Kevin Love doesn’t care.
He is all but gone, there was no hire Flip Saunders could make as coach that would have changed things. Saunders choosing to hire himself as the new Timberwolves coach didn’t change anything (although it was a vastly superior choice to Vinny Del Negro).
But the offensive-minded Saunders taking over the coaching chair has made Ricky Rubio happy, reports Darren Wolfson of ESPN 1500 in Minneapolis.
With Love bolting one way or another, David Kahn’s dream of Rubio as a cornerstone somewhat comes true. He didn’t need to save that fifth year for Rubio it turns out, but he is a solid point guard (yes, he needs a more consistent jumper, but his game management and defense are good) and Saunders may be able to both sign him to an extension at a fair price this summer and design an offense better suited to his skill set (read: get in the open court more).
Look for Saunders to have a “coach in waiting” on the bench and for him to only be the guy in charge for a year or two. Potential guys for the second seat are Sam Mitchell and David Blatt (an American coach who has had a stellar career in Europe and a number of teams have wanted to bring over).
Mitchell said this about potentially working for Saunders on his SiriusXM NBA Radio show today:
“As far as an opportunity now that Flip is going to come down and coach the team? I don’t know. We’ve talked about it but nothing has been cemented. It’s a difficult choice for me. An official offer hasn’t been made. It’s just been some dialogue. But it is difficult for me from the standpoint that I really enjoy the radio and TV aspect of what I do. I’ll be totally honest with you, the toughest thing as a player and a coach who has been in the NBA for 20-plus years is that you become so dependent on the NBA because you’ve been in it for so long. And the toughest thing is, can you make a living, or can you carve out a niche outside of playing and coaching? And that was a tough thing and I have been able to do that. … It’s a difficult choice because I’ve made inroads into this. But if the right opportunity presents itself, as a head coach or an assistant coach, I definitely would listen to it. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to jump at it but I would listen to it because you know the old saying — once a coach, always a coach deep inside.”
The battle has, stupidly, raged on between supporters of Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Both sides seem to believe their preference is irrefutably the choice for the best player in NBA history.
And because they did not play in the same era, the question will never be answered. No doubt in 50 years they will write columns about Jordan vs. LeBron, just like their fathers, and their father’s fathers before them.
James has certainly seemed to take a bit of a leap in the eyes of the NBA community this season, likely because of his wonderful performance at age 33. He’s also single-handedly won two playoff series this year. It’s been incredible.
But LeBron rising above Jordan has also brought out some more reasonable takes. Former Chicago Bulls legend and Jordan running mate Scottie Pippen spoke up recently about the debate, giving a measured analysis that I think is pretty strong.
In short, Pippen basically said you can’t compare the two because of the eras, the style, and the fact they just don’t play the same position (if LeBron even has a position, that is).
That sounds right to me.
Chewbacca was at Game 3 in Cleveland Saturday. Sitting courtside.
Why? Because growing up on Kashyyyk he played a little hoop and admires LeBron James‘ skill? Because Drake gave him the tickets? Maybe. I mean, it’s not like that was just a clever little publicity stunt for a movie.
After the Cavaliers’ win, Kevin Love decided to make a little joke of it with noted humorist Kendrick Perkins, and it went over as well as expected (with Dave McMenamin of ESPN catching it).
That’s vintage Perkins.
Cleveland dominated Game 3 Saturday night. They played harder, to start. The Cavaliers’ defensive pressure on the ball was better, they were sharper rotating out to shooters and covering passing lanes. Cleveland’s role players stepped up and helped LeBron James.
Boston, meanwhile, wilted in the face of that pressure Saturday, something it has done a few times on the road these playoffs. The Celtics got away from the things that got them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Guard Terry Rozier put it more bluntly, via A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:
“I feel like we needed this (loss) to get us back … to get us ready for Monday,” Rozier said.
Rozier later added, “We needed to get our butts whipped. Come back to reality and take care of business on Monday.”
Cleveland is a championship team — from LeBron James on down through the core guys, they all have rings. They have been down before, and heading home it was expected they would play with force. Cleveland’s back was against the wall and they responded.
From the Celtics’ perspective, they also got a little too fat and happy and were not ready for what the Cavaliers came with in Game 3.
Now the pressure is on Boston to push back, to get back to their level of execution and do it under pressure. Make the Cavaliers prove the improved defensive effort was not a one-off game. The Celtics must move the ball and play with some pace, then see if the Cavaliers can keep it together in the face of crisp play.
When this series heads back to Boston Wednesday, it will either see the Celtics in control up 3-1, or the series will be a best of three (with the Cavs still having to figure out if they can win on the road). At home, the Cavaliers are going to play with force again and have some depth. We’ll see if Game 3 was enough of a wakeup call for Boston.
Houston found its blueprint to beating Golden State in Game 2: Strong defensive pressure on the ball, quick switches and communication on defense, getting out in transition when possible, and starting sets earlier in the shot clock and attacking downhill with James Harden and Chris Paul.
Now can they do that on the road? Against a more focused and sharper Warriors’ team?
That will be the question in the next two games of the Western Conference Finals, and it’s what I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.