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Report: Minnesota’s Tyus Jones considered asking for trade, Thibodeau eased concerns

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If there was one thing at the top of the list that set off Timberwolves fans on Twitter last season — and that is a long list — it was the burying of backup point guard Tyus Jones on the bench.

Jones played well on the floor — he is an excellent pick-and-roll ball handler, knows how to run an offense, is strong in transition, and can knock down a spot-up jumper — and the Timberwolves were 5.8 points per 100 possessions better than their opponents when he was on the court. Yet coach Tom Thibodeau jerked Jones’ minutes around — he leaned heavily on starter Jeff Teague and backup guard Jamal Crawford, then mid-season brought in Derrick Rose and gave him run. Jones’ minutes were up and down when they never should have been — even Teague went to Thibodeau and said to play Jones more.

It got to the point that after the season, the third-year guard considered asking for a trade, reports Sean Deveney of The Sporting News.

But sources told Sporting News that Jones met with team management after the playoffs, and Thibodeau reasserted his support of Jones and his development. Even if the Wolves re-sign Rose, Jones was assured, his minutes and opportunities would increase because Crawford is not expected to return to the team. Rose mostly played shooting guard with the Wolves last season, so there’s a chance Jones could play alongside Rose as a backcourt bench unit.

Jones had considered requesting a trade, but the meeting with the team defused that notion before it arose. And for now, at least, the Wolves have no intention of dealing him.

Thibodeau is saying the right things, we’ll see if his actions back up his words. Jones will be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2019 and he has a lot of fans around the league in other front offices. If Minnesota doesn’t give him enough burn he will hunt out a place that will (and may pay more than Minnesota wants to match).

It’s one of a number of issues around the Timberwolves that could derail, at least temporarily, a team that is on the rise in the West.

Kevin Durant: I could retire at age 35

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Kevin Durant was a skilled scorer from the moment he set foot in the NBA, but he never settled for that. He has meticulously expanded his game – rebounding, distributing, perimeter defense. This year, he developed the tools of a more-traditional big man.

The Warriors’ dominance only pushes Durant to challenge himself more. Other teams aren’t challenging him. At times, he seems bored with outside obstacles, focusing on self-set benchmarks.

Durant, 29, will probably continue to test himself this way until retirement. When will that be?

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

“This game, your craft, you have to continue studying it,” said Durant. “No matter how much you enjoy it, nobody wants to be in school that long. I know I don’t. At some point, you have to be ready to graduate. Thirty-five, that’s just a number in my mind.”

Rich Kleiman, Durant’s business partner, said Durant had previously shared with him that he might walk away at 35. “I heard him say that, but I’ll believe it when it happens,” Kleiman said.

I’m with Kleinman. This sounds like something someone just says. When push comes to shove, I doubt Durant walks away that soon.

There’s too much money involved, too much fame, too much comfort in the routine. Would Durant really walk away from that?

Most players don’t stick in the NBA until age 35. But Durant would be declining from such a high peak, and his game – with a sweet jumper and distinctive length – should age well.

Of MVPs in the last 40 years, only Allen Iverson (34) retired younger than 35, and only Larry Bird was even 35:

 

Player Age for last game
Russell Westbrook 29*
Stephen Curry 30*
Kevin Durant 29*
LeBron James 33*
Derrick Rose 29*
Kobe Bryant 37
Dirk Nowitzki 39*
Steve Nash 40
Kevin Garnett 39
Tim Duncan 40
Allen Iverson 34
Shaquille O’Neal 39
Karl Malone 40
Michael Jordan 40
David Robinson 37
Hakeem Olajuwon 39
Charles Barkley 37
Magic Johnson 36
Larry Bird 35
Moses Malone 39
Julius Erving 37
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 42

*Current player

Iverson’s style of play left him vulnerable to breaking down. Bird had longstanding back issues.

Neither applies to Durant.

He probably won’t be as good at age 35 as he is now, but he’ll likely belong in the NBA. Most players good enough for the NBA choose to be in the NBA.

LeBron James shouldering historic burden in carrying Cavaliers to NBA Finals

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As the Cavaliers were presented with the Eastern Conference championship trophy, LeBron James lied on the floor off to the side. Soon enough, Doris Burke – hosting the televised ceremony – beckoned him.

“I got to talk again?” said a clearly exhausted LeBron after leading Cleveland past the Pacers, Raptors and Celtics and into the NBA Finals.

His teammates helped him to his feet, and he returned the favor in his interview.

“I know I get a lot of the headlines – win, lose or draw, whatever the case may be,” LeBron said. “But in order to be successful, it’s a team game. I learned that from when I first started picking up a basketball to play organized basketball at age 9.”

That is true. No individual wins by himself.

But some do more than others, and LeBron is doing more than anyone in a long time.

He has put the Cavs on his back after failed trades, bad signings and aging (exacerbated by deep playoff runs annually) have left his supporting cast inept. His teammates are literally the butt of the joke.

The problems started last summer, when LeBron’s top teammate – Kyrie Irving – requested a trade. The Cavaliers dealt him for Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, and when those two didn’t work, flipped them to get George Hill, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson. Though Cleveland also netted the No. 8 pick in that string of transactions (and relinquished its own first-rounder), that selection isn’t helping this postseason.

Neither are Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose, two overhyped signings who were also sent away. J.R. Smith looks old. Tristan appears worn down.

Even the bright spots are blemished. Kevin Love is a star, but he has never neared his Minnesota-level contributions with the Cavs, and he’s not getting any younger. Plus, he’s still dealing with a concussion. Kyle Korver is a fine one-way player in a two-way sport. Jeff Green is finally providing surplus value – now that he’s earning a minimum salary. Jose Calderon has soared past expectations for someone who looked washed-up last year. Cedi Osman plays with a lot of energy but is deployed.

The other Cavaliers will have their moments, but so, so, so much falls on LeBron.

And he has risen to the occasion.

LeBron has posted 44% of Cleveland’s win shares this postseason. That’s the fifth-highest percentage ever for someone who led his team to the Finals and highest since the NBA-ABA merger.

The all-time leaderboard in percentage of team’s postseason win shares among players who led their team to the Finals:

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And here’s since the merger:

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Of course, win shares are far from a perfect measure. And these are all postseason-long marks. Perhaps, LeBron’s changes in the Finals.

But this matches what we’re all seeing unfold: LeBron is dragging an undermanned team deep in the playoffs.

The burden will probably become too great this round. The Warriors are stacked – Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.

One man can’t topple this Golden State team alone.

If LeBron’s teammates are as capable as he says, this would be a great time for them to step up.

He got them this far. Now, he needs more help.

Cavaliers make consecutive NBA Finals with unprecedented roster turnover between

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The Lakers got Wilt Chamberlain in 1968. The 76ers got Moses Malone in 1982. The Warriors got Kevin Durant in 2016.

And the Cavaliers lost Kyrie Irving in 2017.

It’s not uncommon for a team to be involved in star movement between back-to-back NBA Finals appearances. But teams good enough to make the Finals usually lure a star, not lose one.

Cleveland is the exception, dealing Irving to Boston after he requested a trade last summer. Not only did they lose half of LeBron James‘ supporting stars, the Cavs moved on from several other players who participated in their 2017 playoff run – Iman Shumpert, Deron Williams, Richard Jefferson, Channing Frye, Derrick Williams, Dahntay Jones and James Jones.

Yet, the Cavaliers are back in the Finals again.

Cleveland’s returning players account for just 62% of its postseason minutes the year prior. That’s the lowest mark for a returning finalist since the NBA began tracking minutes in 1952.

Only the Chamberlain-acquiring Lakers, Durant-acquiring Warriors and Malone-acquiring 76ers are even within shouting distance.

Here’s how every team to reach consecutive NBA Finals ranks in percentage of playoff minutes returned from the first year (counting only players who played in both postseasons):

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Though the Cavaliers already rank first in roster turnover, this method even underrates their transformation.

Since the 2017 Finals, Cleveland acquired, gave significant roles to then traded Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose. None of those four factor into this calculation, but they obviously contribute heavily to the Cavs’ instability.

Irving counts, and he thrusted the Cavaliers into this historic situation.

Sure, the Lakers, 76ers and Warriors moved significant pieces to get Chamberlain, Malone and Durant. But those were clear upgrades and easy organizational decisions.

Irving chose to be traded far more than Cleveland chose to trade him. That decision sent the Cavs spiraling… but also wound up with them right back where they started.

If there’s a lesson in all this: No how matter how much surrounding chaos, LeBron wins the East.

Report: Timberwolves want to bring back Derrick Rose

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When Tom Thibodeau signed Derrick Rose — after the former MVP was traded at the deadline when Cleveland cleaned house, then waived instantly by Utah — NBA Twitter was a combination of scorn and derision. Especially Timberwolves fans. The consensus was Rose was going to be wretched on defense and certainly didn’t solve the team’s need for more shooting.

However, Rose was solid, particularly in the playoffs against Houston. In those five postseason games, Rose averaged 14.2 points per game, shot 50.9 percent from the field, and was knocking down his threes. While those numbers are not sustainable over the course of a regular season (or even more playoff games), Rose defended better than expected and showed he can still have a role in the NBA — backup point guard giving a team 15 minutes a night and creating shots.

Thibodeau and the Timberwolves want Rose back, reports Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

No question that they are interested in bringing Rose back. Thibs certainly heard plenty of questions when he first brought Rose in. But in that role as a combo guard off the bench, Rose was good. He played solid defense, scored well and was a great teammate.

The question will be can he stay healthy for a full season? His body just keeps betraying him, and he missed some time with a sprained ankle during his stint with the Wolves.

I have two thoughts here.

First, sure Minnesota wants him back, but at what price? Rose was on a one-year, $2.1 million this season, and at around that number he is an affordable part of the rotation. If another team wants to offer more (or if Rose demands it), the Timberwolves should back away from the table. Rose struggles to stay healthy at this point and he’s the wrong guy to trust to play more than 60 games next season.

Second, re-signing Rose cannot get in the way of minutes for Tyus Jones. At the end of the season and into the playoffs Jones lost his minutes to Rose, but Jones is the future at the backup one spot. His development matters more than just finding a replacement.