Last season, the Timberwolves were the worst defensive team in the NBA. By far. They allowed 109.6 points per 100 possessions, which was more than six per 100 worse than the league average. If Minnesota is going to take a step forward next season, that is the obvious area for improvement (although their 26th ranked offense could use some help, too). Minnesota has a long ways to go.
More than just talent, coach Flip Saunders is counting on a veteran presence to change the Timberwolves defense around.
He tweeted as much Friday.
kG. Andre and Tay not only experience but Kg and Tay All League Defense. Defensive Culture for Pups to see.
Saunders coached Tayshaun Prince on the Pistons, but that was a long time ago. Prince, 35, is an even more methodical player and no longer an elite wing defender.
Still, his length and intelligence make him a capable defender. He can make jumpers, too, and he’s a solid passer for his position (though he bogs down the offense with the ball in his hands).
Prince played reasonably well for the Celtics and Pistons last season after the Grizzlies traded him, so he might have a little juice left. He was in over his head in Memphis, often starting for a fringe contender.
That shouldn’t be the case in Minnesota. He’ll fill a limited role, provide a good example for the team’s younger players and sometimes take minutes that slow the development of Shabazz Muhammad, Anthony Bennett and Nemanja Bjelica. (Andrew Wiggins is getting the same playing time regardless.)
There’s an outside but realistic chance the Timberwolves can compete for a playoff spot. For that reason, signing Prince makes sense. Minnesota wouldn’t want to find out later it was a veteran on the wing away from the postseason. If the Timberwolves fall from the race, Saunders can always turn more toward developing younger players.
Prince gives Minnesota 17 players – two more than the regular-season roster limit. The most likely cuts are Lorenzo Brown ($75,000 guaranteed) and Damjan Rudez (acquired in the Chase Budinger salary dump). Perhaps, the Timberwolves can trade Rudez and get something for him or deal another player in a more significant move. But they have to do something to trim the roster.
Report: Cleveland Cavaliers reach out to veteran Tayshaun Prince
In an effort to shore up wing depth, the Cleveland Cavaliers have reached out to the representatives of free agent small forward Tayshaun Prince, league sources informed Northeast Ohio Media Group….
At this juncture in the free-agency period, the Cavaliers have other matters to tend to before filling out their roster. Prince and the Cavaliers will resume dialogue at a later time, I’m told.
Prince is going to turn 36 in the middle of next season and he’s got 13 seasons under his belt, but for Stan Van Gundy late last season in Detroit he showed he could still be a relatively useful role player in limited minutes. (Prince started last season in Memphis, was traded to Boston and then was shipped on to Detroit.) Last season he averaged 7.5 points per game and shot 46 percent from three, plus his length makes him a passable defender still — he’s a below average player now but probably better than you’d think at this point in his career.
If this is a veteran minimum deal reached after the Cavaliers fill out the roster with guys who can play bigger minutes, that will work. As it stands, the Cavaliers backups at the three and four are Mike Miller (who barely saw the court in the playoffs until David Blatt had no choice) and rookies Cedi Osman, Sir’Dominic Pointer, and Rakeem Christmas. Prince can fit in with that group, but the Cavs might be looking for guys to go above all of them on the depth chart.
Reggie Jackson’s best move as Pistons’ starting point guard: Connecting with Andre Drummond
BOSTON – Reggie Jackson, explaining how the Pistons have welcomed him, got interrupted.
“Hey, Reggie,” Andre Drummond said with a friendly tone from a couple lockers away.
“What up, big fella?” Jackson responded.
Jackson, acquired from the Thunder just before the trade deadline, has been up-and-down in 15 games with the Pistons. He’s averaging 15.3 points, 8.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game with Detroit, but also 3.2 turnovers and shooting just 38.9 percent from the field and 27.5 percent on 3-pointers.
But if there’s one thing Jackson has clearly done right, it’s bond with Drummond.
Drummond is the franchise player, and there’s a decent case the Pistons hired Stan Van Gundy in part because he helped mold a similar player in Dwight Howard. Everything revolves around Drummond.
And Jackson seems like a good fit with the budding star.
Detroit’s new point guard, despite playing fewer than half as many with Drummond this season as Brandon Jennings, has already thrown Drummond more alley-oop dunks than Jennings did. You can watch all 15:
Jackson said spending time off the court with Drummond has been key.
“The majority of time that we’ve spent hanging out has allowed us to both feel a little more comfortable opening up to each other,” Jackson said. “If there’s something he likes to do on the court, he relays it to me. If there’s a way I like to play in the pick-and-roll, I relay it to him. I think just two open-minded individuals who are just trying to find ways to be better players, be better teammates and trying to lead this organization in the right direction.”
There have been questions whether Jackson is the right guy to lead the Pistons, or any organization, forward.
“Whenever I got my shot is when I was going to get my shot. I was just vocal about what I wanted my shot to be,” Jackson said. “Some people were mad about that. Some people understood where I was coming from. But it didn’t matter where I was going to be at. I was always going to go out there and compete and do my best.”
Nobody has questioned Jackson’s effort in Detroit.
Jackson said he put too much pressure on himself to play like “an ideal point guard, which I don’t think anybody in the world knows what that is.”
“I think you can assign it to all the naysayers,” Jackson said. “So, I had to stop worrying about what everybody else thinks, pretend not to care too much about what’s out there.
“One thing I definitely learned from Russell is, don’t listen. Don’t listen. Don’t pay attention to them. Who cares? Just go out there and be yourself, and they’ll find a way to try to build around you.”
Jackson settled down from there, though he’s still adjusting to playing starter’s minutes. He’s also adapting to new teammates without the benefit of training camp or numerous practices.
Tayshaun Prince – who has given Jackson tips on how Mike Conley handled playing with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in Memphis – said Jackson has benefitted lately from improved spacing with Greg Monroe out a few games due to injury. That has often left Jackson to work with Drummond and three shooters. Prince said Jackson can still make it worth both interior-focused bigs, even if playing with only one comes easier right now, and Van Gundy still says he hopes Monroe returns.
11 points, 10 assists and 11 rebounds in a loss to the 76ers
22 points and 11 assists in a win over the Bulls
17 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds in a win over the Celtics
“He’s playing very, very well now,” Van Gundy said. “The last four games, he’s been outstanding, making plays and creating shots for us. So, you’ve to be very, very happy with that.”
Jackson will become a restricted free agent this summer, and he deflects any question about his offseason without giving even a hint of his plans.
He’ll likely wind up back in Detroit, though. The Pistons traded for him for a reason, and Van Gundy (perhaps foolishly) said the rest of this season wasn’t a tryout for Jackson. Besides, even if it were a tryout, Van Gundy said he hasn’t learned anything about Jackson since acquiring him that he didn’t already know. A point-guard hungry team with cap space like the Knicks or Lakers could test the Pistons’ resolve by signing Jackson to a large offer sheet, but that seems unlikely.
No matter where Jackson signs, it’ll likely be somewhere he has a clear path starting at point guard. He’s living that dream now and happily says things like, “We know we’re the head of the snake. I think all 30 starting point guards in the league know that.”
But this transition to starting point guard hasn’t been ideal.
“Nah, if it worked out the way I wanted it to, we’d probably be in the fifth spot in the playoffs,” said Jackson, who despite leading the Pistons to wins in three of their last four, has a 4-11 record with Detroit.
But Jackson is looking toward the future, and for him, that starts with teammates like Drummond.
“I want to be the most-winningest and just one of the best point guards to ever do it,” Jackson said. “I don’t know about the world necessarily, but I want my teammates, when it’s all said and done, I want them to be like, ‘He was a great point guard for our team, a great teammate, a great leader for our team.’ So, if I can leave that mark, I’ll be happy.
Reggie Jackson dishes 20 assists (scores 23 too) in Pistons’ win
Reggie Jackson has not exactly been the model of efficiency and team leadership since being traded to the Pistons. To put it kindly. He’s shooting 38.8 percent, and the Pistons had dropped 10 straight.
But he looked like a leader on Tuesday, scoring 23 points and more importantly dishing 20 assists in the Pistons’ win over the Grizzlies. He looked good doing it.
Veteran Tayshaun Prince had an interesting theory as to why Jackson broke out, and it tied to Greg Monroe being out for the night, replaced by Anthony Tolliver. From the Detroit Free Press:
“When you play in Oklahoma City where there’s four shooters around him, that lane open up like the ocean,” Prince said. “You can wine and dine all night long.
“When you playing with Greg and ‘Dre, it’s going to be tight quarters in there and it’s taken him awhile to read that. As you saw tonight with only one big in there, it was kind of Oklahoma City all over again. He could get in there and make those plays that he usually makes.”