Kevin Garnett helping sell Ricky Rubio on Minnesota

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Right now, Ricky Rubio is a fixture in high-level pickup games with other locked out NBA players in Los Angeles. He turned down the chance to play in Barcelona during the lockout, instead staying in the United States trying to get used to the NBA style game.

The cultural adjustment from Barcelona to Los Angeles is not an easy one, but both are large, diverse, cosmopolitan cities. Winter in Minneapolis will be another adjustment all together.

But who has been selling Rubio on the virtues of Minny? Kevin Garnett, so reports Jerry Zgoda at the Star Tribune.

“I talk with KG, too, and he talked to me great things about Minnesota. He said the crowd cheers very hard for the team. They love the sport. We have to fight to give them what they are waiting for us to do, to win.

“I’m from Barcelona and now I’m in California, so Minnesota will be a big change. In the end, you have your house and you have the skywalks to go through, so that will make it easier for me. I have seen snow before: For a week in the mountains, but for no more than a week.”

Just guessing, but Rubio doesn’t own enough jackets yet.

Yes, we get the irony of KG, the guy who forced his way out of Minnesota and setting the franchise back a decade, talking up the place. The fact is, he liked the place, he didn’t like the franchise as a business. And Rubio is there for a while, no reason to sour the kid on what is to come.

Besides, Minnesota could be a very interesting place to play next season. Whenever that is.

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.