Reports: Vinny Del Negro “serious” contender to get Timberwolves job

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Vinny Del Negro interviews well. He can wow a front office with tales of how he will improve and develop the team. The stories about how he charmed Donald Sterling and his wife over dinner, securing the Clippers job (when the rest of management wanted to go another direction) should tell you all you need to know.

That fact also explains why he may be the next coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

In what would be a body blow to a fan base that a year ago had such high hopes and now sees the team disintegrating, both Marc Stein of ESPN and Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports are reporting Del Negro is a leading candidate to be the next Minnesota coach. First we go to Stein at ESPN, who explains Del Negro may be moving past the expected favorite there Sam Mitchell.

Sources told ESPN.com on Thursday that Del Negro, who is also being considered for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ job, was spotted last week interviewing with Wolves president and part-owner Flip Saunders and is firmly in the mix for the post after the collapse of Minnesota’s talks with Memphis Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger.

But sources say Mitchell is by no means a shoo-in to replace the retiring Rick Adelman, with Del Negro said to have made a strong impression on the Wolves in their talks to date.

If your first thought is, “no way Kevin Love stays in Minnesota if Del Negro is the coach” you are half right — Kevin Love isn’t staying in Minnesota no matter who GM Flip Saunders hires as coach. Hiring Del Negro is apparently about looking ahead, according to Wojnarowski.

https://twitter.com/WojYahooNBA/status/472074854339211264

Yes, Chris Paul and Derrick Rose had some success under Del Negro, but they’ve had much more under other coaches.

That’s the thing about Del Negro, his win totals are good enough that you can’t just dismiss him as someone with no idea what they are doing. What you can rip him for simplistic offenses, his vapid interviews, the insanely heavy reliance on pick-and-roll sets, and most importantly his treatment of players. Rose and Paul did better with the next coaches they had because the systems gave them more options and pushed then to give up the ball a little rather than make all the decisions. Del Negro tore down the talented DeAndre Jordan to the point he was useless late in games, where Doc Rivers was able to build him up and put Jordan in positions to get Defensive Player of the Year votes. That’s just one of many examples.

We shouldn’t ignore the fact Del Negro’s teams have done well in the regular season — he has a career winning percentage of .533, his teams have never been below .500, and the last season he coached he won 56 games. But his teams are very beatable in the playoffs because of his systems. He left the Bulls and Clippers and those team got demonstrably better (to be fair, he was replaced by two of the best in Tom Thibodeau and Doc Rivers).

We will see how this plays out, but I honestly never thought we’d see Del Negro in the league again. Especially on a young team trying to build up and develop talent — he talks a good game but the evidence points to a different conclusion.

Matthew Dellavedova steals pass, hits wild scoop shot at buzzer (VIDEO)

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Matthew Dellavedova is a hustler. Everybody knows that. Well, unless you want to argue he’s more about grit. It’s really your call.

But against the Boston Celtics on Sunday, Dellavedova came through with whatever you want to call it — hustle, grit, moxie, gumption.

As the first quarter wound down and the Celtics tried to inbound the ball, Dellavedova spied his opponents rolling the basketball in order to save time on the clock.

That allowed the Australian native to fly in and do this:

That’s a steal, a scoop, and a score all within 1.2 seconds.

Milwaukee won Game 4 and evened the series with the Celtics, 2-2.

Cavaliers tie series with Pacers in Indiana, 2-2

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Sunday night’s game between the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers was raucous. Bankers Life Fieldhouse was rocking, and despite Indiana’s best effort to put back seemingly every offensive board it encountered, LeBron James‘ 32 points was just too much to overcome.

Facing the possibility of going down 3-1 in the first round, the Cavaliers pulled out the win, 104-100, and sent the series back to Ohio for Game 5.

The game came down to the final period following a surge by the Pacers to end the third quarter. The teams were tied several times midway through the fourth, but a tip shot by Thaddeus Young wth 6:13 left gave the Pacers the lead as fans in Indiana went wild.

Cleveland then came roaring back. At the three-minute mark, James drove to the basket and scored. Thirty seconds later, Kyle Korver hit a big-time 3-pointer to put the Cavaliers up by four points, a mark the Pacers couldn’t recover from.

LeBron scored again with 1:52 left, and despite some weird late-game antics — featuring none other than Lance Stephenson — the Cavaliers were able to remain resolute down the stretch.

James finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists. Kyle Korver added 18 points on 4-of-9 shooting from deep, and Kevin Love had five points with 11 boards.

Victor Oladipo struggled for Indiana, scoring 17 points but shooting just 25 percent from the floor. Seven Pacers finished in double-digits, with Young notching an impressive double-double of 12 points and 16 rebounds.

Game 5 will be played in Cleveland on Wednesday, April 25.

Wizards beat Raptors in Game 4, tie series at 2-2 heading to Toronto

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The Toronto Raptors were far and away the best team in the Eastern Conference this season. The Washington Wizards were … well, very Wizard-y.

So considering their regular seasons, the fact that Washington was able to tie the first round series between the two teams at 2 games apiece on Sunday is pretty astonishing.

Bradley Beal had 31 points and five rebounds for the Wizards while teammate John Wall added 27 points to go along with a whopping 14 assists. Washington shot an impressive 41 percent from 3-point range as four of five starters finished in double-digit scoring.

Despite Beal’s performance, it was Wall who saved the day for the Wizards. Beal was disqualified after fouling out with around five minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Beal didn’t agree with the call, and could be seen throwing a towel near the Washington bench.

For his part, Wall either scored or assisted on 10 of the Wizards’ final 14 points of the game. That helped stave off the likes of DeMar DeRozan, who led all scorers with 35 points.

The series heads back to Toronto for Game 5, which will be played on Wednesday, April 25.

Marcus Smart wants to be back for Game 6 vs. Bucks

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Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been out for some time after injuring his thumb earlier in the year. The absence of one of Boston’s most important guards has been felt even more so after Kyrie Irving went down following knee surgery.

In short, the Celtics would like to have Smart back on the floor.

We’re now close enough that Smart has begun to give solid timeframes to reporters. Speaking to media on Sunday, Smart said that his plan is to be back for Game 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Boston took on Milwaukee on Sunday in Game 4.

Via ESPN:

Right now, [a Game 6 return is] the plan and we’re still on the same track,” Smart said before Game 4 on Sunday. “I’ve been doing everything but contact, so I will be able to go and start that.”

Smart said he believes the thumb is ready for contact.

“The surgery did its job,” said Smart, who injured himself March 11 while diving for a loose ball in a game against the Indiana Pacers. “Thumb is holding up well. I feel ready, I feel strong enough to get back out there. I’m just waiting on the OK.”

The series between the Celtics and Bucks has been tumultuous, a back-and-forth affair as an injury-riddled Boston squad takes on a healthy but offensively-sluggish Milwaukee team. Smart could add a shot of life for Boston in a much-needed way.

The Bucks won Game 4 and the series is now tied, 2-2. Game 6 would be on Thursday, April 26 if need be.