Report: Flip Saunders to become next Timberwolves coach

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When Vinny Del Negro becomes a serious candidate, your coaching search has nosedived.

Perhaps luckily for the Timberwolves, the man piloting the search – team president Flip Saunders – has plenty of coaching experience himself and can help Minnesota make an emergency landing.

Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press:

The first question: What does this mean for Kevin Love?

If the Timberwolves win enough next season, they might have a chance to re-sign Love. That type of turnaround is not unprecedented. The Trail Blazers changed an unhappy LaMarcus Aldridge’s perception of them this season, and now he wants to stay long-term.

But Minnesota would have to chance keeping Love beyond the trade deadline – let alone beyond the offseason, as his value will only diminish as the season progresses – and make the playoffs just to have a chance.

Can Saunders deliver the Timberwolves first postseason berth since he coached the team more than a decade ago?

Saunders first became an NBA coach with Minnesota, where he had a mostly successful 10-year run but – with only one exception – failed to get Kevin Garnett out of the first round. He jumped to the Pistons and reached the conference finals in all three years in Detroit, but Joe Dumars had higher aspirations and fired him. After a year off, he resurfaced with the Wizards, and – despite all his prestige – never got the team out of the cellar.

Is Saunders, once renowned for his expansive offensive playbook, trending down as an NBA coach? Has the league changed faster than he can adapt?

Maybe.

It’s also possible he just ran into bad fortune in Washington and can re-gain his status as one of the NBA’s better coaches.

At 59, he’s still young enough to do the job for several more years if he desires. However, his preference might be for the front office, which could mean coaching as a one-year stop gap until he can conduct a better search for a replacement next offseason.

Whatever Saunders does, keeping Love is a big long shot – not that Saunders is afraid to fight against the odds.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Billups is still under contract with the Pistons, though it’s unlikely they’ll exercise his $2.5 million team option for next season. A bigger problem: Billups has always said he wants to pursue a front-office, rather than coaching, career.

Perhaps, Saunders – who coached Billups in both Detroit and Minnesota – could persuade his former player to detour those plans. Billups signing with the Pistons last summer seemed like a precursor to a front-office position under Dumars, but with Dumars out, that might no longer be viable.

If Billups can get a front-office job somewhere next season – assuming he retires from playing, which seems probable, though not entirely certain – I bet he takes that over a coaching offer from Saunders. But working in coaching might be a means to the end.

Billups can look at his current team – former Orlando Magic and Miami Heat coach Stan Van Gundy is president, and former New Orleans Hornets coach Jeff Bower is general manager – and see a clear path between coaching and working in a front office.

He could also look as his potential next team and see the same.

Russell Westbrook hits game-winning 3-pointer to beat Kings (VIDEO)

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Welp, looks like Russell Westbrook is re-energized after All-Star Weekend.

As the first night of games after the break got underway on Thursday night, it was Westbrook who gave us a jolt as he helped the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Sacramento Kings on the road.

With just a second to go, Sacramento’s Justin Jackson had tied the game up at 107-107. This came after Vince Carter pulled up confidently from nearly 30 feet out, missing badly. Sacramento missed another follow, and then Jackson put home the final try.

Via Twitter:

That left the Thunder to advance the ball with just one second left.

Oklahoma City ran a simple play with Westbrook running near-to-far across the arc from the inbounder, eventually settling at the top of the 3-point line.

He let it fly, and that allowed OKC to come away with a win, 110-107.

Bulls find way to lose despite being up by 5 with 35 seconds left

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CHICAGO (AP) Ben Simmons scored 32 points, making two free throws with 5.6 seconds left to complete Philadelphia’s rally from five points down in the final minute, and the 76ers beat the Chicago Bulls 116-115 on Thursday night.

Joel Embiid had 30 points and 13 rebounds, and Simmons added 11 assists and seven rebounds as Philadelphia won its sixth straight and snapped a four-game road losing streak.

Bobby Portis had a career-high 38 points and Zach LaVine added 23 for the Bulls, who were 18 for 34 on 3-pointers.

Chicago had a 115-114 lead and the ball with 8 seconds to go before Embiid deflected an inbounds pass to create a turnover. Simmons came up with the ball near half court and was fouled by Denzel Valentine. He made both free throws.

Portis had a chance for a game winner, but his short attempt – with Embiid defending – just missed.

The 76ers raced to a 25-7 lead midway through the first quarter before Portis got hot and Chicago started making 3s.

Philadelphia’s lead was down to 33-29 at the end of the quarter and the Bulls busted out for 40 points in the second to take a 69-67 halftime lead. Chicago was 9 of 12 on 3-pointers in the quarter, including 4 for 5 by Portis.

The 76ers were up by five early in the fourth before Portis scored six straight points – on a 3-pointer and a three-point play – to put the Bulls on top 101-100. A few minutes later, Portis dunked over Embiid to stretch the lead to 111-106 with just over four minutes to play.

LaVine hit a 3-pointer to make it 115-110 with 1:02 left.

TIP INS

76ers: C Embiid has nine straight double-doubles . Simmons has six triple-doubles this season, which ties him with Wilt Chamberlain (three times) and Billy Cunningham for most in a season in team history.

Bulls: To look at some younger players during the final 25 games, C Robin Lopez and G/F Justin Holiday were removed from the starting lineup. Both were inactive on Thursday as Cristiano Felicio and David Nwaba (21 points) started; Also, Cameron Payne – who played in his first game on Thursday – will replace Jerian Grant as the backup point guard.

“It really is hard,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “It’s hard for Robin, it’s hard for Justin and it’s hard for Jerian, who’s probably making as big a sacrifice as anybody.”

UP NEXT

76ers: Host Orlando on Saturday.

Bulls: Visit Minnesota Saturday night.

Kelly Oubre gets caught untying Rodney Hood’s shoes (VIDEO)

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The NBA seems to have a secret obsession with tying and untying shoes mid-game. J.R. Smith once got a warning for doing as much, finally earning himself a $50,000 fine after doing it multiple times. Likewise, other players like Rajon Rondo and Danny Green have pulled down the shorts of opponents while the clock was rolling.

Perhaps that emboldened Washington Wizards forward Kelly Oubre on Thursday night as his team took on the Cleveland Cavaliers in Ohio.

During the game, game operations crew at The Q ran a video on the big board that appeared to show Oubre untying the shoes of Cavaliers guard Rodney Hood.

Via Twitter:

These guys have so much to think about during a game I’m honestly impressed that they have the time to remember to do petty stuff like this.

I suppose it worked?

Oubre had 17 points off the bench, adding five rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Hood had just eight points in 27 minutes on the floor.

The Wizards beat the Cavaliers on the road, 110-103.

Report: Warriors will spend trip to D.C. with kids, not Trump

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Donald Trump decided to disinvite the Golden State Warriors to the White House despite team winning the 2017 NBA Championship. Many members of the Warriors have been critical of Trump during his short tenure in Washington D.C., which the former mail order steak salesman has not taken lightly.

With no invitation to the White House on hand, and considerable doubts that the team would go even if the opportunity resurfaced, the Warriors have decided to take a private tour around the nation’s capital instead.

According to a report from ESPN, the team will take a trip with just players, coaches, and some kids to a discreet location as part of a tour.

Via ESPN:

Head coach Steve Kerr left it up to the players to determine how they wanted to spend their time, and the players selected a venue in which local kids would join them. It will be closed off to the media, sources said.

The players wanted the outing to be a personal, intimate experience.

“It’s their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it’s up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans,” Kerr told ESPN. “I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they’re doing.”

Golden State will be in D.C. to play the Washington Wizards on February 28. They will reportedly take their trip — sure to be fun for the kids — the day before.

Meanwhile, you have to wonder if an NBA team will ever visit the White House while Trump lives there. People from LeBron James to Gregg Popovich have spoken out about their disagreements with him, and the Warriors were pretty vocal about not attending a ceremony with Trump.