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.

Josh Allen’s old tweet: ‘I hate LeBron!!!!! #LeBronSucks’

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Josh Allen, a quarterback from Wyoming, could be the No. 1 pick in tonight’s NFL draft. But his recently unearthed high school tweets – which include using the n-word with an ‘a’ at the end – are the sports story of the day.

And there’s an NBA tie.

Via Ryan Young of Yahoo Sports:

I hate LeBron!!!!! #LeBronSucks

— Josh Allen (@JoshAllenQB) June 7, 2011

Damian Lillard went down this same road with LeBron James, and they got past it.

But it would be a little more awkward if the Cleveland Browns – who have the Nos. 1 and 4 picks – take Allen. Then, Allen will face more scrutiny over this tweet – the most innocuous of the bunch.

Donovan Mitchell tells Thunder fans, Jazz teammates Utah not returning to Oklahoma City this season

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The Jazz blew a 25-point second-half lead in Game 5 last night, extending their series with the Thunder. Up 3-2, the Jazz are still in control. They can close out in Game 6 tomorrow in Utah. Blow that, and they must return to Oklahoma City for Game 7 Sunday.

But Utah rookie Donovan Mitchell is making it abundantly clear he doesn’t plan to do that.

Gabe Ikard of The Franchise 107.7:

Jake Edmonds of KUTV:

A confident proclamation that rallies his team or youthful exuberance run amok?

The narrative will be decided after Game 6. That’s just how this is done.

Report: Grizzlies moving toward keeping J.B. Bickerstaff as coach

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From the moment Robert Pera opted to retain control of the Grizzlies and end a prolonged ownership saga, it seemed interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff would remain Memphis’ coach.

Lo and behold…

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Bickerstaff did a decent job before the Grizzlies started tanking. But that was a small a sample, and his prior work as Rockets interim coach was uninspiring.

To be fair to Bickerstaff, those were both difficult situations. He’s an experienced assistant who might be ready for this challenge.

To be less fair to Bickerstaff, this looks like Memphis taking the cheap route. The Grizzlies didn’t appear to conduct much of a coaching search, if any. Nor has Bickerstaff been mentioned with other openings. It probably won’t cost as much to hire him as it would a more-established option.

Memphis seems to be operating under the belief that a healthy Mike Conley and Marc Gasol will right the ship next season. And they might. But given the age and injury history of those two, I wouldn’t assume they stay healthy and productive all season. Even if they do, they’d have to carry an underwhelming supporting cast – with limited room for upgrade this summer – in a deep Western Conference.

The Grizzlies want Bickerstaff, who’d be a first-time non-interim head coach, leading that team trying to win now? That doesn’t seem like the right risk-reward balance – at least until considering his salary, and even then.

Rumor: 76ers increasingly confident about signing LeBron James

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LeBron James-76ers rumors have been mainstream for the better part of the year.

And they’re not going anywhere.

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

I now fully understand why whispers about the Philadelphia 76ers and their growing behind-the-scenes confidence that they can woo LeBron to Philly this summer are getting louder.

Why shouldn’t they be increasingly confident? Led by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the 76ers have already won a playoff series. The Cavaliers are mired in a tight first-round series with the Pacers, and LeBron’s supporting cast has mostly stunk.

This has the makings of LeBron’s previous free agencies – when he left barren Cleveland for Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Heat in 2010, when he left aging Miami for Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love with the Cavaliers in 2014. Whatever motivations and narratives attached to LeBron’s decisions, he has left sinking teams for better-positioned ones.

The 76ers are good enough to fit that. They also have the cap flexibility to acquire him without sacrificing roster strength.

That LeBron has positioned himself as a mentor to Simmons – who shares an agent, Rich Paul, with LeBron – would only make signing with Philadelphia easier. LeBron could sell the narrative of teaching and grooming Simmons. LeBron, who cares about his legacy, must explain why he’s again leaving his hometown team in a way that won’t alienate everyone – not easy considering his homecoming message upon his return. Working first-hand with his protégé would look understandable, maybe even commendable.

All that said, growing confidence could be going from a 1% chance to a 10% chance. That’d be a 10-fold increase while leaving Philadelphia a big underdog.

LeBron’s free agency is still a huge unknown – including, at least in part, to LeBron himself. But I believe he has already started to consider options, even if he hasn’t made up his mind. And when that happens, signs could emerge behind the scenes. Perhaps, the 76ers have a read on those.

Or maybe they’re seeing what we’re all seeing: The 76ers are rising while the Cavs are just trying to keep their heads above water. Which situation would LeBron choose?