Author: Kurt Helin

Minnesota Timberwolves v Cleveland Cavaliers

Cavaliers’ coach Blatt on Kevin Love: “Kevin’s not a max player yet”


Kevin Love is a max player — he got a maximum dollar contract extension from Minnesota, that is the contract his is playing under currently.

But that is apparently not how Cavaliers coach David Blatt sees it, as reported by Blake Ellington of Sactown Royalty (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

Love is with the Cleveland Cavaliers and not still in Minnesota because he and then Timberwolves GM David Kahn defined “max contract” a little differently. Love wanted the full five-year extension, Kahn wanted to save that extra year for his personal favorite Ricky Rubio (teams can only offer one at a time). So Kahn offered Love max money but only for four years. Love agreed to the four-year deal but used his leverage to get an opt-out after three, then he used that opt-out threat to force a trade after a couple years.

But I don’t think that’s what Blatt meant.

Love isn’t playing like a max player of late. But I don’t think that’s what Blatt meant, either.

Blatt does know that regardless of how the rest of this season plays out, Love will get a max offer when he does opt out this summer. Rumor is he may want just a one year deal so he can get a bigger max deal in 2016 when the new TV deal money kicks in, but he still will get the max.

My guess is that regardless of how the rest this season plays out, Love will re-sign for that one season in Cleveland. A max deal.

After that… Love will still be a max player. Wherever he ends up.

Five Things we learned in NBA Sunday: Cleveland will not stop digging the hole deeper

Kevin Love, Shawn Marion, LeBron James

Pay  attention and every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons. Here’s what you missed while thinking clearly you have a lot of movies to see before the Oscars….

1) LeBron being out isn’t Cleveland’s biggest problem. Maybe we didn’t actually learn this tonight, we had a pretty good idea already, but getting just thrashed 103-84 by Sacramento really drove the point home. This feels like the old Cavaliers — they need LeBron James to carry them because the rest of this team isn’t near good enough. That shouldn’t be the case, with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love this team should be respectable. But they have lost five in a row and after Sunday players admitted they didn’t really play hard enough (while the Kings players did and owned the game because of it). Cavs coach David Blatt is going to take the heat and maybe the fall for this play, and clearly he is not reaching this roster, but also those players haven’t really given him a chance. A coach should be able to count on hustle, on effort from professional players — this isn’t some “rah rah” college kids, these guys should be able to motivate themselves. They are not. And ultimately it has to fall to LeBron to both hold them accountable and lead by example, the latter of which he was not doing consistently before his shut it down for a couple of weeks.

2) Damian Lillard owns fourth quarters against the Lakers. For the second time this season a Kobe Bryant-less Lakers team hung around with the Trail Blazers for a little more than three quarters. And then Damian Lillard said “screw this” and just took over — he had 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the final frame, leading Portland past the Los Angeles Lakers to a 106-94 win. Oh, and he did this to the rim and Jordan Hill.

And earlier in the game he did this.

3) Hassan Whiteside cannot be stopped by mere mortals. Well, at least for a day. Sunday afternoon Hassan Whiteside looked more like DeAndre Jordan than DeAndre Jordan did (or, more accurately, he looked like the DeAndre Jordan the Clippers wish they had consistently this year). Whiteside came off the bench for Miami and was the second best big man in the game, putting up 23 points (on 10-of-13 shooting), 16 rebounds, two blocks, and two steals. (The real problem for the Clippers is the best big man on the court in this game was Miami’s Chris Bosh, who had 34 and hit everything, contested or not.) Whiteside, who was in the D-League earlier this season, has scored in double digits in the last four games for Miami and has brought a real energy off the bench, something the Heat needed. He keyed a quality road win for them.

4) The Atlanta Hawks remain the best team in the East. We can debate if the Hawks can hang with the best of the West for seven games (they’ve beaten Memphis, Portland and the Clippers recently). Honestly, I don’t think they can if they get to the Finals — but make no mistake they can get to the Finals. They went up against a solid Washington team Sunday and just destroyed them — eight Atlanta players scored in double figures, the ball movement and player movement left the Wizards defenders lost, and the Hawks forced turnovers on 21 percent of the Wizards’ possessions (19 total). Maybe come the playoffs, when teams can really focus on the Hawks offense, they can slow the team down. Maybe. We thought that might happen to the Spurs in the playoffs last season and….

5) Marc Gasol is the best double overtime player in the league. Apparently. This was not a great night overall for the Spaniard, he was outplayed by Alex Len for most of the game. Then in the second overtime he poured in seven points on 3-of-4 shooting and the Grizzlies pulled away from the Suns for a 122-110 win. Despite the high score this was actually one of the better defensive games from Memphis in a while, which is the end of the court where they need to turn things around. Oh, and if you want some fancy shooting from Gasol, we can show you this:

Damian Lillard owns fourth quarter against Lakers, including one nasty dunk (VIDEO)

Damian Lillard

LOS ANGELES — “It’s fun to watch, I just wanted to get some popcorn and grab a seat.”

LaMarcus Aldridge said that of Damian Lillard’s fourth quarter, although being in the game prevented any popcorn munching.

But make no mistake there was a fourth quarter show from Lillard — 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the final frame, taking control of the contest and leading Portland past the Los Angeles Lakers to a 106-94 win. It was the second time this season that the Lakers, playing without Kobe Bryant, hung around and hung around for three quarters against the Blazers, only to have Lillard own the fourth. But the Lakers are not the only victim, Lillard has scored 232 points in the fourth this season, more than any other player in the NBA.

“I just look to attack more,” Lillard said of his big fourth quarters. “For the first three quarters, let (Nicolas Batum) come off pick-and-rolls and make some plays, finding (Wesley Matthews) off pin downs, finding (Aldridge) on pick-and-rolls, and dropping it to him on the block….

“And at the end of the game, that’s just when I feel like it’s time to attack.”

Lillard finished the night with 34 points.

However what everyone was talking about after the game was Lillard’s monster and-1 dunk that was part of his fourth quarter onslaught.

“The time before I had the ball at half court and (Lakers’ point guard Ronnie Price) was pressed up on me, like way up at the half court line, and I saw everybody was flat on the baseline. I got in there the first time and I wanted to see how the bigs would play it, the first time they rotated over and I just threw it to (Chris) Kaman.

“The next time I went to half court and wanted to see if they would press up on me again, and he did, and I got in the lane again and I wanted to see if the big would come over and he just stayed back and by the time I gathered and went up it was basically too late.”

Lillard tried to downplay the dunk a little. Nobody else would. Nor would they downplay his fourth quarters — Lillard has gained a reputation as one of the game’s best closers.

“I think he has a knack for those moments, I think he wants to be great in those moments,” Aldridge said. “I’ve seem him do it over and over again so I’m never surprised by it.”

We may not be surprised by it, but we could use some popcorn so we can sit back and enjoy it.

Report: Atlanta baseball legend Hank Aaron joins group trying to buy Hawks

Hank Aaron

There is kind of a formula for ownership groups trying to buy an NBA team:

You need a couple of money guys (serious big money), then it doesn’t hurt if you have a minority owner or two with some cache in said city to help win over the local fans. We have seen it from Magic Johnson with the Dodgers to Justin Timberlake with the Grizzlies.

How about Hank Aaron to the Atlanta Hawks?

He is part of one group — one with very deep pockets — trying to buy the Hawks, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Former baseball home run king and Atlanta icon Hank Aaron has joined a group of current owners from the NBA, Major League Soccer and Italian soccer’s storied Serie A that is seeking to purchase the Atlanta Hawks, according to league sources.

Sources told that the group is spearheaded by Memphis Grizzlies minority owner and vice chairman Steve Kaplan, Indonesian billionaire sports and media magnates Erick Thohir and Handy Poernomo Soetedjo and former Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien, who is the current managing general partner of DC United in MLS.

Remember that Levien was running the show in Memphis when they let go of Lionel Hollins and made other changes, ones that eventually got him pushed out the door and the old regime brought back in.

While there are several Atlanta-based groups looking to potentially buy the team it will come down to one thing — money. Not Hammerin’ Hank or any other celebrities, this is a cold hard business deal. The current owners — all three groups — are cashing out, emphasis on the cash. I had been told the estimated sale price was in the $750 million range, but other reports suggest that could be a little low.

This group definitely has the pockets to put together the winning bid. This process seems to be moving fairly quickly now, although there is no timeline for the deal to be completed.

Whoever buys this team just needs to leave the basketball side alone — the Hawks are 29-8, on top of the Eastern Conference by playing selfless basketball, and they are poised to potentially make a deep playoff run.

And no, this team is not leaving Atlanta when sold.

Portland shows off some Hoosiers like ball movement for three (GIF)

LaMarcus Aldridge, Ronnie Price, Ed Davis


LOS ANGELES — Coach Norman Dale would be proud of that passing.

Well, maybe not the way it started, with LaMarcus Aldridge almost turning the ball over at midcourt, but once he whips it back into play the Blazers have the floor spaced and make some beautiful passes, while the Lakers’ defense scrambled.

Before the game Lakers coach Byron Scott was praising the Blazers spacing and ball movement on offense. He probably was not hoping to see this kind of demonstration, however.

The Lakers hung close with the Blazers for a little more than three quarters on Sunday night, doing it without Kobe Bryant.

Hat tip to Ben Golliver of SI.