The last name Saunders has a special place in Minnesota. Flip Saunders was the head coach there for 11 seasons, including the most successful stretch in Minnesota Timberwolves history when Kevin Garnett was a star.
The Saunders era may finally be over, though, as Flip’s son, Ryan, in his third year on the Timberwolves bench, was fired on Sunday. He finished his run in Minnesota with 43 wins and 94 losses, including a league-worst 7-24 record in 2020-21.
To be fair to Saunders, the Timberwolves have spent most of the season without their two best players — D’Angelo Russell, out with a knee injury, and Karl-Anthony Towns, who missed 13 games after testing positive for COVID-19.
Raptors Assistant Takes Over in Minnesota
Long-time NBA assistant coach Chris Finch is now the new head coach with the Timberwolves. Reports say that the hiring is official and does not carry the label of interim head coach. Finch was most recently on Nick Nurse’s coaching staff with the Toronto Raptors, but has also been on the bench in Houston, Denver, and New Orleans.
If ever there was a case of a coach working his way up the ladder, it’s Finch. Before becoming an NBA assistant coach, Finch played professionally in England, then coached teams in England, Germany, and Belgium before coaching the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA’s D-League. It was after winning D-League Coach of the Year that he was hired by the Rockets.
Rockets Moving on From Cousins
The changing face of the Houston Rockets is expected to continue this week as the team and center DeMarcus Cousins prepare to say goodbye. Houston traded away 31-year-old James Harden and is preparing to move on from the 30-year-old Cousins, as Houston looks to rebuild and rebrand with youth.
Cousins came to Houston on a one-year deal after missing the previous season with an ACL tear. Prior to that, he spent a season in Golden State, the only season he’s appeared in the playoffs in his 10-year career.
Now that the split with the Rockets is official, Cousins will be able to sign with any team he wants. He was on the bench for the Lakers last season while out with the ACL injury, and reportedly the Lakers are interested in bringing him back. Oddsmakers don’t have much confidence in the Rockets turning it around, as they’ve set them at +2000 odds to in the Southwest Division.
Celtics Without Smart for Another Three Weeks
There was some hope in Boston that with Marcus Smart on the road with the Celtics this week that maybe he was close to returning. This is no longer the case, as team doctors have updated Smart’s status, confirming that he will be out until at least after the All-Star break.
Smart injured his calf during a late January loss to the Lakers, and it’s been clear how much Boston misses him, especially on defense. Since the injury, the Celtics are just 5-7, but online bookmakers still have them as the fourth-most likely team to win the Eastern Conference.