Wolves GM: ‘We’re not talking about trading Ricky’ Rubio

3 Comments

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — When the Minnesota Timberwolves signed Ricky Rubio to a four-year, $56 million contract extension before last season, it was a giant show of faith that the young point guard was going to be an integral part of pulling the long-suffering franchise out of the NBA basement.

Last year was miserable on all fronts. For the Timberwolves, who won an NBA-worst 16 games, and for Rubio, who played only 22 games because of a severe ankle injury.

Rubio spent all summer recovering from surgery and gearing up to return with a vengeance. But in the weeks leading up to one of the most anticipated Wolves seasons in years, rumors started to circulate that the team is looking to trade the flashy playmaker. With the first training camp practice just five days away, general manager Milt Newton put a stop to any speculation.

“We’re not talking to anybody about trading Ricky,” Newton told The Associated Press. “We expect Ricky to be an integral part of our team this season. We expect him to be here come training camp and leading our team.”

With an exciting young core highlighted by Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns – the last two No. 1 overall picks – and accomplished veterans like Kevin Garnett, Andre Miller and Kevin Martin on the roster, the Timberwolves believe they can make huge strides from the injury-plagued failures of last season. Rubio’s ability to bounce back from his ankle injury and get back to the passing wizard and defensive disruption that prompted the Wolves to give him that big contract is one of the biggest keys for those hopes to be realized.

“He’s one of the best facilitators in the NBA,” Newton said. “We’ve got a young team of guys that are athletic, that are going to get up and down. And we’re going to utilize those talents that they have. Who better than Ricky to be the one leading the charge, pushing the pace, pushing the ball and getting our guys easy opportunities and getting the ball where they can be their best? We’re looking to him to be that person.”

The Spaniard has had two of his first four seasons short-circuited by serious injuries and has struggled mightily to consistently knock down open jump shots. But when he has been healthy, Rubio has proven himself to be a difference maker.

He energized the franchise as a rookie in 2011, helping push them into playoff position before the team faded when he tore an ACL in March.

Rubio played all 82 games in 2013-14, and the Timberwolves scored 5.3 more points per 100 possessions than their opponents when he was on the floor – the second-best net rating on the team, according to statistics compiled by NBA.com.

When Rubio was off the floor that season, the Wolves were outscored by 6.7 points per 100 possessions, the biggest drop of any player on the team.

Last year the woeful Wolves were outscored by 9.8 points per 100 possessions. But in the 22 games Rubio played, they were only outscored by 1.6, a huge disparity and by far the best rating of any Wolves player to play more than 10 games. When Rubio was off the court, the Wolves’ net rating was minus-11.5.

Team president and coach Flip Saunders is on leave from the team while being treated for Hodgkins lymphoma. Newton has been elevated to the primary decision-maker in the front office and Sam Mitchell has replaced Saunders as coach on an interim basis. That means Rubio – one of the longest-tenured Timberwolves – will need to bring a steadying presence as the quarterback of the offense.

The Wolves also brought in renowned physical therapist Arnie Kander in part to help Rubio stay on the court and signed the 39-year-old Miller – one of the smartest point guards of his generation and one that, like Rubio, has never relied on overwhelming athleticism – to be his backup and serve as a mentor.

Now he begins his new contract as one of the team’s most important players. His pass-first mentality should fit well with a roster brimming with young talent looking for shots. Wiggins, Towns, Zach LaVine and Shabazz Muhammad are all under 23 years old.

As one of the league’s top stealers and a solid defender on the perimeter, Rubio will also be counted on to team with Garnett and Wiggins to bolster what was the league’s worst defense last season.

There’s no doubt his shooting and ability to finish at the rim must improve for the Wolves to make big strides this season. But it all starts with his health, and Kander is encouraged by what he’s seen.

“Ricky’s got great ankles,” he said last week, later adding: “He’s looking good. Everything is where it needs to be.”

Watch Victor Wembanyama drop 30-point double-double in France

0 Comments

Maybe you spent your Saturday afternoon watching Lionel Messi doing Lionel Messi things. Or intense college football rivalries.

In France, they spent part of the day watching Kylian Mbappe be brilliant but then flipped over and watched future No.1 pick Victor Wembanyama drop a 30-point double-double.

That’s two straight 30-point double-doubles for Wembanyama.

He will be the No.1 pick next June (barring something catastrophic), and teams are already thinking about the lottery next June.

Expect some other teams to jump in that mix at the bottom because the depth of this class goes well beyond just Wembanyama with Scoot Henderson, Amen Thompson and others. The tanking is coming people.

 

Boogie Cousins called Warriors GM Myers and got reality check on why he’s not in NBA

2022 NBA Playoffs - Denver Nuggets v Golden State Warriors
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

DeMarcus Cousins didn’t understand why he didn’t have an NBA contract this season.

He thought he had proven he could help teams in need of front-line depth last season, first in Milwaukee when Brook Lopez was out following back surgery and gave them 9.1 points and 5.8 rebounds a game of solid play. The Bucks ultimately let Cousins go for financial reasons, so the Nuggets picked him up to backup Nikola Jokic. He was again solid, averaging 8.9 points and 5.5 rebounds a game (and he had a 31-point night against the Rockets).

Confused, he called one of the former GMs who brought him in, Bob Myers of the Golden State Warriors. Myers relayed their conversation on the All That Smoke podcast (via NBC Sports Bay Area).

“DeMarcus called me a month ago and he said, ‘Why am I not in the NBA?’ ” Myers told Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on the “All The Smoke” podcast earlier this week. “And I said, ‘You want that answer? … Because people are afraid of how you’re going to act.’ And he’s like ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘Well whatever the reason is, it’s here now.’

“And I like DeMarcus. You guys may know him. He’s just, I can’t blame him for him because of all he’s been through.”

Not long after that conversation, Cousins spoke with Chris Haynes and said he learned from his past mistakes.

“Have I made mistakes? Absolutely. Have I done things the wrong way? Absolutely. For that, I’m very apologetic. But I’ve done even more things the correct way and I’ve done even more positive things compared to my negatives. I just don’t want those positives to be overlooked. And obviously, whenever it gets to the point where the negatives outweigh the positives, you should probably move away from him. That’s just how life goes. But I don’t believe I’m in that boat. I’m just asking for a chance to show my growth as a man and a player.”

Cousins also had physical issues, including a torn ACL that cost him a season with the Lakers in 2019-20. He also had domestic abuse allegations at the time (those charges were dropped a few months later).

Cousins just wants the chance to prove he is past all that and can help a team like he did last season. There have been rumors out of Taiwan that Cousins could join Dwight Howard in that league, but Cousins has not confirmed that. He still wants his shot in the NBA. So he waits, and hopes he can change the narrative around him.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says of Evan Mobley, ‘He can be better than me’

Cleveland Cavaliers v Milwaukee Bucks
John Fisher/Getty Images
0 Comments

Evan Mobley hasn’t taken the leap forward in his second season many expected, partly because he has to adjust to playing with a new, dominant backcourt in Cleveland of Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. Mobley is getting nearly five fewer touches a game and is not getting the same chances to use his off-the-bounce skills (73% of his shots this season come off zero or one-dribble) as he did when he was a rookie.

That doesn’t mean his superstar potential has gone away. Just ask Giannis Antetokounmpo, as Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer did.

“He can be better than me,” Antetokounmpo told cleveland.com in an exclusive interview while walking out of Fiserv Forum… “I don’t see why he can’t. It’s up to him. I will always try to improve. Every day. But he has the skill set to be a very, very good player. He’s 7-feet tall. He can move really well. He can shoot. He is very smart. As you said, he watches tapes of other players, which is very, very good for a young player. If he takes this seriously, he is going to be great.”

Better than Giannis? What could possibly make him say that?

“I didn’t average what he is in my second season, so he’s already ahead of me,” Antetokounmpo told cleveland.com. “It’s in his hands. If he stays humble, continues to work hard, focuses on the game and shows love to the game of basketball, he is going to be really good.”

One of the players Mobley is known to study on tape is Antetokounmpo. Of course, mirroring the force and athleticism Antetokounmpo plays with is next to impossible, but Mobley has the skill set that could see him become a shot-creator and scorer on the wing with the ball.

The Cavaliers don’t need him to be that with Garland improving and Michell being better than advertised. Cleveland has a top-five offense and hasn’t had to turn to Mobley for more scoring and shot creation. But that can change, especially come the playoffs against the strong defenses of teams such as the Bucks and Celtics. Ultimately, how far these Cavaliers can go in the postseason over the next few years could come down to the growth of Mobley on the offensive end.

Antetokounmpo believes Mobley could be special in that role, which should give fans in Cleveland even more hope.

 

Watch Giannis throw down career-high nine dunks, score 38 in comeback win over Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers v Milwaukee Bucks
John Fisher/Getty Images
0 Comments

MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks taught the Cleveland Cavaliers a lesson in playoff-type intensity well before the start of December.

Antetokounmpo scored 38 points and the Bucks capitalized on a 23-2 run in the first eight-plus minutes of the third quarter to rally past Cleveland 117-102 on Friday night to snap the Cavaliers’ four-game winning streak.

Milwaukee came back from a 16-point deficit by outscoring the Cavaliers 35-10 in the third period. The Bucks hadn’t outscored a team by such a wide margin in a single quarter since Jan. 4, 2019, when they outscored the Atlanta Hawks 43-14 in the opening period of a 144-112 victory.

“We had a little bit of luck on our side and were able to knock down some shots and get downhill and were able to get that momentum and keep it going,” said Antetokounmpo, who also had nine rebounds and six assists. “I think it started from our guards defending the pick-and-roll and Brook (Lopez) just contesting every shot on the defensive end.”

The Cavaliers hadn’t scored less than 15 points in any quarter this season before Friday.

“They turned it up to a level that we haven’t seen, that we haven’t experienced,” said Donovan Mitchell, who led he Cavaliers with 29 points. “That’s playoff basketball, and understanding that they’re going to turn up the physicality (and) everything has to be sharper, everything has to be more precise.”

Darius Garland added 20 for Cleveland. After combining to shoot 14 of 26 and score 38 points in the first half, Mitchell and Garland went 4 of 16 for 11 points over the final two periods.

Cleveland’s Jarrett Allen played only 12 minutes and scored one point before leaving with a hip injury.

The Cavaliers lost for the first time since their last visit to Milwaukee, a 113-98 Bucks victory on Nov. 16.

“We were trying so hard, and we were like running in quicksand,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of the second-half struggles.

Jevon Carter scored 18 points and Bobby Portis had 14 for the Bucks.

After trailing 63-52 at halftime, the Bucks turned the game around in the third quarter.

“It felt like us again,” Portis said. “I feel like for the last couple of games, we haven’t felt like ourselves, for real, missing a lot of shots and just not playing how we play.”

Jrue Holiday, who committed three fouls in the first 1 1/2 quarters, scored his first points of the game in the opening minute of the third. He followed that up with a 3-pointer.

Carter then found Antetokounmpo for a dunk, though Antetokounmpo missed a free throw that would have given him a three-point play. Mitchell scored to extend Cleveland’s lead to 65-59, but a Brook Lopez 3-pointer and an Antetokounmpo dunk cut the lead to one.

Lopez then recorded one of his six blocks to set up an Antetokounmpo 3-pointer that gave the Bucks their first lead of the night with 7:19 left in the third. The Bucks eventually led by as many as 22.

“This is a great lesson for us,” Bickerstaff said. “We played against an established team who knows where they need to go when they need to take it to another level. That’s what we’re learning. They took the game to playoff-level physicality, and those are things we have to learn how to compete against.”