Timberwolves president Flip Saunders rips organization for mocking Kevin Love in video promoting game vs. Cavaliers

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Earlier this week, the Timberwolves put together a video to promote what was perhaps their biggest game of the season — a Saturday night home contest against the Cavaliers.

LeBron James is always a draw, but of course, this wasn’t about him. It was about Kevin Love returning for the first time as a member of the opposing team, after forcing his way out of town via trade last summer.

The video was clearly meant to be funny; it touted “The Return” of Mike Miller, who played one season with the Timberwolves back in 2009, and mentioned every relevant player on the Cavaliers roster — omitting Love from the clip entirely, and on purpose.

While Love himself said it was “hilarious,” Timberwolves president and head coach Flip Saunders criticized the organization for a gesture that he deemed to be disrespectful.

From Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com:

“I didn’t know about it,” Saunders said. “I didn’t approve of it. I think as an organization, we should be above that. We have to acknowledge that Kevin, when he was here, he was a great player for us. He was an All-Star, won an Olympic gold medal, did a lot of positive things.

“Last year at this time, everyone was patting themselves on the back for helping him get selected as a starter in the All-Star Game. And for us to not to acknowledge that and go the other way, I think it was hypocritical. As I had to address some of the people and I just told them that as an organization, that’s not the direction we want to go.” …

“It doesn’t matter if he thinks it’s funny,” Saunders said. “You have to decide what you want to do as an organization. Would San Antonio do that? No. They wouldn’t do that. Our players didn’t like it. They have to play against him too. They don’t like it. It just doesn’t set the right message and if you’re here and then you leave, all of a sudden it’s not.

“Was it funny? Maybe people thought it was funny. For me it wasn’t. I had to deal with three and half, four hours the last two days having people calling me and talking about it while I’m trying to prepare for games. Maybe you think it’s OK. That’s up to you. You can look at it that way, but I don’t look at it that way. As someone running an organization and has to go out and recruit players and to get those player. He may have thought it was funny, but I know deep down in his heart no one likes it. No one would like that. It’s human nature.”

Some may view it s harmless, but Saunders has a point, here.

The Timberwolves were unable to retain Love in free agency because they were unable to put together a winning roster around him during his six seasons in Minnesota. At some point, Saunders is going to acquire some top-level talent via trade or through the draft (like Andrew Wiggins, for example), and he’d like to be able to get those players to re-sign.

If the winning remains slow to come, and they see the organization as one that acts disrespectfully toward its players (even if that doesn’t happen until after they’re gone), it simply sends the wrong message.

Saunders knows that trying to recruit star free agents to sign in Minnesota will be difficult enough due to the constraints of the city itself. If the organization is viewed as a clown show around the league, it will make his job downright impossible.

French point guard Theo Maledon declares for NBA draft

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French point guard Theo Maledon has declared for the 2020 NBA Draft:

The six-foot-five Maledon is declaring as an Early Entry candidate from the international ranks. International players who do not turn 22 in the calendar year of the draft can declare as Early Entry players.

At 18 years old, Maledon was a part-time starter for ASVEL Basket in France in the French Pro A League. ASVEL Basket is owned in part by former NBA player Tony Park, who also serves as the club’s president. Maleon started in 23 of the 46 games he played for ASVEL Basket this season.

In 46 games with ASVEL, Maledon averaged 7.3 points per game. He shot 42.1% from the floor, including 33.3% on three-pointers. He also averaged 2.7 assists per game. In mid-January, against former NBA player Shane Larkin and Turkish club Anadolu Efes, Maledon started and dished out 10 assists, while scoring five points and grabbing six rebounds.

In part due to his size for the point guard position, and his excellent play on the youth level, ESPN has Maledon ranked 15th in their top-100 prospects. He’s widely expected to be in the mix to be a lottery pick.

Players have until Sunday, April 26 to declare as Early Entry candidates. The deadline to withdraw as an Early Entry candidate is Monday, June 15. The 2020 NBA Draft is currently scheduled to be held on Thursday, June 25.

Report: Pacers GM Chad Buchanan turns down interview with Bulls

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Indiana Pacers general manager Chad Buchanan has reportedly declined an opportunity to interview for a front office job with the Chicago Bulls.

Buchanan joined the Pacers in 2017 as their general manager under President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard. Prior to moving to Indiana, Buchanan was the assistant general manager with the Charlotte Hornets.

In turning down the Bulls opportunity, Buchanan cited how well he and his family have been treated in Indiana. Buchanan had previously worked with Pritchard when both were members of the Portland Trail Blazers front office.

Chicago is replacing John Paxson and Gar Forman at the top of their front office structure. Paxson and Forman have led the Bulls basketball operations together since 2009. Chicago’s search will now reportedly focus on Arturas Karnisovas of the Denver Nuggets, Adam Simon of the Miami Heat and Bobby Webster of the Toronto Raptors.

This Day in NBA History: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar becomes NBA’s all-time scoring leader

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It was fitting he did it with a skyhook.

On April 5, 1984, in a game against the Utah Jazz (played in a sold-out Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar took a pass from Magic Johnson, swung left, and drained a hook shot that gave him career point No. 31,420, moving him past Wilt Chamberlain to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

The game stopped as the celebration ensued as Kareem’s teammates swarmed the captain. He was taken out of the game at that point, done for the night.

Abdul-Jabbar wasn’t done scoring, however. H retired five seasons later with 38,387 points, a record that stands to this day.

Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn’t have home court, players forced to workout with what they have

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MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo is spending much of his time during the coronavirus-imposed hiatus working out, helping care for his newborn son and playing occasional video games.

What the reigning MVP isn’t doing very often is shooting baskets since the NBA has closed team practice facilities.

“I don’t have access to a hoop,” the Milwaukee Bucks forward said Friday during a conference call. “A lot of NBA players might have a court in their house or something, I don’t know, but now I just get my home workouts, (go) on the bike, treadmill, lift weights, stay sharp that way.”

The hiatus is forcing thousands of athletes, pro and otherwise, to work out from home as they try to keep in shape. Equipment varies from player to player, too.

“It all comes down to what they have and what they’re capable of doing,” Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “We can do a lot of body weight stuff. That’s how they stay ready. That’s the most I can offer as a coach for them to stay ready. I can’t say ‘Hey, can you find access to a gym?’ That would be bad management on my part.”

For instance, Pierce said Hawks guard Kevin Huerter has access to a gym in New York and guard Jeff Teague owns a gym in Indiana.

Other players face different situations.

“I’ve seen LeBron’s Instagram,” Pierce said of Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James. “LeBron has a house with a full weight room and he has an outdoor court. He’s got a different reality right now that gives him a little more access to continue the normal. (Hawks rookie) Cam Reddish lives in an apartment and it’s probably a two-bedroom apartment. He can’t go in the apartment weight room because it’s a public facility. So he’s limited in all things.”

Bucks coach Mike Budenhlolzer said he wanted his players to focus on keeping their bodies in shape and conceded that logistics surrounding the pandemic would make it tougher for them to do any basketball-specific activities.

The Bucks are still finding ways to stay sharp.

Bucks players said team officials have made sure they all have the necessary exercise equipment. Antetokounmpo noted the Bucks also had a catering company bring food to make sure they maintain a proper diet. Center Brook Lopez said workout plans have been sent to them via a phone app.

“They’ve done a really good job of getting everything taken care of and still having tailored workouts for each individual player despite the situation,” Lopez said.

But it’s difficult for them to work on their shooting without access to a court.

“Since the practice facility is closed down, I don’t have any access to a basketball goal unless I go to one of my neighbors’ houses and shoot outside,” Bucks forward Khris Middleton said. “There’s really no basketball for me. It’s basically like Giannis said. Treadmill, jump rope, some weights and that’s it. I have a couple of basketballs I can dribble in my house or outside, but no actual goal to shoot on.”

Pierce noted that Huerter recently asked him when players would be able to get back into the Hawks’ practice facility.

“I told him, ‘I’ll tell you when we won’t,” Pierce said. “We won’t in April.”