Love for Aldridge trade just a fantasy, for now

Could the Minnesota Timberwolves end up trading Kevin Love to the Portland Trail Blazers for LaMarcus Aldridge? It’s not something believed under discussion, but it could make sense for both teams, writes Sam Smith of

One of the fantasy trade names you hear a lot is the Timberwolves’ Kevin Love, in part because of comments he made about uncertainty with the organization when he didn’t get offered the maximum contract he could make.

There seemed to be a rift with general manager David Kahn, who was replaced by NBA veteran Flip Saunders. Since then, Love represented the Timberwolves at the lottery and seemed to offer allegiance to the Timberwolves in subsequent interviews. He doesn’t have an opt out until the summer of 2015, so there’s no urgency as Saunders certainly would want to see what he has.

But I could see something brewing regarding Love that might make sense for the Timberwolves as much as Saunders likes Love.

There have been questions in Portland regarding LaMarcus Aldridge with the emphasis of the team going to point guard Damian Lillard and Aldridge being most identified with the previous group that included Greg Oden and Brandon Roy and coached by Nate McMillan. Not that the Trail Blazers don’t value Aldridge. But there have been a lot of whispers about him shooting too much and not rebounding enough. And Portland is not expected to resign J.J. Hickson.

Love is from Oregon and has expressed a desire at some point to get back to the West Coast. Perhaps with Nikola Pekovic, the Timberwolves get a high scoring big man in Aldridge and a defensive shooting guard to play off Ricky Rubio like Wesley Matthews for Love. Minnesota has enough short contracts to match salaries. It’s not something believed under discussion, but it could make sense for both teams.

Hibbert has impressed, but still far from an elite center

-- Another reason why this is approaching the end for this Miami run. They’re continuing to talk about Roy Hibbert. C’mon, Roy Hibbert? He’s better than I ever thought he could be. Likely even the Pacers figured he could be. The Pacers won’t admit it now, but there were internal doubts about matching the Trail Blazers $58 million, four-year offer sheet for Hibbert last summer. The Pacers considered various options, but finally gave in. But that’s also believed to be why the Pacers traded point guard Darren Collison for Ian Mahinmi. It surprised many because Collison was the only pure point guard the Pacers had. Everyone knew George Hill wasn’t ideal for point guard, and we see that with all the turnovers the Pacers make. But the Pacers still weren’t sure about Hibbert, who’d averaged 11.1 points and 6.4 rebounds in four NBA seasons and is generally credited with the All-Star ballot change eliminating the center position after he made it in 2012 because coaches had to pick a center as a reserve. But Hibbert was the story of the first two games with the Heat, both when he didn’t play and when he did. There’s no arguing the development of Hibbert, which is to his credit, as he also was crucial in the win over the Knicks. But would he be one of your top five choices at center? I’d take Dwight Howard—sure, despite all the other stuff—Brook Lopez, Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah and maybe even Omer Asik. OK, say you pass over Asik. I’m putting Hibbert ahead of Tyson Chandler unless the Knicks ever got someone to pass him the ball. But I’d take Pau Gasol, which someone will this summer if Howard doesn’t return to the Lakers and he’ll go back to being a top five center. That’s with Andrew Bynum a non-factor. Nikola Vucevic? Too inexperienced, still. Marcin Gortat? Too many losses. Same with Nikola Pekovic. And what about Tom Duncan, the all-NBA first team center? So Hibbert’s not a top five center in the view of many. Yet, he’s mostly disrupted Miami. Like the message at the end of the Independence Day movie about how to defeat the aliens. Send the word out. The Heat, even going ahead 2-1 over the Pacers, can be taken. If not now then soon as Dwyane Wade isn’t the dynamic individual beat-you-off-the dribble star anymore. It’s hardly his fault. But you can’t fight all those knee problems. Ask Tracy McGrady and Penny Hardaway. Perhaps the Heat gets one more. But the celebrations should stop after this one.

Where might LeBron end up next?

-- Which makes the question more not whether LeBron James will pursue his opt out and leave the Heat after next season, but where would he go. Obviously, there was considerable speculation last week about James going to Cleveland with the Cavs’ getting the No. 1 overall pick in next month’s NBA Draft. Kyrie Irving gives the Cavs a star player as many NBA experts predict he’ll be the league’s best point guard in the next few years because of great shooting ability combined with his ball handling and athleticism. Will they try to trade the pick with another player to get a top big man? Take a chance that would be Nerlens Noel? James has made no secret of his desire to live in Akron and he’d certainly be welcomed back in title starved Cleveland. The other most speculated destination is Los Angeles assuming they can resign Howard. The pitch to Howard this summer presumably would be to hang in one season until Kobe Bryant’s contract expires and they can buy out Mike D’Antoni. Then they only have Steve Nash under contract and can add James and Chris Bosh, who given he prefers playing outside would be an ideal fit for Howard. Then you’ve really got a championship team instead of the faux title team of this season. There could be other team pursuing James, of course, as several teams quietly are keeping money open for 2014 when James, Bosh and Carmelo Anthony can be free agents. Though you wouldn’t think that would be the Bulls’ plan after the 2010 rejection by James, the Bulls could be one of those teams and James has long expressed admiration for the coaching of Tom Thibodeau. But if James went to the Lakers, then Bryant would be a free agent that summer and he’s also been a Thibodeau fan and several times has openly talked about playing in Chicago. Let’s just say I’m more than a year early with the bad speculation from sources, as we’ll certainly find out in a year, who may or may not know.

Meanwhile, if Howard leaves the Lakers…

-- Everyone knows this summer will be another Howard drama. The latest speculation to come up was Golden State as Howard is said to love Dungeness crab. They’re over the cap, and the Lakers aren’t quite dumb enough to take back Andrew Bogut and the 20 games he might play each season. So forget that. His hometown Hawks always are mentioned along with Dallas and Houston, the latter sales tax havens like Florida. The lack of state sales tax was said to be one lure for LeBron James to Miami. Texas governor Rick Perry was even in Illinois recently trying to steal companies in advertising the low taxes and that you don’t have to know the names of cabinet departments in an apparent lure as well to NBA players. Be like Rick Perry! Anyway, there was the stupidest thing ever said by a pro athlete (assuming they are) when golfer Phil Mickelson intimated earlier this year he might move from California because of his state taxes being so high. Forbes magazine estimated his off course earnings last year at $43 million. In his career, Mickelson has made about $70 million. Mickelson said he made too much living in California. Howard would sign with a team other than the Lakers for $88 million, about $30 million and one year fewer than with the Lakers. The Mavs don’t have much but an aging Dirk Nowitzki. But the Rockets would be impressive with James Harden and several young players. And they’d then be able to trade Omer Asik, who has developed into a potential All Star level center and could bring back a high level talent. If Howard can’t stand either D’Antoni or Bryant or the Los Angeles media that incessantly criticizes him, Houston could be a nice landing spot. And it’s not like after four years someone’s not going to give Howard another big contract. Without the state income tax, Howard could keep perhaps close to $10 million annually in taxes if he went to Texas. And probably no homework or memorization.

NBA news and notes

-- Surprising and disappointing move as the Magic didn’t renew the broadcasting contract of color man Matt Guokas, regarded as one of the best local TV analysts in the country and who also was the first Magic coach and top national broadcaster. It’s a huge loss for anyone with the NBA package. … Maybe all those days of rest are paying off for the Spurs as their big three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are excelling despite back to back overtime games as the Grizzlies’ players appeared to wear down. … In the it’s not you it’s me excuse of the week, it quickly came out after the Knicks’ six-game loss to the Pacers that Anthony has a partial tear in his left shoulder that may or may not require surgery and J.R. Smith had a swollen left knee with fluid buildup. Too much late night dancing, perhaps?..I like Anthony and he is one of the better guys on his team. But you often have to wonder with the stuff he comes up with as he said after the Knicks’ loss, “We kinda teased the city of New York a little bit because now everybody expects us to play at this level.” Yes, they won the division. But they were out in the second round. The New York media has been talking about the need for Iman Shumpert to emerge as the No. 2 option to complement Anthony. So much, obviously, for Amar’e Stoudemire as those Suns doctors are amazing. The Suns only were willing to guarantee Stoudemire for three years as doctors said his knees wouldn’t last beyond that. … Many wondered about the health of Tyson Chandler in the playoffs as he was dominated by Hibbert. But Chandler said he was 100 percent. There’s the ethic of if you can play you don’t complain. Fine. But after the series, Chandler said, jinx, he was joking. “I wasn’t where I wanted to be,” Chandler told New York media. “I wish I could have got a couple games in before the playoffs started, but I never really got into a rhythm. I tried to give the team everything I had. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. Yes, (the illness and injuries) took away from my strength, and my presence out there.”

-- I don’t know whether Terrence Williams did anything regarding his arrest for allegedly showing a gun in a dispute with the mother of his child. There’s always many sides to domestic disputes. But when you take chances on talented guys (Williams had a triple double against the Bulls in 2010) who have had issues and have been with many teams, like Williams and J.R. Smith, things like that always seem to come up. Maybe he’s a victim. But it’s nice to have a team that isn’t answering to that stuff all the time. .. This sounds like some impressive dysfunction to come as new Toronto top executive Tim Leiweke demoted Bryan Colangelo to president, saying Colangelo was “pissed off.” Colaneglo corrected to say he was not pissed off but disappointed. “Bryan is going to have to take a deep breath,” Leiweke told Toronto media. “He’s going to have to live with that and I hope he can.” That would be having no role in basketball operations other than advice no one has to take. Sounds like a good system so far. Denver general manager Masai Ujiri is said to be the top candidate for the general manager job. … Bulls draft pick Nikola Mirotic won Spanish league MVP. But let’s not put too much pressure on what looks like a talented kid assuming he comes after the 2013-14 season, which would be the soonest. The NBA is a big adjustment for European guys. Undrafted Justin Doellman from Xavier finished second in MVP votes and the all-first team that included Mirotic also included Sergio Rodriguez, Rudy Fernandez and Andres Nocioni, who all are out of the NBA. Even Toni Kukoc, who was one of the greatest ever European players and should one day be in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, as a Bulls rookie only made second team all-rookie and averaged 10.9 points off the bench for a team without Michael Jordan. Kukoc’s teams in Europe won at least four league titles and he was player of the year multiple times before coming to the Bulls.

-- I found it amusing even though I voted for him that Tim Duncan was first team all-NBA center. A few years back, I was on the committee to pick the ballot for the All-Star team. Several of us suggested having forwards who effectively played center, like Duncan and Amar’e Stoudemire, on the ballot as centers so we didn’t have to keep putting players like Erick Dampier on the All-Star ballot. Everyone pretty much agreed. And then the Spurs of all teams, especially because they are the ultimate franchise about team and not the individual, filed a vociferous objection with the league and demanded Duncan be listed as a forward. Why so upset? Who even knew they cared? There was speculation that given the Asian vote they felt Duncan would never have a shot at first team starter with Yao Ming playing. Duncan was moved back to forward, and as he now with less mobility is truly a center, he makes first team at 37. Which he’d obviously have no chance at forward. Given Paul George was third team forward and LaMarcus Aldridge didn’t even make any of the three teams, it’s almost certain as a forward Duncan would not have gotten any all-league recognition. .. I agree Dwyane Wade should not have been suspended for Game 3 for that elbow of Lance Stephenson in Game 2 as you want the players deciding these things. David Stern’s overreaching suspension of Stoudemire in the 2007 playoffs still is one of the lowest points of his administration. But perhaps no one delivers more cheap shots with feigned innocence that Wade, whose list now includes tossing Richard Hamilton into the stands last season, breaking Kobe Bryant’s nose in the All-Star game (it was no accident as it was right in front of me as Bryant had just put a move on Wade that made him look bad), throwing down Rajon Rondo to dislocate his shoulder in the playoffs, running over Darren Collison, kicking Ramon Session in the groin. Smiling and being cooperative with the media does help. See, guys. It pays to be nice. … Pacers coach Frank Vogel kept saying after Game 1 he didn’t make a mistake when he took out Hibbert for the last two plays when LeBron James won the game with layups and then said after James committed turnovers down the stretch with Hibbert coming over to help that he was leaving Hibbert in this time. Huh? What’s always amusing is the broadcasting crews generally comprised of former coaches always say how great the coaching was for both teams. Though Steve Kerr and Reggie Miller did say at the time in Game 1 Hibbert should have been in. Though they seemed to agree the coaching was, nonetheless, great. … I’m not dismissing the Grizzlies even down 3-0 as I’m all for games to be played. But what was the chance they were still playing if Russell Westbrook were not hurt with the Thunder ahead 2-0 in the first round? Yet, they were a play or two from perhaps being ahead 2-1. They’d have to wonder what if had they not traded away Rudy Gay and Wayne Ellington and giving up on O.J. Mayo, their best perimeter players. Similarly with the Thunder. You’d assume even without Westbrook they’d have had enough with Harden to still be playing given Kevin Martin gave them so little. It may be just the beginning of a lot of tough personnel moves for financial reasons.

--- Chris Paul obviously got his notch in his basketball with running out coach Vinny Del Negro. Paul is rumored to prefer a group from among Lionel Hollins, Byron Scott and Alvin Gentry. Though perhaps the larger issue with the Clippers is their big guys, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, supposedly are tired of Paul yelling at them all the time and the organization doing everything to cater to Paul. There’s considerable internal unrest with the Clippers as one of the open secrets around the NBA is how tough Paul is on teammates. It’s something that hasn’t exactly been embraced by Griffin and Jordan, especially with the Clippers not having playoff success. It’s not an easy team to coach. Which perhaps was why Stan Van Gundy looked the other way ad said he won’t coach this season…It’s a tough assignment and not a lot of success predicted for Jeff Hornacek, who was hired Sunday as coach of the Phoenix Suns and they have bottomed out with a poor roster. But Hornacek has overcome odds and doubters like few others. The west suburban Elmhurst native who went to Lyons Township High School was a walkon at Iowa State who became an NCAA tournament star. He was a second round pick NBA, No. 46, who played 14 seasons in the NBA and started in the Finals for the Jazz against the Bulls in 1997 and 1998 and one of the league’s top three-point shooters. … That illegal signing of Joe Smith is the Cubs’ billy goat curse for the Timberwolves. Minnesota is now 0-7-8 in the lottery as a frequent visitor, drafting seven times right in their space and eight times falling back. They’ve never moved up. In 1992, they had the worst record and fell to No. 3 in maybe the best center draft with Shaquille O’Neal No. 1 and Alonzo Mourning No. 2. They got Christian Laettner. Of course, part of it is their own fault, like in 2007 when they went to the lottery with holy water from the Lourdes shrine. Really. They fell backward to No. 7 and took Corey Brewer. The Bulls got teammate Joakim Noah at No. 9 in the same draft. In 1993, they had the second poorest record but fell to fifth as Orlando went to No. 1 again and took Chris Webber and traded him for No. 3, who was Penny Hardaway, and future No. 1’s. Minnesota got J.R. Rider, among the many troubled J.R.’s.


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