Timberwolves owner on possibility of trading No. 1 pick: ‘It’s got to be part of any conversation’

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NEW YORK — Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor was his team’s on-stage representative at the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday, and once Minnesota had secured the number one overall pick, he was of course giddy when discussing the possibilities.

“It’s very exciting for me and I think for our fans,” Taylor said. “There’s going to be a lot of enthusiasm [as far as] who you’re going to pick and how you’re going to do that. And that’s a process that will start now.”

Part of that process will be to consider all options — and that includes trading the pick, as the Cleveland Cavaliers did when they sent Andrew Wiggins to Minnesota in the Kevin Love deal last summer.

While Taylor doesn’t view such a scenario as likely, he did admit that the team wouldn’t take that topic off the table during any potential trade discussions.

“I think it’s got to be part of any conversation,” he said. “But tradition, I think tradition says it’s fairly unlikely to happen.”

The Timberwolves not only have a Rookie of the Year in Wiggins, but they also have Zach LaVine, who joined his teammate in earning All-Rookie honors. Adding some veteran pieces to the mix may make sense at some point, especially when the goal in Minnesota starts with simply making the playoffs.

If the right player were to be made available, an established All-Star caliber talent with some years still remaining on a reasonable contract, then Minnesota may be tempted to include an unproven player that would come with the draft’s top selection.

The Timberwolves won’t be picking up the phone and calling other teams to dangle the pick just to see what kind of offers it could potentially bring back. But they won’t rule out dealing it at this early stage of things, either.

“[You listen] because you never know what it could mean, if you could get the right one or two guys that could just change your team,” Taylor said. “You already have a bunch of young guys, so you have to look at this type of stuff. But I think it’s a very hard decision to make. I mean, I think of Cleveland. They didn’t want to do that [give up Wiggins in the trade for Love], I can tell you because I ended up negotiating with their owner. They didn’t want to do that, really, because you just don’t know how good Wiggins can be in the future. And then you’re going to hear about that forever and ever and ever.”

Taylor made it clear that the prospect of trading away a pick that could end up being a future cornerstone like Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns wasn’t his preference. But he made it just as clear that doing so would not be considered impossible.

“I think it’s probably highly unlikely,” Taylor said. “But I think it’s worth having the discussion.”

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.

Report: John Beilein expected to decide on future as Cavaliers coach by Tuesday

Cavaliers coach John Beilein
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John Beilein is considering resigning as Cavaliers coach.

They play Friday.

Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst of ESPN on Sunday night:

The Cleveland Cavaliers and John Beilein have discussed the possibility of the coach stepping down before the end of the All-Star break, and Beilein was expected to reach a decision in the next 24-48 hours, league sources told ESPN.

This is part of the larger problem with Beilein, but this wouldn’t be a difficult transition. Assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff already does so much. And players see Bickerstaff – who previously head-coached the Grizzlies – doing so much.

In his long career as a college head coach, Beilein never had a player on a clear NBA track from the moment he arrived on campus. Beilein has so little first-hand experience with NBA players’ temperaments, which can include disrespecting a head coach and turning to an assistant.

With this report public, it’s hard to see how Beilein maintains any credibility with Cavs players if he returns. When players know the coach is finished by the end of the season, they sometimes take license to rebel. Add the dynamic of knowing Beilein considered resigning earlier, and the last couple months of the season could be even messier than the first few.

At best, everyone would accept this miserable arrangement will end soon enough. Players would tune out Beilein and not make waves. And that’s at best! Not an ideal way to develop young players like Darius Garland, Collin Sexton and Kevin Porter Jr.