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Report: Kurt Rambis done in Minnesota after season, team denies

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UPDATE March 14, 9:53 am: As should be expected and is basically standard operating procedure in these cases, Minnesota officials denied everything about the report, according to the Pioneer Press. GM David Kahn particularly smacked down the idea that Kelvin Sampson was a planned replacement.

Kurt Rambis was much more direct.

“I don’t comment on things I haven’t read, and I never comment on things that cowards say,” Rambis said before heading to the team’s charter flight to Oakland. “If somebody wants to say something and attach their name to it, that’s another matter. Rumors are out there all the time. Anybody can start a rumor, but if they don’t attach their name to it, they’re a coward.”

March 12, 1:01 pm: Minnesota already has 50 losses this season and will likely finish with 60 or more when all is said and done. Which is a little better than the 67 lost last season but let’s not pretend we’re in the ballpark of reasonable.

It means that coach Kurt Rambis will likely be let go at the end of the season, according to Ken Berger at CBSSports.com. The decision will come at the end of the season but some within the organization are pushing hard for a change.

With a young roster clearly lacking in veteran leadership, some members of the Minnesota brain trust believe the team needs a more vocal, energetic coach on the sideline. Rambis is cut from the Phil Jackson cloth of letting his players police themselves, and also has been at odds with (Kevin) Love for long stretches. A coaching change is something Love would not oppose, sources say.

From almost day one there has seemed to be no cohesion between management’s vision and Rambis’ vision. They hire him to run the triangle offense in Minnesota, then use their two lottery draft picks that summer to bring in two ball-dominating point guards — the one thing the triangle offense does not require. Minnesota was in a place where they needed to gamble on young talent to fill out a roster, regardless of position, but again that is a bad fit for how you want to build a triangle-based team.

Rambis was slow to recognize what he had in Love — benching him for stretches at the start of this season even though he was their best player — and he seemed unable to get guys to really buy into the system fully.

Bucks assistant Kelvin Sampson is the frontrunner to get the job next season, Berger says. He may be a better fit, but unless he gets more talent to expect many more wins would be a mistake. The talent question hinges on Ricky Rubio, the Spanish point guard. Minnesota staff are insistent he will play in the NBA next season, but the threat of a lockout makes it seem more likely he would spend one more season in Europe before coming over (he has to announce his intentions on his Euro deal this spring, long before a deal will be struck between the owners and players).

Rambis’ name may come up when Phil Jackson walks away from the Lakers at the end of this season. Lakers assistant Brian Shaw remains the front-runner for that job, however.

PBT Extra: Who do you want to see most in first All-Star Game?

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Tonight the NBA All-Star Game starters will be announced. Then the coaches have a week to vote and the rest of the roster will be put together by them.

This year should see a few first-time All-Stars, guys bursting on the scene and grabbing fans attention — so we asked people on Twitter who they most wanted to see in his first All-Star Game and I break it down in this PBT Extra.

The winner? Giannis Antetokounmpo with 45 percent of the vote. Which shouldn’t be a surprise, he’s second in the fan voting for the frontcourt in the East (behind only LeBron James). Good news for those fans, the Greek Freak is almost guaranteed to be a starter, he’s getting plenty of media votes and likely a lot from the players as well.

Second place in the poll? Joel Embiid of the Sixers. I’d love to see him, but will players and media members vote in a guy on a minutes restriction? Will the coaches pick him for that same reason? He is on the bubble.

Russell Westbrook: ‘Don’t say what’s up to that b— a—’ (video)

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Did Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant talk during the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night? Westbrook said no, though video and first-hand accounts indicate otherwise.

Even more clearly: Westbrook – who walked near teammates Enes Kanter, Anthony Morrow and Jerami Grant – didn’t want someone talking to someone as they left the floor after the game. ESPN caught Westbrook saying, “Don’t say what’s up to that b— a—.”

You will never convince anyone Westbrook is referring to anyone but Durant.

Russell Westbrook commits epic travel (video)

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Between getting laid out by Zaza Pachulia and apparently talking with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook committed a travel for the ages.

The Thunder guard took an inbound pass against the Warriors and just started walking up court without dribbling. The violation was so blatant, NBA officials even called the travel.

And it’s not as if they’re inclined to blow a whistle in that situation. Before Westbrook, Kemba Walker set a high bar last season, but he got away with this walk:

Are Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant on speaking terms after apparent conversation? Westbrook: ‘Nah’ (video)

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Russell Westbrook deleted Kevin Durant‘s goodbye text and, months later, told the whole world they still hadn’t talked.

That apparently changed during the Warriors’ win over the Thunder yesterday – though not if you ask Westbrook.

Westbrook dunked in the third quarter, and according to ESPN commentator Mark Jackson, Westbrook told Durant, “Don’t jump.” Anthony Slater of The Mercury News also wrote of the same quote.

ESPN’s telecast caught Durant clearly speaking to Westbrook shortly after. It appears Westbrook is talking back, but his back is to the camera.

After the game, Westbrook denied the exchange:

 

  • Reporter: “Are you and KD on speaking terms?”
  • Westbrook: “Nah.”
  • Reporter: “You guys had a little exchange in the third quarter.”
  • Westbrook: “What exchange?”
  • Reporter: “You and KD said something to each other.”
  • Westbrook: “Oh. You gotta maybe sit closer to the game. You maybe didn’t see clearly.”

This is so Westbrook – stubborn to the point of denying reality.

That approach worked for him when everyone rightly told him he was a significantly lesser player than Durant. Westbrook ignored that fact until it became false.

I suspect he wants to forget this exchange so he can maintain a cold animosity toward someone he prefers to resent.