Author: Brett Pollakoff

Flip Saunders

Flip Saunders: ‘Right now’ he’s planning on returning as Timberwolves head coach


Last month at the NBA Draft Lottery in New York City, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor seemed uncertain when asked if Flip Saunders, who is also the team’s president of basketball operations, would once again be its head coach next season.

“It’s not definite,” Taylor said, after pausing for a few seconds when asked specifically about Saunders returning as head coach. “But in my mind, with the effort that he put in this year to bring this team along, it’s probably 90 percent. If he sees somebody and he changes his mind, he certainly could convince me. I think eventually I want a different coach, and I want him to be the GM. My guess is that he’ll go another year.”

Saunders himself, in an interview on NBC Sports Radio, seemed to indicate that it remains a fluid situation.


Are you going to coach this team?

Saunders: “Right now I’m coaching the team. It’s a question everybody asks. It’s interesting, when I ended up coaching a year ago, it was the right thing to do at that time for the organization. We had the unknowns with Kevin Love, we would have pigeonholed ourselves if we took a veteran coach and maybe not have the flexibility to go as young as we did. Right now, the most important thing is to develop our young talent. We have done a pretty good job with our staff and organization moving in that direction. Until I feel we can get somebody who can move forward a little bit, we’ll [stay] where we’re at.”

Do you hear from coaching agents often?

Saunders: “Last year I probably talked to 12 coaches. A lot of people probably weren’t aware. I’m not one to advertise. I’ve done the same thing as far as numerous coaches this year. It might not be for right now, but it could be down the road. I’m constantly in the evaluation process for coaches.”

Saunders seems open to stepping back into a front-office only role. But with the Timberwolves at the beginning of a rebuilding process, he’s only going to do so if he can find what he feels to be a perfect fit from a coaching standpoint to lead this transition.

“Right now,” he sees himself as the team’s best option.

Rudy Gobert to work with Dirk Nowitzki’s shooting coach this summer

Rudy Gobert, Thomas Robinson

Dirk Nowitzki is a lock to be in the Hall of Fame, and will arguably go down as the greatest shooting seven-footer in NBA history.

He’s retained a personal shooting coach for the entirety of his career, which has undoubtedly helped him reach those heights.

And now at least one fellow big man is planning to follow in those footsteps by working with the man responsible for Nowitzki’s sweet stroke.

From Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake Tribune:

“There are a lot of players that we talk about having potential and upside,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said at the end of last season. “I think the most unique think about Rudy is his desire to get better.”

To get there, the young center wants to spend his summer getting stronger, particularly in his lower body, to help handle a heavier workload next season.

And, already one of the league’s most feared rim protectors, Gobert hopes to put a little more fear into opposing defenses next year. The center intends to improve his post game and add some mid-range shooting to his repertoire. He says he’s hitting consistently from about 15-feet right now, and he plans to spend 10 days in Germany with Dirk Nowitzki’s shooting coach later this summer to help fine-tune his form.

Rudy Gobert is already a monster defensively, and while he shot 60.4 percent from the field last season, 78.5 percent of his attempts came from three feet away or less, and 97.7 percent of his looks were inside of 10 feet.

The Jazz were especially strong in the second half of the season once they inserted Gobert into the starting lineup. If he can even mildly improve his shooting ability to where he’ll become a reliable threat to begin knocking down shots from midrange, his value to his team will skyrocket.

Report: Cavaliers tried to trade for Pablo Prigioni at deadline

Charlotte Hornets v New York Knicks

The Cavaliers ended up with two former members of the New York Knicks in the middle of the season, and evidently also tried to get a third.

As Cleveland looked to bolster its roster with competent rotation players for the stretch run, it reportedly looked to add guard depth by dealing for Pablo Prigioni, before the Knicks ultimately traded him somewhere else.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

According to a source, the Cavaliers made a big pitch at the trade deadline for Knicks point guard Pablo Prigioni . The Knicks instead dealt Prigioni to Houston with a trade exception for a package that included Alexey Shved and two second-rounders. Prigioni helped Houston in the wake of Patrick Beverly’s injury and could have come in handy for the Cavaliers after the loss of Kyrie Irving .

The interesting part about this is that if Prigioni had been brought over, it’s possible he would have been given a shot at taking the minutes that eventually went to Matthew Dellavedova, who has come up huge for the Cavaliers this postseason.

Prigioni was a rotation player for the Rockets in the playoffs, and averaged around 20 minutes per game for them in the early rounds before playing far less against the juggernaut that is (was?) the Golden State Warriors. Houston can retain him on a non-guaranteed deal for $1.7 million next season.

Team execs: There’s ‘a logical case to be made’ for Lakers selecting D’Angelo Russell with No. 2 pick in NBA Draft

Ohio State v Indiana

Most projections for how the NBA Draft will begin involve Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor going one and two (in some order) to the Timberwolves and the Lakers, with the Sixers scooping up D’Angelo Russell at three.

But as we get closer, both L.A. and Minnesota seem to be more carefully considering Russell.

The Timberwolves are thinking about him at one, which would be a bold but not completely crazy choice. And front office types believe the Lakers could grab him at two — partially because some feel Russell is worthy, but also because of who L.A. already has on its roster.

From Scott Howard-Cooper of

Away from the consensus, distanced from the assumptions, there is a logical case to be made for the Lakers to take Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell with the second pick in the June 25 Draft and not simply inherit the big man the Timberwolves do not take at No. 1.

There is such a logical case, in fact, that front offices outside Los Angeles buy the premise without hesitation. Russell is considered that good — “I would take him No. 1,” said an executive with a team that isn’t picking high enough to be impacted by the top five being shuffled — and the Lakers have that unique of circumstances.

The thinking is that Okafor, while skilled offensively with an advanced low post game for someone of his age, is a duplication of Julius Randle, the Lakers rookie who missed all but opening night of last season with a fractured leg injury. It would make more sense, then, to add a stellar and dynamic scoring threat on the perimeter to complement Randle, and balance out the roster.

There are far too many what-ifs at this point to truly know which way a team is leaning. There will be individual workouts and interviews, like the one the Lakers held with Emmanuel Mudiay on Saturday, that will factor into all of these decisions. But what is becoming clear is that Russell is firmly in the mix to be considered at the top of this draft class.

Report: Sacramento Kings ‘a darkhorse location’ for Rajon Rondo in free agency

Dallas Mavericks v New Orleans Pelicans

Rajon Rondo was believed to be in line for a large payday on a multi-year contract when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, but after a disastrous stint in Dallas, he may be forced to change his plans.

Rondo clashed with head coach Rick Carlisle, and essentially quit on his team in the first round of the playoffs. The Mavericks floated a “back injury” story as the reason he was sent away, but the reality was the team was simply done with him, and chose that route instead of dealing with a needless controversy during its first-round playoff series.

Dallas didn’t even give Rondo a playoff share, which shows the level of distaste the organization felt for him in the brief time he was there.

Things may have changed for Rondo on the free agent market because of all this, and now teams who traditionally can’t lure free agents to sign may believe they have a shot — and evidently, this includes the lowly Sacramento Kings.

From Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe:

A darkhorse location for Rajon Rondo in free agency is Sacramento, where the Kings are entering a pivotal year in their franchise and could use a bona fide point guard. Darren Collison, coming off hip surgery, is the team’s scheduled starter for next season. Rondo, who didn’t appear interested in going to the Kings a few years ago, could use the club as a springboard to perhaps a larger contract if he signs a one-year deal. Rondo is also close friends with Kings forward Rudy Gay.

Sacramento may only be an option if Rondo decides to sign a one- or two-year deal in order to rehabilitate his image, before then trying to land a larger, multi-year deal to play somewhere that’s actually appealing.

But from a pure entertainment standpoint, the personalities of Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins on the same team? Sign me up.