How the Hornets can rebuild in five easy steps from the Chris Paul trade

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Are you a small market franchise that just lost the best player in franchise istory? Trying to understand how to move on after losing the best player to ever don your laundry? Are you the New Orleans Hornets?

Then have no fear! I’m here to show you the road to redemption in five easy steps. You, yes you can be back in the playoffs and hunting a title within three seasons. All you have to do is follow my easy recipe and send $49.99 to P.O. Box… what’s that? You need the money to cover the massive deficiency in sold tickets you’re going to suffer through now? OK, how about I drop some knowledge for free?

Step 1: Take a deep breath. OK, so the league just pushed you into trading the best player you’ve ever had for a good young player and a bunch of flotsam (no offense, promising young wing Al-Farouq Aminu). You may be tempted to start throwing some money out to fill the roster and try and compete. You may want to see if you can move a player for more. But take a step back. This is not the time for rash decisions. It’s like a breakup. You need to see if you can live on your own. Take your time and see what you do and don’t want from this relationship with the new players. Rushing into decisions maks a bad situation worse. Rebound relationships are bad, unless it’s actually rebounding, but even then, not like that’s going to save you.

Step 2: Determine what identity you want… two years from now. Don’t look at the team you have and try and determine what the goal is, because that’s like looking at a pile of wood and trying to figure out what kind of cabinets you’re going to get. Build the house first. But have in mind that you do want nice cabinets and you need to build the kitchen accordingly. A fast team? A slow team? A balanced team? Dangerous offense? Grind-it-out defense? Young and athletic? Veteran and experienced (hint: you don’t want to go that route)? Identify what you think makes a winner and gear your team in that direction.

Step 3: Clean the books no matter the win cost. Emeka Okafor has to go. Jarrett Jack has to go. There is no value to any player with a contract of any size. They have to go at some point. Bring in a D-Leaguer if you have to. Bring in whoever you need. But everything must go. You want a clean slate. Your coach will hate it, but this is part of it. There can be no big deals, no wasteful spending. You’re going to be terrible you might as well get the value for it. e

Step 4: The Draft is the key. The Hornets have a chance at two top-ten picks in the best draft class since 2003. They can remake their team if they get a top 3 pick and a pick between 7 and 12. There is virtually no chance the Wolves do better than that. Take the best player available that fits with the plan from Step 2. Want defense? Get Anthony Davis. Think you need a lockdown wing? MKG. Want a small forward who can fill it up? Harrison Barnes. Think center is the most important position? Draft Andre Drummond and then send him to the D-League for three years to lift weights. This draft class is your salvation. Combine it with Gordon and go forward.

Step 5: Let it grow organically. Don’t rush things. Sam Presti had plenty of opportunities to go after big name, big price free agents and trade assets, but he didn’t do it. He bided his time until his move was just right, acquiring the big man the Thunder thought they needed, then they swung. They caught Dirk on a bad year. But by not running into big contracts for veterans early to “get them over the hump,” they have the ability to re-sign all their young stud players and continue to build a supporting system. That’s how it’s done.

There’s a future in New Orleans. You just have to go out and get it.

Timberwolves win first road game in 52 days, top Heat (video)

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MIAMI — Jordan McLaughlin’s layup with just under nine seconds left put Minnesota ahead for good, D’Angelo Russell led all scorers with 27 points and the Timberwolves added to Miami’s late-season stagger by beating the Heat 129-126 on Wednesday night.

Malik Beasley scored 21 points, Juancho Hernangomez tied a season-high with 17 and McLaughlin added 13 for Minnesota. The Timberwolves were down by 12 with 3:59 left, then closed on a 20-5 run to get just their second victory in 20 games.

Jimmy Butler’s two free throws with 13.8 seconds left put Miami up 126-125, but McLaughlin’s layup on the next Minnesota possession put the Timberwolves on top to stay. Butler’s layup with 3.2 seconds left got blocked by Russell, and the Wolves held on.

Minnesota snapped a nine-game road losing streak, getting its first road victory since beat the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 5.

Kendrick Nunn led Miami with 24 points. Bam Adebayo had 22 points and 10 rebounds and Butler — back after a two-game absence for personal reasons — had 18 for Miami. The Heat fell to 23-4 at home and have dropped seven of their last nine overall.

The Heat stayed a half-game ahead of Philadelphia in the race for the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Philadelphia lost in Cleveland earlier Wednesday, a game where 76ers star Joel Embiid departed early because of a shoulder injury.

The Heat have had major trouble closing games of late — a 22-point lead late in the third quarter against Cleveland on Monday was frittered away in what probably was the worst loss of the season, until now anyway — and a long film session and meeting on Tuesday clearly didn’t solve the issue.

They were up 121-109 with 3:59 left, and 123-112 after a layup by Butler 24 seconds later.

And Minnesota — a team that came into the night with one win in a span of 48 days — still wasn’t finished off. The Timberwolves scored the next 11 points to tie the game, getting five of those points from Beasley and a tying free throw from McLaughlin with 46 seconds left.

TIP-INS

Timberwolves: Minnesota’s 27 attempts from 3-point range in the first two quarters was a first-half franchise record. … The Wolves are 4-0 in road games against Southeast Division teams this season, and 6-19 in all other road contests.

Heat: Adebayo played through a sprained right ankle, pushing his consecutive-game streak to 144 — extending the fourth-longest such streak in team history. … Goran Dragic’s first basket was a 3-pointer, and that pushed him one point past Grant Long (5,473) for 10th on the Heat career scoring list. … Nunn got his third consecutive rookie of the month trophy in a brief halftime ceremony.

JOHNSON RETURNS

Wednesday marked James Johnson’s first game back in Miami since the trade that sent him to Minnesota earlier this month, a move that sent Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill to Miami from Memphis. “I think Minnesota is seeing what kind of versatility he can bring to the game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

LOOKING AHEAD

A large contingent of fans from Slovenia were in attendance Wednesday — and more are coming Friday, when the Heat play host to the Dallas Mavericks. At last season’s Dallas-at-Miami game, more than 2,000 Slovenians were in attendance to watch their nation’s two best NBA players, Dragic and Dallas star Luka Doncic, go head-to-head.

UP NEXT

Timberwolves: At Orlando on Friday night.

Heat: Host Dallas on Friday night.

Trae Young blocks 7-foot Mo Bamba at rim (video)

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Trae Young might be the NBA’s worst defender.

He’s small (6-foot-1 with a 6-foot-3 wingspan). His athleticism is far from imposing. He also carries a massive load for the Hawks offensively, leaving little energy for defense.

But he still blocked 7-foot Magic center Mo Bamba at the rim.

Not a great moment for Bamba.

Joel Embiid leaves 76ers game with shoulder injury (video)

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Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons?

The debate has gained attention this season after the 76ers spent years retooling around their stars. The answer clearly isn’t neither. But that’s what Philadelphia now faces.

With Simmons already injured, Embiid got hurt in the 76ers’ game against the Cavaliers tonight.

Serena Winters of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Losing Embiid for an extended period would be a huge blow to Philadelphia, especially with Simmons already out. The 76ers (fifth place, half a game out of fourth) are right on the edge of getting home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Embiid had been playing so well lately. This is an especially tough time for a setback.

At least Philadelphia has depth to cope. Al Horford can easily slide from power forward to center. Tobias Harris might be better off at power forward than small forward, anyway. This is where Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks, acquired just before the trade deadline, come in handy as additional wing options. Kyle O'Quinn can also play behind Horford.

But the loss of talent is the biggest development, and there’s no overcoming that until Embiid and Simmons get healthy.

Zach LaVine: Trash talk directed at Dennis Schroder, not Bulls coach Jim Boylen

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During the Bulls’ loss to the Thunder yesterday, Zach LaVine appeared to say, “I have f—ing 40 points!”

Many assumed LaVine was snapping at Chicago coach Jim Boylen. But LaVine clarified his target was Oklahoma City guard Dennis Schroder.

Eric Woodyard of ESPN:

I take LaVine at his word.

Want to make a case LaVine dislikes Boylen? You’ll just have to point to all the other evidence.