Kurt Helin

Minnesota Timberwolves v Sacramento Kings

Ricky Rubio is confident Timberwolves not looking to trade him


Ricky Rubio’s name has come up in increased trade speculation the last few weeks. And we mean speculation. An international basketball site took reports that Phil Jackson says the Knicks need more talent in the backcourt and combined with a Boston Globe report the Timberwolves are a little frustrated with the pace of improvement in Rubio’s game to create a trade rumor where nothing of substance exists. Other speculation surrounds the Nets. It’s August, so some people are talking about it.

Rubio says he doesn’t buy it.

He is in Dubai right now and said this to Gulf News (hat tip Fox Sports).

“I have confidence that the team wants me but you know in this league anybody can get traded,” said the flashy playmaker. “You don’t listen to the rumours. You just live day-by-day and that’s it.”

When asked if he wanted to stay with the long-suffering Timberwolves, Rubio gave a firm: “Yes.”

It would be a mistake for Minnesota to trade Rubio right now as their starting point guard unless they have a viable backup plan. And Zach LaVine is not a viable backup plan. (His athleticism is not in question, but his understanding of the game, his rate of turnovers, and his poor defense do not project as someone you want to be your starting point guard.) If Minnesota wants to move on from Rubio, the question becomes who do they move on to? Andre Miller is on the roster but he’s not the long-term answer, and Tyus Jones is a long ways off if he gets there at all.

Rubio has the potential to elevate the games of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns with his creativity on the floor. Minnesota has so much potential with this roster; they need to play it out for part of the season and evaluate how the pieces fit, then start to think about moves. Moving Rubio now — especially for what the Knicks or Nets can offer in return — is a bad idea.

But it’s August, so discuss it if you want.

Deron Williams excited for fresh start in Dallas

Atlanta Hawks v Brooklyn Nets - Game Six

When he played in Utah, Deron Williams was mentioned in same breath with Chris Paul. By the time they got to this summer in Brooklyn, the Nets were willing to buy him out, to pay him to play elsewhere. They were excited that their chemistry would be better now.

D-Will is in Dallas now trying to show that when healthy he can still be one of the best point guards in the game. Mostly he’s just excited for the chance to rewrite the script, he told the Mavericks’ official Web site.

“Just getting started, man. A fresh start is what I’m most excited about,” Williams said Wednesday during an exclusive interview with Mavs.com while making an appearance at the organization’s fantasy camp. “You know, playing with this group of guys, I feel like we have a great group of guys here, and so (I’m looking forward to) just getting everybody healthy and getting on the court with them.”

Getting healthy will be key for Dallas, with both Wesley Matthews (Achilles) and Chandler Parsons (knee) coming off major injuries. Dallas has talent but questions about depth, rebounding, and how they fit all the pieces together.

Williams is not worked about his chemistry with Dirk Nowitzki.

“It’s going to be great. I mean, Dirk could play until he’s 50, man, the way he shoots the ball,” Williams explained. “He’s always going to be able to shoot the ball, and he does so much more. I’ve always had a lot of respect for his game and what he does and brings to the court, and so I’m definitely excited as a point guard to be able to play with someone of his caliber.

“I mean, I’m definitely excited about that. You know, there’s definitely a stability about this organization that’s definitely intriguing.”

On paper, Williams ability to play off the pick-and-roll plus knock down threes should work well for Rick Carlisle.

Well, that is if Carlisle can get along with him — Williams has clashed with Jerry Sloan, Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins, basically every coach he has had. Carlisle is next in line. Plus there are the reports that Williams has been a drag in the locker room in Brooklyn. That is the new start Williams needs to get away from.

If everything comes together for Dallas, they are a dangerous team, and a lot of those “ifs” start with D-Will.

Doc Rivers says Paul Pierce chose Clippers over Celtics this summer

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce reacts to a call by the officials in Boston

Paul Pierce will chase one more ring this season with Clippers, ending his career near where he grew up, near the playgrounds and gyms where he learned the game. He brings Los Angeles a guy who knows what it’s like to climb the mountain, a guy who can play some stretch four, and a guy fearless in the big moments. The Clippers need all of that.

But he almost chose the Celtics over the Clippers.

That according to Doc Rivers, speaking to Jay King of MassLive.com.

“I think he wanted to go one of two places,” said Rivers. Standing inside the TD Garden, the Clippers head coach continued, “He wanted to come back here or he wanted to finish his career at home where he grew up, and I think it’s really cool for me that I can be a part of that.”

I’m not sure how seriously the Celtics were considered, but Pierce was thinking of how to cap off his Hall of Fame legacy. He will be remembered as a Celtic, that is where he spent the first 15 years of his career, that’s where he won a ring. He may come back and play some role in the organization someday. It’s easy to see the allure of that.

But the Celtics will be fighting for a playoff spot near the bottom of the East as they (hopefully) take the next steps in their rebuilding. The Clippers are a team with a legitimate chance to come out of the West and contend for a title.

I think he made the best decision for him. It doesn’t make him any less a Celtic.

Brandon Armstrong does Manu Ginobili impression — and Manu loves it

Detroit Pistons v San Antonio Spurs

Brandon Armstrong, the master of NBA imitations (James Harden, Russell Westbrook, JaVale McGee and others) took on a new target:

Manu Ginobili.

And Ginobili loved it.

He’s not the first, Westbrook cracked up at his, too.

I can’t wait to see Armstrong try to do Shawn Marion’s jumper some day… oh wait, he’s done that.

It’s official: J.R. Smith re-signs with Cavaliers

J.R. Smith

If J.R. Smith had opted in this summer, he would have made $6.5 million playing in Cleveland. He thought he could get more — he averaged 12.8 points per game after being traded to the Cavs last season, shot 39 percent from three, and played quality defense. Didn’t that merit a raise?

Wednesday Smith signed a new deal that will pay him $5 million this season, although it does give him a player option for the 2016-17 season. The Cavaliers announced it as official.

Smith didn’t have the leverage he thought he did. First, volume shooters such as himself have been going out of style around a league looking for efficiency at every turn. And Smith is a volume shooter. Then getting suspended for the first two games of the NBA Finals, followed by poor play and riding around on a Phunkee Duck when he did return didn’t help his cause.

Smith didn’t have other teams beating down his door, he wanted to stay in Cleveland, and that was going to mean a pay cut. He does have an option for next season, so he picks up a little security and makes more in the long run. But this couldn’t be what he imagined when it all started.