Sam Mitchell knocks Glen Taylor, Tom Thibodeau, Scott Layden for Timberwolves’ firing process

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Sam Mitchell was so bothered by how the Timberwolves fired him, he said it upset Kevin Garnett – a real BS move.

If you’re upset, don’t put it on someone else. Speak for yourself and let Garnett speak for himself.

Well, Mitchell is speaking for himself now.

And he’s being clear about his issues with Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, new president/coach Tom Thibodeau and new general manager Scott Layden.

Mitchell, via Darren Wolfson (nicknamed Doogie) of ESPN 1500:

I’ve known Glen Taylor a long time, and I have had the utmost respect for him. And my whole thing, Doogie, was, whether you thought I earned the job or not, that’s fine. That’s a decision that he has to make. But I felt like after 13 years of being in the organization, after being the captain, after having been the guy that was whenever there was things going on and they needed players to do things, being that go-to guy – I thought I always carried myself and conducted myself when I was in the Wolves uniform as a coach or a player. And after 13 years and being knowing Mr. Taylor for about 10 or 11, to be treated that way, that just did something to me.

It just left a bad taste in my mouth, and Doogie, to be honest with you, it’s something that I don’t know where to place it emotionally or mentally. It’s just tough, man. I don’t know where – still to this day, I don’t think about it or dwell on it, because I understand that the NBA is not fair, that life is not fair. Bad things happen to good people all the time, and good things happen for bad people all the time. I’m about to turn 53, and I understand that. But I’ve always held Glen Taylor in high regard. And just to be treated that way – a 30-second phone call – it just didn’t sit well with me. It’s something I don’t understand, and I’ve had a hard time trying to figure out, where do I place this?

Because, again, it would not have been easy to sit down with me and have that conversation. But I think after the years in the organization, that’s the least that you could have done for me.

Another thing: I’ve known Tom Thibodeau. Look, another disheartening thing is – and, again, I understand the NBA. Somebody offers you the job – someone offers my best friend who may be a assistant coach the job and you have the job, they’re going to take the job. They have to take the job, because there’s only 30. I understand that, Doogie. And I mean, once the decision is made not to hire you, then I’m OK with a friend of mine or someone I know getting the job. Because at the end of the day, it’s not like they’re doing anything behind your back to take your job. No one can take your job in the NBA. Either the owner doesn’t think you did a good enough job to retain you or, for whatever reason, they replace you. So, I understand that. It’s a big-boy league.

But even with Tom – all the years I’ve been knowing Tom and with Bill Musselman actually having helped Tom get on the staff as a player with the Wolves when I played for them because of my connection with Bill Musselman – the fact that he never called me saying a word to me, never sent me a message, never sent me a text. And that the new general manager Scott called me a month and a half later.

A month and a half later. So, at that point, why are you even calling me?

So, again, the way things were handled in Minnesota, I was totally shocked. I had always given the organization credit for how they treated people in the past and being a first-class organization. But to be treated that way after 13 years, I think I have a right to feel a certain way about it.

And again, not bitter. Not angry. I’m happy. I’m moving on with my life and doing other things, and I’m happy. But Minnesota was home for me for a long time. I had a lot of good friends there, and I just never thought I would be treated that way on my way out the door. But, again, that’s life and it is what it is, and you get better for it.

It was so disrespectful  to even call me a month and a half later. I think when I realized it was him, I was hanging up the phone as he was talking. There was nothing really much to say. A month and a half later – you think a month and a half later, you think I haven’t read the tea leaves and understand what is going on? Especially, a month and a half before that, I talked to Glen Taylor. So, what was there to call me about?

I’m proud of the job I did there, and I always will be proud of it. I’m disappointed in how I was treated. Always disappointed that you weren’t retained and given an opportunity to keep the job, but I understand the business. A lot better coaches than I am have been let go and not retained. So, I understand that.

But in the manner in which it was done, I felt like because of the years I’ve been there, that it could’ve been handled better. But, again, that’s how they chose to handle it.

And Wayne Embry used to tell me this all the time. It’s not what people do to you that’s important. It’s how you handle and bounce back what was done to you. So, that’s the thing that I keep focused on. That’s what I think about. And again, like I said, I’m happy with my life, and I’m happy with the direction that it’s going in.

Keep in mind that Mitchell was asked about this. He answered. I take him at his word that he’s not letting his disagreements with the Timberwolves overtake his life. You can answer questions about a topic when asked without having that topic consume you otherwise.

Should Taylor have fired Mitchell in person? Maybe. Speaking from experience, it’s not fun to report to work just to get fired. It’s a waste of time. Likewise, someone might not want his or her boss showing up to his or her house to fire him. That leaves a phone call. More importantly, it’s up to Taylor. Firing someone in person can be uncomfortable. By being rich enough to own the team, Taylor has given himself the ability to fire people however is most comfortable to him. Mitchell, as he says, just has to deal with that whether he likes it or not.

I’m not sure what Mitchell wanted to hear from Thibodeau for the same reason Mitchell hung up Layden. It’s not easy to hear from your replacement. What’s there to say? Even if he wanted to call, Thibodeau would have had a hard time not sounding as if he’s rubbing the job change in Mitchell’s face.

So, I think Mitchell’s dissatisfaction with Thibodeau and Layden is unfair, but Mitchell is entitled to feel that way. Mitchell’s issue with Taylor seems more reasonable, but again – as Mitchell stated himself – he can’t do anything about it.

With all three – Taylor, Thibodeau and Layden – I’m just not convinced Mitchell would be any more pleased today with more direct communication. Getting fired sucks, no matter how it happens.

Doncic’s 30, Mavericks’ 17-0 run lift them past Knicks at MSG

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NEW YORK (AP) — Luka Doncic had a game-high 30 points, Tim Hardaway Jr. chipped in 28 points against his former team, and the Dallas Mavericks beat the New York Knicks 121-100 on Saturday.

Spencer Dinwiddie scored 17 points for Dallas, which outscored New York 69-41 in the second half for just its second win seven games.

“I think it’s great that everyone’s in the locker room smiling,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said. “Everybody saw the ball go in, we shared the ball, we played the right way. … We’re a team that lives or dies by the 3, and today we made them.”

Forward Julius Randle led the Knicks with 24 points, and Immanuel Quickly chipped in 23. Leading scorer Jalen Brunson had 13 points playing against Dallas for the first time since he signed with the Knicks on July 12, but New York fell for the sixth time in its past eight games.

“To be honest, not fun,” Brunson said when asked what it was like playing against his former team. “They played great tonight. You got to give them credit. No matter who is on the floor, my approach stays the same. But to see them after the game and shake their hands, that was pretty cool.”

Hardaway exacted revenge against his former team, with whom he played 254 games over parts of four seasons. Hardaway had 17 points in the third quarter, including five 3-pointers, during a 27-6 run. He credited familiarity in New York – and Dallas’ previous game in Detroit – as keys to his third straight 20-plus point game.

“This road trip, when you have family and friends in both cities, it lightens you and brings some positive vibes and some positive energy,” Hardaway said. “To come here, to Detroit and to New York, both places where I used to play college and professionally, was a great atmosphere. I was comfortable, and my teammates (were) keeping me positive.”

Doncic, the NBA’s leading scorer, had just 11 points on 3 of 11 shooting in the first half. But he took over in the third, scoring 19 points on 8 of 10 shooting. Dallas outscored New York 41-15 in the third quarter, turning a tight game into a rout.

“The first half I wasn’t really participating,” Doncic said. “It was a challenge to come out of the locker room with more energy.”

The Knicks shot 55% in the first half, including 63% from the field in the first quarter. Randle had 14 of his 21 first-half points in the first quarter, including seven on a 9-0 run that gave New York an early 14-5 advantage.

The Knicks led by as many as 15 in the second quarter, but Dallas turned up the defensive intensity and cut New York’s lead to seven, 59-52, at halftime.

“The start of the game, I thought we were pretty good,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We built the 15-point lead, then we sort of lost traction mid-second quarter.”

Ja Morant fined $35,000 for using ‘ inappropriate language’ toward referee

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A frustrated Dillon Brooks and Ja Morant must have used some special language near the end of the Grizzlies’ loss to the Timberwolves, because both were ejected within a matter of minutes near the end of the game Wednesday night.

The league fined Morant $35,000 for “confronting and directing inappropriate language toward a game official and failing to leave the court in a timely manner following his ejection.”

Morant was not demonstrative at the time and was clearly surprised by the ejection. Before leaving the court he dapped up Anthony Edwards (who was shooting free throws) and a couple of other players before heading back to the locker room. Afterward Morant took to social media.

If the official said that to Morant, he should also be punished. The league can’t come down on players for not showing the referees respect if it’s not a two-way street.

It was an ugly loss for the Grizzlies, who fell to a Timberwolves team without Karl-Anthony Towns.

Teams reportedly watching to see if Bulls make stars available; Lakers had internal discussions on it

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It was a talking point going into the season: What teams we thought would be good will struggle, and then pivot to chase Victor Wembanyama in the lottery.

What about the 9-13 Chicago Bulls? They barely look like a playoff team, they miss Lonzo Ball, and even at their best where do they fall in the East? Would they blow it up? With DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic and Zach LaVine, they have players that would interest other teams and could bring quality picks (or young players) back to Chicago. Other teams are watching, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

One of those teams: The Los Angeles Lakers.

That is according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe on the Lowe Post Podcast. He was discussing a potential trade floated by The Ringer’s Bill Simmons where the Lakers send Russell Westbrook and two future first-round picks (2027 and 2029) to the Bulls for DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic.

“The trade I saw on Twitter was Russ and both picks, one with light protections I think for DeRozan and Vucevic. I can tell you 100% for sure that the Lakers have had internal discussions about that very possibility, if it would ever come up. Not that they would do that. Let me be clear.”

None of this matters if the Bulls don’t decide to pivot, and they are not there yet. They may never get to that point. But the Lakers and other teams are surveying what teams might make game-changers available at the deadline, and the way the Bulls are stumbling has other teams keeping an eye on them. Expect the rumors to keep coming.

But for now, that’s all they are, rumors and speculation.

On the bright side for Bucks, Khris Middleton looks good in return

Los Angeles Lakers v Milwaukee Bucks
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton initially said that making his 2022-23 debut in his return from offseason wrist surgery felt great.

Then he quickly corrected himself.

“I should actually say good,” Middleton said Friday night after the Bucks’ 133-129 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. “If we got the win, I think I would have been (feeling) great. It felt really good to be back out there with the guys competing and playing,”

Middleton, 31, had 17 points and seven assists while playing 26 1/2 minutes in his first game since spraining the medial collateral ligament in his left knee April 20 in Game 2 of the Bucks’ first-round playoff series with the Chicago Bulls. That injury caused him to miss the entirety of the Bucks’ Eastern Conference semifinal with the Boston Celtics, a series Milwaukee lost in seven games.

The 6-foot-7 forward then had surgery on his left wrist in the summer, having played through the injury late last season.

“Pretty impressive how kind of seamlessly he got back into the game on both ends of the court,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said.

Middleton said Friday at a post-shootaround availability that he might need some time to readjust, but the three-time All-Star didn’t show any signs of rust in his first game back. He shot 6 of 11 and went 3 of 4 from 3-point range.

“Just relying on my experience,” Middleton said. “Just (trying) not to rush and let the game come to me. Don’t try to do too much the first game back and try to fit in and play off my teammates.”

The most important thing is that Middleton felt just fine physically.

“Hopefully tomorrow when I wake up, I feel the same also and I won’t feel too sore or whatever,” he said.

The Bucks had gone 15-5 in Middleton’s absence. Milwaukee is second in the Eastern Conference, behind only the Boston Celtics.

Middleton’s teammates believe his return should make them even better.

“It takes us to a whole different level,” Bucks forward and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “We scored 129 points and we had a bad first half. That says a lot.”

Lakers coach Darvin Ham knows how much Middleton means to the Bucks’ title hopes. Ham was an assistant coach on Budenholzer’s Bucks staff from 2018-22, including their 2021 championship season.

“Giannis is the heart and soul and the engine, and Khris is like the steering wheel,” Ham said before Friday’s game. “He’s the GPS in terms of understanding what to do. Giannis is the focal point but Khris is the master of putting guys where they need to be. He’s like that quarterback.”

The Bucks aren’t going to overexert Middleton as he returns to the floor for the first time in about 7 1/2 months. Budenholzer said Middleton probably won’t play Saturday at Charlotte.

“We’ll talk about it on the plane, but my guess is he will not play a back-to-back,” Budenholzer said.

Middleton’s just happy he’s back on the floor at all.

“Just a range of emotions,” Middleton said. “(I’ve) been through a lot these last couple months. Happy, sad, anxious, nervous. To finally get out there and play and get a lot of those nerves past me felt pretty good.