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.

Rockets to add Spurs buyout DeMarre Carroll, free agent Jeff Green

Spurs forward DeMarre Caroll
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ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reported that DeMarre Carroll and the San Antonio Spurs have agreed to a buyout. Carroll will then sign with the Houston Rockets:

ESPN’s Tim McMahon added in a subsequent report that the Rockets will bring in free agent forward Jeff Green:

Green will first sign a 10-day contract with the Rockets, so he can get used to their system and see if there is a fit, Woj reported.

Carroll signed a three-year, $20.65 million contract as part of a sign and trade from the Brooklyn Nets to the Spurs this past summer. That agreement was part of a three-team trade that saw San Antonio send forward Davis Bertans to the Washington Wizards. The 10-year veteran is owed $7 million for this season, $6.65 million for 2020-21 and $1.35 million guaranteed for 2021-22. San Antonio will incur a cap hit for each of the three seasons as part of the buyout process with Carroll. How much of a cap hit will depend on how much money Carroll gave up as part of the buyout agreement.

Carroll was added via sign and trade after Marcus Morris spurned the Spurs in free agency. Morris had originally agreed to sign with San Antonio, but backed out after the New York Knicks offered him $15 million as a free agent. The Spurs moved on to Carroll as a backup plan, but he was never able to crack the rotation. He’s played only 135 minutes over 15 games with San Antonio.

Green was with the Utah Jazz earlier this season, before being waived to create a roster spot for Rayjon Tucker. The 11-year veteran Green averaged 7.7 points per game in 30 appearances with Utah. The Rockets will be the ninth different franchise Green has played for.

In Houston, Carroll and Green will join Mike D’Antoni’s small-ball crew as big man depth. Carroll and Green will likely back up P.J. Tucker and Robert Covington up front. Their experience at both forward spots will give the Rockets additional depth for their playoff run. Carroll and Green are also likely be to asked to play some center, as Houston has downsized dramatically at that position, including trading Clint Capela at the trade deadline.

NBA players’ union votes to support formation of G-League union

Kyrie Irving
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Better pay. Better working conditions. Not to be treated as disposable parts by their employers.

The players in the G-League want the same thing out of a union that auto workers, teachers, and (most obviously) NBA players do. As had been expected (talks had been going on for a while), on Monday the National Basketball Players Association (the NBA players’ union) voted to support the formation of a G-League union, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The G-League players are expected to support this. Sources have told NBC Sports that team and league officials will not oppose the players unionizing, they believe there will be benefits, too.

The primary issue will be pay. Most players in the G-League earn a $35,000 salary, unless they’re an elite high school prospect, or on a two-way contract (which means they are tied to an NBA team and can be called up for 45 days a season). Some players make more through an Exhibit 10 contract with a team — meaning they go to training camp with a team, then get a bonus ($50,000 or so) if they sign with that team’s G-League team.

Other issues would include freedom of player movement, work benefits, and giving the players a voice in other matters like discipline issues.

The NBA continues to push toward each of its teams having a minor-league affiliate. Right now, only the Trail Blazers and Nuggets do not. As the G-League grows, it’s understandable the players want a larger voice in how things are run.

In other news out of the players’ union meeting, Kyrie Irving was voted in as vice president, replacing Paul Gasol. Via Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Chris Paul remains the union president.

Check out Dr. Dre’s Kobe Bryant tribute

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CHICAGO — In a weekend filled with spectacular tributes to Kobe Bryant, this one stood out.

Legendary rapper, songwriter, record producer, and businessman Dr. Dre — a guy who grew up in Los Angeles — released a tribute that stood out (and was highlighted on TNT). Dre did this with Gibson Hazard and Jackson Bannon.

Kobe’s public memorial service takes place Feb. 24 at Staples Center.

Giannis Antetokounmpo on team’s All-Star plan: Attack James Harden

Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden
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CHICAGO – James Harden has griped about Giannis Antetokounmpo winning Most Valuable Player last year.

After his team lost to Harden’s in the All-Star game Sunday, Antetokounmpo got in a dig at Harden.

“Offensively, we were just trying to find whoever James Harden was guarding,” Antetokounmpo said of his team’s strategy late. “That’s who we thought we’d have the opportunity to score on.”

Harden is not a good defender. But this is playing right into his hands. He’s at his best in isolation, especially in the post. He faces far more difficulty when run through actions off the ball or trying to keep up in transition.

Down the stretch, Harden defended more effectively than usual. Not great, but above his usual standard. Good enough for LeBron James‘ team to win.

At least, as Giannis previously noted, the MVP trophy is at his house.