Rick Adelman to Minnesota Timberwolves: ‘If you think you’re a playoff team, why don’t you just forget it?’

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Before the season, all five of us predicted the Minnesota Timberwolves would make the playoffs (and I didn’t include that link just to point out I was the only one to predict the Trail Blazers would make it, but check that out as long as you’re on the page).

The Timberwolves had a star (Kevin Love), an underrated interior force (Nikola Pekovic), an intriguing point guard with breakout potential (Ricky Rubio), one of the league’s most efficient scorers (Kevin Martin), a good coach (Rick Adelman) and a deep roster that offered several players capable of filling in the cracks. It seemed health would be the top obstacle they faced.

But Minnesota has mostly avoided injury and still stumbled to an 18-20 start.

Adelman, via Kent Youngblood of the StarTribune:

“We have to face facts that we’re a .500 team,” he said. “Right now we’re below .500 [18-20]. I told them, ‘If you think you’re a playoff team, why don’t you just forget it? Because you haven’t proven that you are. You haven’t gone out and really established yourselves yet.’ ”

Here are the current standings of the 11 Western Conference teams with seemingly realistic playoff hopes:

1. Spurs, 31-8
2. Trail Blazers, 29-9
3. Thunder, 29-10
4. Clippers, 27-13
5. Rockets, 26-15
6. Warriors, 25-15
7. Suns, 22-16
8. Mavericks, 23-17
9. Nuggets, 20-18
10. Grizzlies, 19-19
11. Timberwolves, 18-20

And here are the standings if we used Pythagorean win percentage, historically a better indicator of future success than standard win percentage:

1. Spurs, 29-10
2. Thunder, 28-11
3. Trail Blazers, 27-11
4. Clippers, 27-13
5. Warriors, 26-14
6. Timberwolves, 24-14
7. Rockets, 25-16
8. Suns, 22-16
9. Mavericks, 22-18
10. Nuggets, 20-18
11. Grizzlies, 18-20

The Timberwolves have experienced bad luck in tossup games, and though they’ve accentuated their own problems, there’s little reason to predict the run of poor fortune will continue. It’s most likely to regress to the mean.

However, even if they immediately begin playing like the team Pythagorean win percentage says they are, their 18-20 start will weigh down their record. Here’s what the end-of-season standings will look like if each team wins at their current Pythagorean rate the rest of the year:

1. Spurs, 63-19
2. Thunder, 60-22
2. Trail Blazers, 60-22
4. Clippers, 55-27
5. Warriors, 52-30
6. Rockets, 51-31
7. Suns, 47-35
8. Timberwolves, 46-36
8. Mavericks, 46-36
10. Nuggets, 43-39
11. Grizzlies, 40-42

It’s quite possible the Timberwolves keep their mindset exactly as it is now, get a little better luck the rest of the season and make the playoffs. But it’s close, and that’s why Adelman’s displeasure is warranted.

The Timberwolves need more urgency.

No franchise has a longer active playoff drought than Minnesota, which hasn’t made the playoffs since 2004, when a Kevin Garnett-Sam Cassell-Latrell Sprewell core led the Timberwolves to the Western Conference Finals. And it’s not just an organizational issue. It’s not as if Love, Pekovic and Rubio have made the playoffs elsewhere before arriving in Minnesota. It should be personal to them.

Objectively, Adelman might be being too hard on his players. But he’s also probably treating them as their head coach should.

Lakers fans give Dwyane Wade standing ovation, check out L.A. tribute video

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Lakers fans take a lot of abuse from other fan bases, some of it well deserved, but the core fans know the game.

And they know how much Dwyane Wade has meant to it.

Which is why they gave him a standing ovation when he checked into the game Monday night in Los Angeles.

The Lakers also put together a tribute video that played in the arena.

Classy move, Lakers. Well done.

Pacers’ Myles Turner shuts down Bradley Beal at the rim (VIDEO)

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Myles Turner owned the paint in the first half — the Pacers’ center had five blocked shots in the first 24 minutes.

The big shut down was on Bradley Beal, this is how a big man recovers and goes after it.

Then later there was this play leading to a bucket on the other end.

Turner has had a strong defensive season in the paint so far for the Pacers, a big step for him. He’s sixth among centers in ESPN’s defensive real plus/minus stat (which has its flaws but is a good snapshot).

Washington learned that the hard way.

 

Report: Houston kicking tires on J.R. Smith trade with Cavaliers

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The Houston Rockets desperately need help on the wing (among other things, but wing is the personnel focus). The Rockets would also like to have less salary on the books next season, giving them some flexibility and lowering the tax bill.

J.R. Smith fits both of those bills, so Houston and GM Daryl Morey are at least taking a look at a potential trade, reports Marc Stein of the New York Times.

While there is some logic to this, we are a long way from it being a reality. Smith does not exactly have a positive trade value, at least as a player right now.

Smith was part of the rotation that helped the LeBron-led Cavaliers reach the NBA Finals last season, but he will be best remembered for the Game 1 blunder in the Finals that deflated the Cavs. Without the playmaking of LeBron, Smith struggled to start this season, shooting 34 percent for the Cavaliers in limited minutes, before going on hiatus from the team. That said, in a better situation where he was asked to play a small and specific role, maybe he could still help.

Smith is guaranteed $18.59 million this season but only $3.87 million of his $15.68 million salary for next season is guaranteed.

Houston seems a logical fit. Money wise, a Brandon Knight for Smith trade works, but the Rockets will have to throw in picks or other sweeteners to get the Cavaliers interested. Cleveland also likely will be patient, hoping that as the deadline gets closer there is a little bidding war for Smith.

Still, the Rockets are active on the trade market (as always), and they need wings, so this is worth keeping an eye on.

Lakers’ Rajon Rondo has fluid drained from hand slowing his recovery from surgery

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Rajon Rondo has been out more than three weeks following surgery to repair the third metacarpal bone in his shooting hand (his right hand), and while there has been no official timeline he was expected back in the next week or two. He’s been out on the court before recent Lakers’ games getting in some work.

But he has now hit a bit of a setback, Lakers’ coach Luke Walton said on Wednesday. Here is what Walton said, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“There’s a little bit of swelling,” Walton said at Lakers shootaround on Monday in advance of his team’s game against the Miami Heat. “We’re going to shut him down for a few days then get back out after it again.”

It’s not clear when Rondo will return. He was averaging 8.5 points, 6.5 assists, and 4.5 rebounds a game before the injury.

The Lakers have gone 8-4 since Rondo went to the bench with his fractured hand. Without the veteran point guard, LeBron James has had the ball in his hands more as a playmaker (to Magic Johnson’s frustration at times), paired with Lonzo Ball (who has started to show some real chemistry with LeBron). The Lakers offense hasn’t been particularly good in these past dozen games, bottom 10 in the league, but they have balanced that with a top 7 defense. The Lakers are getting wins thanks to that defense and enough LeBron shot creation to get it done.

The Lakers are going to have to keep getting it done and now without Brandon Ingram, too, who is expected to miss a few more games with a sprained ankle.