Still unable to simply fire a coach he’s determined is done with the Minnesota Timberwolves, general manager David Kahn recently proposed that Kurt Rambis accept a reassignment within the franchise’s front office, league sources told Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday.
The prospects of Rambis serving out the remaining two years and $4 million on his coaching deal so closely with Kahn in the front office holds little, if any, appeal to Rambis, sources said. Rambis has little respect for Kahn’s basketball acumen, and perhaps even less of a personal affinity for him.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The Indiana Pacers have announced that Frank Vogel has become the team’s permanent replacement for Jim O’Brien.
Two league sources, plus an advisory sent out by the team on Tuesday night announcing that Pacers president Larry Bird and Vogel would meet with the assembled media Wednesday morning at 11 a.m. ET, confirmed what has been the worst kept secret it Indiana basketball since the Pacers’ playoff run ended.
Vogel helped guide the Pacers to their first postseason appearance since 2006, guiding them to a 20-18 record to finish the regular season. The Pacers were eliminated by Eastern Conference No. 1 seed Chicago Bulls in five games in the first round, but put up a fight from start to finish against the favored Bulls.
One of the major factors working in Vogel’s favor, per one of those sources, is that he was able to recruit former Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw to join him as the new lead assistant for the Pacers. Shaw, a candidate for several head coaching positions around the league the past two seasons, brings a championship pedigree, as both a player and coach, with him to Indianapolis. Shaw interviewed for the Pacers job in 2007 before O’Brien was hired.
Vogel’s hiring leaves just two other coaching situations unsettled. Kurt Rambis still has not been told of his fate in Minnesota and the Detroit Pistons’ search for John Kuester‘s replacement is ongoing.
Even the biggest skeptic would have to admit that the future looks good with the core of a young team coming together quite nicely, anchored by All-Star power forward Kevin Love and a hard-to-guard small forward like Michael Beasley.
The only thing missing from this pretty picture is a coach to pull it all together. Kurt Rambis is still waiting to find out his fate, those two years remaining on his contract clearly don’t guarantee he’ll get the chance to help manage Rubio’s transition to the NBA.
Months have passed since the Timberwloves’ season ended. A six-hour meeting, a book report on the season and you still need time to figure this out?
“I recognize that this is painful for everybody involved, or at least awkward at a minimum,” Kahn said. “But I think we understand where we’re at. All in due time.”
Rambis deserves better than this. He at least deserves the courtesy of being dismissed in a timely fashion, if that is the outcome of all of these meetings and reports needed to evaluate a coach who has compiled a 32-132 record in his first two seasons on the job, two seasons with a roster that Phil Jackson likely couldn’t have coached to any more wins than what Rambis did.
By the time we hear the reasoning behind this lengthy delay in a concrete decision on Rambis, it won’t matter. The damage is already done. If they are dumping him, this was just a tasteless way of doing it. And if he is allowed to return for a third season, the confidence inspired by a nearly three-month deliberation …
Like we said, Rambis (and any other coach in his situation) deserves better than this.
Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Which NBA coach will be the first to go once the regular season ends? Care to weigh in on who should be the first to go?
Steve Aschburner: Detroit’s John Kuester, only because he works in the Eastern time zone and the Pistons might be asking him to clean out his office before his team leaves Philadelphia on April 13, whereas Golden State’s Keith Smart will be finishing up that night three hours later against Portland. Both of these fellows will get zapped because of ownership changes, on top of mostly miserable seasons. Who should get the gate? Sorry, can’t urge someone out of a job in this economy.
Fran Blinebury: Whether he’s been set up to fail by his veteran players or G.M. Joe Dumars or both, there seems little question that John Kuester has lost respect and control in Detroit. Once that happens, there’s no going back. The once-proud franchise has to get its ownership situation settled, turn the page and move on. Now. (more…)
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Wilt Chamberlain‘s record of 227 straight double-doubles is safe for now.
All-Star Kevin Love was 53-games into his chase of Chamberlain’s record when it all came crashing down Sunday in Oakland. Love managed just six points and 12 rebounds in the Timberwolves’ blowout loss to the Warriors, a team he lit up for 37 points and 23 rebounds the last time he saw them (late last month).
To their credit, the Warriors (and specifically David Lee) were not about to watch Love abuse them again. And they took whatever precautions necessary to make sure that Love didn’t burn them again. They beat the brakes off of the Timberwolves, and not even a monster night from Love could have saved them.
Love’s streak took on a life of its own the past few months. He passed Moses Malone for the league’s longest streak since the 1976 ABA/NBA merger last week, and that milestone came complete with tributes (here and elsewhere) for a job well done.
“Now I can just focus on playing my game,” he said. “I was still doing it for myself, but a lot of it was for fans and everybody who wanted to watch me get those double doubles. I feel pretty happy with what I did. I don’t think we should look at it as the streak came to an end.
“It’s time to reflect on what I did and how I continue to prosper in this league.”
Love deserves his props for the accomplishment. Praise is due for Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis, who did the right thing by taking Love out and not letting him chase the record and pile up hollow numbers in a blowout loss.
We’re curious now to see what kind of streak Love can put together now. Let’s see if he can top his own mark of 53 straight between now and whenever he could make that happen next season.
BOSTON – Kobe Bryant knew exactly what he was doing when he answered a question about his old friend Kevin Garnett Thursday afternoon with three words sure to provoke.
When the topic of Garnett’s increasing edginess or crankiness or tightly-wound-ed-ness — whatever we want to call his flare-ups with opponents and referees as his career stretches on — Bryant said simply: “He’s a Celtic.”
Added Bryant several hours before the Los Angeles Lakers game against Boston at TD Garden: “That’s what Celtics do.” After a beat, he laughed and said: “You guys will love that one.”
Bryant is in a unique position to understand or at least witness the temper and intensity of Garnett. For one, they knew each other back when both were prep phenoms more than 15 years ago. They have been friends since then, and they now play on opposite sides of one of the greatest rivalries in all sports. So after tapping into that, Bryant went a little deeper.
“No, he’s always been intense. I’ve known him since high school and he’s always been intense. But he’s a great guy. … He’s not [a jerk] by any stretch of the imagination. He’s just a good dude. When he’s in there, he plays his heart out.”
How serious and mean-spirited Garnett is when he’s blistering an opponent with profanity-laced trash talk or delivering a dubious elbow or tap to one’s nether regions, only the Boston power forward ultimately can tell us. But the bile between the Lakers and the Celtics is legit, though, pre-dating Bryant, Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and the rest of them. Bryant seemed to know his history, too.
“Danny Ainge. Kurt [Rambis] getting clotheslined. Y’know, we’re the good guys,” he said.
“To me it’s easy to separate it. Especially with guys that you know. Like KG, Paul and those guys. … I love to talk. Paul likes to talk, KG likes to talk. I’m probably the only one on my team that likes to talk. So I’ll probably be jawing with all of ‘em tonight. It’s fun.”
So much for letting the debate linger or drama build. Only one day after the reserves were named for the All-Star Game, Minnesota power forward and league rebounding leader Kevin Love claimed the last spot on the Western Conference team.
While many praised the move, considering the season Love is having, one of the candidates for the final roster spot wasn’t too pleased. Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge went into Friday averaging 21.3 points and 9.3 rebounds. The Blazers are 26-24. Minnesota is 11-38.
“Now I know it’s about stats, not wins,” an upset Aldridge told The Oregonian after Portland fell to Indiana.
NBA commissioner David Stern tabbed Love to replace Houston center Yao Ming, voted by fans to the starting lineup but out for the season with an ankle injury. Yao’s absence opened the door for Love, a first-time All-Star in his third season and the first member of the Timberwolves to earn a spot in the showcase since Kevin Garnett four years ago.
“This is an incredible honor for me and I’m so proud to be able to represent the Timberwolves organization at one of the league’s premier events,” Love said. “I’m thankful to commissioner Stern for giving me his support, as well as to all the great fans in Minnesota who have been behind me and my teammates all season long.”
Love beat out a deep and talented field in the West for the last spot. Among those that had to be in the mix besides Aldridge were Memphis forward Zach Randolph, Lakers forward Lamar Odom and Phoenix guard Steve Nash.
Even though the Wolves own the worst record in the conference, Love is in the midst of an historic season. The 6-foot-10 UCLA product is averaging 21.4 points and 15.5 rebounds. No player has averaged 20 and 15 since Moses Malone in 1982-83. He’s also on pace to become the first player in league history to average 12 rebounds while shooting better than 40 percent from beyond the arc.
The league leader in double-doubles (43) has a current streak of 34, the second-longest in the last 25 seasons. Love is also one of just 19 players with a 30-30 game, which he accomplished on Nov. 12 in a win over New York. He’s the franchise’s second All-Star injury replacement, joining Garnett in 1997. That’s the first of K.G.’s record-tying 14 consecutive selections.
“I’m really happy for Kevin,” Wolves head coach Kurt Rambis said. “He worked extremely hard this offseason to elevate his game and learn how to consistently perform at a high level in this league. This recognition is well-deserved, and exciting news both for Kevin personally and our organization as a whole.”
The All-Star Game is Feb. 20 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. It will be broadcast live on TNT and ESPN Radio at 8 p.m. ET.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – There’s always some intrigue involved when the master, the Zen Master in this case, faces off against one of his pupils.
We’re still not sure if that’s the sort of relationship Lakers coach Phil Jackson enjoys with Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis. But for the purposes of our weekend schedule, we’re going to go with it.
The Lakers are always on our radar — ALWAYS!
And it has nothing to do with us being frontrunners or jumping on the bandwagon of a two-time defending champion. It’s more about loving the way they play and what they bring out of the competition.
If you remember, it was the Lakers that launched this current basketball renaissance for our friends in Minnesota. Since the Lakers’ 99-94 defeat of the Timberwolves Nov. 9 at Staples Center Rambis has watched his team win three of five games and turn a corner, of sorts, in this young season.
Everything comes full circle tonight, with a return match at the Target Center. And that’s just one of several games on the must-watch list known around here as HT’s League Pass Spotlight: Weekend Watching(and once again, the free preview is over but you can click here to make sure you don’t miss a second of the action):
LA LAKERS at MINNESOTA 8 p.m. ET
Why we’re watching: Who doesn’t want to watch the hottest young frontcourt tandem in the league (Michael Beasley and Kevin Love) against the best frontcourt technician on the planet (Pau Gasol) and one of the most versatile frontcourt performers in the game (Lamar Odom). Beasley and Love aren’t just playing well right now, they’re playing as well or better than anyone other pair of forwards in the league. We didn’t even mention Kobe Bryant yet, which should tell you how much fun this game could be. The Timberwolves are feeling pretty good about themselves right now. That’s usually a perfect time to catch an up and coming squad against behemoth like the Lakers, who will surely enjoy the challenge.
MIAMI at MEMPHIS 8 p.m. ET
Why we’re watching: We got a little excited after Chris Bosh torched the Suns for a season-high 35 points the other night and then heard about it from all sides for a) celebrating such a performance when it was clear the Suns could not defend him and b) trying to praise him after blasting him for three weeks for not showing up. Well, we’re going to give it another shot against the Hang Time Grizzlies, a team with a little more in the paint than the Suns. If Bosh can go to work against the likes of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, then maybe we can get an accurate read on where he is right now in his quest to regain his pre-Miami form.
NEW JERSEY at DENVER 9 p.m. ET
Why we’re watching: We’re calling this one the Carmelo (Anthony) Bowl. The Nets have made it pretty clear that they wanted the Nuggets’ All-Star and best player to wear their uniform. And the Nuggets have made it equally clear that they won’t to part ways with Anthony, no matter how inevitable the split seems to the rest of us. These teams only match up twice a year and this is the Nets’ only trip to Denver. We imagine their will be some die-hard Nuggets fans in the crowd with a few choice words for the Nets and their traveling party, so we’re hoping they keep it PG-13 with all the impressionable ears that are sure to be in the Pepsi Center.
GOLDEN STATE at LA LAKERS 9:30 p.m. ET
Why we’re watching: When you bookend a LPS:WW with the Lakers and Timberwolves and then the Warriors and Lakers, you can’t really go wrong with whatever is between the bread of that sandwich. While Gasol and Odom have to fend off challengers to their crown on Friday night in Minnesota, Bryant and Derek Fisher have to deal with a similar threat in Monta Ellis and Steph Curry. Fine, we’re stretching it a little bit there. But what better way to end a weekend of basketball than watching the Warriors take another shot at the Lakers — they tried it on Halloween in a battle of unbeatens and got smacked around 107-83. We’re expecting a much tighter game this time around.
Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the five most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Kevin Love’s 31-31 the other night was impressive, no doubt. What impresses you most?
Steve Aschburner: What impresses me most about Love’s big night was how craftily he kept following his own shot, even the missed bunnies at the rim, to effectively pad his rebounding total. That was vintage Moses Malone, and it made me feel bad that Ricky Davis got ripped so ruthlessly a few years back when he shot at the wrong basket in a vain quest for one measly (bogus) rebound to complete a triple-double. Love benefited from his failures (11-of-26 shooting) same as a pitcher who allows a bunch of base runners, then sets some sort of pickoff record. Oh, here’s something else that impressed me: Learning that of the 19 players who amassed the 131 30-30 games in NBA history, Wilt Chamberlain had 103 of them. (more…)