This past week the it was announced that the Timberwolves and Cavaliers have come to an agreement in principle to trade Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a projected 2015 first-round pick, according Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. The trade can’t be made official until August 23 but as of now all signs point to it being a done deal. The departure of Love will mark the end of an era, one of remarkable production from him but overall disappointment for the team. During Love’s six year tenure with the Timberwolves the team failed to reach the playoffs even once, something his detractors are quick to point out. Presuming the trade goes through as discussed, the team will begin the process of moving forward without their soon to be former star.
With Love on his way to Cleveland the burden to guide the Timberwolves back to the playoffs will now fall on their dazzling young point guard Ricky Rubio. During his brief time in the league Rubio has already proven to be one of the top distributors in the game; he is a truly gifted passer with incredible vision and he has shown a type of creativity with the ball that is rarely seen, even at the NBA level. In his three seasons with the Timberwolves Rubio has a career average of 8.1 assists per game. He has played a prominent role with the team since first arriving, but the focal point has always undoubtedly been Love. When the 2014-2015 season begins, at the ripe age of 23, he will be thrust into a leadership role and will be tasked with orchestrating an offense absent of its biggest producer. The team will have its fair share of young talent, most notably the this year’s number one pick and the prize piece in the Love trade, Andrew Wiggins, Rubio along with guys like Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin and potentially Thaddeus Young will bear the majority of responsibility in terms of leading the team’s more inexperienced players.
If the team wants to continue build a playoff contender not only will they need growth from their younger players but Rubio as well. His ability to create is undeniable and he has been great defensively, particularly creating turnovers, leading the league in steals this past season. However, he must work to become a more efficient scorer; Rubio has had difficulties with his shot his entire career, owning a career true shooting percentage of just 48.5 percent. His inability to consistently knock down shots allows defenders to sag off making it increasingly more difficult for him to penetrate and create. The fact that he lacks an even average perimeter jumper makes his assist numbers that much more impressive. His mentality will always be pass first but he needs to become more of a threat scoring the ball to keep opposing defenses honest. Rubio knows if he wants to develop into a complete player a reliable outside shot is something that he must strive to develop and that’s one aspect of his game that he is continuing to work on.
“Yea, especially on the release, [shooting] faster” Rubio told Basketball Insiders at this summer’s Adidas EuroCamp “…In practice I can make a lot of shots but it’s not compared to the game so I am just trying to translate what I am doing in practice to the game, more speed, and that’s it.”
One guy who has made a living knocking down outside shots is his teammate Kevin Martin, Rubio hopes to glean from the approach that has made Martin such a successful outside shooter throughout his career.
“Having Kevin Martin on the team, the way he shoots, he doesn’t [shoot] that fast, but he always looks for his shot and he is always ready, something to learn from” Rubio said.
The Timberwolves future is very promising with the collection of assets they will a reportedly acquire in the Love deal, they’ll have a talented young core with great potential. Rubio will be the most important piece in bridging the gap from the present to that promising future. This coming season he will have the chance to step into spotlight and take over the reins in Minnesota.
“If not the most, one of the most important summer’s of my life. Last year I was more focused on my knee, trying to recover, I think I did a pretty good job playing 82 games. Now it’s time to step up my game, and I’ve been working on that, I feel pretty confident.” Rubio said.
Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal
The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.
It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.
Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.
There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.
Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.
Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.
That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.
At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.
One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.
NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind
Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.
When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.
“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.
Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.
That didn’t last long.
“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”
With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.
As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.
After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.
In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.
“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”
Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.
“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”
Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.
“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”
After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.
Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.
“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”
All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.
“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”
Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team
Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.
“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”
Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN