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Timberwolves’ handling of Flip Saunders’ death caused rift with Kevin Garnett

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When Kevin Garnett rejoined the Timberwolves, there was talk of him eventually joining Flip Saunders in management or maybe even ownership.

Instead, Saunders died before last season. Garnett played out the year under interim coach Sam Mitchell and interim general manager Milton Newton, saw Minnesota fire those two then retired.

Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press:

Garnett believes that promises were broken and he left last summer after a tense buyout negotiation with owner Glen Taylor.

“I love those young guys,” Garnett said, referring to the Wolves’ young core of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine that he mentored in his final season. “I told Thibs I want to work with him, but obviously me and Glen don’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things and that’s how it’s going to be.”

Garnett envisioned having a large role in the decision-making process, particularly when it came to the move to fire GM Milt Newton and coach Sam Mitchell — Garnett’s close friend — after last season.

Garnett also told the AP that he was upset with the way the team handled a memorial service for Saunders, the coach who drafted Garnett as a skinny teenager out of Farragut Academy High School in Chicago in 1995.

Saunders was honored in an emotional service before the team’s home opener against Portland last season. It included a touching video tribute, with players, coaches, media members and others speaking about the impact Saunders had on their lives.

One glaring absence was Garnett, who said he “couldn’t put a lifetime of friendship into three minutes.”

“How do you put a time limit on something like that?” Garnett said. “And then, too, I thought he wasn’t celebrated the proper way. You have high school banners, you have (expletive) hockey banners (hanging in the rafters). You couldn’t put a Flip banner in Target Center, some place that we helped build? … We established that market. I helped grow that with him. You can’t put him in the (rafters)?

“So I just had problems with how they were shoving this down all of our throats. The young guys, they weren’t invested enough to really understand what was going on. I chose to be mute, to be professional and keep all the negative energy down. There was a bigger message I wanted to tell, but I supported it and just kept my mouth shut.”

Taylor told the AP in February that the Wolves reached out to Garnett in hopes of arranging a ceremony to retire his jersey.

“We think that’s the appropriate thing to do,” Taylor said. “At this time he hasn’t commented on a timetable. We just have left it open.”

Garnett said he has never heard from the Wolves.

Here’s the video tribute:

Every Timberwolves player at the time besides Garnett appeared. The team also wore jersey patches.

Garnett obviously cared deeply about Saunders, and losing a friend can be trying. If Garnett didn’t feel comfortable participating in the tribute video, that’s totally fine.

But why criticize it for existing? What makes that the wrong way to honor Saunders and a banner the right way? Why does the banner have to be raised immediately after his death?

Saunders dying shook the franchise, and everyone – including Garnett – was left to deal with it. That isn’t easy, and everyone tried their best. Just as I’ll excuse Garnett’s unfair criticism as a byproduct of a tragic, difficult-to-handle situation, he should give the team employs charged with memorializing Saunders latitude to do so as they deemed best.

As far as broken promises and Garnett’s number being retired, who knows? This is a he-said, he-said situation.

But I know this, the Timberwolves paid Garnett his full $8 million salary this season, according to Basketball Insiders and Yahoo Sports. They could have demanded he report or forfeit that money. Instead, they gave him a lucrative sendoff into retirement.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.