Associated Press

Without Jimmy Butler, Timberwolves move on with warm welcome for newbies

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — When Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Jerryd Bayless walked into their hotel rooms in Minnesota, they found appropriate gifts from Timberwolves All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns: winter coats.

After the overnight temperature dropped to 7 degrees, the newest members of the team by way of the Jimmy Butler trade with Philadelphia appreciated the welcome from Minnesota’s best player. Butler’s awkward and drawn-out departure created an icy atmosphere around the organization, but now that the deal is finally done, the Wolves have begun trying to warm the atmosphere back up.

“We can’t wait to get on the court, put on that jersey and put it on for this city,” Covington said at a news conference inside Target Center on Tuesday afternoon that carried just a bit less buzz than Butler’s open-to-the-public introduction at the Mall of America less than 17 months ago.

As Butler formally joined the 76ers , the Wolves pivoted forward after a pressure-relieving win over Brooklyn on Monday night following an 0-5 road trip.

Neither Covington nor Saric played against the Nets, but they’re on track to take the floor on Wednesday night against New Orleans. Bayless is injured, rehabilitating a hyperextended right knee, and with a glut of point guards on the roster he’s not expected to see playing time even once he’s healthy. Both Covington and Saric were starters for the Sixers, who finished third in the Eastern Conference last season at 52-30.

“They’re both young, and they’re going to get better. Both are very good defensively. They both shoot the 3. We think they fit well with the guys that we do have,” said president of basketball operations and coach Tom Thibodeau. “Once we got to that point where we felt we were getting multiple rotational players, then we felt it would be time to execute the deal. When we initially started off, that wasn’t the case.”

As for whether the Timberwolves could be better without Butler, the four-time All-Star with exceptional ability on both ends on the court, Thibodeau demurred.

“We have to focus on who’s here. We think we have a good, young nucleus, and we have to build off of that,” Thibodeau said.

Covington is the centerpiece of the package.

The 27-year-old, who went undrafted out of Tennessee State and began in the NBA with Houston in the 2013-14 season, has career averages of 12.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game with a 35.9 shooting percentage from 3-point range. The 6-foot-9 Covington was an All-Defensive First Team pick last season with a career-most 315 deflections and a defensive rating of 99.0 that led all forwards in the league with at least 30 minutes per game. He was ninth in the NBA in steals with an average of 1.7 per game.

That’s the area where he’ll help the Timberwolves the most, the area that Butler was also acquired to help improve.

“In order to stay in this league and be effective, you’ve got to be able to go down there and be able to stop somebody on the other end,” Covington said, adding: “I think I watched more film the first few years than I’ve ever watched my entire life, as far as just different guys and watching how they read certain things and build the habits of watching players and everything. So I’d say the past couple seasons is when everything started to click.”

The 24-year-old Saric was named to the All-Rookie First Team in 2016-17. The native of Croatia has career averages of 13.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. He shot 39.3 percent from 3-point range last season.

Covington will likely fill Butler’s starting spot. Thibodeau could move Taj Gibson to the second unit and keep Saric as a starter. The 6-foot-10 Saric, who was the 12th overall pick in the 2014 draft, is the classic “stretch four” with a power forward’s size and a small forward’s shot. He meshed well with Sixers center Joel Embiid, so Towns has the potential to similarly complement his game.

“KAT is shooting so much better from the 3-point line than Joel, and it seems like we can play with each other,” Saric said, adding: “If I find a way how to play with Joel, I think I can find a way how to play with KAT.”

 

Matthew Dellavedova receives standing ovation in return to Cleveland (VIDEO)

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CLEVELAND (AP) Matthew Dellavedova‘s return to his first NBA home is off to a good start before playing in a game.

Dellavedova, dressed in street clothes, was greeted by security guards and arena employees, and received a standing ovation from the crowd when he returned to Cleveland on Saturday night.

“I appreciate the love from everyone,” he said. “It makes me feel very welcome.”

 

Cleveland acquired Dellavedova in a three-team trade Friday with the Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Wizards. He began his career with the Cavaliers in 2014 and was a key member of the 2016 title team before he signed with the Bucks later that summer.

Dellavedova watched Saturday night’s game against the Wizards from the bench. The Cavaliers showed a video of him playing in the Finals from the championship season, which led to a long ovation from the crowd.

Known to Cleveland fans as “Delly,” Dellavedova became an instant hit with Quicken Loans Arena crowds, who immediately liked his gritty style of play. The trade received positive reaction from fans on social media.

“It makes me feel great,” he said. “My time here was really special and I loved every minute of it. It makes me excited to get back out there and play for everyone in this city because it’s a special place.”

Dellavedova could play Monday when Cleveland is in Milwaukee, where he learned of the trade.

“Obviously you don’t expect to pick and move, but it’s the NBA so it could always happen,” he said. “If it was going to be anywhere I’m definitely glad it’s here where I’m comfortable with familiar faces and a lot of friends. ”

The 28-year-old Dellavedova averaged 1.7 points and 2.4 assists in 12 games with Milwaukee.

Cleveland is 5-20 and rebuilding following LeBron James‘ departure last summer. The Cavaliers also received forward John Henson and 2021 first- and second-round picks from Milwaukee, and a 2022 second-rounder from Washington.

Henson also arrived in town Saturday and quickly learned how popular Dellavedova is, calling his teammate a “folk hero” in Cleveland.

“I’ll just be in Delly’s shadow,” Henson said. “Don’t forget about me.”

Cavaliers coach Larry Drew believes Dellavedova will help the development of rookie point guard Collin Sexton.

“It will be really, really good for Collin,” Drew said. “Delly is one of those guys when you watch him play, he doesn’t woo you the way he plays, he just gets the job done.”

The Cavs sent guard George Hill and a 2021 second-round selection to the Bucks, and forward Sam Dekker to the Wizards. Milwaukee also got forward Jason Smith from Washington.

For more AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Chris Paul politely tries to get reporter off the court before game starts (VIDEO)

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Dallas Mavericks’ sideline reporter Dana Larson was where she felt she was supposed to be: On the sidelines.

However, with the game about start, Chris Paul was trying — politely — to urge her to step off the court.

The best part of this video may be what’s happening in the background.

First, watch DeAndre Jordan doing a pirouette for some reason as he steps onto the court.

Then at the end, there’s James Harden, bouncing back-and-forth like a boxer waiting in the corner for the bell to ring. Or a jogger at the corner waiting for the light to turn so he can keep running.

If you thought the pregame for Dallas vs. Houston was fun, you should check out the final three minutes of the game.

John Wall tries to play through bone spur in heel, scores career low 1 point in loss

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Just when you thought “maybe these Wizards are turning the corner,” having won three straight and going up against the lowly Cavaliers next…

Then John Wall scored one point on 0-of-5 shooting, moved gingerly around the court, got torched by rookie Collin Sexton, and Cleveland easily handled Washington 116-101. After the game Wall explained that he is injured with a bone spur in his heel and probably shouldn’t have played.

The Wizards are now 11-15 on the season and would be out of the playoffs if they started today (but because the bottom of the East is so sad, they are only a game out of the eight seed).

Is Wall going to miss some time with this bone spur? One would think so, but players never want to sit and Wall would not concede he needs time off.

 

Celtics hand Bulls franchise worst loss, win by 56

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CHICAGO (AP) — Jaylen Brown scored 23 points off the bench, Daniel Theis added a career-high 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and the Boston Celtics routed the Chicago Bulls 133-77 on Saturday night for their fifth straight win.

The 56-point margin of victory was the largest in franchise history, surpassing a 51-point win (153-102) over the Philadelphia Warriors on March 7, 1962.

The 56-point loss was the worst in Bulls’ history, eclipsing a 53-point (127-74) defeat at Minnesota on Nov. 8, 2001. Frustrated fans at the United Center booed the Bulls off the court.

Jayson Tatum had 18 points and Terry Rozier added 15 as the Celtics used a 17-0 start and a balanced attack to roll their second straight lopsided win after beating New York 128-100 on Thursday. The Celtics (15-10) have outscored opponents an average of 126.2 to 97.6 during their five-game run.

Shaquille Harrison came off the bench to score a career-high 20 points for the Chicago, which has lost eight of nine. Zach LaVine had 11 for the Bulls (6-21), whose previous worst loss this season was by 39 points (122-83) to Toronto on Nov. 17.

The Celtics took charge early, racing ahead 17-0 as they shot 8 for 11 from the floor at the start.

Boston led 35-17 after one quarter as it shot 60.9 percent, and led 64-43 at the half thanks to 52.4-percent shooting.

For the game, the Celtics outshot Chicago 53.8 percent to 38.3 percent.

The scoring in Boston’ first-half outburst was evenly distributed. Morris led with 12 points, while Tatum, Theis and Terry Rozier each had 10.

The Celtics’ biggest lead in the first half was 22 points and Chicago never got closer than 13.

Chicago missed its first 12 field goal attempts, prompting coach Jim Boylen to pull all five starters 4:45 in. The Bulls didn’t score until Jabari Parker hit a pair of free throws 6:18 in – raising a derisive cheer from the United Center crowd. Chicago didn’t get its first basket until Robin Lopez sank a turnaround hook 36 seconds later.

The Celtics kept the pressure on, outscoring Chicago 69-34 in the second half.

The Bulls fell flat after beating Oklahoma City 114-112 on Friday night on Lauri Markkanen‘s layup in the closing seconds, giving Boylen his first win as an NBA head coach.

A longtime NBA assistant, Boylen took over Monday when Fred Hoiberg was fired following a 5-19 start. The Bulls lost at Indiana the following night in Boylen’s debut.