Posts Tagged ‘JJ Barea’

Celtics surprised by Rondo’s finish in Dallas

VIDEO: Charles and Kenny are on board with the Mavericks parting ways with Rajon Rondo

BOSTON — Whatever issues led to Rajon Rondo and Rick Carlisle butting heads in Dallas were somehow avoided in Boston with the Brad Stevens.

Stevens, the Celtics coach, admitted to being a bit surprised that Rondo’s time in Dallas seems to have to come to an ugly finish.

Rondo has been ruled out for the remainder of the team’s postseason run, technically by a “bad back.” But his conflicts with Carlisle have been well documented, the latest coming in the Mavericks’ Game 2 loss to Houston Tuesday, when Rondo was benched in favor of Ray Felton and J.J. Barea.

Rondo was solid in 22 games with Boston this season before he and Dwight Powell were traded to the Mavericks for Jameer Nelson, Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright, a first-round pick, a second-round pick and a trade exception. He averaged 8.3 points and at the time a league-leading 10.8 assists.

“I felt like Rajon had played really well at the start of the year,” Stevens said. “I had coached him during a really tough time for him, simply because last year he was just coming back from that ACL tear and not having any practice, which is really unique, and so it was just a matter of him getting the feel a little bit better. I was around him a lot this summer. I was around him a lot this fall. He had the unfortunate hand break at the start of the season and it put him a little bit behind again. But I thought he played pretty well here, so yeah, I was a little bit surprised.”

Celtics boss Danny Ainge, a longtime Rondo advocate, admitted his surprise at the drama that’s gone down in Dallas in a local radio (98.5 the Sports Hub’s “Toucher & Rich”) show earlier this week:

“I’m very surprised,” Ainge said. “I thought it would be a good fit for the Mavericks and Rajon. I don’t really know what’s going on down there. I read a little bit (Wednesday) and heard some things, but I’m very surprised. I thought it would work out well for both people.”

“I don’t know what’s going on down there,” Ainge said. “Rajon was terrific here with coach (Brad) Stevens. I think they got along. The whole question is, Rondo was good this year for us. He worked really hard in the offseason. I really did think it was going to be a big year for him, and Rajon just hasn’t played as well, for whatever reason, as he hoped and as we had hoped and as the Mavericks had hoped.”

Rondo will be a free agent this summer, so he’ll have the opportunity to start somewhere fresh for the 2015-16 season. But this residue of this tumultuous season will no doubt travel with him, wherever he goes.

That said, Carlisle and the Mavericks stand by the deal.

Carlisle told a Dallas radio station Thursday that it was a risky move, but one worth taking.

“In the case of anything, there is risk, but there are risks worth taking,” Carlisle said Thursday on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM. “That trade was a risk worth taking. We all agreed on that. Now, we’re at a point where, hey, it’s time to move on.”

Morning shootaround — April 5

VIDEO: Highlights from games played April 4


Streaking Celtics adopt ‘win now’ approach  | Grizzlies in fight for playoff positioning | Blazers must shore up their D | Dirk gives Shaun Livingston a pass for low blow

No. 1: Celtics make convincing playoff push — They very easily could justify missing the playoffs this season and then cashing in on their growing cache of draft picks, but the rebuilding Celtics have evidently decided to go for it. When Marcus Smart dropped a buzzer-beater Saturday night against the Raptors, it only confirmed as much. Boston entered Sunday with the No. 8 spot in the East, a half-game lead over the Heat, and to hear the players and brass, the playoffs are where this young team belongs. It’s a rather refreshing tone considering how much tanking has dominated the conversation in the NBA this season. Zach Lowe of Grantland did a study on the Celtics during this playoff push and here’s some of what he found out:

“The playoff-chasing Celtics of 2015 are a cute feel-good story — and little more. The rebuild is moving faster than expected, with a surprise run at the no. 8 seed in a dreadful conference, but there is a giant chasm separating this plucky, starless group from what it aspires to be.

“The important thing to remember about us,” coach Brad Stevens said in a sit-down with Grantland last week, “is that we have a long, long way to go.”

It says everything about the difficulty of rebuilding that Boston has absolutely nailed Phase 1 and yet has no clear path to 50 wins. Multiple rival executives described Boston’s trading spree of the last two years as “a masterpiece” in rebuilding. Contract timetables, injuries, and other variables made it impossible for Boston to deal its aging stars at peak sell-high times, and yet Danny Ainge still nabbed great value for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo. The Celtics have as many as six extra first-round picks1 coming and oodles of cap space, they’ve drafted solid players across the first round, and they just acquired a dynamic young point guard — Isaiah Thomas — on the cheap.

But they have no stars and no clear path to getting one outside a major break in free agency or the trade market. The Celtics have made the leap to mediocrity so fast that they may have no easy way out. They’re still not good, but they’re not bad enough to get an early first-round pick — to get a clear shot at a star, in other words. Even if they lose this season’s slap fight for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, they will likely pick in the late lottery — a range that looks like their draft ceiling for the next few seasons. “That’s a concern for all 30 teams,” Ainge says of being stuck on the treadmill of mediocrity. “It’s the nature of our league. You definitely need good fortune.”

The Celtics discussed holding off on the Thomas deal to deflate their win total, but decided after some debate that they could lose out — or pay a higher price — if they waited until the summer. “Ideally, he might have been someone you pick up in the summer,” Ainge says. “But someone else might trade for him. You might be in a bidding war. You have to move while the iron is hot.”


No. 2: Grizzlies in fight for playoff positioning — The most intriguing April drama in the West is about playoff positioning near the top. The Rockets now hold a half-game lead over the Grizzlies for the No. 2 spot, and why is that so important? Well, the No. 2 team will most likely get the Mavericks and avoid the suddenly-smoking Spurs in the first round. Memphis had successfully fended off all threats for the No. 2 spot until now. And while the race is hardly over, the contest between Memphis and Houston will only intensify, especially with Dwight Howard back in the mix for the Rockets (though on a minutes restriction). Here’s Michael Wallace of ESPN on the Grizzlies, who lost a tough game to the Wizards on Saturday:

“I don’t think it’s the toughest division in our league; it’s the toughest division in all major leagues,” Memphis coach Dave Joerger said. “Year in and year out, it’s ridiculous. So for our guys to get rewarded for their hard work, it would be positive.

“It’s what’s important to you. You hear about San Antonio, right? They don’t care about a division title. They don’t care about seeding. Well, we’re not them.”

While it’s all about the end game for the Spurs, who are going for their second straight championship and sixth in the past 16 years, the Grizzlies are still focused on the intermediate steps toward success. Winning an NBA championship remains the top goal for Memphis, but hanging the franchise’s first division banner in the rafters of the 10-year-old FedEx Forum along the way is a major priority.

The last time every team from an NBA division made the playoffs was in the 2005-06 season, when the Pistons, Pacers, Cavaliers, Bulls and Bucks advanced. That’s never happened in the NFL or Major League Baseball, although it’s occurred in two different divisions in the NHL over the past five seasons.


No. 3: Blazers must shore up their D or else — If you’re a Blazers fan you, must be thrilled with the way the team has hung in there in the rugged West despite missing Wesley Matthews and an inconsistent season from Damian Lillard and with LaMarcus Aldridge playing through a thumb that’ll require surgery in the offseason. Portland once again is in position to do damage in the playoffs (ask the Rockets, who are still stinging from Lillard’s series winner last spring), but not if they don’t clean up their biggest issue first: defense. Oregonian writer John Canzano, still stung by the Blazers surrendering 126 to the Clippers last week, discusses:

But on the other hand, Chris Kaman was willing to address the biggest issue that coach Terry Stotts whiffed on — atrocious team defense by the Blazers. The biggest problem for Portland if any of this should come to a Clippers-Blazers playoff series.

Decide for yourself which guy had the worse post-game peformance. I’m not up in the air. Kaman settled it when he said, “We scored 122 points. That’s not stopping anybody. And we didn’t stop them either, they had more points (126) than we did. We got hurt on transition and on threes.” He was only saying what everyone could obviously see at Moda Center.

I like Stotts. I championed his hiring. I banged the drum for his contract extension even before the end of last season. I like where he’s headed with this rig, but if he’s unable to get real about the deficiencies of this team and remains in denial, I’m concerned about the short-term prognosis for a team that has fought to this point.


No. 4: Dirk gives Shaun Livingston a pass for low blowDirk Nowitzki is usually a cool customer except when threatened with severe physical pain, as anyone else would (see Chris Kaman last week regarding Chris Paul). So at first, he was taken aback when he was whacked in the private area by Shaun Livingston. But when these things happen, you must take into account the history of the offending party. Livingston doesn’t exactly conjure up memories of flagrant assaults. And so, while Mark Cuban wasn’t in a forgiving mood Saturday, Dirk gave Livingston a pass. Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News has some golden quotes from Dirk:

Livingston, trying to defend Nowitzki in the post, was using his right hand to hand-check Nowitzki in the back. Somehow, his hand got in between Nowitzki’s legs and clearly caught Nowitzki in the groin area.

For the rest of the game, the AAC crowd booed Livingston every time he touched the ball and in the fourth quarter, Livingston and coach Rick Carlisle exchanged words briefly after a foul was called on J.J. Barea against Livingston.

Things escalated after the game when owner Mark Cuban talked to Golden State coach Steve Kerr and Livingston, then assistant coach Alvin Gentry, as they left the court.

Nowitzki had this to say about the play, which was reviewed and ended up with Livingston called for a flagrant foul, penalty one.

“Well, I give him the benefit of the doubt because he’s really not that type of player,” Nowitzki said. “He hasn’t been his entire career. I’m not really sure what he was trying to do there, if he was trying to get to the ball through my legs or anything. But like I said, he’s not a dirty player.

“But I really enjoyed his tight grip he got. I really enjoyed that.”

Nowitzki was laughing as he said that last line.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Paul Millsap’s shoulder injury should be defined a bit better today. The Hawks forward suffered the injury Saturday against the Nets and did not return in that game. … Boston’s Evan Turner has joined exclusive company: One of only 5 Celtics with 3 or more triple doubles in a season … All systems go for Paul George in his return tonight.

World Cup stacked with NBA players

VIDEO: USA tops Puerto Rico in exhibition

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — LeBron James was always taking the summer off from competitive basketball. Kevin Love decided to do the same just before the U.S. National Team opened training camp in Las Vegas last month. But there are still reasons for Cavs fans to watch the FIBA World Cup, which begins Saturday in Spain.

The Cavs are one of two teams that will have four players taking part in the World Cup. Kyrie Irving, of course, will start (at least some games) at point guard for the United States. He’ll face new teammate Erik Murphy, playing for Finland, in the USA’s first pool-play game.

Murphy, who was acquired in a trade from Utah last month, may not necessarily be on the Cavs’ opening-night roster. Only $100,000 of his $816,000 contract is guaranteed, the Cavs are already over the 15-man roster limit, and they’ve yet to sign Shawn Marion.

Irving has already faced Brazil’s Anderson Varejao in an exhibition game. And he could go head-to-head with his Cleveland back-up — Australia’s Matthew Dellavedova — in the knockout round.

The Rockets are the other NBA team that will have four players at the World Cup. James Harden, the Dominican Republic’s Francisco Garcia, Lithuania’s Donatas Motiejunas and Greece’s Kostas Papanikolaou will all represent the Rockets in Spain.

Papanikolaou is one of five incoming rookies at the tournament. The others are the Bulls’ Cameron Bairstow (Australia), the Nets’ Bojan Bogdanovic (Croatia), the Jazz’s Dante Exum (Australia), and the Pacers’ Damjan Rudez (Croatia).

Croatia’s Bogdanovic is not to be confused with Serbia’s Bogdan Bogdanovic, who was selected in this year’s Draft by the Suns and will play at least two years in Turkey before coming to the NBA. The Serbian Bogdanovic is one of six guys taken in the last two drafts who has yet to come over.

The others are Alex Abrines (OKC, Spain), Arselan Kazemi (PHI, Iran), Joffrey Lauvergne (DEN, France), Raul Neto (UTA, Brazil) and Dario Saric (PHI, Croatia). (more…)

U.S. takes extra big on final roster

VIDEO: GameTime: USA Basketball Final Roster

NEW YORK — Just a few hours after a 112-86 victory over Puerto Rico at Madison Square Garden on Friday and six days before it needed to, the U.S. National Team finalized its roster for the FIBA World Cup in Spain.

In a bit of a surprise, two players – DeMar DeRozan and Andre Drummond – who didn’t play on Friday made the final roster. Drummond is the fourth center on the team, while DeRozan made the cut over Chandler Parsons and Kyle Korver. He offers more playmaking and explosive scoring ability than the other two.

In addition to Korver and Parsons, Damian Lillard and Gordon Hayward did not make the 12-man roster.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski and USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo had previously indicated that they might take more than 12 when the team flew to the Canary Islands on Saturday afternoon, because some of the final decisions were proving to be difficult. But Krzyzewski made it clear after Friday’s game that they decided not to take any extras, for two reasons.

First, because it’s “really difficult,” according to Krzyzewski, for a player to travel abroad and eventually get sent home early. Second, with just one exhibition game remaining (Tuesday against Slovenia), it’s time for this team to finalize its rotation and everybody’s roles.

“Now that we’re down to 12,” Krzyzewski said, “we can get a little bit more precise with things.”

DeRozan and Drummond join guards Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, and Derrick Rose; wings James Harden and Klay Thompson; forwards Kenneth Faried and Rudy Gay; and bigs DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and Mason Plumlee.

The starting lineup – Irving, Curry, Harden, Faried and Davis – seems to be set, with Irving having replaced Rose for the two exhibition games this week.

Rose is going to Spain, though. If Irving is the starter, Rose will be one of the first players off the bench, along with Thompson (backing up Curry and Harden) and Gay (backing up Faried).

There was no need to see how Rose felt after his second exhibition game. He got four days of rest after last Saturday’s win over Brazil, but Krzyzewski has clearly seen and heard enough.

“I feel very confident about Derrick,” Krzyzewski said. “I think Derrick feels very confident.”

It remains to be seen how many of the USA’s nine potential games Rose will play at the World Cup. It’s safe to assume that it’s less than nine, especially with the five pool-play games in the first six days.

“If he needs a day off,” Chicago Bulls head coach and USA assistant Tom Thibodeau said of Rose on Friday, “he’ll get a day off.”

And Krzyzewski is fine with that. As the U.S. tries to win its fourth straight gold medal in international competition, it will also be trying to get Rose back into top basketball shape.

“These guys want to play with him,” Krzyzewski said. “Part of getting back is to be around a group of peers, who want you to be really good.

“That’s what we’ve seen over the years. That’s where the brotherhood develops. That’s one of the cool things about what’s happened over the last nine years. We think that can happen again and hopefully, that will help Derrick as he gets ready to keep participating in this, but also for the NBA season. I think it’s a huge, huge help for him.”

So the U.S. will have just one full-time point guard – Irving – on the roster, with Curry starting at shooting guard and Rose unlikely to play every game. That could be some extra burden on the Cavs’ All-Star, but the USA’s best talent is still in the backcourt and the staff clearly wanted extra depth up front, with Cousins, Drummond and Plumlee backing up Davis, who could see some time at power forward.

The need for three backup centers is a bit puzzling, especially since Davis will likely rank first or second on the team in minutes played. Two of three back-ups will certainly have limited roles.

But the U.S. may have its sights set on the frontline of Spain, which features Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka. The hosts are the clear favorites to reach the gold medal game from the other side of the bracket, though they’ll have a tougher road than the Americans.

The U.S. got a tough 20 minutes on Friday, as Puerto Rico took a five-point lead in the first quarter and hung within two until Thompson beat the halftime buzzer with a pull-up 3-pointer. Veteran guards Carlos Arroyo and J.J. Barea were able to take advantage of the USA’s aggressiveness on the perimeter to push Puerto Rico to 47 points on just 40 first-half possessions.

The U.S. tightened up its rotation and its defense in the second half, using a 14-2 run to take control.

“We tried to do too much trapping [in the first half], and they’re just too good,” Krzyzewski said. “Second half, I thought we played really, really well.”

Still, the U.S. will need Tuesday’s exhibition game against Slovenia (2 p.m. ET, ESPN2) and all five pool play games in Bilbao to sharpen up for single-elimination action in Barcelona and Madrid. With the roster set, the focus can go from choosing a team to winning another gold.

“There’s still,” Krzyzewski said, “a lot to do.”

Van Gundy No Fan Of Flop Rule

Stan Van Gundy has a history of opposing the rule of law in regards to the rules handed down by the NBA. He did so as coach of the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic and still does in his new role as an analyst and partner of the NBC Sports Network.

The latest mandate to draw Van Gundy’s ire is the league’s new flopping rule. Van Gundy told Sports Illustrated‘s Richard Deitsch he thinks the flop rule will flop terribly in both its aim and execution:

“I think the attempt to try to address it is a good thing but I don’t see the rule having much effect,” said Van Gundy, the former Magic coach who is transitioning this season to broadcasting with NBC Sports Network and Dial Global radio. “First of all, I think the only ones that you will see penalized are very, very egregious flops. I’d be surprise if it even got to one a game, and I think anybody who watches basketball knows that there is far more than one every game.

“And I don’t even think this is the NBA’s fault. I just think it’s impossible the way the rule is written where they can ‘crack down’ on it. I think they will make sort of a cursory attempt, and make it look like they are trying to do something about it.”

Van Gundy did exonerate the league to a degree, admitting that it’s nearly impossible to crack down on the problem with the way the rule is written. But do you think he has a point?


Barea And Sloan Are NBA’s First Official Floppers

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — We have our first official flops of the 2012-13 season.

The league announced Monday that J.J. Barea of the Wolves and Donald Sloan of the Cavs received warnings for flopping in games played on Friday.

Early in the fourth quarter of the Wolves’ win over the Kings, Barea took a forearm to the face from Jimmer Fredette, who was actually called for an offensive foul on the play. But Barea’s arm actions were clearly deemed to be an exaggeration of the impact…

Again, here’s a the “flopping” definition from the league…

A “flop” is an attempt to either fool referees into calling undeserved fouls or fool fans into thinking the referees missed a foul call by exaggerating the effect of contact with an opposing player.

Sloan’s flop, on a play in the fourth quarter of the Cavs’ loss to the Bulls on which no foul was called, was far more entertaining…

That was some serious drama after what seemed like very little contact from Nazr Mohammed, who may have been moving just a little on that screen. Bravo, Donald Sloan. Bravo.

Since these was the first flopping violation for either player, they each just get a warning. If either flops again, they’ll be fined $5,000.

You can check for flopping updates on the league’s official page here on

Lakers Have No One Else To Blame But Themselves For Latest Playoff Ouster

HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS — Before anyone else in Los Angeles points another finger at Pau Gasol, Mike Brown, Ramon Sessions or any of the other convenient scapegoats in the wake of a second straight second-round playoff exit, look in the mirror.

Stare long and hard and ask yourself if you didn’t see this coming. Didn’t you realize last season, when Andrew Bynum was heading to visitor’s locker room in Dallas without his jersey, that this team was fatally flawed and had no chance of overcoming its own internal obstacles?

Like an aging heavyweight champ who gets K.O.’d in his last bout and then comes back into the ring the next time without truly understanding what went wrong, the Lakers got popped against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals. This time, it came by believing in their ability to overcome any obstacle with sheer talent alone.

Avoiding the sweep this time around shouldn’t ease the sting for Lakers fans, either. They knew (better than most) what they saw from this group during last season’s semifinal flame-out against the Mavericks exposed the team’s flaws.

Why would anyone, Kobe Bryant included, be surprised at Gasol’s struggles against the Thunder when you saw him crumble against the Mavericks?

You replaced a living legend in Phil Jackson with a good coach in Brown, but if Jackson couldn’t get this team over the proverbial hump in his final season, why would anyone assume Brown would be capable of pulling it off now? And Sessions was supposed to be the anti-Derek Fisher — a younger, more athletically gifted point guard capable of matching up better against the league’s younger and more athletic guards. He proved to be just as ill-equipped to handle Russell Westbrook as Fisher would have been.

This is a mess of the Lakers’ own making, whether they admit it or not. They are the ones that tossed Jackson’s hand-picked successor, Brian Shaw, aside in favor of Brown. They saw the cracks in their foundation and opted for some instant sealant instead of legit fixes.


Hungry Thunder Sweep Mavericks, Punch First Ticket To 2nd Round

HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS — A 13-point deficit in a hostile environment, with a close-out opportunity fading away with every empty possession, would have worried most teams heading into the fourth quarter.

But not the Oklahoma City Thunder. And certainly not James Harden, the Thunder’s mercurial sixth man who came to the rescue and delivered the Thunder’s 103-97 series-clinching Game 4 win over the Dallas Mavericks Saturday night at American Airlines Center with a staggering 29-point performance that included virtuoso work in the crucial minutes of the fourth quarter.

The Thunder not only swept the defending champs out of the playoffs for the second straight year (the Mavericks got the Lakers in the Western Conference semis a year ago), they also became the first team in this postseason to punch their ticket to the second round, where they await the winner of the Lakers-Nuggets series.

Perhaps even more important in their own locker room, however, is that they vanquished the team that ended their dream run in the conference finals last year by schooling the young upstarts in the art of closing out playoff games.

“We learned a lot [from that series],” said Thunder All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, whose lockdown defense on Mavericks sixth man Jason Terry helped turn the series in his team’s favor. “We learned that we had to come back this season with a lot more toughness.”

And they did!

It’s far too early to crown the Thunder as anything but the first team to move on to the next round. But they showed resilience, some toughness and some maturity that many people wondered if they possessed after seeing the Mavericks take them apart in that five-game series last year.

“They’re a great young team,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “They have a certain look in their eye right now, not only that they belong but that this could be their time. I’m sure the addition of [Derek] Fisher has something to do with that. But they came at us like a buzzsaw in the fourth quarter … they’re going to be tough to beat.”


Discipline Delayed For World Peace

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The one thing the sports world didn’t need was another day to watch, analyze and then suffer through the collective paralysis of analysis of the film of Lakers forward Metta World Peace‘s wicked elbow to the side of Thunder forward James Harden‘s head from Sunday afternoon.

But it doesn’t really matter how many times you watch it, how many different interpretations there are of it and how many different ways World Peace tries to explain away the lick he passed as both “unfortunate” and “unintentional.”

The video evidence, and World Peace’s extensive history of incidents as Ron Artest, will make it extremely tough for the league’s judge and jury to show leniency for a player who has straddled the line between having and losing control many times before. Even though it did not come by late Monday night, there is little doubt that a suspension of some sort is on the way in next 24 hours.

And at this stage, it’s really only a matter of how severe a penalty it will be for World Peace and the Lakers, whose regular season finale is Thursday night in Sacramento. While the reaction from folks on both sides of this issue was as immediate (thanks to Twitter and other social networking sites) as it was passionate, discipline for World Peace will have to wait until the league doles it out.

Using the Lakers’ last such incident as a guideline, it would seem that World Peace is in line for at least something along the lines of the five-game suspension Lakers center Andrew Bynum received for his mid-air knockdown of Mavericks guard J.J. Barea in the Western Conference semifinals last year.

But, as one prominent agent explained it, that does not mean the league is limited to game penalties in dealing with World Peace. The league is perfectly within its right to fine him an unspecified dollar amount on top of the games he would be forced to sit out, without pay. For a player who has already missed 111 games due to 13 previous suspensions and lost millions in related fines and penalties, this latest incident is a sobering reminder of a place he probably did not intend on revisiting after a relatively incident-free past couple of years.

“I would think at least five games and anywhere from 5 to 10 games,” the agent said. “I thought it was definitely an egregious act and a totally over the top move. It wasn’t a basketball play. There wasn’t a basketball involved at all. Bynum got five for knocking Barea out of the air. This was just as bad, in my opinion, if not worse. It wasn’t a basketball play. And it wasn’t a mistake. Harden never even looked at Artest, didn’t have his hands up and never knew that elbow was coming. This wasn’t Harden’s fault.”


Wolves Get Overheated, For The Good!

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Welcome to the playoff chase, Minnesota. You have officially arrived.

The Timberwolves still have plenty of work to do if they want in on the NBA’s postseason party. The dream is fading. But they are not completely out of it yet and they are on the right path.

When your stars go after each other on the sideline before, during or after an ugly showing against a lesser opponent, you have the makings of a team that is serious about making some noise in the playoff hunt.

Timberwolves All-Star Kevin Love and point guard J.J. Barea, who collected his ring while with the Mavericks last season, got into a dust-up on the bench during a timeout in a game they would eventually lose to the Kings (see a little of the argument at about the 2-minute mark in the clip above).

Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune provides the details. We’re not talking Thrilla in Manila stuff here, but there was definitely some chest-puffing going on (this blow-by-blow from Steve McPherson is worth a look):

Barea stepped toward Love while the two exchanged words and Love rose from his seat on the bench until Luke Ridnour ushered Barea away and Martell Webster did the same with Love.

By then, the Wolves’ third consecutive loss was all but assured, six days after they began this seven-game, 13-day road trip with a victory at Phoenix.

Love and Barea both put the same name to an afternoon when they briefly turned on each other. Meanwhile, the struggling Kings ran away to a 20-point fourth-quarter lead and a 115-point total two days after they put 120 points on the scoreboard and beat the Boston Celtics by 25.

“Frustration,” Barea said.

Barea called the afternoon’s outcome “terrible, worst loss of the year if you want to put it timingwise” after the Wolves committed 21 turnovers and acquiesced in a fourth quarter when they gave up the good fight, after losing in overtime at Utah on Thursday and remaining respectable against the Lakers on Friday.

“Part of the game, competitors trying to win,” Barea said. “We’re frustrated that we’re losing, but it happens, every basketball team. We just got into it. It’s all right. He said something I didn’t like, I said it back and we’re all good. Nothing against him.”

This is one of those instances when a little overheating is for the greater good. The Timberwolves need to get upset. They are letting a playoff opportunity slip away with their recent play (losing three straight and going 4-6 in their last 10 games).

It’s rare that we would argue for this sort of public display of discontent between teammates, and we’re glad Love and Barea didn’t drag their temporary temper tantrums off the court.

But they are right to care enough to go at each other a little bit. Desperate times call for desperate measures, fellas.