Report: While Timberwolves publicly talk about keeping Kevin Love, privately prepping for trade

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Everything that happens in the next couple weeks on the Kevin Love trade front is window dressing, posturing, and the occasional smoke screen. Everyone is positioning themselves right now (even Love on his travels), talks are incredibly preliminary. Things get serious the week of the draft. Just remember that as we catch you up on the latest posturing below.

Timberwolves’ president Flip Saunders came out recently and said he expects Kevin Love to be with the Timberwolves next season. Which echoes what their owner had said previously.

Of course they say that publicly, what else are they going to say? And of course they don’t want to trade their franchise player.

However, privately they are prepping for a trade that could come as soon as draft day, reports Sean Deveney at The Sporting News.

Publicly, the Timberwolves are saying they expect Love to be in training camp with the team next fall. But behind the scenes, as one source put it, the Timberwolves are, “paving the way to make something happen sooner rather than later.” Sooner, of course, would be draft night.

The Timberwolves have put out feelers on what possible offers might be on the table for Love on draft night. Despite their public protestations, around the league, front office executives say that the market for Love is open, but the initial asking price is high. While the Timberwolves would expect lottery draft choices in return for Love—including a high pick in this draft—they also want a young player with star potential, according to a source.

This is trading 101: Even if you’re going to move someone you can’t seem eager, you need to seem willing to walk away from the table to make sure you get the most out of the deal. Just like any negotiation the person most willing to walk away from the table does best. Minnesota needs to seem ambivalent while letting teams know they are willing to deal.

Minnesota needs to make a deal between now and the end of next February, it doesn’t need to seem eager to do it now. Make teams try to blow your doors off.

Love has some say in this process — he can opt out after next season from any team that trades for him. No team wants to rent him, they will want him to at least opt in, and that gives Love some leverage on who gets invited to dance (although Sacramento wants to crash the party anyway).

Love has his preferences, something Ric Bucher talked about at Bleacher Report.

“Sources close to the situation tell me that Love if it’s a choice between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets, would chose the Warriors.”

Love and Stephen Curry would instantly make the most dangerous pick-and-pop combo in the league.

But are the Warriors willing to go all in with some quality players?

Check out Lakers’ stretch of hitting 15 straight shots to end third quarter (VIDEO)

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The Lakers lost to the Wizards because they are young, inconsistent, and defend like traffic cones at times.

But that young Lakers core also has its moments.

Los Angeles strung together 15 straight made buckets to end the third quarter Tuesday night. Some of it was flukey, like Corey Brewer driving and finishing contested layups like he’s Kyrie Irving, but there were things Lakers fans should want to see such as D'Angelo Russell draining threes, Jordan Clarkson working hard off the ball and his teammates finding him, and Julius Randle just attacking.

After this run the Lakers led by 13 going into the fourth, but lost the game.

It’s official: Joakim Noah cleared to play, 20-game suspension starts tonight

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What this ultimately means is next season the Knicks should have Joakim Noah available just before Thanksgiving.

Noah has been suspended 20 games for testing positive for a banned substance, but because he was out due to knee surgery the suspension did not start until he was “physically able to play.” Noah said on Tuesday that he had been cleared, but that was just by the team doctors. He also had to be cleared by the NBA’s doctors (because if teams could cheat they would).

That happened Wednesday, according to Ian Begley of ESPN.

Noah’s first season in New York after signing a four-year, $72 million deal has been a disappointment. To put it kindly. He’s not been completely healthy, and any observer of him the past few years had to wonder if he would ever be fully healthy again. He had lost a step from the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year before the Knicks signed him. The Knicks don’t need him to necessarily be that dominant a force again (although it would be nice), but they need to get more out of him and see if he is a fit next to Kristaps Porzingis for now as the Knicks try to build a roster for next season that can play a little defense. And the triangle.

Report: Pacers bring back Lance Stephenson in time for playoffs; deal for three-years, $12 million

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The Indiana Pacers need healthy bodies for their playoff run, and they had three rotation guys injured between Al Jefferson, Glenn Robinson III, and Rodney Stuckey. Wednesday, the Pacers waived Stuckey to create an open roster spot to bring in some help (they were not going to pick up his option for next season anyway).

Who are they bringing in? The prodigal son Lance Stephenson returns, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

The surprising part of the deal was the security Stephenson got, as first reported by Adam Zagoria at his blog — three years, $12 million, with a player option for the final year. (This has since been confirmed by other sources.) Other teams were looking at giving Stephenson a 10-day contract, the length of the Pacers’ offer is a surprise.

Stephenson played in six games for Minnesota recently, averaging 3.5 points per game off the bench, but an ankle sprain kept the Timberwolves from really having to decide whether to keep him for the season. Stephenson knows how to create shots for himself and can be a good defender when focused, something we saw with the Pelicans at the start of this season — he became a key part of their rotation averaging 9.7 points and 4.8 assists per game until he tore his groin.

It’s a little strange to see him back in Pacers colors. It will be particularly strange if the Pacers stay in the seven seed and the Cavaliers remain the two-seed setting up a first-round playoff series. Because I don’t think any of us need to see this again.

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Tuesday’s win gives Wizards first division crown since 1979

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Divisions are almost forgotten in the NBA. They exist still as quaint reminders of days gone by, but they don’t matter other than as a potential tie breaker with a non-division-winning team. Winning your division doesn’t even guarantee a team a playoff spot anymore.

Yet, the last time Washington had won a division title they were in the Atlantic division and when you turned on the radio you were likely to hear that new hit Heart Of Glass by Blondie. It was 1979.

That was until Tuesday when John Wall led a 13-point comeback in the fourth quarter against the Lakers to get the Wizards the win and the SouthEast division title.

According to CBSSports.com, that 38-year division title drought was longer than any team in any major U.S. professional sports — NHL, NFL, and MLB.

Congrats to the Wizards. They also have locked up home court in the first round, and they are currently the No. 3 seed in the playoffs (who they face in the first round is up in the air still as only three games separate seeds five through nine).

With Scott Brooks at the helm this feels like a far more dangerous — and healthy — team heading into the postseason. Wizards fans have waited a lot time for a team like this.