Report: Sam Mitchell emerges as Timberwolves coaching candidate with Kevin Love’s future undecided

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The Timberwolves have been methodical about their coaching search to this point, and with good reason. Not only is the upcoming season critical to the franchise’s future fortunes, with Kevin Love able to leave at its conclusion to become an unrestricted free agent, but beyond that, the person they hire must show enough leadership and promise that even if next year were to once again go south, Love can believe that the proper building blocks for winning were put into place.

The uncertain future of the franchise has indeed hampered the pursuit of a head coach, but a legitimate candidate has appeared to emerge, and its one with previous ties to the Timberwolves organization.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

As the Minnesota Timberwolves consider the future of All-Star forward Kevin Love, Sam Mitchell has emerged as a serious candidate for the franchise’s head coaching job, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Mitchell left a good impression with Wolves president Flip Saunders in a recent meeting and has moved himself into consideration for the job, league sources said. …

Mitchell has a strong history with Saunders and Minnesota, where he had two stops as a player — 1989-1992 and 1995-2002. Mitchell played for Saunders in his second stint.

Mitchell coached the Toronto Raptors for four full seasons and won coach of the year in 2007, before being replaced early in the 2008-09 season.

Minnesota checked in with some top college coaches to gauge their interest, the report says, but guys like Billy Donovan, Tom Izzo and Fred Hoiberg weren’t jumping at the opportunity to leave cushy college gigs to take on the reclamation project that would exist should Love bolt in free agency.

A report from the New York Daily News stated that Love’s “people” continue to make it clear to the Timberwolves that if he isn’t traded next season, he will in fact be gone once it is finished. Wojnarowski’s sources are telling him the same thing.

Beyond the coaching search, the Wolves are under pressure to start considering trade scenarios for Love, who’s anxious to exercise his Early Termination Option (ETO) in the summer of 2015 and leave as a free agent, league sources said.

“For the first time, [Saunders] sounds like looking at deals for [Love] is an option,” one rival executive told Yahoo Sports.

Depending on just how seriously the Timberwolves are taking these reported overtures, it’s possible we could see a draft day deal involving Love, considering how loaded with talent this year’s class is, along with the fact that the franchise could sell the future to its fan base should it land one of the top three players in exchange for sending Love out of town.

But despite the recent reports, that’s never been Minnesota’s preference. The plan all along has been to try to put pieces around Love to make the Timberwolves into a playoff team, and one that he believes is built for winning over time. If that mission fails, however, it appears as though the team is finally ready to at least consider a future without Love as part of the picture.

Quinn Cook signing two-year contract with Hawks

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The Hawks began last season with just two point guards, one fewer than most teams – especially notable because neither starter Dennis Schroder nor backup Malcolm Delaney was experienced for his role.

Schroder and Delaney return, but Atlanta is adding another option – Quinn Cook.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Cook is a borderline NBA player. He might not make the regular-season roster. He also might supplant Delaney for a rotation spot.

A 24-year-old who has spent most of the last two years in the D-League (also getting stints with the Mavericks and Pelicans), Cook is a good outside shooter. He’s also steady, if unspectacular, in his lead-guard duties.

This is a solid flier at a position the Hawks could use depth.

Knicks sign Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Jamel Artis

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The Knicks signing Nigel Hayes leaked first.

But New York didn’t stop there.

Knicks release:

The New York Knickerbockers announced today that the team has signed forwards Jamel Artis and Nigel Hayes and guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes.

Like Hayes, Artis (Pittsburgh) and Rathan-Mayes (Florida State) went undrafted this year – making them eligible to be waived and assigned to the Knicks’ minor-league affiliate. That’s likely all three’s fate.

But first, each will have an opportunity to make the regular-season roster. The Knicks have just 14 players with guaranteed salaries, leaving one roster spot for someone on a standard contract. Chasson Randle (unguaranteed) is the incumbent choice, but these three could supplant him.

O.J. Mayo says abusing prescription painkillers triggered NBA ban

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Last year, O.J. Mayo was banned from the NBA for at least two years due to a drug violation. Aside from stating a plan to come back, Mayo didn’t say much publicly.

Until now.

Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated:

He acknowledged smoking marijuana and abusing a prescription pain medication that triggered his two-year ban because it is on the NBA’s “drugs of abuse” list. (He emphatically denied testing positive for hard drugs like cocaine.)

Mayo also concluded that he had been “overwhelmed” by a string of difficult life events: his father, high school basketball star Kenny Ziegler, was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for distributing crack cocaine, his brother was placed in juvenile lock-up, a close friend went to jail, and another was killed. “I was bred to play basketball and I thought I could balance everything,” he said. “I couldn’t.”

That’s part of an interesting feature on Mayo, who’s training for his come back. Golliver’s story makes it easy to pull for Mayo.

But the guard will be 30 when he’s eligible to apply for reinstatement, and he played lousily in his last three seasons with the Bucks.

Hopefully, Mayo has and keeps his personal life in order. But returning to the NBA will be an uphill battle.

James Harden throws alley-oop to Chris Paul, pair puts on show at Houston charity event

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What chemistry problem?

There are legitimate questions about how Chris Paul and James Harden will share the backcourt and ball with the Rockets, but none of those were on display on Sunday. That’s when CP3 joined his new teammate in Harden’s charity game (raising money for Harden’s charity, which helps children from single-family homes get a higher education), a kind of pro-am with some names thrown in to draw a crowd.

Harden and CP3 put on a show for the fans.

This is a charity event, not every team is going to defend like this or the Phoenix Suns. It’s going to be harder when the games matter.

But the Rockets are going to be entertaining to watch this season. No doubt.