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

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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.

PBT Extra: Disciplined Celtics highlight bad habits of Milwaukee Bucks

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Giannis Antetokounmpo has been every bit the top five NBA player in the postseason — 32.5 points per game on 63.2 percent shooting, plus with 11 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game.

Yet the Bucks are down 0-2 to Boston.

The Celtics have had a strong series from Al Horford and Terry Rozier, but the real difference is in the discipline this team has shown all season — Boston knows who it is. Clearly, Milwaukee does not. They turn the ball over too much and make too many mistakes.

I get into all of that in this PBT Extra, and I wonder if that’s something the Bucks can really turn around mid-playoffs.

Ettore Messina to coach Spurs in Game 3 following death of Gregg Popovich’s wife

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin, died yesterday.

That sad news was felt throughout the NBA, and it obviously affects San Antonio most closely. That includes for tonight’s Game 3 against the Warriors.

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

Ettore Messina was a longtime head coach in Europe. The Spurs lead assistant also took over for a few regular-season games Popovich missed. So, making – rather than advising – coaching decisions won’t be a brand new challenge to Messina.

But down 2-0 to defending-champion Golden State is a tough place to make an NBA playoff debut.

On the bright side, there will be no pressure. Not only has San Antonio been outclassed the first two games of the series, focus is rightly on the Popovich family. A win would be a pleasant surprise and help Messina – who’s up for the Hornets job – in his pursuit of a head-coaching position. A loss would be quickly forgotten with more important matters at hand.

To that end, hopefully the time away allows Popovich the space he needs to grieve. That matters far more than a basketball game.

Report: Knicks to interview Kenny Smith for head-coaching job

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The Knicks are casting a wide net in their coaching search.

It’ll apparently include a familiar, though surprising, name.

ESPN:

TNT analyst Kenny Smith will interview for the New York Knicks’ head-coaching job on Friday, a source told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.

A quality organization, the Rockets, interviewed Smith (in 2016, before hiring Mike D’Antoni). So, this isn’t proof of the Knicks’ oddball thinking. (There are plenty of better examples, if you wish).

Steve Kerr opened the door for former players to go straight from TV to being an NBA head coach without having any coaching experience. He’s been a smash hit with the Warriors.

But Kerr was also the Suns’ general manager before Golden State hired him. Smith has no front-office experience.

So, it’s tough to judge Smith, whose role on television is more to entertain than inform (though he does both). He’ll have to really wow in his interview to get the job.

But at least he has that opportunity.

Pacers coach Nate McMillan slips and falls while arguing call (video)

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Nate McMillan slipped up in his handling of Victor Oladipo‘s early fouls during the Pacers’ Game 2 loss to the Cavaliers last night.

Then, the Indiana coach literally slipped while arguing that LeBron James should have been called for offensively fouling Lance Stephenson.