Kurt Helin


Grizzlies GM: “We are going to re-sign Mike Conley”


While Kevin Durant is the big name potentially on the market, you’d be hard to find any other player more coveted by other general managers — and smart basketball fans — than Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley. He’s one of the best defenders in the league at the position, a smart floor general, he can knock down the three (36.3 percent), and he knows when and where to get his guys the ball.

All of those are reasons the Grizzlies want to keep him — and they should be the frontrunners to do just that. That said, there have been reports that he is “expected” to leave Memphis this summer.Which raised a lot of eyebrows because “expected” is a strong word that doesn’t seem to fit here.

Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace tried to shoot that latest rumor down, appearing on the Chris Vernon radio show in Memphis.

If the Grizzlies offer a five-year max deal — as they should — I’d put my money on Conley staying put. Conley worked hard to recruit Marc Gasol to stay last summer, and Conley said it would be very hard to do that then bolt town.

However, he will have options. The Knicks are rumored to have interest if he wants to go where there are bright lights and a big market (but also the triangle offense, the foe of many a point guard). A host of other teams are expected to get involved. The bidding will start at a max salary.

Don’t be shocked if Conley takes a meeting or three — who doesn’t like to be recruited? Then, in the end, I’d bet on him staying near Beale Street.

Tom Thibodeau signs five-year contract to be coach, head of basketball operations in Minneosta


Minnesota had the most desirable open coaching vacancy on the market this summer.

They just landed the biggest name coach.

As has been rumored for the past 48 hours, Tom Thibodeau is the new coach and head of basketball operations for the Timberwolves. Minnesota-based Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press had it first.

The team has since confirmed it.

Layden is a Spurs assistant GM who will handle the day-to-day duties of being the general manager in Minnesota. Layden is known as a hard worker and is respected around the league. He will have a lot of influence, but Thibodeau will have the ultimate hammer on decisions.

The Timberwolves had the most coveted of coaching vacancies because of their impressive your roster – Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, and more. What’s more, owner Glen Taylor had been enamored with the coach-as-president model seen in Detroit (Stan Van Gundy) and with the Clippers (Doc Rivers). That combination gave the small-market Timberwolves the clout to get in the conversation with the top available coaches.

Thibodeau is the biggest name of those available (you can make your case for Jeff Van Gundy in the comments if you want, I lean Thibs.

This is a move that comes with risk — will Thibodeau be any good at roster building? He’s a hard-driving coach and a yeller, how will that sit with the young Timberwolves core?

That said, Minnesota was going to get better next season anyway and bringing in Thibodeau accelerates that process — you know their defense is about to get good. This might even be a playoff team in the West next season now.

Report: Wizards are pushing to close deal with Scott Brooks before other teams enter picture


There are teams that have not yet fired their coach but who are expected to have serious interest in Scott Brooks as a potential successor. The Houston Rockets are widely reported to be one of them (they are still alive in the playoffs for at least a couple more games) but I can tell you for certain they are not alone.

Which is why the Wizards are making their push now to get Brooks off the market, before other teams get in on the bidding. From Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports, and Marc Stein of ESPN.

Brooks has been mentioned in connection with the Rockets’ job, which still technically belongs to J.B. Bickerstaff. Again, the Rockets are not alone in that line.

You can be sure Brooks and his well-known agent have had contact with the teams interested in his services who have not yet declared an opening. It’s all done back channel, not unlike free agent feeling out processes that start before July 1.

The question becomes how much does Brooks like what Washington offers vs. these other teams? That conversation starts with money, but includes the team’s roster, how well he can work with the GM (are they on the same page), organizational stability, weather, taxes, where his wife wants to live, and on down the line. The decisions coaches make are not unlike the big life decisions you and I make about our careers or changing jobs — money matters, but it’s not the only thing on the table.

If Grunfeld and the Wizards do not close the deal in the next couple days, it would suggest Brooks has his eyes elsewhere.

PBT Podcast: Talking Chicago Bulls future, Eastern Conference playoffs with Vincent Goodwill

Getty Images
Leave a comment

If not for the dumpster fire in Houston, the Chicago Bulls would have been the most disappointing team in the NBA this season. Some pundits thought they were the one team that could challenge Cleveland, but they didn’t even make the playoffs.

Injuries, chemistry problems, disinterested players that were poor fits for the new coach’s system, and a new coach all combined in a perfect storm.

Kurt Helin of NBCSports.com talks with Vincent Goodwill of Comcast Sportsnet Chicago about the Bulls season and future, as well as discussing what is going on in the rest of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

As always, you can listen to the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunesdownload it directly here, or you can check out our new PBT Podcast homepage, which has the most recent episodes available. If you have the Stitcher app, you can listen there as well.


Five Things to Watch in Playoffs Wednesday: Kevin Love at center, Clippers trapping Damian Lillard

Associated Press
Leave a comment

As we will every day through the rest of the playoffs — because we care about you and your NBA viewing experience… plus, it’s more interesting than another post about the Kings’ coaching situation — here are five things to watch heading into Wednesday night in the NBA.

1) Kevin Love is going to spend more time at center, will Detroit have an answer for it? In the fourth quarter of Game 1 with the Pistons up seven, Cavaliers’ coach Tyronn Lou went deep into his bag of tricks and broke out the small ball putting Kevin Love at center. It worked — Cleveland was +13 the rest of the way with that lineup and won the game. Andre Drummond struggled to chase Love out at the three-point line, and eventually Stan Van Gundy benched him (although he didn’t match going small, Aron Baynes was on the floor). It’s a small sample size from one game, but you can bet the Lue will dial this lineup again in Game 2 at some point — if something works in the playoffs you use it until the other team proves to you they stop it. No mercy.

Stan Van Gundy and the Pistons know it’s coming, but what are they going to do about it? This is not a team built to go small, and they are not the same without Drummond on the floor. Maybe play some zone. Certainly they need to punish Love defensively where he is weak, not just simple post ups but more likely have Drummond setting high picks and make Love defend the pick-and-roll. You know SVG will have a counter, but how well will it work? This is going to be the fun part of the chess match.

2) Can Detroit get into the paint with the Reggie Jackson/Andre Drummond pick-and-roll? Cleveland’s game plan on the Pistons ultimately worked — do not let the dangerous Reggie Jackson/Andre Drummond pick-and-roll get into the middle of the paint, make the Pistons’ shooters — Marcus Morris, Stanley Johnson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, etc. — beat you with their inconsistent jumpers. The Pistons did just that for the first half and into the third quarter for a while, but when that didn’t work in the fourth Jackson tried to take it upon himself and get to the rim. Jackson had 10 fourth quarter points, but it wasn’t enough. Stan Van Gundy needs to get the Jackson playing downhill and Drummond better positions inside (Tristan Thompson did a solid job on him defensively). It will be interesting to see what Stan Van Gundy and staff draw up as an adjustment.

3) How will Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum deal with aggressive Clippers traps? The Trail Blazers knew it was coming — virtually every team does it to a degree, the Clippers were just more aggressive — but Portland’s guards did not deal with it well. The Clippers trapped to force the ball out of the hands of Lillard and McCollum — the pair still took 33 percent of the Portland’s shots, but that’s down from their 41 percent regular season average. Al-Farouq Aminu and Gerald Henderson both had more shots than McCollum and they didn’t make the Clippers pay the price for those traps (Aminu was 3-of-12 from the floor).

Welcome to playoff basketball — the Clippers will do all they can to take away those first two options of the Blazers’ offense. Expect some tweaks by Terry Stotts to get his guards better looks, but at the end of the day the other Blazers need to knock down their looks.

“It’s obvious they were really pressuring Damian and C.J., on pick-and-rolls, doubling them and forcing them to pass out,” Stotts said after Game 1. “We had some threes on the weak side, we had some rolls to the basket and weren’t able to finish them. But if they’re going to double team Damian and C.J., then other players are going to have to make plays for us.”

4) Is Portland’s defense good enough to slow Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan? While the Clippers’ defense did a respectable job limiting Portland’s first and second options — classic playoff basketball: make options three and four beat you — Portland did no such thing on defense. In Game 1 the Clippers got 28 points and 11 assists from Chris Paul, 19 points from Blake Griffin (who had his best game by far since returning from injury) while DeAndre Jordan added 18 points and 12 rebounds. Those are three All-Star/All-NBA level players, and they are going to put up some numbers, but Portland has to do a better job slowing them down.

The Trail Blazers switched a lot of pick-and-rolls in Game 1 but the Clippers were prepared and responded by posting up Griffin (against Aminu or anyone else smaller on him) and taking advantage of his size and power. Expect the Trail Blazers may move Aminu or Maurice Harkless to guard Paul but that still leaves either McCollum or Lillard to chase J.J. Redick off 47 screens and get worn down. It will be interesting to see how Portland adjusts, but they are not a team loaded with defensive stoppers. Stotts is a fantastic coach, but his is limited with what he can do defensively.

5) Can Charlotte get back to taking, making threes to drive its offense?
On the season, Charlotte was fourth in the league averaging 29.4 three-point attempts per game — and hitting 10.7 of those (36.2 percent). In Game 1 Miami did an excellent job of trying to take that away — Charlotte was 6-of-17 from three. And with that were never really in the game. I expect Charlotte will work to drag Hassan Whiteside into as many pick-and-rolls as they can — he prefers to lay back and protect the paint rather than hedge out, and if/when he does that should open up good looks for Kemba Walker from three. Nicolas Batum needs his looks from deep as well, and Charlotte’s ball movement was not nearly as good as it was during the regular season.

Charlotte was a much better home team than road one this season, but in this best-of-seven they need to win one game in Miami. To do that, they need to bring the long ball back. Chicks dig the long ball, Charlotte needs to, too.