Kurt Helin

John Calipari says (to Minnesota paper) Jamal Murray wants to go to Timberwolves

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Is there a better marketer-in-coach in college basketball than John Calipari?

The NBA Draft is a big recruiting day for Calipari — there are at least three Kentucky players expected to go in the 2016 draft, two in the lottery. That was after six last season, including No. 1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns.

The top Wildcat prospect this season is Jamal Murray, who is listed as a combo guard but will play the two in the NBA. He’s projected no lower than eighth (probably top six) and is one of the better shooters in this draft. Where would he like to land? Calipari said this to the Star-Tribune in Minnesota (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

“OK, well, here’s what I would say. [Wolves president of basketball operations and coach Tom Thibodeau] and I are great friends. He helped my career, helped me basketball-wise and every other way. I’m a big fan of Thibs. Jamal? I’m saying this to you and no one else. He loves Minnesota. As a matter of fact, that’s where he’d like to go.’’

Can’t you see Calipari saying this to the Minnesota-based reporter with a wink? The man knows how to promote himself and his program.

Minnesota drafts fifth and they want to add shooting (they start Zach LaVine at the two, Andrew Wiggins at the three), which would put Buddy Hield and Murray at the top of the list. If they don’t trade the pick for a more established shooter. Starting with the third pick this draft could go a lot of different ways.

The good news for Murray is that while Thibodeau is a yeller in practice, he’s coming out of a Calipari program so he’ll be ready for it.

Report: Teams calling Kings about Ben McLemore, who is available

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Ben McLemore was on the trade block in February at the trade deadline, although the sense was that George Karl wanted to move him more than the front office. The coaching dynamic has changed in Sacramento: George Karl is gone, and Dave Joerger is in for the Kings.

Yet McLemore remains available, and he is a name you could hear mentioned as part of a trade on NBA Draft night Thursday. From Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com.

McLemore is athletic, can defend, is starting to grasp the game better, and is shot 36 percent from three this season. He’s far from a star, but there is some quality there, the concerning issue was how his progress stalled out. Is that because George Karl’s Kings were a mess, or is his ceiling lower than anticipated?

If other teams value McLemore’s shooting and potential more than the Kings — and it seems that is the case — a deal will get done. If not on the day of the draft, later this summer.

D’Angelo Russell steals new Foot Locker rookies ad

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Foot Locker went all out bringing in soon-to-be No. 1 pick Ben Simmons, talking to now NBA sophomores Karl-Anthony Towns and Devin Booker.

But D'Angelo Russell steals the show.

If you don’t get the joke, you have some back reading to do. Or just ask Nick Young.

Luke Walton promises to bring up-tempo, fun brand of basketball to Lakers

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The next head coach who at his inaugural press conference says “I think this team needs to play slower” will be the first. Universally they promise a more up-tempo game.

But there’s reason to believe Luke Walton when he says it.

The Lakers introduced their new coach on Tuesday, and as should have been expected from a guy who spent the past couple seasons on the Golden State bench, he wants to open the offense up.

“You have to make it fun for them. Basketball is supposed to be a game of joy…” Walton said. “The future is bright. We’re going to play an up-tempo game, we’re going to bring in another top pick, we have money to spend (in free agency).”

He also said that he can’t run exactly what Golden State ran because a coach has to adjust his system to his personnel.

All of that should be music to Lakers’ fans ears. Last season was more of a farewell tour for Kobe Bryant than time spent on focusing on the long-term direction of the club. Young players such as D'Angelo Russell showed promise but had their frustrations with the communication and style of now-ousted coach Byron Scott. Russell was front-and-center for Waltons’s press conference (along with Larry Nance Jr. and Anthony Brown).

It’s time for the franchise to move forward, although Walton said he hoped some of Kobe rubbed off on the young Lakers.

“His work ethic,” Walton said. “He was the hardest working player I’ve ever played with.”

Walton has a great coaching resume — having played in college for Lute Olsen at Arizona, then for Phil Jackson with the Lakers (who brought him in as an assistant coach) — but listening to him Tuesday it was clear that Steve Kerr and what the Warriors have done had the biggest impact on his style.

Walton — who was drafted by the Lakers in 2003 and was part of the 2009 and 2010 Laker teams — called this “my dream job.”

“The fact that Mitch (Kupchak, Laker GM) and (co-owner) Jimmy Buss trusted me to be part of this rebuilding, post-Kobe era means the world to me,” Walton said.

Walton is the son of Hall of Famer Bill Walton, who you can expect to see around Staples Center.

“You’ll see him in the hallway wearing Lakers shirts that are too small for him,” Luke laughed.

Walton will be out with the young Lakers at Summer League in Las Vegas (although he didn’t say he would be coaching the team).

The Lakers got the guy they wanted. Luke Walton got the job he wanted. But both sides have a lot of work (and need to be a little patient) to get the franchise back where Lakers’ fans expect it to be.

Unsurprisingly, Dirk Nowitzki opts out to become free agent. Not that he’s leaving Dallas.

Associated Press
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You know the NBA’s “silly rumor season” is in full swing when talk of Dirk Nowitzki turning his back on Dallas to chase a ring with Golden State gains traction.

The rumor that the Warriors are interested in the best European ever to play the game popped up Tuesday and there is one thing we know to be true in this — Nowitzki is going to be a free agent. Which isn’t a surprise. Via Marc Stein of ESPN.

What this does is give Dallas more flexibility in chasing free agents.

As for the Warriors, Nowitzki has said before he is not looking to leave the Mavericks.

“(Not having a ring) would have been the only scenario where I go somewhere at the end to kind of hang on and maybe try to win one,” Nowitzki said, referring to his 2011 title team. “But ever since I won a championship here and we did that, I want to finish my career here. I always said that. The only scenario where I’ll try to go somewhere is if we’re rebuilding.”

I have no doubt the Warriors would have interest, he’d be a great fit with what they do playing mostly off the bench. I just don’t see Nowitzki turning his back on Mark Cuban for any reason.