Karl-Anthony Towns

Report: Timberwolves still want to trade Rick Rubio

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Ricky Rubio says he doesn’t believe the Timberwolves will trade him.

On the other hand…

Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report:

I’m hearing that the Minnesota Timberwolves are actually look at potentially moving off of Rubio at this point. They’ve seen enough, and they do not believe that he is the future, in spite of the fact that he’s only 24. Now, they’ve tested the trade waters. I’m hearing that they’re quiet right now, but that they could return to looking to see what they could get for Rubio once the season begins and some things shake out for some other teams, because they don’t have any specific trade partners at the moment.

The Associated Press’ Jon Krawczynski, who’s pretty plugged in to the Timberwolves, saw our previous report on Rubio being confident Minnesota will keep him and tweeted:

So, I wouldn’t take Bucher’s report as gospel.

But if the Timberwolves are convinced Rubio isn’t the answer at point guard – which seems like a premature conclusion given Rubio’s ability and age – it would be better to deal him sooner than later.

Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns give Minnesota a bright future. Losing Rubio – unless they get a suitable point guard in return – would probably hurt the Timberwolves in the short term. But perhaps they should focus more on maximizing the team when Wiggins and Towns hit their primes.

Again, Rubio is young enough to fit that arc. But if Flip Saunders believes Rubio just won’t hit the next level, Minnesota should trade him before other teams figure that out for themselves.

Rubio’s youth is an ever-diminishing asset. The four years and $55 million left on his contract look reasonable now, but that might now remain the case if Rubio falters this season.

The 39-year-old Andre Miller obviously isn’t Minnesota long-term answer, and it’s far to soon to anoint rookie Tyus Jones. So, this would be more about Rubio than anything else – which should be a red flag to potential trade partners. If the team that knows him best doesn’t believe in Rubio, why should others?

So, that leads to a question to be asked with every anonymously sourced report: Who has incentive to leak this information? It’s not the Timberwolves here. It might be Rubio if he’s unhappy, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. My best guess is it’s another team looking to stir the pot and possibly extract Rubio from Minnesota, which wouldn’t be the most credible source.

Ricky Rubio is confident Timberwolves not looking to trade him

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Ricky Rubio’s name has come up in increased trade speculation the last few weeks. And we mean speculation. An international basketball site took reports that Phil Jackson says the Knicks need more talent in the backcourt and combined with a Boston Globe report the Timberwolves are a little frustrated with the pace of improvement in Rubio’s game to create a trade rumor where nothing of substance exists. Other speculation surrounds the Nets. It’s August, so some people are talking about it.

Rubio says he doesn’t buy it.

He is in Dubai right now and said this to Gulf News (hat tip Fox Sports).

“I have confidence that the team wants me but you know in this league anybody can get traded,” said the flashy playmaker. “You don’t listen to the rumours. You just live day-by-day and that’s it.”

When asked if he wanted to stay with the long-suffering Timberwolves, Rubio gave a firm: “Yes.”

It would be a mistake for Minnesota to trade Rubio right now as their starting point guard unless they have a viable backup plan. And Zach LaVine is not a viable backup plan. (His athleticism is not in question, but his understanding of the game, his rate of turnovers, and his poor defense do not project as someone you want to be your starting point guard.) If Minnesota wants to move on from Rubio, the question becomes who do they move on to? Andre Miller is on the roster but he’s not the long-term answer, and Tyus Jones is a long ways off if he gets there at all.

Rubio has the potential to elevate the games of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns with his creativity on the floor. Minnesota has so much potential with this roster; they need to play it out for part of the season and evaluate how the pieces fit, then start to think about moves. Moving Rubio now — especially for what the Knicks or Nets can offer in return — is a bad idea.

But it’s August, so discuss it if you want.

Zach LaVine throws down alley-oop windmill dunk in Seattle pro-am game (VIDEO)

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During his rookie season with the Timberwolves, Zach LaVine became known around the NBA as one of the league’s most electric dunkers. He showed out in the annual pro-am game in his hometown of Seattle, throwing down this windmill alley-oop:

Besides Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, LaVine’s dunks are undoubtedly one of the reasons the Wolves should be major League Pass favorites this season.

Ricky Rubio loves Kevin Garnett as a teammate

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Minnesota brought Kevin Garnett back — and he waived his no-trade clause to come back — in part to mentor the young stars of the Timberwolves such as Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine.

KG has long been seen as a guy you love to have on your team but hate playing against — something Minnesota point guard Ricky Rubio confirmed, something Rubio confirmed speaking in the Philippines.

Rubio said he used to be intimidated by Garnett, as reported by rappler.com (hat tip NESN).

“When I was growing up, I watched a lot of KG’s games and I was a little afraid, so when he came to the team I was concerned but at the same time I was super excited, because I had a chance to play with him in 2012 locally,” Rubio said on Friday, August 21.

“I was working out in LA and we played some friendly games and he was over there and I had a chance to meet him,” recalls the 6-foot-4 point guard, who went on to say that the KG NBA fans see on their TV screens or on the court isn’t precisely the person he really is.

“He’s not that guy that it seems on the basketball court. He’s really a good guy, nice guy, and helps your teammates. He kills for you,” said Rubio, who’s about to play his fifth year in the NBA.

Garnett has lost a step on the court, but the mental part of the game is still there — and he’s willing to teach it if a player is ready to listen and take it seriously. Not every player takes their opportunities to learn from the greats seriously — *cough* Andrew Bynum *cough* — but Towns has said he already has started working with Garnett back around Summer League.

The goal with rebuilding — at least everywhere outside of Philadelphia — is to have a down season or two, draft good young players (maybe trade for another), then build back up with them at the core. It helps that process along to have a veteran the players will listen to on the way back up.

Garnett is perfect for that role — when he came to the Timberwolves last year he was still the first guy in the gym working out. Young players need to see that, need to see what it takes to be great. They need to see that drive. It’s going to make Minnesota better in the long run.

Lakers’ coaches liked how D’Angelo Russell handled himself, pressure in Summer League

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Nobody was under the pressure D’Angelo Russell was in Las Vegas at the NBA Summer League. Not Karl-Anthony Towns, not Kristaps Porzingis, not anybody. It comes with being the highest Lakers’ draft pick since James Worthy — in Russell’s first game, they had to open the top level of the Thomas & Mack Center for the first time in Summer League history (the Lakers were playing Towns’ Timberwolves, but this was a Lakers’ crowd). The crowds for Lakers games were huge all through Summer League, plus camera crews were popping up around Russell off the court as well. Welcome to the Lakers’ spotlight.

Which made his struggles at Summer League seem more pronounced. He looked slow while the game was moving fast. He averaged 11.8 points per game on 37.7 percent shooting, 11.8 percent from three. He had 3.2 assists and 5.2 turnovers per game. The fact this is that Summer League should be about learning — you can’t read much into his numbers, it’s about development — seemed lost on people. Lakers’ nation is not known for its patience.

But the Lakers’ coaching staff liked the big picture things they saw, Holly McKenzie wrote for Complex Magazine.

The biggest positive that the Lakers coaching staff took from his experience in Vegas was watching how he reacted to adversity. Rather than getting flustered or frustrated with those around him, he paid attention to things he needed to improve on as well as the ways the NBA game is different than college. Russell was the same player to his teammates during practice sessions whether the team had won or lost its previous game.

“It is rare any time you have a rookie [with] so much confidence,” Madsen says. “Most rookies enter the league so timid, really nervous. They were ‘the man’ in college and now going to the NBA, you’re dealing with grown men, you’re dealing with superstars. You’re dealing with financial endorsements that are massive. The pressure is that much higher. D’Angelo’s confidence never wavered and his love of the game never wavered.”

That is a good sign. When I spoke about Russell’s play with someone who saw a lot of him in college, he talked about how Russell took a little bit to adjust to the speed of the collegiate game as well. But once he got his mind around it, he played well enough to get drafted No. 2 — the lesson was to give him time.

The Lakers will do just that. They will sell the Kobe Bryant farewell tour (maybe) this season as the young potential future core — Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle — start to adapt to the NBA game. They will have good veteran mentors like Kobe, Brandon Bass, and Lou Williams.

What should matter more Lakers fans is how Russell looks next summer in Las Vegas — has he improved dramatically, has his mind and body caught up with the speed of the game? If Russell is still struggling a year from now, then there should be concern. Right now, he looks like a player learning, sometimes the hard way.