There is no chance — zero — of Rick Adelman returning as Timberwolves head coach next season, according to one of the team’s decision-makers. Look for an announcement to that effect soon.
Both sides are ready to move on. In the case of Adelman, whose wife has been ill (he missed time due to that last season), he wants to spend more time with his family. In his case that is not a euphemism, it’s an understandable reality.
For the Timberwolves, this was a team that outscored opponents by 2.7 points a game, 10th best in the NBA. That’s better than the Mavericks, Bulls, Grizzlies and Suns. Yet the inability of this team to close out games effectively (they lost to the Jazz in double OT Wednesday night), to defend in clutch situations, left them below .500 (40-42) and nine games out of the playoffs. This roster is better than that and management thinks a new coach can help turn things around.
The question is who would that new coach be?
The most logical answer is Flip Saunders, the team president who could come down to the bench if owner Glen Taylor approves it. If not, and if Taylor is willing to open his pocketbook, there might be a line of good coaches willing to step into this job because it is possible to have quick success.
Of course, if Kevin Love leaves in the summer of 2015 (and he probably will according to sources around the league), things change rapidly in Minnesota.
James Harden on double-stepback uncalled travel: ‘What do you want me to say? Tell on myself?’ (video)
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) Rockets beat Jazz behind James Harden’s 47, is Houston turning it around? It was a “battle” of the two most disappointing teams in the Western Conference — just about every pundit (myself included) projected the Rockets and Jazz to finish second and third in the West in some order. They came into the night 10th and 13th in the West — both out of the playoffs if they started today.
And both needed a win — in the tight Western Conference any game between playoff contenders counts double (and there seems to be a game or three like this every night now).
Houston got the win, 102-97, because MVP James Harden showed up and took over: 47 points, six rebounds, five assists, and five steals.
That’s the second time in four days Harden has been in vintage form, he dropped 50 on the Lakers and frustrated them just days before. Harden is the master and showing the ball and drawing fouls, and he has the best step-back in the game — although this one was more than a gather and step. Harden got away with one.
The Rockets have now won four in a row, are over .500 at 15-14 for the first time since Nov. 23rd. They are just half a game back of the final playoff slot in the West.
Have the Rockets turned it around?
Depends on how you define “turned it around.”
The Rockets offense has been elite and their defense average — which is a big step up, they are still fifth worst in the league on the season — in these four games. Harden has taken over two of them. That recipe, if it continues, should get Houston into the playoffs in the West. In that sense, they have turned it around, they are performing at the level of a playoff team, which is a step up.
But just making the playoffs was never the goal in Houston — this was a team that was ahead of Golden State at halftime of games 6 and 7 of the Western Conference Finals last season and within a step of reaching the Finals (and winning a ring). This season they wanted to take that next step.
The Rockets aren’t at that level yet, and this roster — as currently constructed — cannot get there. Houston was a top-10 defense last season and this roster has not shown it can get near, let alone sustain, that level. Houston’s defensive switching isn’t as smooth as a season ago, and teams are attacking it differently (not just trying to post up Harden or Chris Paul). Houston doesn’t have the personnel on this roster to adapt and thrive against the way the NBA is adjusting, they are thin at the wings, and come the playoffs they are farther away from Golden State, not closer.
Which is why everyone expected them to go harder for a Trevor Ariza trade, not only do they miss him the Rockets need wing help and he’s the best one available. They didn’t. And here we are:
Houston is playing a lot better, but not at the level they had hoped. If you want to call that turning it around, go ahead.
2) Milestones night in Bay Area: Stephen Curry reaches 15,000 points, Kevin Durant passes Larry Bird on the all-time scoring list. For Stephen Curry, it appropriately happened on a deep pull-up three — he passed the 15,000 point mark in his career.
Curry is the fifth Warrior to score 15K all in a Warriors’ uniform, and the other names are all legends and Hall of Famers: Wilt Chamberlain, Rick Barry, Paul Arizin and Chris Mullin. Chamberlain scored the most as a Warrior at 17,783, a number Curry likely passes next season.
With all the attention paid to Curry — still the golden child for Bay Area fans — nobody seemed to notice Kevin Durant passed Hall of Famer Larry Bird for 33rd on the all-time scoring list during the same game. (Durant is 38th if you count ABA scoring in the mix, just for the record.) KD is going to finish way up that list by the time his career ends.
By the way, the Warriors cruised past the Grizzlies 110-93 in the kind of easy win Golden State hasn’t seen enough of this season.
3) Taj Gibson doesn’t need two shoes to play good defense. Credit Tom Thibodeau for coming up with a new way to play defense.
Taj Gibson had the ball in his hands and had gone at the Kings’ Nemanja Bjelica in the post, eventually scoring but losing his shoe. Gibson picked up his shoe and ran back down the court with it in his hands, but Sacramento pushed the ball back up the floor and decided to have Bjelica attack the one shoe/one sock Gibson.
The Phoenix Suns need a ball handling guard to go next to Devin Booker, so when they picked up Austin Rivers as part of the Trevor Ariza trade with Washington it made some sense. Rivers is a below replacement level NBA player (who has been serviceable the past couple of seasons), but that’s an upgrade over what the Suns had.
Except Rivers didn’t want to be part of the rebuild in Phoenix. In an unusual and unexpected move, the Suns have agreed to waive him, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
After trade with Wizards, Suns agree to part ways with G Austin Rivers, per ESPN sources. Rivers – earning $12.6M in final year of deal – becomes a free agent upon clearing waivers. As a veteran, sides concluded Rivers fits better on an older team that's pursuing playoffs.
It’s an odd move on a few levels. Why didn’t Rivers want to stay in a place the ball would be in his hands more, giving himself a chance to build up his value before free agency next summer? Why didn’t the Suns first try to shop him around and offer to take on another team’s bad/dead contract if they got a pick or other asset? (Rivers can’t be packaged with another player in a trade but he can be moved straight up.)
Finally, how much demand is there among good teams for Rivers, even on a minimum contract?
Rivers, the son of Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers, is in his seventh NBA season. Rivers is averaging 7.2 points per game on 39.2 percent shooting this season.
It’s an odd move. Without Rivers Suns will keep leaning on rookie De'Anthony Melton as a potential future backcourt mate with Booker and hope he develops into something.
Bulls’ Kris Dunn shoves Russell Westbrook, scuffle breaks out (VIDEO)
While moving over in position on the strong side, Westbrook and Dunn made contact, and after the whistle blew for a foul (with the ball handler), Westbrook made a grand gesture of pushing Dunn off him. Dunn responded with an outsized shove. And then it was on.
There’s more stuff to break down here than the Zapruder film.
• Jeremi Grant of the Thunder came in and tried to go at Dunn a little, in front of Westbrook (protect the star).
• Steven Adams calmly makes sure Portis is out of the picture, then walks back over to Lopez and then Adams and Lopez get separated.
• In the end, the officials handed out for technicals: Westbrook, Dunn, Grant, and Lopez.
A few minutes later, Lopez blocked a Grant shot, decided to taunt him, and that got Lopez a second technical and he was tossed (Lopez is a veteran, he has to know the officials are going to call everything tight at that point). Watch Adams pat Lopez on the back as the Bulls’ big man makes the walk to the locker room.