Trans. Aug 30 6:27 ET (Aug 30 6:27 ET ) The Minnesota Timberwolves haven't made the playoffs in 10 years and just traded the face of their franchise so he can go chase a championship with LeBron James in Cleveland. Kevin Love is gone now, and yet somehow the Timberwolves have parlayed that into a record-setting week at the box office. After completing the long-rumored trade that sent Love to the Cavaliers and brought Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young to Minnesota, the Timberwolves have sold more than 300 full season-ticket packages in the last week. ''The organization, from president-level on down has just been re-energized,'' Timberwolves senior vice president and chief revenue officer Ryan Tanke said.
This week, the best basketball nations in the world are heading to Spain for the FIBA World Cup of Basketball. The tournament — known until recently as the world championships — lacks the overwhelming attention of the Olympics in the United States, but for many other countries it is considered to be nearly as prestigious. As usual, Team USA enters the competition as the favorite, although that position is as precarious as it has been for some time, with Spain serving as the strongest competition. Even if the general hierarchy of teams hasn't changed, there is no question that they appear less dominant than we're accustomed to. The tournament tips off on Saturday, with Team USA set to take on Finland at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. Here are five pressing stories to help you get acquainted with the World Cup before play begins. 1. Team USA looks vulnerable. When it comes to the best basketball country in the world, such issues as vulnerability are always relative, because their chances of losing remain much lower than those for any other team. Nevertheless, this is not the same Team USA that won the 2008 Olympics, 2010 world championships, and 2012 Olympics with very few hiccups. The team's world championships/Cup roster never features the overwhelming star power of the Olympics, but it's still reasonable to think the group will include one or two perennial All-NBA players. Team USA is used to the best. The 2014 roster does not immediately look like such an established and dominant group. While USA Basketball expected the absences of proven international commodities like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, the powers that be weren't necessarily looking to be without Kevin Love (who bowed out due to his potential and eventual trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves), Paul George (who was lost to his now-infamous leg injury during an exhibition game), and Kevin Durant (who withdrew from consideration due to mental and physical exhaustion ). As such, Team USA lacks a game-changing wing player who can move over to the "four" position — the role that has defined head coach Mike Krzyzewski's tenure. The team's ostensible leaders are Derrick Rose, who has barely even played competitive basketball in the past two years and might have trouble with the tournament's demanding schedule; James Harden, who sees himself as the team's defensive stopper and on-court leader even though he's not known for those qualities; and Anthony Davis, a truly incandescent talent who nevertheless has never been asked to do so much in international play.
There is little doubt that Houston Rockets All-Star guard James Harden is an extremely talented basketball player — guys don't make the All-NBA First Team by accident, no matter how controversial there selections prove to be. But Harden gets the sort of criticism that most elite stars don't receive. Harden's lackadaisical and often just horrible defense has been extensively documented, and it doesn't help that he also occasionally makes ill-considered comments about his teammates and mocked at least one very respected member of the media . There's a not uncommon belief that Harden doesn't really get what it takes to be the top dog on a title contender, which makes it a bigger deal than usual when he, like many athletes before him, overestimates his standing in the sport . Although Harden turned 25 years old just this Tuesday, he is one of the most experienced players on Team USA as it heads into Saturday's opening game of the FIBA World Cup of Basketball in Spain. As such, Harden sees himself as a leader. If that appears a bit presumptuous of him, then please consider that USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo believes Harden is taking well to the role. From Michael Lee for The Washington Post (via EOB ): “Right now, I think I would look to Harden as that leader,” USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said as his team continues to prepare for the tournament in which the winner earns an automatic berth in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. “Harden is kind of a natural leader and he seems to be willing to accept that role. And you can just kind of feel it and sense. He’s the one.” [...] Colangelo said Harden has been one of the team’s most vocal players and has helped elevate practices with his effort and tenacity. “I don’t know if he’s been waiting [to lead]. It’s evolved,” Colangelo said. “He came in as a pretty high draft pick. Got off to a great start in Oklahoma City. Whether he was disappointed or surprised by what transpired, he found himself in another uniform and that’s part of life in pro sports and the NBA, and I think he’s adjusted to that and his numbers get bigger and he’s being recognized more and more as the player he is. And this is a great platform for him to come out as a leader.” [...] “This is a different platform,” Harden said. “A platform that I haven’t really been on before, but I think most of us haven’t been on it, either. I think we’re all kind of figuring it out together. That’s what’s going to be so special about this team. We figure it out together and we come out with a gold medal, it makes it that much more special.” Lee notes elsewhere that Harden is one of just two players on the 2014 roster to have also played on the 2012 Olympic team — Anthony Davis is the other — so it makes sense that he would be seen as something of an elder statesman. It's possible to argue that Harden earned the role by default after the withdrawal of Kevin Durant and in the absence of players like Kevin Love, but there seems to be little doubt that the Rockets star is occupying the role for Team USA right now. That's notable in itself, if only because NBA fans haven't been conditioned to think of Harden as the sort of guy who is capable of leading a roster of stars (diminished or not) in a major international tournament. We're not sure he's ready to represent Houston on a major stage, let alone the most powerful basketball country in the world. Colangelo's praise is important, but it's also true that it's his job to talk up the positive qualities of the national-team experience in order to convince fans and prospective players that the squad represents the best of America. If an increasingly vulnerable Team USA fails to win gold in the World Cup, it's easy to see public opinion on Harden turning increasingly sour, if only because leadership and championship-readiness are often defined in terms of what someone did most recently. Anything less than convincing victory will suggest that Harden lacks what it takes to lead the national team. In other words, it would be prudent not to declare any certainty about Harden's leadership ability, because it's at least partially dependent on the result of the World Cup. Plus, even if Team USA does develop into a dominant squad that wins every game convincingly, Harden will face a whole new challenge with the Rockets this fall. To paraphrase a cliche, the true test of a leader — or maybe just the true test of a leader's reputation — comes when the going gets tough. - - - - - - - Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @FreemanEric
Kevin Love's phone rang in July and LeBron James asked the All-Star forward if he wanted to play with him in Cleveland. Getting used to a new city and new team after being acquired by the Cavaliers on Saturday, Love said he's committed to winning an NBA title with the Cavaliers - however long it takes. Love, who didn't make the playoffs during six sometimes rocky seasons with Minnesota, can opt out of his contract and become a free agent next summer. Cleveland is smitten with its newest superstar.
The Scoop:"The only thing I still have a question mark about is his health," Taylor said. "If [the Cavaliers] sign him to a five-year contract like they're thinking about, that's a big contract on a guy who's had some times when he has missed games." Taylor also implied that Love is the third-best player on the Cavs behind LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, and the whole interview feels like sour grapes. "I think emotions are definitely running high right now," Love replied, when told about Taylor's criticism. "For Glen to say that, I think he should be concentrating on the players he just received."
When a team trades its franchise player, it's expected that many people surrounding the franchise will treat it as a stone-cold bummer. It's rare to get anything approaching value for one of the top stars in the NBA, and swapping an established, excellent player for a clear rebuilding project doesn't always seem like a fair deal. It's not always good form to turn the player who pushed for the deal into an outright enemy, but it's understandable that fans would be a little ticked off. The team's owner, on the other hand, is usually expected to act with a little more decorum. On Wednesday, Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor answered questions regarding the trade of All-Star power forward Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was not especially complimentary of Love's skills. From Derek Wetmore for ESPN1500.com : "I think Kevin, his offensive skills got better than I think we estimated. The only thing that I still have a question mark about will be his health. I had that concern then, I still have that concern and I think Cleveland should have that concern, too," Taylor said. "If they sign him to a five-year contract like they're thinking about, I mean that's a big contract in a guy that's had sometimes where he's missed games." Taylor said his relationship with Love remains good, but that he has not talked to him since the season ended. He also said he doesn't plan to talk to him until they run into each other, which presumably would be Jan. 31, when the Wolves host Love's Cavaliers. [...] "I question Kevin if this is going to be the best deal for him because I think he's going to be the third player on a team. I don't think he's going to get a lot of credit if they do really well. I think he'll get the blame if they don't do well. He's going to have to learn to handle that. "I think he's around a couple guys who are awful good. Now I'm not saying that Kevin's not good, but I think where maybe he got away with some stuff, not playing defense on our team, I'm not sure how that's going to work in Cleveland. So I would guess they're going to ask him to play more defense. And he's foul-prone," Taylor said. Taylor isn't entirely dismissive of Love, because he says he wishes the Wolves had offered him a five-year max-level extension when they had the chance. In some way, Taylor is sad that Love is gone, even if he goes out of his way to suggest that the Timberwolves will only miss him so much and that the Cavaliers may not have obtained the all-around superstar they imagined. I'm not sure that their supposed "good relationship" will persist beyond this interview, but anyone who thinks such a thing exists certainly has affection for the departed player. Regardless, this is a bizarre way to speak about the second-best player in franchise history. As noted by Dan Feldman of ProBasketballTalk , Taylor doesn't challenge Dan Gilbert's post-Decision letter against LeBron James in the annals of owner-to-player criticism. But it's odd to send off a player who helped a franchise achieve relevance over several seasons by saying that he's not quite the great player he's cracked up to be. It's possible to poke holes in Taylor's logic — Love's new teammates are just as likely to cover for his defensive mistakes as they are to expose them, getting minimal credit on a title contender will likely exceed what he'd receive in Minnesota, injuries can be random, etc. — but the substance of his remarks isn't really the issue. The story here is that an owner largely dismissed the achievements and potential future success of his former franchise player. The problem is rudeness, not that the opinion is wrong. Sadly, this is not the first time Taylor has criticized a departed star. Several months after the Wolves dealt Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics in the 2007 offseason, he claimed that KG "tanked" the end of the 2006-07 season . Even if that were true, Taylor decided to question the effort of a fanatically competitive player who led Minnesota teams well beyond when they were able to contend for championships. Taylor's points may have some merit, but they are defined by a lack of appreciation for what players do for the franchise he owns. He speaks of what players were unable to do for him rather than what he could not provide them. Love, for his part, spoke highly of his experience with the Timberwolves when questioned during his introductory Cavaliers press conference on Tuesday. It's standard operating procedure for players to praise the fans and organization they just pressed to leave, but it's also a really basic display of gratitude. When players don't do it, we look down on them. Owners, for all their wealth, deserve to be held to the same standard. - - - - - - - Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @FreemanEric
Andrew Wiggins spent the previous month seemingly in hiding, side-stepping questions about a trade that was all but finished and coming to the realization he was not going to be teammates with LeBron James. On Tuesday - finally - Wiggins and the rest of the new Minnesota Timberwolves got to address the issue head on and have their moment in the sun. The Timberwolves unveiled the bounty they got for All-Star Kevin Love at the Minnesota State Fair, and Wiggins wore an ear-to-ear smile for most of the day as hundreds of fans followed him around the fairgrounds. Kind of lost, not really knowing where I'm going,'' Wiggins said.
Years from now, the Minnesota Timberwolves hope the same moniker can be said about their newest young nucleus of talent. Three days after trading their best player, forward Kevin Love, to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of a three-team deal including the Philadelphia 76ers, the Timberwolves introduced their three newest players -- wing Andrew Wiggins and forwards Thaddeus Young and Anthony Bennett -- as well as their own first-round pick, guard Zach LaVine, Tuesday in front of a friendly crowd at the State Fair. For Wiggins, the centerpiece of the deal, he's happy to have the month-long soap opera of where he would play finally over. After signing his rookie contract July 24, NBA rules stipulated he must wait 30 days before being traded -- despite the fact many knew it was only a matter of time.
The newest member of new-look Cleveland Cavaliers was introduced to the media on Tuesday and Kevin Love said he is committed to playing for the team long term. The 25-year-old Love is a three-time NBA All-Star and completes a new-look Big 3 for Cleveland along with forward LeBron James and guard Kyrie Irving. Love spent his first six seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves. In exchange for Love, Minnesota received Cleveland's 2014 No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins and 2013 No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett.
The Scoop: None.
Aug 26 3:51 ET
News (various sources)
Timberwolves have record week after trading Love (The Associated Press) (3 Days Ago | courtesy: The Associated Press) The Minnesota Timberwolves haven't made the playoffs in 10 years and just traded the face of their franchise so he can go chase a championship with LeBron James in Cleveland. Kevin Love is gone now, and yet somehow the Timberwolves have parlayed that into a record-setting week at the box office. After completing the long-rumored trade that sent Love to the Cavaliers and brought Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young to Minnesota, the Timberwolves have sold more than 300 full season-ticket packages in the last week. ''The organization, from president-level on down has just been re-energized,'' Timberwolves senior vice president and chief revenue officer Ryan Tanke said. More...