Minnesota is better than its .500 record shows — the team’s point differential is that of a 22-12 team, if you use Basketball-Reference.com’s numbers. At some point they are going to start winning the close games they are losing and go on a little run.
It will help that Chase Budinger is back in the rotation — he has missed all season due to a knee injury suffered this summer but he returns on Wednesday night, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
Once he gets his groove back Budinger will be a great fit in Minnesota — he is athletic and can finish well in transition (key for the team playing at the second fastest pace in the league) plus he can knock down the three. He and Corey Brewer will split time at the three and that is just more depth for Minnesota.
Budinger missed much of last season with a knee injury, but the Timberwolves front office was so confident in his return they inked him to a three-year, $16 million contract in July. Now he can start earning that money.
The stagnant Milwaukee Bucks shook things up by firing head coach Jason Kidd Monday.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was not happy with the news. So much he called up Kidd and offered to help save his job, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.
Antetokounmpo is understandably close to Kidd — he’s been the coach who helped transform the Greek Freak into an NBA superstar. Kidd is on his way to the Hall of Fame as a player, and as a coach had the vision to put the ball in Antetokounmpo’s hands as a point guard. Antetokounmpo trusted Kidd.
However, the Bucks’ growth has been stagnant — this is a team where the players talked about being a 50-win, top-four team in the East with a strong defense, instead they are a team on the way to around .500, barely hanging onto a playoff spot, with the point differential of a team that wins 36 games. They are not taking a step forward, and the Bucks — with the approval of ownership, which was very close to Kidd at one time — approving the move.
There was nothing Antetokounmpo could have done. It’s life in the NBA. That doesn’t mean he has to like it.
Having lost three games in a row at home, doubt seems to have crept into the minds of some Celtics fans. They’re the top seed in the East (and likely finish the season in that slot, again), but just how good are they really? Do they have enough to knock off the Cavaliers and LeBron James when he goes into playoff mode?
In the midst of that self-doubt, the wife of Gordon Hayward, Robyn, posted this.
For Boston fans still holding out hope Hayward returns this season, this is another sign. No brace, no chair, he’s draining threes. It’s a step forward.
This video also borders on meaningless — he’s not jumping, not moving, not showing us anything about his recovery we didn’t already know. Good to see him up and making progress, but that he can hit stand-still threes in an empty gym is about as shocking as finding out the next Transformers movie is going to suck.
Officially, Hayward is still out for the season. He’s putting in the work, and maybe he returns before the playoffs, but the Celtics are not going to rush him back for this season. Nor should they. The Celtics are on a multi-year plan to be the next dominant team in the East, no reason to push him and risk anything now.
The Bucks have been a team of unfulfilled potential for a few seasons now, two steps up and one step back. Last season they were 42-40 and bounced in the first round of the playoffs, this season they are 23-22 and the eighth seed in the East, with the point differential of a team that should be 20-25 and on its way to a 36-win season.
That cost Jason Kidd his job.
That has not sat well with the team’s superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, reports Chris Haynes of ESPN.
You can’t blame Antetokounmpo, Kidd has been his coach the past three-and-a-half seasons and guided the Greek Freak’s rise to superstardom. Kidd also was the one who put the ball in Antetokounmpo’s hands and made him both the defacto point guard on the team and one of the league’s most dangerous players. Kidd did some very good things with these Bucks, and Antetokounmpo is understandably loyal to the man.
However, Antetokounmpo is under contract at a near-max salary until the summer of 2021, so he has no real leverage here.
Elite coaches will be lined up for a chance to coach Antetokounmpo and a very talented Bucks roster, but whoever gets the job next summer has to connect with the superstar first. Kidd had done that.
A couple months ago, the Clippers had lost nine straight to fall out of the playoff picture. Blake Griffin, Patrick Beverley, Danilo Gallinari and Milos Teodosic were injured. Extension talks with DeAndre Jordan stalled.
So, teams were inquiring about trading for Jordan.
Apparently, none have made serious inroads.
Marc Stein of The York Times:
The league is oversaturated with centers. Almost everyone who used to be a power forward/center is now exclusively a center, and many former power forwards are now centers. Heck, some players who would have previously been viewed as small forwards now play center regularly.
Jordan is a good player, but not one teams are eager to break the bank for. Not in this era.
I also suspect the Clippers’ asking price has risen as they have turned around their season. They’re 23-22 and eighth in the Western Conference. It’s no longer quite as logical to get whatever possible for Jordan before he becomes a free agent. There’s value in keeping him for the rest of the season, winning as much as possible then figuring out Jordan’s player option/potential free agency next summer. Even just a playoff appearance could be satisfying in this post-Chris Paul era, and Jordan is essential to that pursuit.