Al Jefferson says Minnesota a couple years away from winning, so he likes Utah better

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ajefferson.jpgThere is some talent on the Minnesota roster. Kevin Love can ball. Michael Beasley was a No. 2 overall pick for a reason. We’ll see what Wesley Johnson can bring as a rookie. We’ll watch Luke Ridnour get them the ball.

Okay, not that much talent, and it is all being assembled in a haphazard way. Which is why as much as Al Jefferson loves Minneapolis, he is happy to be playing in Utah with Deron Williams, as he told Marc Spears of Yahoo.

“They have a nice group of guys, but will have a couple more losing seasons,” Jefferson said of the T’wolves. “Minneapolis is my home away from home. I respect the fans that have supported me through the good and the bad … but when I told people I played for Minnesota, some people didn’t even know they had a team. Everybody knows about Utah. Everyone knows the Utah Jazz.

“I go from being in a Toyota to a Bentley. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Utah is without Carlos Boozer and Al Jefferson is more than happy to take those points and put them next to his name in the box score.

“The first thing [Williams] told me is he’s going to make me an All-Star,” Jefferson said. “It was music to my ears. That meant a lot. It’s a blessing. It means he is not done here. He’s an All-Star, the best point guard in the game, and I said that before I got here. I just need to have my hands ready.”

The Jazz are a good team but firmly entrenched in the middle of the West. They are not the Lakers, they are not up-and-comers like the Thunder or Trail Blazers. They don’t have the big talent making one last run like in San Antonio.

But they are good and think they could surprise some teams. And after some cold and dreary seasons in Minnesota, that chance sounds pretty good to Jefferson.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.