Saunders said, saying Love is at 242 now. “He’s doing a lot of cross training. Yoga every day. Some other training, weights. … Shooting. I don’t think he’s over-wearing one part of his body out. He’s got a great attitude, he’s been very involved with both me in conversation and with our organization. I feel extremely confident that he’s showing some leadership.”

If he’s not, there’s always the helicopters. Or easier yet, Twitter.

Saunders Likely Back In Minny, Kahn Out

Flip Saunders is expected to take over for David Kahn in Minnesota. (by Ned Dishman/NBAE)

Flip Saunders is expected to take over for David Kahn in Minnesota. (by Ned Dishman/NBAE)

Former NBA head coach Flip Saunders is expected to return to the Minnesota Timberwolves as the team’s next president of basketball operations, NBA.com has learned.

Saunders, 58, has been negotiating a contract that, with option years, could run through the 2017-18 season and could be worth more than $9 million over the full five years, according to league sources who requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the hiring.

The move, which could become official as soon as next week, would end David Kahn‘s controversial tenure after four seasons and an 89-223 record during which the Timberwolves’ failure to reach the playoffs stretched to nine consecutive seasons. Kahn’s contract includes a team option for 2013-14 that will not be exercised.

Minnesota owner Glen Taylor and Saunders had been meeting in recent weeks, with Taylor confirming a report in March that Saunders was representing a group of prospective buyers interested in purchasing the franchise. Taylor, who turned 72 last week, has been seeking a minority investor or investors who eventually could take over majority control of the club.

Saunders, contacted Thursday evening in Bristol, Conn., where he was working as an NBA studio analyst for ESPN, neither confirmed nor denied his return to the Wolves.

“That’s the same speculation that was out there last month,” he said.

Taylor did not return phone messages seeking comment. He has told associates he would not discuss the matter with the media.

Saunders is the most successful coach in Minnesota franchise history, posting a 411-326 record in 9 1/2 seasons and steering the team to eight consecutive playoff berths. His time with the Wolves coincided with forward Kevin Garnett‘s ascendancy from high school draftee to perennial All-Star, NBA Most Valuable Player in 2004 and shoo-in Hall of Famer.

The 2003-04 team reached the Western Conference finals before falling to the Lakers’ last Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant team. But the expectations that success fueled led to Saunders’ firing in February 2005 after stumbling to a 25-26 mark.

He later coached the Detroit Pistons, going 176-70 from 2005-2008 near the end of the Pistons’ dominant Eastern Conference run, and the Washington Wizards, where the Gilbert Arenas gun situation blew up a potential playoff team. The Wizards went 51-130 with Saunders before he was fired in January 2012. Last spring, Saunders served as a consultant to the Boston Celtics at the invitation of coach Doc Rivers. He joined ESPN’s NBA coverage crew this season.

A native of Cleveland and a point guard at the University of Minnesota, Saunders coached in college and then for seven seasons in the Continental Basketball Association. He was brought to the Wolves in May 1995 by former Gophers teammate Kevin McHale as Minnesota’s general manager, then added head coaching duties when Bill Blair was fired seven months later, in December of Garnett’s rookie season.

Saunders shed the GM title in the wake of Minnesota’s salary-cap violations uncovered in 2000 in its signing forward Joe Smith. A series of illegal contracts, including future seasons after Smith played for what was considered to be less than market value for two years, ultimately cost the franchise three No. 1 draft picks and a $3.5 million fine, still the largest in NBA history. Taylor was suspended for one year and McHale, the Wolves’ VP of basketball operations at the time, agreed to take a leave of absence for the 2000-01 season.

Sources close to Saunders say that, since exiting the Wizards job, he is comfortable with the prospect of a front-office job rather than a future coaching position. Despite his firing in Minnesota in 2005, Saunders and Taylor have maintained a good relationship.

David Kahn (by David Sherman/NBAE)

David Kahn (by David Sherman/NBAE)

Kahn, hired in May 2009, took over a team that had missed the playoffs for five seasons and had posted losing records in the most recent four. He began an aggressive overhaul of the roster – more than one, eventually – and drew immediate criticism for drafting point guards with both the Nos. 5 and 6 picks that spring. Ricky Rubio, a heavily scouted prospect who fell to Minnesota after a poor workout with Sacramento, spent two more years in Spain before coming to the NBA and becoming one of the league’s bright young stars. Syracuse product Jonny Flynn, however, was a disappointment from the start and most recently played in an Australian pro league.

Wesley Johnson, the No. 4 pick in 2010, and Derrick Williams, the highest pick in Wolves history at No. 2 in 2011, also have been underwhelming in their young NBA careers. Other trades have helped rival clubs more than they have Minnesota (Al Jefferson and Corey Brewer). And after four years under Kahn, two of the Wolves’ three best players – All-Star power forward Kevin Love and center Nikola Pekovic – were scouted and drafted by McHale.

Kahn — a former sportswriter who got a law degree, worked in the Indiana Pacers’ front office and served as an executive in the NBA Development League — also made a pair of dubious, expensive signings. In July 2010, he signed failed big man-turned-NBA punchline Darko Milicic to a four-year, $20 million contract (though not fully guaranteed). The Timberwolves used the amnesty clause to rid themselves of Milicic in July 2012.

Also last summer, the Wolves lured Portland guard Brandon Roy out of injury-driven retirement with a two-year, $10 million deal; Roy lasted only five games this season before knee problems shelved him again. Kahn did sign Andrei Kirilenko back into the NBA after the former Utah forward’s one-year hiatus in Europe and added backcourt help via Alexey Shved of the Russian national team.

Kahn’s first hire as head coach, Kurt Rambis, went 32-132 in two seasons before being fired. His replacement, Rick Adelman, got the Wolves to 26-40 in the post-lockout 2011-12 season, then provided roster input that led to the acquisition of players such as Chase Budinger and Dante Cunningham and the departures of Milicic, Johnson and Michael Beasley, among others.

A rash of injuries this season – from Rubio’s remaining rehab of his March 2012 knee surgery to Love’s twice-broken hand, with significant games also lost by Budinger, Roy, Kirilenko and more – thwarted what Taylor, Kahn, Adelman and Minnesota fans felt would be the pursuit of a playoff berth. Taylor said in March that the injuries made it difficult to fully assess the team’s or Kahn’s performance. But sources said Taylor also planned to evaluate Kahn’s rapport with people inside the organization and in the NBA.

Adelman’s status for 2013-14 remains uncertain while his wife Mary Kay‘s health issues continue to be addressed. The veteran coach missed 11 games while doctors in Minnesota worked to determine the cause of her seizures.

Adelman, who will turn 67 in June, returned to pick up the 1,000th victory of his coaching career and has talked optimistically about the current roster’s potential. He and Saunders reportedly have a good relationship after years of competing on NBA sidelines, and the Wolves are hopeful that Adelman decides to return.