Andrew Wiggins

D'Angelo Russell vs. Timberwolves
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Report: Timberwolves intensifying pursuit of Warriors’ D’Angelo Russell, not progressing

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The Timberwolves just traded Jeff Teague and Treveon Graham to the Hawks for Allen Crabbea curious move for Minnesota.

Just what are the Timberwolves doing?

Perhaps still trying to acquire a oft-rumored target, D'Angelo Russell.

Jon Krawczynski and Shams Charania of The Athletic:

New team president Gersson Rosas and the rest of his front office have been actively pursuing deals on a number of fronts to try to remake the roster to better fit their vision for the team moving forward, league sources told The Athletic. That includes intensifying their pursuit of Golden State Warriors guard D’Angelo Russell. Discussions have yielded no traction to this point, league sources said.

Minnesota tried to sign Russell last summer. From the moment he arrived in Golden State in a sign-and-trade for Kevin Durant, Russell has appeared in trade rumors. The assumption was the Warriors were just trying to recoup value for Durant however they could.

Russell is an odd fit with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson when those guards are healthy. But Golden State seemingly isn’t rushing to solve that dilemma.

The Timberwolves would welcome Russell. He’s a good young player and friend of franchise player Karl-Anthony Towns.

The Teague deal slightly trimmed Minnesota’s payroll and opened a roster spot, which are usually useful in facilitating future trades. But unlike Teague, the newly acquired Crabbe can’t be aggregated in another trade. That’s a major obstacle when trying to acquire a max-salaried player like Russell.

How will the Timberwolves send out enough salary to match Russell’s?

Robert Covington is an obvious trade candidate. But the 3-and-D forward could help many teams this season, a lost year for the Warriors. It seems his value would be higher elsewhere, though Golden State could land Covington – who has two additional years on his contract – in preparation for next season.

Minnesota would have to send out much more salary than just Covington’s, though. Towns isn’t going anywhere. Andrew Wiggins and Gorgui Dieng have negative-value contracts – especially for a team already facing the luxury tax like the Warriors.

Though it’s possible to construct a deal without it, Teague’s expiring contract would have been quite useful in trading for Russell.

Just how are is Minnesota intensifying its pursuit of Russell? This report is vague. It sounds more like the Timberwolves are just trying to show they’re actively seeking upgrades.

I’d put much more stock into the part about them not getting anywhere.

James Harden scores 32, passes 20,000 points to lead Rockets during blowout of Timberwolves

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HOUSTON — James Harden didn’t have much to say after he surpassed 20,000 points on Saturday in Houston’s blowout win over Minnesota.

“It’s a great accomplishment obviously,” he said. “I have a bigger picture and bigger goals but it’s pretty cool.”

Teammate and longtime friend Russell Westbrook, who also played in the game when Harden got the first points of his NBA career, was much more effusive in his comments about the milestone.

“To be able to do that on a very, very high level is something we don’t take for granted,” Westbrook said. “Growing up in L.A. and being able to see him progress over the years to me is just a blessing to see as his friend and I’m truly happy for him.”

Harden scored 32 points in three quarters to help the Rockets roll to the 139-109 victory.

Houston led by double figures for most of the game and used a huge run in the third quarter to put the game out of reach and bounce back after a lopsided loss to Oklahoma City on Thursday night.

Harden, who had 12 rebounds and eight assists, is the 45th player in NBA history to reach 20,000 points and the seventh-youngest. He entered the game 10 points away and reached the milestone in fitting fashion, on a step-back 3-pointer midway through the second quarter.

The public address announcer simply said 20,000 after Harden hit the shot, before a video was played during the next timeout to mark the occasion. The video showed him making his first points in the NBA while with the Thunder, then making a free throw that gave him 10,000 points and a replay of the 3 that got him to 20,000.

He got the game ball on Saturday and presented it to his mother.

“’She has everything,” Harden said. “Every goal and achievement that I have, she has it. I gave it to her and she’ll put it in a safe place.”

Already without Clint Capela because of a bruised heel, the Rockets lost fellow starter P.J. Tucker early in the first quarter when he fell hard on his right shoulder. But Houston was just fine without them thanks to another big game from Harden and a 30-point performance by Westbrook.

Josh Okogie had 16 points off the bench for the Timberwolves. Karl-Anthony Towns remained out with a left knee sprain that has had him sidelined since mid-December. The 30-point defeat was their largest loss of the season.

“We need to be better in terms of withstanding runs, especially against a good team,” coach Ryan Saunders said. “You give them credit. They got us tonight.”

The Rockets were up by 16 at halftime and 17 in the third quarter before scoring the next 16 points to push the lead to 89-56 with about 5 minutes left in the quarter.

Harden made two 3-pointers in that span and added another three points when he was fouled on a 3 and made all the free throws. The Timberwolves had three turnovers, including two from Andrew Wiggins, to help Houston pad the lead.

Minnesota cut the lead to 26 entering the fourth quarter, but the Rockets extended it to 115-82 with about 9 minutes left by opening the quarter with a 13-6 run.

Westbrook made a layup soon after that before stealing the ball on a bad pass by Jeff Teague and dishing it to Ben McLemore, who found Thabo Sefolosha for a 3 that made it 124-86. The Timberwolves called a timeout and all of Houston’s starters except Isaiah Hartenstein went to the bench after that with about 8 minutes to go.

Hartenstein started in place of Capela and had 17 points and 15 rebounds. Eric Gordon added 17 points and tied a season high with five 3-pointers.

Three Things to Know: Jimmy Butler blowing kisses, lobbing verbal bombs at T.J. Warren

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Jimmy Butler was stirring the pot by blowing kisses, lobbing verbal bombs at Pacers’ T.J. Warren. Jimmy Butler is not just an All-Star but also an All-NBA level…

Pot stirrer.

And player. Butler likely starts in the All-Star Game in Chicago next month, and if not he’s certainly in the game. As things stand now, Butler is highly likely to make an All-NBA team at the end of the season. He’s earned all of that, averaging 20.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 6.6 assists a game to lead Miami and make them the surprise No. 2 seed in the East.

Butler, however, does not shy away from mixing it up. He likes a little tension around him, and he’s comfortable when other people are uncomfortable. Just ask Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.

Or, the Pacers’ T.J. Warren. Butler and Warren were barking at each other for much of the game Wednesday night, and it was building up to something. This is the play where everything really got started and the referees jumped in the mix.

The play was reviewed and the referees left as a common foul. Which was the right call, but did not ease the tensions. Soon after, the duo was matched up again, and Warren drew the offensive foul on Butler — then walked behind him, clapping his hands and taunting him. That got Warren a technical and an ejection.

Butler’s reaction? He blew Warren kisses.

Butler was not done. After the game, Butler ripped Warren, dropping an F-bomb as an adjective to emphasize his point.

Then Butler took the fight to social media.

Suddenly that March game looks like must-see TV. Because Butler likes to stir the pot.

2) Cleveland coach John Beilein called his players “thugs” — he says on accident, he meant to say “slugs.” When speaking to a room of mostly African-American young men, the term “thug” is a loaded one. It’s full of implications (the kind David Stern tried to sweep under the rug with a dress code).

Cleveland coach John Beilein called his players “thugs” during a film session on Wednesday. In showing the players clips of their defense, he tried to pay his team a compliment by saying they were no longer playing like “thugs.”

That silenced the room and was leading to some growing frustration among players — and the Cavaliers have had their fill of frustration lately. Made aware of what he said, Beilein contacted his players to apologize and say he meant to say “slugs.” This is the money quote of what Beilein told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

“I meant to say slugs, as in slow moving. We weren’t playing hard before, and now we were playing harder. I meant it as a compliment.”

Do you believe him? While that will become a sports talk radio topic all day, it doesn’t really matter.

Do his players believe him? That will decide Beilein’s fate. Was this a one-time, fluke thing, and the players know their coach well enough to take him at his word? Or, is there a little more to this, and will other stories leak out in the coming days?

I don’t know the answer. What I do know is Beilein left the University of Michigan at age 66 to take over the Cavaliers job this season, signing a five-year contract, and he hasn’t impressed. The Cavaliers are 10-27, there is no team identity, nor have we seen the young Cavs players — such as Collin Sexton and Darius Garland — developing under his guidance. Players are acting out and don’t seem on the same page with the coach.

The coaching questions are not enough to get Beilein fired in the first year of a five-year contract. However, if he loses the players over this “thug” comment then the dynamics are very different. This story is not over by a long shot.

3) James Harden, Trae Young make history as first opposing players in NBA history to record 40-point triple-doubles in one game. James Harden and Trae Young were putting on a show.

Harden scored 41 points with 10 assists and 10 rebounds (although he wasn’t efficient shooting 9-of-34 on the night, including 4-of-20 from three). Young had 42 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists.

It’s an interesting bit of history and a fun show for everyone watching. By the way, the Rockets got the win, in case anyone still cares about the outcome of games.

BONUS THING TO KNOW: Kemba Walker was ejected from an NBA game for the first time in his career. KYP — know your personnel. NBA coaches say it to players all the time. It means to know that Giannis Antetokounmpo will go to the spin move in the paint on a drive, be prepared for it (and good luck). Don’t bite on DeMar DeRozan’s pump fake. Certain players only want to go left. The list could go on, but the idea is clear — know the players and their tendencies.

Referees need to do the same thing. For example, Kemba Walker is not a hothead, which is why he’s never been thrown out of an NBA game.

Until Wednesday. Midway through the third quarter of a Celtics loss to the Spurs, Walker got pancaked by LaMarcus Aldridge. Just flattened. Walker thought it was a foul and popped up angry walked over to rookie referee Evan Scott to protest the call — and got a quick ejection.

Here is the official explanation from the referees.

That was a bad call and the league should rescind the second technical. The first one, with Walker cussing at the referee, that’s an earned technical. The second one, without trying to have a conversation with Walker, was an overreaction. There needs to be more dialogue between referees and coaches, and some understanding of the situation. Basketball is an emotional game, Walker just got flattened, the officials have to give the player some space to vent (this is a two-way street, the players need not to fire up the crowd — Walker didn’t — and give the referees some respect, too). This felt like when refs put up the “stop sign” hand before the player has even gotten to them to say something — that’s not the way to deal with players or coaches. Have a conversation.

Those technical fouls did not cost the Celtics the game, but they did help change momentum. The Celtics were on a 20-7 run and had cut the Spurs lead to seven. This call led to five three throws for San Antonio — two for Walker’s two technicals, one for a Brad Stevens technical, and two for the shooting foul called on the play — and when the Spurs hit four of them it stretched the lead back up to double digits.

Ten biggest NBA signings of the decade

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The amnesty clause, stretch provision and rapidly rising salary cap made toxic contracts less burdensome in the last decade than other times. On the highest levels, it was more about attracting top talent. Here are the most significant NBA signings – for better or worse – of the last decade (sign-and-trades that occurred after a player chose his destination count here):

10. Chris Bosh signs with Heat in 2010

He wasn’t the biggest star to sign with Miami that summer. Maybe the Heat still would have won big with their two superstars (more on them later) and Bosh’s big money divided among role players. But Miami signing three stars – not two stars and a few helpful role players – transfixed everyone. Considering how well he morphed into a supporting style, it’s easy to forget how good Bosh was with the Raptors. He was a go-to scorer, a perennial All-Star, a bona fide franchise player. And he played third fiddle for the Heat this summer.

9. Kyrie Irving signs with Nets in 2019

8. Kevin Durant signs with Nets in 2019

These signings go together, and obviously Brooklyn hasn’t accomplished anything notable yet. But Durant is an all-time great, and Irving is a true star. Them joining forces is notable – especially how they did it. Durant made waves by leaving the mighty Warriors. Irving caused an uproar by leaving the Celtics after pledging to re-sign. This was a wake-up call: Super teams can pop up anywhere.

7. Dwyane Wade signs with Heat in 2010

He also wasn’t the biggest star to sign with Miami that summer, and re-signing didn’t carry the same fanfare as switching teams. But Wade was an elite player who explored the market, especially the Bulls. Wade staying with the Heat keyed one of the biggest stories in NBA history and led to Miami winning two more titles.

6. Kawhi Leonard signs with Clippers in 2019

By leaving the Raptors, Leonard became the first consensus star to leave a defending champion for another team. That’s the Clippers’ gain, though we’ll see how far Leonard lifts L.A., especially considering his health concerns. Still, Leonard deserves the benefit of the doubt that he’ll manage his load through the long regular season and be ready for the playoffs. At his best, Leonard is arguably the NBA’s best player.

5. Stephen Curry signs four-year, $44 million extension with Warriors in 2012

When Curry was up for his rookie-scale contract extension, the Warriors reportedly told him they’d pay the max if he waited for free agency and got healthy. Instead, Curry — who’d been plagued by ankle injuries — took the security of this extension. That set the stage for a dynasty. Curry blossomed into an all-time great, and his bargain salary allowed Golden State to add Andre Iguodala then Kevin Durant. By not complaining about being underpaid, Curry helped set a team-first tone of sacrifice on the star-studded Warriors.

4. LeBron James signs with Lakers in 2018

LeBron immediately put the Lakers on another level. He didn’t immediately lift them from the lottery, but he changed how people viewed the once-great, but more-recently down-and-out franchise. With LeBron, the Lakers became an even bigger attention magnet. They lured Anthony Davis. Now, LeBron and Davis have Los Angeles back in title contention.

3. LeBron James signs with Cavaliers in 2014

LeBron does whatever he wants. Returning to Cleveland, where he was vilified? To a lousy team? Owned by Dan Gilbert, who wrote that heinous letter? That didn’t even have max cap room? LeBron demanded the Cavs do their part then made it all work. He forced the Cavaliers to clear more cap space, orchestrated a trade of No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love, got Gilbert to spend huge, put the team on his back and – in the signature moment of his career –a ended Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought. Then, he left again.

2. Kevin Durant signs with Warriors in 2016

Durant both shook the rest of the league and torpedoed his own reputation by leaving the Thunder for the Warriors. Golden State won two straight titles and built a credible case as best team ever. But, despite his individual dominance, Durant couldn’t shake criticism for leaving the Thunder for the team that just beat them in the playoffs. Still, Durant led the Warriors to multiple championships. That’ll get remembered longer after heat-of-the-moment criticism fades.

1. LeBron James signs with Heat in 2010

This wasn’t just the biggest signing of the decade. It was the NBA’s biggest story of the decade. LeBron transformed the league’s power structure, tilting balance toward players. The NBA hasn’t been the same since. The Decision was pompous, and we still couldn’t look away. The Heat became the major story and generated massive attention. They delivered with four straight conference titles and two championships.

Three Things to Know: Luka Doncic makes game look easy in return, Dallas wins

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Luka Doncic makes the game look easy in return, Dallas wins. The best athletes make the game look easy. Roger Federer is graceful and makes tennis look effortless. Lionel Messi makes goal scoring look like something anyone can do, same with Mike Trout hitting a baseball 450 feet.

Luka Doncic returned from missing four games with a sprained ankle on Thursday night and looked rusty at points, winded late in the game, but also had moments where he reminded you just how easy the game can be for him.

Doncic finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists leading Dallas to a 102-98 win against San Antonio Thursday night. It wasn’t just him terrorizing guys like LaMarcus Aldridge on the pick-and-roll (which Doncic did a few times), it’s how he moves and understands spacing and when to make cuts that opens up the floor — and makes Seth Curry look like Pete Maravich.

The other key to this game? Dallas was 16-of-40 from three (40 percent). When Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. are hitting from deep (both hit three from beyond the arc in this game) the Mavs are hard to beat.

The Mavericks stayed afloat going 2-2 in the four games Doncic missed. Dallas will be battling Houston (and maybe Utah) the rest of the way for the four seed and home court in the first round, so easing back into a win against the slow-footed Spurs was good for Doncic. Now the Mavs head out to the West Coast for a Warriors then Lakers back-to-back. We’ll see if the game still looks easy against the length of the Lakers.

2) Brooklyn has historically bad shooting night, Spencer Dinwiddie blames “too much eggnog.” Every team has games they just need to flush and move on from over the course of 82; there are just those nights where nothing works.

Brooklyn took that to a new level Thursday night — the Nets were “laughably bad” in the words of point guard Spencer Dinwiddie. Consider the stats:

• The Nets 82 points were a new season low.

• Brooklyn shot 26.9 percent for the game (21-for-78), the worst any team has shot the ball in nearly eight years (January 2012)

• The Nets shot 13-of-50 from three, 26 percent.

• It was worse from two.

You got that right, Brooklyn made the fewest two pointers in a game in the shot clock era. And all that against a Knicks defense that has been bottom 10 in the league all season.

So Dinwiddie, how would you describe the night? Via Malika Andrews of ESPN:

“We were really, really bad. Like laughably bad. We shot really bad… Let’s go with too much eggnog. I don’t know what else to tell you.”

He was joking people, lighten up.

The Knicks took advantage behind 30 points from Julius Randle and cruised to a win.

3) It wasn’t pretty. At all. It was downright ugly at the end. But Minnesota finally won, snapping an 11-game losing streak. While in New York one team was being historically bad, the end of the game between the Kings and Timberwolves had both teams just playing terribly.

In the last 15 minutes of this game — the final five minutes of regulation plus the two overtimes — the Timberwolves and Kings combined to shoot 14-of-50 (28 percent) overall and 3-of-21 (14.3 percent) from three. And there were plays like this.

Eventually, Minnesota got a few buckets and held on for a 105-104 victory — the Timberwolves’ first win in December. Gorgui Dieng scored 21 points and Andrew Wiggins had 18 for Minnesota (playing without Karl-Anthony Towns due to a sprained left knee). It’s a win; they will take it.

But it wasn’t pretty.