Timberwolves coach, GM Flip Saunders passes away at age 60

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Minnesota head coach and team president Flip Saunders had been battling cancer for months now (that we knew of) and, unfortunately, that ugly disease has claimed another good man.

Phil “Flip” Saunders has passed away at the age of 60, the team announced on Sunday.

He had been undergoing chemotherapy treatment after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (cancer of the immune system).

Saunders was one of the nicer and more open people around the league, a guy genuinely liked by nearly everyone. In my admittedly limited one-on-one interactions with him (at Summer League), he just made you feel comfortable talking to him. And he was honest.

Saunders coached 17 NBA seasons including three years with the Detroit Pistons where they reached the Eastern Conference Finals. He was a determined coach with a vast knowledge of the game to lean on.

He is best remembered as part of the Timberwolves, where he coached 11 of those seasons and helped build and coach some of the franchise’s most successful teams (including the young but talented roster they have now). He was part of the basketball culture in Minnesota, including hosting youth camps and often speaking to groups in the area.

His NBA coaching record was 654-592, but he had 35 total years of coaching experience.

Saunders was expected to be out for this coming entire season, with Sam Mitchel in as coach, but things were much worse than that.

He is survived by his wife and three daughters, as well as his son Ryan, an assistant coach with the Timberwolves.

Our thoughts and condolences go out to his family and friends.

Carmelo Anthony on his role with Rockets: “Let’s just let it play out”

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From the moment it became clear Carmelo Anthony was going to join the Rockets — which was a long time before he actually signed the contract on Monday — the questions started:

Would he accept a reduced role with the Rockets? Maybe come off the bench? Be Olympic ‘Melo and blend in with the team?

Coach Mike D’Antoni said he spoke with Anthony and said the player is open to coming off the bench, but he’s not sure what ‘Melo’s role will be. When ambushed by TMZ trying to walk to his car, Anthony said basically the same thing.

“Let’s just let it play out, though. I don’t even know what’s going on. I just signed, let it start first.”

Anthony coming off the bench, being the fulcrum of the offense when James Harden and Chris Paul are on the bench makes some sense (CP3 and Harden are better and more efficient shot creators than Anthony at this point). It’s a chance for Anthony to get his touches and help the other two rest. However, the idea of Anthony starting the first and third quarters and getting heavy touches then but sitting more later is not out of the question.

At the end of close games, D’Antoni is more likely to lean on James Ennis — a long, switchable defender who can shoot threes in the Trevor Ariza mold — than Anthony. It will be just a better fit. Will Anthony roll with that? Will it cause problems in the locker room?

Let’s just let it play out.

The time Andre Drummond taped Spencer Dinwiddie to a chair under cold shower

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Remember when the NBA cracked down on hazing?

It was 2013, and the Miami Dolphins were in the midst of a bullying scandal. The NBA wanted to avoid similar problems.

But enforcement of the NBA’s guidelines was clearly fleeting, a temporary overreaction to the Dolphins’ issues.

By the very next season Andre Drummond and the Pistons were hazing rookie Spencer Dinwiddie.

Kristian Winfield of SB Nation:

Dinwiddie:

Thankfully, Dinwiddie appears to take this in good fun. Context matters, and if the team welcomed him overall, this could be just a harmless prank.

And Dinwiddie has gotten revenge – flourishing with the Nets, including hitting a game-winner at Detroit last season.

Magic Johnson posts low-quality video of his birthday party, Lonzo Ball offers to get him an iPhone

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LeBron James sent Magic Johnson an ardent happy-birthday tweet last year. Then, LeBron eventually provided the best gift imaginable – signing with Johnson’s Lakers.

I think Johnson is having a good 59th birthday today. But I can’t say for certain – because the video he posted is pixelated and has distorted audio:

That prompted Lonzo Ball to tweet:

Ha!

That’d be a pretty nice gift. But I don’t think it’ll endear Ball over LeBron.

Jimmy Butler disses agent, trainer, chef, commenter – not Timberwolves teammates – on Instagram

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There’s reportedly friction between Jimmy Butler and his Timberwolves teammates, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.

It’s not hard to see why. Butler pulled himself up from the bottom and has developed an understanding of how he got here. He has shown little patience for those who don’t match his work ethic and competitiveness. The younger Wiggins and Towns are former No. 1 picks who seem too content at times.

Anyway, Butler posted this photo to Instagram:

Butler appears to be talking – almost certainly in jest – about his trainer (Chris Johnson), agent (Bernie Lee) and chef (Christian Bowman). After all, those three are behind him in the picture.

A commenter brought up Wiggins and Towns, saying Butler should lead those two, and Butler shot back:

This has gotten spun into evidence of strife in Minnesota. I don’t see it. That strikes me as a retort to the commenter, not a shot at Wiggins and Towns.

Besides, if you’re looking for evidence of the Timberwolves’ internal problems, there’s more than enough elsewhere.