NEW YORK (AP) — Rookie guard Alexey Shved and Chase Budinger led a furious rally from 22 points down, and the Minnesota Timberwolves came back from a 22-point deficit to stun the Brooklyn Nets 107-96 on Monday night.
The Suns believe they’re a playoff team and Luis Scola is a big reason why … Chase Budinger prepared to “step up” and help replace injured stars in Minneosta … Danny Granger still key in Indiana?
FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Nikola Pekovic and Chase Budinger scored 14 points apiece to help the Minnesota Timberwolves to an 84-70 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night in the preseason opener for both teams.
As we near the start of NBA training camps in October, we’re seeing more and more stories about teammates new and old coming together for informal pre-camp workouts in the hopes of developing a bit of chemistry and camaraderie in advance of the proper opening of the league’s preseason activities. In cases like eight members of the Indiana Pacers coming together in Los Angeles last month , such workouts can leave fans beaming at the knowledge that their team is serious about hitting the ground running. In cases like Portland Trail Blazers guard Elliot Williams suffering a torn left Achilles tendon during a voluntary team workout on Tuesday, they can leave fans sick over the preemptive puncturing of preseason expectations. (And, in the case of Blazers fans, again cursing the heavens and wondering what they could have possibly done to so displease the Lower Leg Gods.)
One of the more positive pre-preseason stories comes out of the Twin Cities, where former Lower Leg God-victim Brandon Roy is preparing to return to the NBA as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Whether or not Roy ever officially “retired” after his repeated knee injuries led the Blazers to waive him using the amnesty clause in the league’s collective bargaining agreement is ultimately a moot point — this still amounts to the 28-year-old guard mounting a full-fledged comeback, and the early returns sound promising. From Jerry Zgoda at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune :
“I want to make an impact right away,” [Roy] said after working out with new teammates Nikola Pekovic, Chase Budinger and free agent Anthony Tolliver at Target Center. “I feel great. This is the best I’ve felt in a long time. I’m able to work on my game and get better. The last couple years in Portland, I was just doing my best to maintain. The biggest thing I’m excited about is I’m in the gym. I’m working hard and coach has to tell me to stop playing instead of me saying, ‘OK, that’s enough.”’
That last line is important — it’s good to hear that the Wolves’ coaches are setting limits and boundaries for Roy in these workouts, because as my colleague Eric Freeman wrote earlier this summer , Roy’s expectations for himself — which include starting at shooting guard and playing “at a high level” — could prove detrimental for the Wolves as a whole if not properly managed and shaped.
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If they do, the Wolves will be headed to the playoffs for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
ESPN’s Ric Bucher had reported that the Wolves were attempting a sign-and-trade deal with Portland to try and acquire the 23-year-old forward. If a sign-and-trade isn’t done and the Wolves sign Batum to an offer sheet, the Blazers can match and the Wolves would be basically stuck in the same position they were a season ago.
With Batum however, the Wolves can address their two main weaknesses: production and shooting from the wing.
Batum averaged 13.9 points and 4.6 rebounds during 2011-12, the best of his four NBA seasons. But more importantly, he shot 45.1 percent from the floor, which would have ranked him behind only Nikola Pekovic among Minnesota regulars a season ago.
In addition, Batum’s 39.1 percent that he shot from behind the arc would have led the Minnesota team.
The Wolves need consistent shooting to contend and with the acquisitions of Batum and Chase Budinger, who knocked down 40.2 percent of his shots from behind the arc, Minnesota would fill a dire offseason need.
There’s also the fact that Batum is entering his prime and is only getting better.
He’s a long combo-forward who can run the floor and finish. And he’s a very good catch-and-shoot guy. His length also makes him a factor defensively, which will come in handy as well.
A potential lineup that could feature Ricky Rubio (when healthy), Brandon Roy, Batum, Kevin Love and Pekovic could prove to be pretty dangerous.
Batum is the key, though.
By adding his talents to that lineup, the Wolves have a playmaker in Rubio, an MVP candidate in Love, toughness in Pekovic and now, the necessary shooting in Batum. All the pieces could then fall into place.
If they do, the next stop is the playoffs.
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While the Dwight Howard trade seems to be gaining some steam, the wheels are starting to fall off of the four-team megatrade that was going to send the big man from the Orlando Magic to the Brooklyn Nets.
Cleveland is out as a third-team trade partner in a possible Orlando-Brooklyn deal for Dwight Howard, sources tell Y! Sports.
The Los Angeles Clippers aren’t guaranteed to be the fourth team either, as they have yet to commit to sending away a draft pick for MarShon Brooks.
That won’t be a problem, though, if Fox Sports’ Sam Amico is correct:
Latest on Cavs’ involvement in Nets-Magic potential deal says they’re still in it, but no more than Bobcats. And get this: T-Wolves in, too.
— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) July 10, 2012
Assuming that the Bobcats do step up in the deal, the Wolves have to make the move. It’s a great opportunity for them to drastically improve their squad for next season.
All that Minnesota would have to do is commit to sending away a draft pick, presumably one that would be outside the lottery, and they would receive a young shooting guard with lots of potential: MarShon Brooks.
Adding Brooks would give the Wolves a great starting lineup, one that could—gasp—actually make Kevin Love content!
Look at what the Wolves would be dealing with, assuming that the Portland Trail Blazers do match the offer sheet for Nicolas Batum:
Point guard: Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour, J.J. Barea
Shooting guard: MarShon Brooks, Brandon Roy
Small forward: Chase Budinger, Derrick Williams
Power forward: Kevin Love, Anthony Tolliver (assuming he re-signs)
Center: Nikola Pekovic, Darko Milicic
That’s a playoff team. There’s no doubt about that, unless there’s a major injury.
Without Brooks, there’s more of a question mark at shooting guard, because we have no idea what to expect from Brandon Roy in his return from a premature retirement.
Minnesota could be handed an easy, low-risk opportunity to improve the squad dramatically. If that opportunity is given, the Timberwolves should take it without a second thought.
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HOUSTON — Chandler Parsons says he feels like a veteran. Marcus Morris says he doesn’t. Parsons enters the summer league simply trying to improve. Morris enters the summer league with something to prove.
Such was the state of the Houston Rockets’ sophomore class as practice began Sunday for the NBA Summer League, which the Rockets begin Friday in Las Vegas. Parsons and Morris begin their second NBA seasons from distinct, almost antithetical, points of view. Parsons was a second-round draft pick from Florida who ended up as his team’s starting shooting guard and one of the biggest surprises in the NBA. Morris was a lottery pick from Kansas who spent most of his rookie season in the NBA Developmental League.
When somebody asked Morris, a versatile 6-foot-8 tweener forward, if he had more of a chip on his shoulder this year, he responded by saying “definitely” five times in a row, then continued.
“I gotta be aggressive this year about getting on the court,” he said.
He was then asked how he could go about doing that.
“Compete,” he said. “Beat somebody’s ass.”
This is all because the Rockets are constantly adding players who look and play a lot like Morris does. They used two first-round draft picks to take Terrence Jones, a 6-9 tweener forward, and Royce White, a 6-8 tweener forward. This is in addition to Parsons, a 6-foot-9 small forwardshooting guard and Patrick Patterson, a 6-9 power forward.
“Those guys are my size, but I’m talented,” said Morris, who played 126 minutes in 17 games last year. “I can do a lot of things, so I’m just going to continue to work, continue to get better… I just want to get out on the court and show everyone what I can do.”
Parsons, on the other hand, is in something resembling a leadership position. He and newcomer Manny Harris are the only members of the Rockets summer league team with any significant NBA experience. Parsons averaged 9.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in 28.6 minutes per game as a rookie.
“This year, with everybody getting traded, I’m gonna have a leadership role,” Parsons said. “So I’m excited to go to Vegas and not necessarily play every game, but be a voice for the guys.”
That may apply to the winter roster too.
Point guards Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic are both gone from last year’s team. So is center Samuel Dalembert and small forward Chase Budinger. Marcus Camby is a free agent and shooting guard Kevin Martin and power forward Luis Scola are imminently tradable.
You can imagine how delighted coach Kevin McHale must be about the prospect of coaching such a roster.
“It’s going to be challenging, there’s no question about that,” he said. “We’re gonna have to play harder. We’re gonna have to do all the dirty work stuff. We’re gonna have to be much more of a blue-collar, dirty-work, grind-it-out team.”
It is, of course, only July. The beginning of the season is four months away and it seems unlikely that Morris, White, Jones, Parsons and Patterson will all be on the Rockets in November. To a man, the Rockets say there is some anxiety associated with all of the trade rumors, but that they avoid the topic as much as possible.
Naturally, McHale would like to see general manager Daryl Morey make a deal for a star player, and no Rocket is untouchable.
“I don’t know who’s coming,” McHale said. “I know we have a bunch of rookies coming. We did draft them. It’s hard for them to get out of their contracts. I think we have restricted free agents we’ve talked to, and we’ve got a bunch of people we haven’t signed yet. Other than that, it’s like door No. 3. When we open up door No. 3, I’ll be able to tell you what’s behind door No. 3.”
In the meantime, there is Parsons.
“I’m a vet now,” he said. “These guys are going to be bringing me donuts.”
And there is Morris.
“I don’t feel like a veteran,” he said. “This ain’t Kansas.”
Minnesota, who expressed interest dating back to last season, were finally able to come to terms with the 27-year-old shooting guard.
Roy’s agent stated to the press that his client had nearly a dozen teams interested in his services, but Minnesota’s offer was likely the richest of them all.
While it is viewed by some to be too rich of a deal for Roy, there is serious upside to a deal like this. There’s virtually no chance he puts up the numbers he did for Portland, but he will provide a major upgrade over Wes Johnson in the starting lineup.
If the Wolves decide to place Roy on the bench, he will be either the sixth or seventh man. If Minnesota spreads out their minutes like they did last season, there’s no reason to believe that Roy couldn’t see more than 18-20 minutes.
Roy is very likely to become a beloved figure in Minnesota sports. The Timberwolves originally drafted Roy with the sixth pick in 2006, but swapped him with Portland, who took Randy Foye fourth.
Due to his mature attitude, smooth demeanor and love for the game, he will become a focal part of whatever success the Minnesota Timberwolves have in 2013.
As for Nicolas Batum, he has been signed to a four-year, $45 million contract, which can be matched by the Blazers, as Batum is a restricted free agent.
Batum, for the past several days, has stated that his desire is to play in Minnesota, and has even told the Blazers that he would prefer they not match any contract sheet that he was offered.
Minnesota has stated that they may up the offer to $50 million if they get the indication that the Blazers plan to match their offer sheet.
Portland has been persistent lately that they intend to match any offer that Batum receives. However, if they are able to land Roy Hibbert, they may not be able to go for nearly $13 million on a guy who would be a third option.
With four years of pro experience under his belt—and the fact that he has yet to turn 24—is one of the biggest reasons why Batum is so highly-coveted.
In 30.4 minutes per game in 2011, Batum averaged 13.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists, one steal and one block.
While not off-the-wall numbers, Batum posted these numbers as a third or fourth option. On a team like the Wolves, where he would be the second option, he has the ability to post 18-plus points per contest.
Don’t guarantee Batum signing with the Wolves, by any stretch, as Adrian Wojnarowski has stated that the Blazers will indeed match whatever offer he receives.
With Brandoy Roy now in Minnesota, the Timberwolves have already improved. The addition of Chase Budinger also provides the Wolves with a great three-point shooter.
With money still left to be spent, don’t be surprised if the Wolves make an offer for another free agent of Batum’s caliber, if they’re truly unable to land him.
Be sure to follow Tanner Thoms on Twitter @TannerThoms
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The Houston Rockets have not made the playoffs for the last three seasons. The glory days of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming seem like a distant memory, and the team is in need of a master plan to turn the tide.
Consider that master plan in effect, right about now.
The offseason for the Houston Rockets has been a busy one, and it’s yielded promising results (thanks to not having any of their trades vetoed by the commissioner…yet).
Let’s start at the beginning.
The Rockets began this offseason in a different spot than before—with open cap room—finally not having to deal with contract obligations to Yao Ming.
In addition to cap room, the Rockets had draft picks.
When all was said and done, the Rockets had shipped out Chase Budinger and Samuel Dalembert (plus his massive contract) and ended up with Jon Leuer, Jon Brockman and Shaun Livingston, plus the No. 12 draft pick. Additionally, they also owned picks No. 16 and No. 18.
While some were disappointed that this mad dash didn’t end in a blockbuster deal for Dwight Howard, you can’t argue with the players the Rockets did draft.
Royce White, Terrence Jones and Jeremy Lamb. That’s a solid haul. Landing three players with All-Star upside in the same draft is certainly valuable.
Think of this as Oklahoma City’s rebuilding plan on steroids.
But it didn’t stop there.
First, there was this offer to Jeremy Lin. While the New York Knicks had figured they would match any offer that was presented to Lin, the Rockets laced this one perfectly. The backloaded deal pays Lin enough in his third and fourth years of the contract that the Knicks most likely can’t match it—unless they are willing to pay a hefty luxury tax price in coming seasons.
Same deal with Omer Asik. While the Bulls had initially made it their top priority to resign their seven-footer, this “poison-pill” deal by the Rockers makes it nearly impossible for the Bulls to do so.
Some critics will argue that Asik is not worth the $8 million per year, but with the Rockets eternally in search of a post presence, his 5.6 rebounds and 1.0 block averages in just 14 minutes per game are efficient and will likely even more substantial if he is given additional minutes. He’s an improving force and can do all of the little things that make a team better.
And for the icing on the cake, the Rockets have seven-footer Donatas Motiejunas waiting in the wings. Take a look at this film session to see what has the Rockets front office so excited.
Plus, with the Rockets having one of the youngest rosters in the NBA, things can only go up from here. And something tells me that this torrid start to the Rockets’ rebuilding plan is just a sign of things to come.
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