Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Rick Adelman

Rick Adelman to Minnesota Timberwolves: ‘If you think you’re a playoff team, why don’t you just forget it?’


Before the season, all five of us predicted the Minnesota Timberwolves would make the playoffs (and I didn’t include that link just to point out I was the only one to predict the Trail Blazers would make it, but check that out as long as you’re on the page).

The Timberwolves had a star (Kevin Love), an underrated interior force (Nikola Pekovic), an intriguing point guard with breakout potential (Ricky Rubio), one of the league’s most efficient scorers (Kevin Martin), a good coach (Rick Adelman) and a deep roster that offered several players capable of filling in the cracks. It seemed health would be the top obstacle they faced.

But Minnesota has mostly avoided injury and still stumbled to an 18-20 start.

Adelman, via Kent Youngblood of the StarTribune:

“We have to face facts that we’re a .500 team,” he said. “Right now we’re below .500 [18-20]. I told them, ‘If you think you’re a playoff team, why don’t you just forget it? Because you haven’t proven that you are. You haven’t gone out and really established yourselves yet.’ ”

Here are the current standings of the 11 Western Conference teams with seemingly realistic playoff hopes:

1. Spurs, 31-8
2. Trail Blazers, 29-9
3. Thunder, 29-10
4. Clippers, 27-13
5. Rockets, 26-15
6. Warriors, 25-15
7. Suns, 22-16
8. Mavericks, 23-17
9. Nuggets, 20-18
10. Grizzlies, 19-19
11. Timberwolves, 18-20

And here are the standings if we used Pythagorean win percentage, historically a better indicator of future success than standard win percentage:

1. Spurs, 29-10
2. Thunder, 28-11
3. Trail Blazers, 27-11
4. Clippers, 27-13
5. Warriors, 26-14
6. Timberwolves, 24-14
7. Rockets, 25-16
8. Suns, 22-16
9. Mavericks, 22-18
10. Nuggets, 20-18
11. Grizzlies, 18-20

The Timberwolves have experienced bad luck in tossup games, and though they’ve accentuated their own problems, there’s little reason to predict the run of poor fortune will continue. It’s most likely to regress to the mean.

However, even if they immediately begin playing like the team Pythagorean win percentage says they are, their 18-20 start will weigh down their record. Here’s what the end-of-season standings will look like if each team wins at their current Pythagorean rate the rest of the year:

1. Spurs, 63-19
2. Thunder, 60-22
2. Trail Blazers, 60-22
4. Clippers, 55-27
5. Warriors, 52-30
6. Rockets, 51-31
7. Suns, 47-35
8. Timberwolves, 46-36
8. Mavericks, 46-36
10. Nuggets, 43-39
11. Grizzlies, 40-42

It’s quite possible the Timberwolves keep their mindset exactly as it is now, get a little better luck the rest of the season and make the playoffs. But it’s close, and that’s why Adelman’s displeasure is warranted.

The Timberwolves need more urgency.

No franchise has a longer active playoff drought than Minnesota, which hasn’t made the playoffs since 2004, when a Kevin Garnett-Sam Cassell-Latrell Sprewell core led the Timberwolves to the Western Conference Finals. And it’s not just an organizational issue. It’s not as if Love, Pekovic and Rubio have made the playoffs elsewhere before arriving in Minnesota. It should be personal to them.

Objectively, Adelman might be being too hard on his players. But he’s also probably treating them as their head coach should.

Carmelo Anthony says he can play at high level 4-5 more years

USA Basketball Men's National Team Training Camp

Carmelo Anthony can flat-out score the rock — that has never been the question. Even hurting last season for many of the 40 games he played, he averaged 24.2 points a game, had a true shooting percentage of 53.1 percent (right near the league average) while having the entire weight of the Knicks offense on his shoulders (32.2 usage rate, fifth highest in the NBA). When people (or players) talk about him being overrated, the discussion turns to defense or if he makes his teammates better. But there should be no doubt Anthony is an elite scorer.

He thinks he will be for a while longer — like another five years. Via Ian Begley of ESPN:

In fact, the 31-year-old Knicks star is confident that he can play at a high level for the next “four or five years.”

“Without a doubt. Without a doubt,” Anthony said after the Knicks’ final training camp practice on Saturday.

The Knicks better hope that’s true, they already made that bet with that massive five-year contract they gave him last summer.

Anthony’s age combined with him coming off knee surgery have a lot of people — myself included — expecting him to take a step back. Not a big one, but he is coming up at the point in his career where some open shots he used to get are now contested because he’s half-a-step slower, and some of those looks don’t fall as often. His jumper isn’t suddenly going to look like Rajon Rondo‘s, ‘Melo is going to get his points, but he may not be as efficient.

Fortunately, the Knicks have an improved supporting cast around him this season. That should take some offensive load off his shoulders, and maybe the Knicks offense will see better ball movement and start to resemble the triangle. If it’s just more isolation Anthony, it’s not going to be pretty.

Kings pick up option on G Ben McLemore

Ben McLemore, Rodney Hood
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The Sacramento have picked up the 2016-17 option on guard Ben McLemore‘s contract.

General manager Vlade Divac announced the move Saturday.

McLemore was Sacramento’s first-round pick in 2013. He averaged 12.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists last season.