Author: Dan Feldman

Flip Saunders, Sam Mitchell

Report: Sam Mitchell replacing cancer-stricken Flip Saunders as acting Timberwolves coach

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Flip Saunders announced last month that he had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The official release said he would continue uninterrupted as Timberwolves’ president and coach.

Unfortunately, that is no longer the case.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Sam Mitchell coached the Raptors more than four seasons, even winning coach of the year. He returned to Minnesota, where he played, as an assistant coach last year. Mitchel is a strong No. 1 assistant and probably deserves another head-coaching opportunity.

Nobody wanted to see it come like this, though.

Considering Saunders didn’t seem long for coaching even before this diagnosis, he might be done on the sideline. But his career is secondary.

The top concern is Saunders getting healthy.

Report: Clippers signing former No. 5 pick

Georgia v Finland - EuroBasket 2011

Imagine a player compared to Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett. He’s a 7-footer who was classically trained in ballet growing up, giving him gracefulness scouts drool over. During workouts, he drains 3-pointers and handles the ball like he’s a half foot shorter.

The Clippers are signing that player.

Unfortunately for them, it’s Nikoloz Tskitishvili.

David Pick:

The Nuggets drafted Tskitishvili No. 5 in 2002, and he lasted just four disastrous seasons in the NBA. He left the league in 2006, returning to Europe. Most recently, he played in Lebanon.

It would be an incredible, amazing, phenomenal story if he makes the Clippers’ regular-season roster.

For that reason, it probably won’t happen.

The Clippers have 14 players with guaranteed salaries. That means Tskitishvili will compete with Chuck Hayes (unguaranteed) and whomever else the Clippers sign for the final regular-season roster spot. I don’t like Tskitishvili’s odds.

He says he’s stronger, smarter, more confident now – and that might be true. But the NBA was far too athletic and fast for him nine years ago. That usually doesn’t come easier at age 32.

It’s really quite impressive he got this far, though – given that then-Denver general manager Kiki Vandeweghe admitted he never saw Tskitishvili play live before drafting him – I wonder how much Doc Rivers has watched the forward.

Suns coach Jeff Hornacek sharply critical of Markieff Morris’ game

Phoenix Suns v Portland Trail Blazers

Jeff Hornacek has taken an optimistic approach to the Markieff Morris saga, saying he believes it’ll turn out OK once Morris reports to training camp.

But, in an article by Zach Lowe of Grantland, the Suns coach also comes at Morris from a different direction.

Hornacek on Morris’ defense:

“Some games he brings it, some games he doesn’t,” Hornacek says. “Maybe it’s conditioning. Maybe it’s him saying, ‘If I put the effort in on defense, then I can’t do it on the offensive end.’”

Hornacek on Morris switching defensively:

We’ll use more of that this year,” Hornacek says. “He can do it. If the game’s on the line, I think he’ll be great at it. He focuses on those kinds of plays. The question is whether he can do it in the middle of games, consistently.”

Hornacek on Morris’ 3-point shooting:

“We thought he’d be a little better,” Hornacek says. “If he’s right around 30 percent, that’s probably not conducive to him shooting a lot of 3s.”

Hornacek on Morris drawing fouls:

“He doesn’t draw enough fouls,” Hornacek says.

Hornacek on Morris’ post-ups:

“He doesn’t get the ball deep on the block, and sometimes, there’s no place to cut,” Hornacek says.

These criticisms are valid. Morris, despite the size and mobility to make more of a difference, doesn’t always defend well. His 3-point shooting has regressed. He doesn’t attack the rim enough. He operates with his back to the basket a little farther from the rim than most players – though that’s more a stylistic issue than a reason to rebuke him. (However, if Morris’ natural style interferes with his teammates, he should at least attempt to change it.)

But Morris is a good player locked into a cheap contract. It’s Hornacek’s job to make this work.

On a certain level, I think Hornacek is just being honest because that’s who he is.

Morris was also very blunt about what he thought of the Suns, tough. Maybe, in turn, they’re just being blunt about what they think of him. Giving him a taste of his own medicine – but to teach him a lesson or simply out of frustration?

At this point, it doesn’t matter too much why Hornacek publicly criticized his own player to a level rarely seen. He said it.

The big question: How will an already-unhappy Morris react?