Posts Tagged ‘Sam Mitchell’

Cavs seek Love, Wiggins seeks NBA home


VIDEO: Andrew Wiggins was a sensation for the Cavs during Summer League play

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are looking for Love. All Andrew Wiggins wants at this point is an NBA home.

A raw talent so alluring that several franchises sabotaged their 2013-14 seasons for a shot at landing him, Wiggins has been treated for the past six weeks like somebody’s backup date for the prom. As soon as James stunned and, in many quarters, delighted the NBA by announcing his return to Cleveland, Wiggins became less a piece of the Cavaliers’ bright future and more a means to an end — that being Kevin Love.

A deal that will deliver Love, the all-NBA power forward, from the Minnesota Timberwolves to James’ insta-contender in Cleveland already has been struck, according to many sources, awaiting only a formal announcement once Wiggins is eligible to be traded Saturday. Draftees who sign their rookie contracts cannot be traded by NBA rule for the first 30 days and Wiggins put his name on a five-year, $24.8 million deal on July 24.

Soon thereafter, Cavs general manager David Griffin and Minnesota president of basketball operations Flip Saunders reportedly agreed on the much-anticipated trade. Wiggins will go to the Wolves with last year’s No. 1 overall pick, forward Anthony Bennett and a future first-rounder for Love, according to the reports. The Wolves are said to have a deal set to trigger, too, with the Philadelphia 76ers; multiple outlets have reported that Thad Young will head to the Twin Cities for that future No. 1 pick, along with forward Luc Mbah a Moute and guard Alexey Shved.

All of which means Wiggins, a wing player with preternatural leaping skills and a gift for stifling on-the-ball defense, will be part of a future-focused rebuilding effort after all. It will just be Minnesota’s, not Cleveland’s, and the cupboard will be slightly more bare. (more…)

LaVine delivers more than dunks in Vegas

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


VIDEO: Sam Mitchell talks about his days with the Wolves

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

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

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

It doesn’t get much more rare, either.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morning shootaround: June 14


VIDEO: Fisher discusses the Knicks’ roster 

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Jordan explains Higgins’ exit | Beasley as Heat’s cavalry? | Jackson, Fisher huddle with ‘Melo | Cavaliers closing in on coach

No. 1: Jordan explains Higgins’ exit — For years, a lot of casual observers of the Charlotte NBA team (once Bobcats, now Hornets) figured Rod Higgins held his job as president of basketball operations largely because he was a longtime pal of owner/legend Michael Jordan. But in addressing the reason behind Higgins’ abrupt deision to resign – Jordan shifted more responsibilities to general manager Rich Cho – the GOAT made it clear why he valued having Higgins around too. Here’s a peek at veteran scribe Rick Bonnell‘s Jordan exclusive in the Charlotte Observer:

“Rod’s strong points are working with the coaches and the trainers, traveling with the team,” Jordan said. “He was my buffer zone with the coaches. I didn’t want to overwhelm them with ideas, so I’d work with Rod on that.”
Jordan said he wants Cho, with a background as an attorney, dealing more with budgets and managing the salary cap.
“One of (Higgins’) strong points is not negotiating, leveraging teams,” Jordan said. “Sometimes when teams would call (proposing trades), they’d bypass Rod to get to Rich.”
Higgins, with the franchise since 2007, teamed with Cho the last three years. Jordan said that arrangement led to some “confusion over who reported to whom. It created a contentious environment where I had to step in.”
That’s when Jordan proposed these shifts in responsibilities, which Higgins considered a demotion. At that point, Jordan said he asked Higgins if they could wait until after the draft to make a change.
“He chose to leave now,” Jordan said.
Higgins, 54, has been a friend and colleague of Jordan’s for roughly 30 years. They played together with the Chicago Bulls in the mid-1980s. Jordan later hired Higgins to help him run the Washington Wizards’ basketball operation. Jordan said that made Friday’s parting extra difficult.
“I had to make a decision about a brother,” Jordan said. “I hope he gets a soft landing and finds (the job) he wants.”

***

No. 2: Beasley as Heat’s cavalry? — Before the 2014 Finals began, the suggestion that Miami might find itself in need of help from erratic forward Michael Beasley would have been seen as an implicit admission that the Heat were headed for trouble against the San Antonio Spurs. Well, they are in trouble, down 3-1 and facing elimination in Game 5 Sunday in San Antonio. And more than a few critics have wondered if Miami coach Erik Spoelstra might look to Beasley as an X factor and counter to Kawhi Leonard‘s offensive impact for the Spurs. Our man Jeff Caplan didn’t necessarily see much of a role for Beasley in the series when they chatted prior to Game 1, but now can offer a look at the maddeningly talented but scatter-careered forward:

Beasley has yet to be active in The Finals and has been inactive in 10 of Miami’s 19 playoff games. He’s played a total of seven minutes in three games. During the regular season, he appeared in a career-low 55 games and averaged career-lows in points (7.9), rebounds (3.1) and minutes (15.1).
Yet, Beasley said: “Honestly, this season has flown by faster than any other I’ve been in. I don’t know why, I don’t know how. I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun.”
The Heat had no fun in Games 3 and 4 in Miami and now head back to San Antonio for Sunday’s Game 5 in the unenviable position of trailing 3-1. After Game 4, Spoelstra was asked if Beasley could be an option in Game 5 to provide some much-needed scoring punch. While his playing time was sporadic, Beasley did record a career-high shooting percentage of 49.9 percent and 38.9 percent from beyond the arc, a better mark than only his rookie season.
Spoelstra didn’t give a direct answer, and in an indication as to how Beasley is still perceived, the questioner was roasted on Twitter by fans and also media covering The Finals for having even broached the subject.
“I shouldn’t say no. I do, but I’m not going to stress over it,” Beasley said when asked if he cares more now how others view him. “People who know me, my family, my kids, my closest friends, they know me. I’m not trying to get everybody to know that I’m a good guy, a great guy or whatever. At this point I’m just focused on playing basketball.”

***

No. 3: Jackson, Fisher huddle with ‘Melo — We can assume that, if numbers came up when basketball boss Phil Jackson, new head coach Derek Fisher and GM Steve Mills of the New York Knicks met with Carmelo Anthony and agent Leon Rose Friday in Los Angeles, the Knicks contingent detailed the pay cuts Anthony would be facing were he to leave New York as a free agent this summer. How big would those cuts be? The difference between a nine-figure deal with N.Y. vs. an eight-figure packages from outside suitors, the latest allegedly the Miami Heat in a refurbished Big 4 vision. Knicks beat writer Al Iannazzone laid out some of the basics for Newsday:

Phil Jackson led a contingent of Knicks officials into a meeting with Carmelo Anthony on Friday in Los Angeles, according to a league source, and presented their plan for turning the team into a contender.
The current blueprint includes Anthony, but he has the ability to opt out of his contract by June 23 and become a free agent. All indications are that Anthony will do that.
Jackson has said he hopes Anthony will “opt in” and wait until 2015 to become a free agent. But a league source said Anthony hasn’t changed his mind after saying all season that he would become a free agent this summer.
If Anthony were to opt in, it would give the Knicks more flexibility next summer, and perhaps in 2016, to sign multiple stars. The 2015 free-agent class could include LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh and Marc Gasol. Kevin Durant is the big potential prize in 2016.
Jackson was accompanied by general manager Steve Mills and new coach Derek Fisher during the sit-down with Anthony and his agent, Leon Rose. It was the first time Anthony met with Fisher since he became coach.
The Knicks can pay Anthony more than any other team in free agency. A maximum deal from them would be five years and roughly $129 million. But Jackson also has said that if Anthony re-signs, he hopes he will take less to give the Knicks more room for other moves.

***

No. 4: Cavaliers closing in on coach — Holders of the Draft’s No. 1 pick, dreamers when it comes to LeBron James’ possible return as a free agent, the Cleveland Cavaliers are said to be getting closer to assigning value to at lease one of their multiple variables: their vacant head coaching position. Longtime Cavs beat writer Bob Finnan wrote about the narrowing field of candidates: Alvin Gentry and Tyronn Lue, both assistants on Doc Rivers‘ staff with the Los Angeles Clippers, and former Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt:

Clippers assistant coaches Alvin Gentry and Tyronn Lue and former Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt.
Gentry and Lue met with Cavs majority owner Dan Gilbert on June 13. It was their second interview with the Cavs.
Blatt reportedly will meet with the Cavs next week. He previously spoke to Cavs General Manager David Griffin about the position left vacant by the firing of Mike Brown on May 12. Blatt told Israel reporter David Pick that he interviewed for the Cavs’ head-coaching job via the phone.
The 55-year-old Blatt announced during a news conference in Israel on June 12 that he was leaving his position as head coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv. It is believed that he would be joining an NBA team. If he doesn’t get the Cavs’ job, he could join Golden State coach Steve Kerr’s coaching staff as his lead assistant.
However, he’s very much in the mix in Cleveland for the head-coaching position.
Griffin has been doing some background checks on Blatt, and Pick reported that he has spoken to former Cavs’ draft pick Milan Macvan, who played for Blatt in Maccabi. Macvan, a Serbian power forward, was a second-round pick of the Cavs in 2011.
There was a report that Blatt wouldn’t come to the NBA unless he got a head-coaching job. He said on June 12 that wasn’t true.
If those are the three finalists, two of them — the 37-year-old Lue, and Blatt — have never been head coaches in the NBA. The third, 59-year-old Gentry, is considered by some as a coaching retread who has a below-.500 record in 12 years as a head coach. All three coaches are known as offensive-minded, who would take advantage of the Cavs’ personnel.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Miami’s Ray Allen has at least one of these three R’s in his future: Return, relocation or retirement? … Celtics assistant Ron Adams might wind up on Steve Kerr‘s staff in Golden State, and Julius Randle refutes the claim that his right foot needs surgery. … Tim Duncan has until June 24 to opt in for next season. He, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Gregg Popovich all have contracts that run through 2014-15, should they choose to give it one more season. … One more inspiring scrap-heap-to-Finals-star Boris Diaw story. … Can Dante Exum vault into the Top 3 and rock the 2014 Draft? … Sid Lowe goes to the Timberwolves for a third (or is it fourth?) go-around, with Sam Mitchell invoking “country club” privileges next. … Larry Bird tries to help disappointed Pacers fans buck up … We’re not clear as to which trio should feel more disrespected by this, the Heat’s Big 3 or the classic comedic geniuses.

Morning shootaround: June 13


VIDEO: Daily Zap for June 12

NEWS OF THE MORNING

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Metrodome, Site Of NBA Attendance Mark, Will Crumble Before Record

As a baseball park, the HHH Metrodome in Minneapolis was an affront, its plastic grass and Hefty-bag curtains producing a version of the national pastime that was the equivalent of playing marbles in a bathtub. For football, much of the joint’s lousy public relations came from the likes of Mike Ditka (“the Rollerdome,” he slandered it) and that remote-camera video of the December 2010 roof collapse, the Teflon-covered dome losing its poof from too much snow and ice.

But for one memorable season, the Metrodome was a basketball Mecca, drawing more customers to the NBA than any other arena before or since.

With Target Center under construction for what would be the expansion Minnesota Timberwolves’ second season, the Dome (as it was known in the Twin Cities) became the new team’s temporary digs for its 1989-90 inaugural home schedule. Like other domed stadiums turned into makeshift gyms – the Superdome in New Orleans, the Pontiac Silverdome north of Detroit – the configuration for basketball wasn’t ideal.

The court had to be snugged up to one section of the permanent grandstand, with portable bleachers on the other sides. The vastness and lighting messed with shooters’ backgrounds. Then there were the locker rooms, accessed through the baseball dugouts, followed by a long trek up into the bowels of the concrete structure.

“The hardest thing about it was the walk from the court to the locker room,” said Sam Mitchell, the former NBA forward and coach-turned-analyst who scored the first points in Timberwolves history. “You could pull your hamstring in the time it took. It took us forever.

“They had to give us an extra five minutes to get from the locker room down to the court. That was a pain in the butt. You had about 200 stairs to go up and down. And it was cold in there in the wintertime. But from the standpoint of fan support … it’s just something I’ll never forget.”

Don’t be distracted by the Wolves’ 22-60 record; this was more than just a lousy expansion team’s first season. The NBA once had been hot in Minneapolis, the Lakers establishing the league’s first dynasty by winning five titles with George Mikan, Jim Pollard, Slater Martin, Vern Mikkelsen, coach John Kundla and the rest. But the franchise was moved to Los Angeles in 1960, so the Wolves’ arrival tapped into a pent-up demand for an NBA that – with Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird as its stars – had grown into a monster.

The Dome, with cavernous capacity built for the NFL and MLB and large enough to host the NCAA Final Four twice, was more than capable of accommodating that.

A crowd of 35,427 showed up for the Wolves’ home opener, with Jordan scoring 45 points for the yet-to-be-champion Chicago Bulls. Boston, with Bird and state hero Kevin McHale, pulled in a crowd of 35,713. When the Lakers came to town on St. Patrick’s Day and narrowly escaped with a 101-99 victory – with Wolves coach Bill Musselman pestering Johnson with 7-foot-3 center Randy Breuer defensively – there were 43,606 in that building that night.

Musselman’s grinding, physically-and-mentally demanding style won over fans, too, some of whom remembered his work with the University of Minnesota Gophers in the early 1970s. The Wolves were as rag-tag as you’d expect for a squad built off the league’s leftovers – the starting five for the opener in Seattle featured Mitchell, Tony Campbell, Tod Murphy, Brad Lohaus and Sidney Lowe – but they slowed the pace to a crawl, defended up in their opponents’ grills (No. 2 in fewest points allowed, 99.4) and took on their feisty head coach’s personality. Whether they liked it or not.

“The Wolves used the visitors’ [baseball] clubhouse, on the other side of the laundry room,” said Clayton Wilson, the Timberwolves’ longtime equipment manager, who worked for the Twins before switching over with the move to Target Center. “Tom Kelly [Twins manager] could sit in there and listen to Musselman rip into the players. ‘Lohaus, you [bleep]!’ Muss would get in their faces a little bit.”

Kelly was a season-ticket holder, like Twins Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett.

“T.K. loved the Xs & Os,” Wilson said, “so he would go in pregame and listen to them, and then [during the game] he’d say, ‘OK, see how the coaches said they were going to deny this guy the ball and get it to that guy? That’s what they’re doing.’ “

There were more than a few nights, Wilson said, that Kelly – rattling around his Dome office in the middle of a Minnesota winter – would give the regular laundry guy a night off and wash the Wolves’ sweaty uniforms and socks.

With a clubhouse built for 25 players, the Wolves had space but few creature comforts in their ersatz locker room. Not that it mattered.

“Most of us had not played in the NBA,” Mitchell said over the weekend. “And the guys who had been on NBA rosters, hell, they had barely played. So I would have played in a brier patch. It didn’t matter to me. I would have played butt-naked, outside and barefoot. Just give me an NBA jersey.”

The team’s attendance had been strong all season. It went 17-24 at home and outscored visitors by 0.4 points, vs. 5-36 on the road with an 8.8 points deficit. But that huge Lakers crowd put Minnesota within reach of something special. The NBA’s home attendance mark belonged to the Pistons, who drew 1,066,505 fans in 1987-88 – the first Detroit “Bad Boys” club to reach The Finals.

After 38 home dates, the Wolves were at 937,148, averaging 24,662 per game to Detroit’s 26,012. That’s when president Bob Stein, marketing whiz Tim Leiweke (now the Toronto Raptors’ top exec) and the rest of the front office shifted into another sales gear. Targeting the NBA record, the Wolves packed in 45,458 for Orlando’s visit on April 13, 40,415 to see Utah two nights later and finally 49,551 for the home finale against Denver on April 17. More than 135,000 tickets – some at wildly reduced rates, many with horrible upper-deck sightlines – were sold for a team that lost 60 games and eight of its final nine. Their final count: 1,072,572, an average of 26,160.

It’s a record that still stands, even if the building in which it was set – the Vikings played the final Metrodome game there Sunday and demolition already has begun – soon won’t be.

Adelman In Minnesota?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Admit it: the Minnesota Timberwolves’ coaching search has gone on for so long you forgot they still haven’t replaced Kurt Rambis.

Any and every available coaching candidate worth his whistle has been in and out of the Twin Cities to speak with general manager David Kahn and the organization’s brass about the open spot. And you can finally add ex-Rockets coach Rick Adelman to that list, per Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune:

The Wolves brass worked for weeks to get Adelman to come in for more than a phone interview.  If he wants the job, and they can agree on a salary, the job is probably his.

The salary would probably have to be around $5 million per year.

Adelman joins Don Nelson and Sam Mitchell, likely, as the team’s top candidates.  The 65-year-old Adelman has taken time off during his career, and the thought is he might want to take another year off to spend time with his family.

Adelman’s career record is 945-616 in 20 seasons with Portland, Golden State, Sacramento and Houston. He favors an up-tempo style, which is said to be what the Wolves seek.

The list of candidates linked to the job is extensive.

In addition to Adelman, Nelson and Mitchell, names like Larry Brown, Terry Porter, Mike Woodson and Bernie Bickerstaff were all mentioned as possible replacements for Rambis. Of this group, only Woodson has landed elsewhere. He has already signed a contract to join Mike D’Antoni‘s staff in New York.

If Adelman is the choice, the Timberwolves have every right to be excited. He would improve the situation in Minnesota the minute he walks through the door.