Kurt Helin

Tyus Jones named Summer League MVP, heads All-Summer League teams

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LAS VEGAS — There is only one game left in Summer League, the championship game between the Timberwolves and Bulls on Monday night.

Tyus Jones, fresh off a 29-point performance to get the Timberwolves into the finals, will star in that game.

Jones was also just named the Summer League MVP.  Jones averaged 19.4 points on 45.7 percent shooting, plus 6.3 assists, 4 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game. He won the award, voted on by select media members.

The list of former Summer League MVPs includes Blake Griffin, John Wall, and Damian Lillard. It also includes Josh Selby and Glen Rice Jr. Last season it was the Spurs’ Kyle Anderson.

Jones, a point guard out of Duke, will be entering his second NBA season after getting in just 37 games for Minnesota last season. With the Timberwolves drafting Kris Dunn — who looked very good in two games in Las Vegas before suffering a concussion — and having Ricky Rubio on the roster, Jones needs to impress to get his minutes next season.

Jones headlines the All-NBA Summer League teams (also selected by the media). Here is who made the teams:

All-NBA Summer League First Team
Tyus Jones (Minnesota)
Jordan McRae (Cleveland)
Bobby Portis (Chicago)
Ben Simmons (Philadelphia)
Alan Williams (Phoenix)

All-NBA Summer League Second Team
Jaylen Brown (Boston)
Thon Maker (Milwaukee)
Kelly Oubre Jr. (Washington)
Norman Powell (Toronto)
Tyler Ulis (Phoenix)

Report: Westbrook hasn’t told Thunder he wants to leave. But can they bet on that?

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Talk to people around the league and they are beyond convinced Russell Westbrook is not long for Oklahoma City. Many thought he was more likely than Kevin Durant to leave as a free agent, and that was before Durant bolted for Golden State. Beyond that, teams are convinced the Thunder can’t take the risk of losing Westbrook for nothing, too.

But around Oklahoma City, there is still optimism — maybe guarded optimism, but optimism — that Westbrook stays, something most recently reported by Anthony Slater at The Oklahoman.

Westbrook has given the Thunder no indication that he currently wants out. To the contrary, one source described him as ticked off about the Kevin Durant departure, determined for this new challenge and eager for the season to start: “He’s ready.”

Does anyone doubt the fierce competitor that is Westbrook plans to take advantage of the situation, play like a beast, put up crazy numbers (he’s a smart bet to lead the league in scoring) and take OKC as far as he can while he’s there? Of course he will.

That’s not the question, the dilemma facing Oklahoma City: Not saying you’re leaving is not the same as saying you are staying.

The Thunder would love for Westbrook to sign a contract extension, but he’s not going to do that — even if he wants to stay with OKC playing this season, becoming a free agent, then re-signing nets him two more guaranteed years and more than $75 million more guaranteed dollars.

The problem for the Thunder is this: Even if he wants to stay right now (and that’s up for debate), his mind could change. Or maybe he heads into free agency next summer like Durant did this one: He probably stays, but he just wants to listen to what other teams have to say. The Thunder can’t take that risk; they can’t lose two Hall of Fame level players for nothing.

Of course, trading Westbrook is not that simple, either. Westbrook can still be a free agent next summer. A source speaking to Celtics’ Blog laid it out perfectly:

“No team is going to pay a hefty price without getting a commitment from Westbrook,” the source said. “Someone may pay a cheaper price without a commitment, but OKC probably doesn’t do a deal like that.”

Westbrook probably wants to leave his options open for next summer. Which puts the Thunder in a bind. But hypothetically let’s say Westbrook’s agent finds a team that wants him and where he wants to be, and they privately assure said team Westbrook will re-sign: Then the question is the price it takes to get Westbrook. Think Carmelo Anthony leaving Denver — he got where he wanted to go, but the team was gutted, notes Slater at the Oklahoman.

But that’s where the Carmelo case serves as a cautionary tale for Westbrook. He’s hyper competitive and obsessed with winning. Forcing a trade could inhibit the future of his future team.

Let’s take the Lakers for example. He’s from Los Angeles and many have speculated about his desire to live and play there. The Lakers have a batch of young pieces that would intrigue any trade partner — such as DeAngelo Russell and Brandon Ingram. But wouldn’t Westbrook prefer to join a Laker team with them, not one that just gave them up? He could opt to wait until next offseason.

For Westbrook, if he is going to leave, it would be better to do so via free agency. Which comes back to the bind the Thunder find themselves in — move him now for less than he’s worth, or roll the dice that he stays. There are no easy answers.

But the sense around the league is the Thunder are most likely to move him before the season starts, if they are going to do it at all.

Tyus Jones, Denzel Valentine set up T-Wolves-Bulls Summer League final

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A look at the two semifinal games Sunday in the Las Vegas Summer League:

TIMBERWOLVES 93, SUNS 83

Tyus Jones fought through an injured left wrist and thumb to lead Minnesota to the final of the tournament with 29 points, six assists and three rebounds. Jones had 18 points in the first half, but was injured when he landed hard on the court before halftime. The 2015 No. 24 pick came out of the break heavily bandaged, but continued to play as the Timberwolves outscored the Suns 24-18 in the third quarter to take a 67-66 lead. Jones’ floater kicked off a 12-3 run to start the final quarter that effectively put things away.

Adreian Payne, the 2014 No. 15 pick, had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds for Minnesota. Troy Williams led the Suns with 24 points and six rebounds, and Askia Booker had 19 points off the bench. Tyler Ulis was held to 11 points on 5-for-21 shooting after hitting the winner Saturday night.

No. 4 pick Dragan Bender and All-Rookie first-team Devin Booker did not play for the Suns.

BULLS 85, CAVALIERS 79

Denzel Valentine banked in a 3-pointer that started an 8-0 run to go to give Chicago an 80-75 lead with 1:14 remaining that the Cavaliers never recovered from. The 2016 No. 14 pick finished with 13 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Cristiano Felicio led the Bulls with 18 points, and Bobby Portis added 16 points, nine rebounds and three assists. Chicago needed a 10-1 run in the third quarter to get back in the game after trailing 46-36 at halftime.

Kay Felder continued to impress with 22 points on 8-for-14 shooting as he pushes for a backup spot being Kyrie Irving. He did a little bit of everything throughout the game, including handing out five assists, but got out of control and missed a wild layup trailing 80-77 with 27.9 seconds remaining, forcing the Cavs to foul to extend the game. Jordan McRae was the only other Cavs player to reach double digits. He ended the night with 16 points and five rebounds, but shot 6 for 16 from the field.

Timberwolves owner says not to expect Ricky Rubio trade. For now.

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The impressive play of rookie-to-be Kris Dunn in Summer League got the whispers going again: The Timberwolves might be willing to move point guard Ricky Rubio. There were no specific, credible rumors, more just speculation.

Don’t expect a move. Not soon. Don’t take my word for it, here are the words of Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor to Sid Hartman of the Star-Tribune.

“I don’t see that as a likely possibility,” he said about a Rubio trade. “I just think the coach, everybody, likes Ricky. I think we want him to come in and improve on his shooting. But his other things, he plays defense, he gets assists, he helps the others get better. He has some wonderful qualities.

“I think the coach wants to bring an assistant coach to help Ricky on his shooting and I think that’s where we’re going to start out and go and we’ll see how good Kris Dunn is.”

Rubio isn’t as terrible a shooter as his reputation — he hit 32.6 percent from three last season — but he relies too much on the long two: 33.6 percent of his shots were between 16 feet and the arc, he hit 38 percent of those. Improve the shot selection a little more and get him to a couple of spots on the floor where he can hit shots, and things improve.

In the short term, Rubio is a good fit for the Timberwolves because he is one of the better defensive point guards in the league. However, as Dunn improves and fits with Minnesota’s young core the whispers of a Rubio trade will grow.

Timberwolves Nemanja Bjelica to miss Olympics for Serbia

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — The Serbian basketball federation says Nemanja Bjelica will miss the Rio de Janeiro Olympics because of a right-foot injury.

The Minnesota Timberwolves forward missed the Olympic qualifying tournament in Belgrade, where Serbia clinched one of the three remaining places at the Olympics.

The injury has been described as an inflamed nerve. Bjelica said the injury needs another three weeks to heal.

Bjelica is a longtime pillar of Serbia’s team and his absence will be a serious blow to the squad’s hopes of gaining a medal.

Serbia also will be without center Boban Marjanovic, who decided to skip the qualifying tournament while negotiating a contract with the Detroit Pistons.

Coach Aleksandar Djordjevic then decided not to include Marjanovic in the Olypmic squad.