Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves competes in the three-point contest during the NBA All-Star weekend in Orlando

Kevin Love is confident Timberwolves will make playoffs


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.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry

The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.

Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks

Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Byron Scott

Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.

Kobe shotchart season

So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.

They just need to get Kobe better looks, Scott told the Los Angeles Times.

“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….

“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.

“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”

Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.

Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.