The bar is set in Minnesota and it’s clear — playoffs or bust.
They were on the bubble last year until Ricky Rubio’s ACL decided to tear. Now this year Minnesota has added real, veteran depth — Brandon Roy, Andrei Kirilenko, Greg Stiemsma and Russian rookie Alexey Shved — to the roster.
And now team leader Kevin Love is made the plans clear — Minnesota is going to the playoffs. He was clear speaking to the Portland Tribune.
“It will be a big surprise to me if we didn’t make a huge leap this year and make it to the playoffs,” the Lake Oswego native told me Wednesday…
“We’re going to have a chance to be very good,” Love said. “We’re hoping Brandon can stay healthy through 82 games. Kirilenko is a big addition. Shved hopefully is going to be a big deal for us.
“We’ll have more firepower in terms of veterans. Brandon and Andrei will help our locker room and on the court. It will make Coach Adelman’s job a lot easier. If everything is put together, if Ricky comes back healthy, we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”
Their biggest challenge is what they learned last year the hard way — there is no margin for error in a deep Western Conference. The Thunder and Lakers are considered the conference co-favorites, but just a step behind them you have the Clippers and Spurs. Memphis was the four seed last year and is very good; Denver was the six seed and got a lot better with Andre Iguodala. That’s six pretty much playoff locks. To get into the post season, Minnesota is going to have to get by pretty good teams in Utah or Dallas. No easy task.
But you have to like Love’s attitude. This is his team, and he picked up hanging around the other Olympians this year what it will take for him to get Minnesota over the hump. And that is not to accept less from them. Set the bar high — say you are going to make the playoffs — then get them to reach for it.
LeBron James notched his third-straight triple-double on Sunday, this one coming against the Washington Wizards. But before the game, the story was all about how James was voicing a silent protest — in Washington D.C., no less — by wearing a special version of his shoes.
LeBron took to the floor wearing his LeBron 15s, but this player edition had the word “Equality” on the back of them. James wore one black shoe and one white shoe.
James wore the black versions of this shoe in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ opener to start the season.
LeBron finished the game with 20 points, 15 assists, and 12 rebounds. The Cavaliers beat the Wizards, 106-99.
The Carolina Panthers are up for sale. Owner Jerry Richardson said he would sell the team late on Sunday following an announcement by the NFL that Richardson was under investigation for “workplace misconduct”. The NFL’s investigation and Richardson’s decision to sell was preceded by a report from SI saying Richardson had paid out settlements amid sexual harassment and racial slur claims.
Enter Sean Combs and Stephen Curry.
Combs — that’s Diddy, you to and me — has previously voiced his interest in being involved with the NFL, and after seeing that Richardson would be selling the team, jumped at the chance to boost his profile. Combs tweeted that he wanted to buy the team, and that’s when Curry joined in.
Naturally, Curry is from Charlotte and went to both high school and eventually college in the area, playing at Davidson. He’s an avid Panthers fan and has been on the sideline for the team publicly many times over the years.
Curry being part of an ownership group for the Panthers would be pretty wild. Perhaps Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan would like to join in? It seems like they would have the liquidity and credit availability between the three of them to get the team.
Then again, the asking price for the Panthers could be north of $2 billion. The last team to be sold was the Buffalo Bills in 2014 for $1.4 billion. In September, Forbes released a valuation for the Panthers that put them at $2.3 billion.
Might need to get a few others involved in this one.
Vince Carter is 40 years old and playing in what could possibly be his final NBA season. The Sacramento Kings guard started his career with the Toronto Raptors, and on Sunday he played what could possibly be his final game at the Air Canada Centre.
And so, when Carter was subbed out late in the fourth quarter on Sunday, the folks in Toronto did what came naturally: they cheered.
The whole thing was pretty great to watch, and a real testament to how Carter is viewed by fans in Toronto.
Carter scored just four points in 25 minutes for Sacramento, going 2-of-5 from the field while adding three blocks, two assists, a rebound and a steal.
The Raptors got the win over the Kings, 108-93.
Just when we though Isaiah Thomas had fallen off the collective radar of the NBA, he squeaks right back in.
Thomas, who the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired in a trade this summer for Kyrie Irving, has yet to play a game due to a nagging hip injury. That injury caused some back-and-forth squabbling between Cleveland and the Boston Celtics, but things got sorted and the teams went on their way.
Irving has been spectacular of course, helping to lead the Celtics to a record of 25-7 in the absence of Gordon Hayward, good enough for the top slot in the Eastern Conference.
Now, it appears that Thomas is ahead of schedule and will be ready to help the Cavaliers fight for that spot come early January. According to Yahoo! Sports’ Shams Charania, Thomas and Cleveland want him to be playing the first week of the new year.
Of course, we’ve heard this before. The team has said this season that Thomas would play in January. Then the line moved and the Cavaliers thought he would play in December. It’s now moved back to January, but reports are more firm as we’re closer to the expected date and Thomas is playing in 4-on-4 drills. The great news is this honed return date seems to directly target the second game of 2018 for the Cavaliers, which is conveniently against the Celtics.
No doubt Thomas will be jonesing to take on his former team, where he certainly would have preferred to stay after a stellar season in 2016-17. Still, Thomas has been in good spirits — he gets to play with LeBron James for goodness sake — and the Jan. 3 game will be one to watch.
If Thomas can’t make it for that January matchup, the next opportunity he will have to beat Boston will be on Feb. 11.