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Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor expecting big jump next season

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Timberwolves coach and president Tom Thibodeau is meeting with his staff to put together an aggressive game plan for the summer in hopes of adding some defensive tenacity to a young team that never quite got it on that end of the floor in his first season on the job.

Owner Glen Taylor hopes the stability of having the same coach for two straight seasons for the first time since 2013 will help the team move past yet another disappointing season.

Thibodeau is the Wolves’ fourth coach in the last four seasons. Flip Saunders died of lymphoma in October 2015, and the team decided to move on from interim coach Sam Mitchell last April after he went 29-53 in his one season. Thibodeau was given a five-year deal last summer to take over and instill his attention to detail and defensive focus to an impressionable young team, but they won just two more games this season than last with little discernible improvement on defense.

“I’m of a belief that if they say that’s one of the factors, of course I’m going to say that my expectations are pretty high for next year because we have the same coach and he’s coming back,” Taylor told The Associated Press on Friday. “If you really believe that’s (the problem), then we’ve solved our problem. I don’t know if it’s going to be that easy. I wish it was that easy.”

Thibodeau held his season-ending press conference Friday, two days after they finished the year with a sixth straight loss. The Wolves went 3-13 in their final 16 games and finished the year ranked 26th in the league in defensive efficiency. He said they will head into this summer prioritizing adding shot-blocking, wing defense and shooting after the team finished last in 3-pointers made and attempted.

“I think every person in our organization has to ask what can we do different to change what has happened here over the last 13 years?” Thibodeau said. “That’s from top to bottom, there has to be a determination and a will to change it.”

That’s exactly what Taylor wants to hear. He hired the hard-driving Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden with an aim to expedite the learning process for a team with young stars Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine. While all three young players and point guard Ricky Rubio exhibited significant improvement on offense under Thibodeau, the poor finish to the season and lack of improvement on defense concerned an owner that sits courtside nearly every night.

After starting the season 6-18, the Wolves seemed to find themselves around the All-Star break. They won six times in eight games, beating Denver, Dallas, Golden State, Utah and the Clippers to creep back into playoff contention. Then the defense took a nose dive and the Wolves faded.

“I’m a little bit concerned because it’s not logical to me what happened, that we just went along and we were playing good and we fell back into maybe old habits or old style of play,” Taylor said. “I have no explanation for that. I think it’s my job to make sure that I sit down with the coaches, Scott, everybody and ask them what do they think went wrong there.”

Thibodeau attributed the struggles to the team’s youth, injuries to LaVine and Nemanja Bjelica and his focus on immersing Towns and Wiggins in his system to prioritize laying the foundation for long-term success over winning games in the short term.

“It has to start with Karl and Wigg in that they have to make the commitment,” Thibodeau said. “In order to get all the things that they want to achieve, it has to start with them.”

Now if the Wolves are going to end a 13-year playoff drought that is the longest active skid in the NBA, they are likely going to have to make at least a 10-victory jump to do it, and probably more.

“It’s not like I’m upset and not like I’m mad,” he said. “I’m concerned because I know our task is going to be a little bit more difficult next year.”

Taylor and Thibodeau were both encouraged by Towns blossoming into an unstoppable offensive force and Rubio’s career year from a shooting standpoint that gave the pass-first point guard another dimension. Now the Wolves need to add some veteran help and it’s always been difficult to lure free agents to cold and snowy Minnesota, especially when the Wolves have not made the playoffs since 2004.

“I think guys will come here because they want to play with these guys that can win,” Taylor said. “But I sure wish we would’ve done better because we could’ve said `see we are on the right track.”‘

Russell Westbrook to miss start of training camp after PRP injection in knee

Associated Press
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There is a physical price for the historic, MVP season Russell Westbrook had last go around.

When the Oklahoma City Thunder open training camp next week, Westbrook will be sidelined for a couple of days to rest his knee after getting a platelet-rich plasma therapy injection, Thunder GM Sam Presti told the media (as reported by Royce Young of ESPN).

PRP therapy was made popular in the NBA by Kobe Bryant and now a number of players have used the treatment. It involves the player giving some blood, which is then spun in a centrifuge to separate the platelets, which are then injected back into the area where the person wants to promote healing.

Westbrook is the heart and soul of the Thunder, averaging a triple-double last season with 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game. With the off-season addition of Paul George, the Thunder are a dangerous team in the West, one that will have a very strong defense and a couple of elite scorers now.

Westbrook also has a max contract extension sitting in front of him from the Thunder, as he has since July 1, which he has yet to sign. That should make Thunder fans a little nervous. George is in the last year of his contract, and there have been not-so-subtle hints out of his camp he is headed to the Lakers next summer. If this year goes well in Oklahoma City — such as the Thunder reaching the Conference Finals — maybe George reconsiders, and with that Westbrook would stay (he has professed and shown loyalty to the city so far). Maybe they stay anyway. However, both men seem to be using the LeBron James playbook of keeping all their options open.

Report: Carmelo Anthony “heavily considering” adding Portland to trade list

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If he could choose his destination, Carmelo Anthony would be playing this coming season alongside Chris Paul and James Harden in Houston. However, since that seems dead, Anthony has told the Knicks he also would waive his no-trade clause for Cleveland or Oklahoma City.

What about Portland, a team hot on the rumor mill?

Anthony has yet to tell the Knicks he would waive his no-trade to head to the Pacific Northwest, but he’s seriously considering adding the Blazers to the list, reports Marc Berman of the New York Post.

The source told The Post that Anthony is heavily considering putting the Trail Blazers on his list as well.

Portland’s stars Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have been very public in their recruitment of Anthony. That seems to be having an effect.

Portland has the pieces to get a trade done, much more so than the Thunder or Cavaliers. The Knicks would certainly ask the Blazers for the just drafted Zach Collins, and Evan Turner with his $17 million salary would be part of the deal to match up the numbers, then after that there would be other players and picks needed to round everything out. However, there are multiple ways to get that deal done.

Anthony just added Cleveland and Oklahoma City to his list of acceptable trade destinations, he likely lets Cleveland negotiate with them for a while to see if a trade can be reached. However, if no deal is reached — and it will not be easy to find a trade the Knicks like with those rosters, plus both of those teams are already paying the luxury tax so there are financial considerations — then the Trail Blazers could be in luck.

Minnesota’s Wiggins considers contract deal without agent

Associated Press
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Andrew Wiggins says he feels good about a max contract offer that is sitting in front of him with the Minnesota Timberwolves. But he’s in no rush to get it signed.

Wiggins says he is going over the five-year, $148 million offer from the Wolves deliberately to make sure everything is where he wants it before he signs. He is being extra careful because he is operating without an agent after parting ways with Bill Duffy and BDA Sports in August.

Wiggins says he has only positive things to say about Duffy. But he made the decision “from a business point of view.” He says he is leaning on parents, who were both high-profile athletes.

He says he appreciates the level of commitment the Timberwolves have shown and wants to be in Minnesota for the long term.

 

Report: Carmelo Anthony adds Cavaliers, Thunder to list of teams where he will accept trade

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Carmelo Anthony wants most of all to be traded to Houston (and he has leverage thanks to the no-trade clause Phil Jackson/James Dolan gave him). However, to make the deal work the Rockets needed to unload the three-year, $60 million contract of Ryan Anderson — which the Knicks do not want, and neither did any third team without a couple high first-round picks as a sweetener. Also, the Knicks wanted quality you assets back the Rockets didn’t have (or would part with), so the deal was dead. Anthony tried to wait it out, but nothing happened, and at this point the Knicks expect ‘Melo in camp Monday.

In the face of that, Anthony has expanded his list of teams where he will waive his no-trade clause to include the Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City Thunder, according to multiple reports.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN was first with the news about the Cavs.

Carmelo Anthony, a 10-time NBA All-Star, has delivered the New York Knicks an expanded list of teams — including the Cleveland Cavaliers — with which he’d be willing to waive his no-trade clause, league sources told ESPN.

After the Knicks insisted that they were unable to make a deal with the Houston Rockets, his primary trade destination, Anthony and his representatives honored New York’s request and furnished at least two more teams within the past 10 days, league sources told ESPN.

ESPN’s Ian Begley filled in the details.

Cleveland was on the initial list of teams Anthony gave the Knicks (teams he would waive his no-trade for) but the Knicks wanted Kevin Love and Cleveland shot that down (that was before the Kyrie Irving deal, now Cleveland is even less likely to make that trade). The Cavaliers don’t have a lot of young talent on their roster, and that’s what the Knicks will want back in a deal, picks and players who are on Kristaps Porzingis‘ career arc.

If Cleveland was willing to throw the 2018 Brooklyn Nets pick in the trade it would get done quickly, but I have been told (before this news) Cleveland would not part with that pick, they see it as “LeBron leaves” insurance.

You can bet LeBron James is pushing to get Anthony on the Cavs. Adding him and Dwyane Wade — when Wade is bought out by the Bulls (eventually) — would move the Cavaliers a little closer to the Warriors, although both Wade and ‘Melo are bad defensive matchups against Golden State.

Oklahoma City would likely use Enes Kanter in any trade because his $17 million salary helps balance the money. However, the Thunder are like the Cavs in that this is not a roster with much young talent that the Knicks would want. Guys like Doug McDermott and Kyle Singler are not going to cut it.

It could take a third team to get a deal done with either the Cavaliers or Thunder.

While there had been rumors Portland was still trying to get in — that’s a team with multiple ways to make that trade if they are willing to send Zach Collins and picks to New York — multiple reports out of New York say the Blazers are not one of the teams on Anthony’s list, something first reported by Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

Anthony may well get moved before the start of the season now, but not likely before training camp opens for the Knicks Monday. So that awkward set of questions still gets to take place.