Kurt Helin

Flip Saunders

Timberwolves coach, GM Flip Saunders passes away at age 60


Minnesota head coach and team president Flip Saunders had been battling cancer for months now (that we knew of) and, unfortunately, that ugly disease has claimed another good man.

Phil “Flip” Saunders has passed away at the age of 60, the team announced on Sunday.

He had been undergoing chemotherapy treatment after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (cancer of the immune system).

Saunders was one of the nicer and more open people around the league, a guy genuinely liked by nearly everyone. In my admittedly limited one-on-one interactions with him (at Summer League), he just made you feel comfortable talking to him. And he was honest.

Saunders coached 17 NBA seasons including three years with the Detroit Pistons where they reached the Eastern Conference Finals. He was a determined coach with a vast knowledge of the game to lean on.

He is best remembered as part of the Timberwolves, where he coached 11 of those seasons and helped build and coach some of the franchise’s most successful teams (including the young but talented roster they have now). He was part of the basketball culture in Minnesota, including hosting youth camps and often speaking to groups in the area.

His NBA coaching record was 654-592, but he had 35 total years of coaching experience.

Saunders was expected to be out for this coming entire season, with Sam Mitchel in as coach, but things were much worse than that.

He is survived by his wife and three daughters, as well as his son Ryan, an assistant coach with the Timberwolves.

Our thoughts and condolences go out to his family and friends.

Metta World Peace auctioning off DPOY trophy for charity

Metta World Peace
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Metta World Peace puts his money — and prized possessions — into his beliefs.

He has auctioned off his championship ring with the Lakers to raise money for mental health, then donated his winnings from Dancing With The Stars to a cancer charity.

Now his Defensive Player of the Year Award will be auctioned as well, once again for mental health awareness.

You have to appreciate his dedication to the cause — how many of us would auction off prized possessions to help others?

MWP won his DPOY award back in 2004 with the Pacers back when he was still called Ron Artest (that was the one year he made the All-Star Game as well). No doubt through the prime of his career World Peace was a force on the defensive end, plus could get you some points.

World Peace is trying to make a comeback and get on the Lakers’ roster, and he’s made it to the final cut. It comes down to him or Jabari Brown for the 15th and final roster spot, and on several occasions coach Byron Scott has said that’s a tough call.

Kevin Durant is excited Gregg Popovich named USA Basketball coach

US forward Kevin Durant celebrates after
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Kevin Durant will be 31 years old when the 2020 Tokyo Olympics rolls around. It’s easy to picture him going after one more gold and being the elder statesman of that team led by Anthony Davis, but predicting any of that five years out is about like predicting the Cubs will win the World Series in 2015.

But Durant is excited Gregg Popovich got the job as head coach of USA Basketball. Via Anthony Slater of the Oklahoman.

One of the main criteria — maybe THE main criteria — is to put a coach in the role that players want to play for. Yes, they want to play for their country, and yes they want to use the Olympic platform to promote their brand (read: sell shoes), but it’s a lot of additional commitment for a coach you don’t like and not every top player would go through it. Popovich passes the test with flying colors — guys love playing for him. Consider this as people’s exhibit No. 1 of this.

BTW, this in no way means KD is jumping to the Spurs next summer. Just stop it.

Russell Westbrook went as Steven Adams to Halloween party

Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams
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Thunder reserve big man Nick Collison threw a Halloween bash on Saturday night and all the Thunder were invited. (I know, I assume my invitation got pushed to my spam folder and I missed it, too.)

Russell Westbrook decided to go as Thunder big man Steven Adams.

Here’s a couple of photos, the first with Westbrook and Adams (who went as the Joker).

Scruffy facial hair, heavy New Zealand tats on his arms, Westbrook got the look down.

For the record, Kevin Durant dressed up as Martin Lawrence’s character from “Blue Streak,” not as a Wizards/Knicks/Lakers player. Sorry guys.

(Hat tip Eye on Basketball)

Byron Scott says he expects Kobe Bryant to play in season opener

Kobe Bryant
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This has been expected by anyone who knew even the slightest thing about Kobe Bryant.

He’s been out for a couple weeks this preseason with a bruised calf, he hasn’t even been practicing, and that has led to questions about his readiness for opening night. But come on now, did you really think he’d sit out when the games mattered? Lakers’ coach Byron Scott confirmed he is expected to play, as reported by Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

Bryant has not completed any running drills since suffering his injury in the team’s loss on Oct. 13 against Sacramento against Las Vegas. The Lakers also listed Bryant as questionable to play in the season opener. But Scott remained adamant “there’s no doubt in my mind” that Bryant will return by then.

“Talking to him today, he said he’s gearing up for (the season opener). I said, ‘Good, that’s what I’m gearing up for as well,” Scott said. “It’ll take a whole lot to keep him out of that game.”

The Lakers are going to be cautious with Kobe all season, as they have been with this injury in the preseason. He will plenty of rest. The hope is he stays healthy all season, then when it ends he can make his decision about what he wants to do next.

But don’t expect one of those cautious rest days to be next Wednesday.