Kurt Helin

Karl-Anthony Towns on Timberwolves season: “We’ve got to make the playoffs”

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In a few years, Minnesota is poised to be the team challenging Golden State for the Western Conference crown — and more. This young roster has that kind of potential, and now it has a coach in Tom Thibodeau who can get them over the top.

But learning to win in the NBA is a process. Karl-Anthony Towns is insistent that the Timberwolves take their first step this season and make the playoffs. Look at what he told Jared Zwerling of the NBAPA’s official site:

“We’ve got to make the playoffs. We’ve got to do something special, and it’s up to us to continue to work and to make that happen.”

Minnesota making the playoffs could happen. The Wolves about average offense last season should improve as Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine and the rest of a talented core take steps forward. However, the real test is how much Thibodeau can improve their bottom-five defense — get that to average and this team has a shot at the postseason. They would likely be in a fight with teams such as Memphis and Denver the final playoff slot or two in the conference.

Towns likes playing for Thibodeau.

He’s taught me a lot so far. He’s really smart, he’s a great guy. I look at him not even as my coach, but as a good friend of mine, and that’s how it has to be. If we want to be able to go to another spot to something greater, we have to always be on the same page and have a good rapport. That’s what we do have.

The star player and coach having a good relationship matters (although mostly for the coach, he’s the one that almost always pays a price when it goes wrong). In this case, Towns and Thibodeau could lead this team a long way in the next few years.

Jazz sign Quincy Ford to training camp deal, he played for them in summer league

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Jazz have signed free agent wing Quincy Ford, who played for the team in the summer league.

The 6-foot-8, 225-pound small forward played for the Jazz in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas this summer, averaging 5.1 points and 5.2 rebounds in eight games. The team announced the move Wednesday. The Jazz have 14 guaranteed contracts on the roster already, if impressed by someone in camp they can add one more to the team opening night.

Ford went undrafted after averaging 16.4 points and 7.0 rebounds as a senior at Northeastern. His 204 3-pointers rank No. 4 in school history.

The Jazz have been active this offseason, signing veteran Joe Johnson and trading for George Hill and Boris Diaw. They also signed draft picks Joel Bolomboy and Marcus Paige.

The Jazz finished 40-42 and missed the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. The 2014 No. 5 overall pick Dante Exum is expected to return after a knee injury.

Sixers add veteran to young, crowded front court, sign Elton Brand to one-year deal

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There is a lot of potential talent in the Sixers frontcourt: Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid. There is also a lot of youth.

The Sixers are adding to the depth up front by re-signing veteran Elton Brand, who was on the roster for them the second half of last season (but played sparingly). This was first reported Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Sixers have since confirmed the signing, it’s official. It is one year, for the veteran minimum, and is not fully guaranteed.

Jerry Colangelo orchestrated bringing in Brand last season, part of his effort to get some veteran voices onto a young roster. It shouldn’t be a shock that he and GM Bryan Colangelo wanted to add Brand as a continuation of that (the Sixers also now have Jerryd Bayless and Gerald Henderson on the roster).

At age 37 Brand doesn’t have much to contribute on the court (he played in 17 games), although he played decently last season and the Sixers were a little better with him on the court rather than off. He doesn’t move well defensively, and on offense he lives in the midrange — he took 51.4 percent of his shots between 10 and 15 feet out but hit just 27 percent of them.

Lakers’ center Timofey Mozgov shows off his three point range

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This is not part of Luke Walton’s offense… or is it.

No, it’s not.

Timofey Mozgov attempted seven three-pointers last season in Cleveland, and he hit one. For his career, Mozgov is 7-of-39, or 17.9 percent, from beyond the arc. The Lakers are not paying him $64 million to space the floor.

But put Mozgov in an empty gym and he can knock down threes, as he showed in a video released by the Russian Basketball Federation before a game against Sweden.

Honestly, this isn’t as uncommon as you think — NBA players can flat-out shoot. Put what you and I consider average to poor NBA shooters in an empty gym and you’d swear they were the second coming of Ray Allen. To use a tied-in example, I once watched then player Luke Walton hit about 10 threes in a row standing a step out of bounds in the corner. A career 32 percent guy from three, in warmups Walton was Stephen Curry.

These guys are good. It’s just one thing to do it in an empty gym, another to do that when Anthony Davis is closing out on you.

Jabari Parker has Colin Kaepernick’s back

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Colin Kaepernick’s decision not to stand during the national anthem of 49er games has led to a national conversation — more about the flag and what is/is not respecting it than the disregard for the value of black lives in America that Kaepernick wanted to draw attention to. Which is why other athletes have rallied to Kaepernick’s cause, trying to keep going the conversation he wants to have, not the lazy sports talk radio fodder that is the flag debate.

Add the Milwaukee Bucks’ Jabari Parker to the list.

Never followed the wave but this one is necessary. I got your back homie @kaepernick7

A post shared by Jabari Parker (@jabariparker) on

Parker is the first NBA player to take a stand along these lines, although when camps open in three weeks and exhibition games start, I’d be shocked if he’s the last.

Parker isn’t alone wearing that gear, Kaepernick jersey sales have spiked since the controversy started and it is now the No. 1 seller in the NFL. Kaepernick has said he will donate all of his jersey sales proceeds “back into communities.”