TrueHoop: Indiana Pacers

Malice at the Palace, a decade later

November, 19, 2014
Abbott By Henry Abbott
Stephen Jackson: [Toward] the end of the game, I recall somebody on the team told Ron, 'You can get one now.' I heard it. I think somebody was shooting a free throw. Somebody said to Ron, 'You can get one now,' meaning you can lay a foul on somebody who he had beef with in the game.

Ben Wallace: He told me he was going to hit me, and he did it.

Stephen Jackson: Ben was the wrong person [to foul] because, if I’m not mistaken, his brother had just passed and he was going through some issues. I was guarding Ben, I let him score. I was trying to let the clock run out. And Ron just came from out of nowhere and just clobbered him. I’m like, 'What the hell is going on?' I had no clue that was about to happen. When that happened, everything just happened so fast, man.

-- From "Malice at the Palace," by Grantland's Jonathan Abrams

[+] EnlargeMalice at the Palace
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesAt the end of a Pacers-Pistons game on Nov. 19, 2004, an ugly brawl spilled over into the stands.
"Those who cannot remember the past," philosopher George Santayana once said, "are condemned to repeat it."

Today's the day the NBA can say it has managed an entire decade without repeating anything like the Malice at the Palace, and there's a growing sense it will never happen again. But it's important to remember what really did happen that night in Auburn Hills, Michigan, and it might never be told better than it was by Grantland's Jonathan Abrams two years ago.

That story makes clear how much more complex the event was than a player or two going after fans. These were two of the best teams in the league, with title aspirations. The Pacers had pulled away for an early-season defining road win, and with no game to contest, players resolved to settle some scores in garbage time, as happens from time to time. A sequence of factors -- including intentional hard fouls, Ben Wallace's family trauma, Ron Artest's vacillations between rageful and calm, the terror of being in the minority confronting a violent mob, dreadfully insufficient security, Stephen Jackson's placement of loyalty above all -- combined to create something entirely horrid, with plenty of victims, even though up close, it's tougher to find villains than you might think.

Sideline view: Pacers and Heat

November, 13, 2014
Adande By J.A. Adande
Here are some sights, sounds (I still can't get "Just The Way You Are" out of my head) and notes from my two days in Miami to work the sidelines for the Pacers vs. the Heat for ESPN's game broadcast.

The Indiana Pacers' three victories so far might be enough to qualify them as the NBA overachievers of the year. They went through training camp working on an approach for a team that lost Paul George to injury and Lance Stephenson to free agency. Then half of their rotation players were wiped out by injuries right before the regular season started.

[+] EnlargeRoy Hibbert
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesRoy Hibbert finds himself as the lone Pacers mainstay standing at the moment.
The Pacers tried to stick with the same system. But as the injuries to David West, George Hill, C.J. Miles, C.J. Watson and Rodney Stuckey lingered the Pacers had to realize that what they thought of as their temporary team was going to be their actual team for a little while longer. They were caught in an unexpected rainstorm, and have considered reworking things to accommodate who they are. Somehow, in the midst of trying to decide whether to reconfigure their approach, they managed to win their third game of the season.

The only players who have maintained their expected roles are starting center Roy Hibbert and his backup, Ian Mahinmi. So it’s the old coaching quandary of plugging players into a system or adjusting a system to suit the players…while those players are adjusting to playing with each other.

The Hibbert-Copeland-Solomon Hill-Lavoy Allen-Donald Sloan lineup the Pacers used in the fourth quarter against the Miami Heat had played together for only 13 minutes, according to And that's the group that expanded the lead.

In some cases it’s not just different roles, it’s different positions. After the New York Knicks used Copeland at power forward, the Pacers are playing him at small forward.

“I’m a decent athlete, but I’m not one of those super-athlete guys,” Copeland said. “I get by on just skills and fundamentals, pretty much. So playing against these guys who are a lot quicker and more athletic coming off a ball screen [is difficult].”

In the regular season, playing hard can overcome a multitude of issues. And effort is one thing the Pacers have provided consistently, as evidenced by rebounding, the most effort-based statistic. They’re the third-best rebounding team in the NBA, second-best in offensive rebounds. They destroyed the Heat on the boards Wednesday, 53-28.

Talent tends to win out in the NBA. What the Pacers have done is find a way to give themselves a chance while they're devoid of talent. Of their six losses, only the Memphis Grizzlies beat them by double-digits. Teams look at Indiana’s lineup and expect a night off, but the Pacers never give it to them.

* * *

Where do the Pacers go from here? It’s not really up to them. David West and Roy Hibbert have player options for next season. If they come back and Paul George returns from his broken leg, the Pacers will try to make another run at it with this group. If not, the Pacers will have ample room under the salary cap in the summer of 2015, giving them the flexibility to reconfigure their team.

One of the things they hope to get from this season is the development of Solomon Hill, their first-round pick in 2013. He’s showing signs of improved shooting, hitting 36 percent of his 3-point shots so far after shooting 30 percent last season. They already love his defense, and it’s notable how vocal he is about defensive assignments and adjustments, both in the huddle and on the court.

* * *

This might seem convoluted, but ride it out: the Heat are a good team because they don’t know how good they are. Just listen to Dwyane Wade discuss the mix of new players, plus returning players who dramatically shifted roles.

“It was hard early on,” Wade said. “We started off 0-4 in preseason because we were all trying to figure each other out. We were trying to figure out kind of a new system. And also trying to get rid of the comfort of knowing we can do it, which we’ve done the last four years.”

Get rid of the comfort?

“The one thing that’s cool about this team is that we didn’t know,” Wade said. "We knew we had individual pieces, but you come into games not really knowing if you have enough every night to overcome a 20-point deficit or a 10-point deficit. The last few years we kind of knew we could overcome it. Right now, the excitement of it is figuring it out together.”

Now it makes sense. There’s a regular-season lull that comes with proven greatness. This version of the Heat hasn’t proven anything, so every night is a new opportunity and adventure.

* * *

Erik Spoelstra said the decision to start Norris Cole at point guard came by accident. Mario Chalmers was out for a preseason game, Cole started and Spoelstra liked what he saw.

While playing with the second unit means Chalmers can be more assertive, it hasn't helped Chalmers shoot more accurately. His field goal percentage is at 40 percent, down from a career-high 45 percent last season

Chalmers seemed plagued by uncertainty during the NBA Finals, when he weighed the possibility that those games could be his last with the Heat. But the free agent was re-signed to a two-year contract in the summer, which he called “a big relief.”

“I never wanted to leave in the first place,” Chalmers said. “I feel like Miami is home to me. I’ve been here my whole career. Hopefully I can stay my whole career.”

One last note on Chalmers. Maybe it was just a little self-deprecating joke, or maybe it showed where his confidence level is right now, but when I asked Chalmers if the Nintendo character on his T-shirt was Super Mario or just regular Mario, Chalmers said: “This is Super Mario. I’m the regular one right now.”

* * *

The two greatest unofficial job titles are mogul and guru. The two greatest official job titles are consultant and ambassador. You should aspire to be at least one of those four things.

For example, recently retired Heat player Shane Battier’s new title is Miami Heat ambassador. Apparently, part of the job description is singing “Just The Way You Are” to promote an upcoming Billy Joel concert at American Airlines Arena. Yep, he gets paid to do karaoke.

Battier is learning another benefit to ambassadoring. (See, another sign of a great job title is if it can’t properly be used as a verb). While talking with a few reporters before the news conference, Battier said one of the best parts of his new role (in addition to speaking engagements) is using parts of his mind he’d shut off during his 13-year playing career.

“The thing that struck me in just having time to meet people is that there’s a whole world out there of fascinating people doing awesome things,” Battier said. “They’re changing the world. And sometimes, especially in this business, you’re caught up in the next shootaround, the next game, the next practice, the next flight. You have a very myopic view of just the world. And that’s been the most fun part is talking to people and being part of conferences and speaking to groups and having amazing conversations ... it’s amazing, it’s stimulating and it’s exciting to finally be a part of it.”

Battier always came off as one of the players who was well aware of the world beyond the court. If he says he was insulated, it lets you know just how cut off from reality most pro athletes are.

Stages of accepting Paul George's injury

August, 19, 2014
By Michael Rubino
Paul GeorgeAP Photo/Darron CummingsPaul George is on the road to recovery after breaking his leg, but what about Indiana Pacers fans?
Paul George described the pain associated with breaking his right leg in two places -- a sickening compound fracture suffered during the fourth quarter of a USA Basketball exhibition game in Las Vegas on Aug. 1 -- with turns of phrase every bit as grotesque as the now-viral video of the injury. “It felt like gasoline was on my leg and someone lit a match,” Indiana’s budding superstar forward said at a news conference last week. “Just internally, my leg felt like it was in flames.”

Pacers fans can relate. In a sense, it seems as if someone has done the same to the hopes of their team winning an NBA title any time in the near future. But just like the ill-fated exhibition game that was called off, on-court things feel at once unimportant and unresolved.

Their first thoughts were of heartsick sympathy for George. Here was a guy -- their guy -- representing his country, hustling back on defense, for crying out loud, and the next thing you know he’s crumpled on the floor with a career in jeopardy and his teammates holding their hands over their mouths and doubled over in agony. The scene was better suited to the "Saw" franchise or "Hostel" than "SportsCenter."

Too young, too talented, too sturdy (George said in the news conference he might have rolled an ankle once or twice before), the injury seemed improbable. Denial, that was the first reaction. From there, fans zoomed through the Kubler-Ross stages of grief.

They lingered on anger for a bit, looking for someone to blame for the freak injury. USA Basketball seemed like a good target for a while. So did the court at UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center, where some found fault with the distance of the basket supports and a too-crowded baseline.

Bargaining? There was a good deal of that, too -- the ex-post-facto kind. Revisionists revisited the Lance Stephenson negotiations from July and suggested the absurd: This was karma for letting the talented but troubled guard leave for Charlotte. If only Pacers president Larry Bird had sweetened the five-year, $44-million deal, they argued; the franchise would’ve had a cushion for George’s fall.

[+] EnlargePaul George
AP Photo/Darron CummingsWith Paul George on crutches, Indy's title hopes are on hold.
And now the Indiana faithful find themselves smack-dab in the middle of depression, torn between tanking the upcoming season in hopes of securing a lottery pick and playing for pride. Both seem like rotten short-term options given the Eastern Conference landscape that existed just a few months ago. Despite the balance of power shifting from Miami to Cleveland with LeBron’s return home, Indiana, a conference finalist two years running, remained a contender with its nucleus intact. That, of course, was before this summer of agony.

Tanking -- or at least temporarily being good enough at losing to secure a top pick with your superstar on the IR -- has worked in these parts before. In 2011, with a franchise-tagged Peyton Manning out for the season with a neck injury, the Colts looked to the three-headed quarterback monster of Curtis Painter, Kerry Collins and Dan Orlovsky to save the day. Indy finished 2-14, blew up the team in the offseason, and drafted Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall pick.

The ball’s never bounced that way for the Pacers -- or at least as directly in a line from tragic injury to silver lining.

After two straight Eastern Conference finals appearances, Reggie Miller led Indiana to a 52-win season in 1995-96. But in April of that season, Miller collided with Detroit’s Otis Thorpe and Allan Houston, fell to the floor and broke his eye socket. That kept the Pacers’ leading scoring on the bench for three weeks, including all but the team’s final first-round game against Atlanta, a series Indiana lost. The Pacers went 39-43 the next season, coach Larry Brown resigned, and Bird came aboard to coach the team, eventually leading it to its first-and-only NBA Finals appearance in 2000.

Bird, of course, is the man in charge at another critical juncture, and he seems as likely of throwing the upcoming season as he does getting a sleeve of his basketball accomplishments tattooed on his arm. At a news conference with Bird and coach Frank Vogel a few days before George spoke to the media, a reporter asked Bird if the team had plans to wear a uniform patch this season to honor their injured teammate. “Patch?” Bird said, laughing in disbelief. “He’s still alive.”

True, but the team’s hopes of making a third straight Eastern Conference finals appearance are dead as long as George has two metal rods in his leg and is walking around on crutches.

George held out hope that he might return this season, but he admitted it seemed unlikely. In his stead, Bird and Vogel have outlined a plan that relies on guys such as the C.J.’s (Watson and Miles) and Shayne Whittington surprising, George Hill stepping up, and David West and Roy Hibbert posting up more. (It could be a long depression stage.)

Bird also admitted having an eye toward the future, discussing expiring contracts and options in vague terms. “You never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “But we’re starting to look at all that right now. We’re always looking ahead. We always try to look two to three years down the road. Whatever happens we’ll be competitive. We know that. But losing a Paul George is definitely going to hurt you for a while. But when he comes back, you want to make sure you have the pieces around him.”

In the interim, George will rehabilitate -- and re-brand. He changed his number from 24 to 13 to facilitate a new PG-13 nickname, which he said is about coming into his own. “I feel like I’m at that stage where I’m ready to embrace everything that comes with being one of the young stars in this league,” George said.

That sounded an awful lot like hopeful acceptance, but a local T-shirt-maker here in Indy is even more optimistic. Last week, Hayes and Taylor added a new shirt to its line, featuring a George-inspired silhouette about to dunk alongside the tagline from "The Six Million Dollar Man": Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. Bigger. Stronger. Faster.

The words are a blast from the past, but right now, the future feels just as far away.

Paul George injury will cost Pacers $17.5M

August, 11, 2014
Rovell By Darren Rovell
Paul GeorgeRon Hoskins/NBA/Getty Images
Losing Paul George has taken an emotional toll on the Pacers and their fans, and although it might be far from his mind now, owner Herb Simon will also take a financial hit from the injury to the tune of an estimated $17.5 million. spoke to team and league executives to help estimate the fiscal damage from George breaking his leg and perhaps missing the entire season. Here is what they came up with.

First, let's start with paying George himself. He is owed $15.8 million for the season. The NBA's insurance policy allows a team to recoup 80 percent of a player's salary once that player has missed 41 consecutive games with the same injury.

Starting at Game 42, the Pacers will get back $154,146 per game missed for George, per the terms of the league's insurance policy. That adds up to $6.32 million. So assuming George misses the entire regular season, the Pacers will be out $9.48 million on George's salary alone.

Then there's ticket sales. FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver projects that without George, the team will go six games over .500 (44-38). So looking at Indiana's historical attendance based on that record, it can be assumed that the team will host at least 1,500 fewer fans per game, which equals about $2.5 million in ticket sales. Then tack on roughly $600,000 in lost merchandise and concession sales.

The bigger ticket loss will be playing in fewer playoff games at home, assuming the Pacers won't advance as far as they would have if they had George. Let's assume the Pacers now get only two playoff home games instead of advancing to at least the Eastern Conference finals and getting eight. At an average of $750,000 per game in net profit, that's $4.5 million. On the positive side, NBA sources confirm that the Pacers secured most of the high-end suite renewals in the run up to the playoffs last season, meaning the big dollars there are protected from George's injury.

Finally, there's a drop of $500,000 in sponsorship and marketing due to the fact that a little of the buzz is gone from Indy.

The total estimated cost for the loss of George this season: $17,580,000.

Evan Turner runs out of gas on highway

June, 24, 2014
Abbott By Henry Abbott
Pacers forward Evan Turner fills up his Ferrari on the freeway:

Indiana Pacers always the bridesmaid

May, 31, 2014
Strauss By Ethan Sherwood Strauss

Lance Stephenson might be out of the Indiana picture next season, but for now, he fits in with the team’s tradition. Apart from combining Reggie Miller’s instigator approach with Ron Artest’s blurred behavioral boundaries, Stephenson epitomizes the kind of way this largely successful organization comes up just short of ultimate success.

To some Indiana fans, Stephenson is surely a nuisance they’d prefer to see quelled or let go. There are surely many other Pacers fans who delighted in seeing their guy do anything to rankle a king. Stephenson, like Pacers before him, is an avenger of resentments. The former second-rounder is acting out a certain kind of established role when he pours his manic energy toward thwarting the No. 1 pick and reigning champ. He was perhaps misguided, perhaps took things too far, but he’s an underdog who fought Goliath with all he had. So far, doggedly battling (and losing to) Goliath defines what the Pacers have been for decades.

If you’re choosing the most storied NBA franchise to never win a title, you’re either going with the Phoenix Suns or the Indiana Pacers. Perhaps it’s fitting that neither can claim anything but a conference crown in this category. The Pacers have endured their “Always the bridesmaid” status in a particular way, though. Whereas the Suns wooed fans with a “critically acclaimed” offensive revolution, the Pacers went about their journey as thorny antagonists to the main event.

It should be noted that the Pacers were once a dominant ABA squad whose first championship happened concurrent with a 1970 Knicks NBA title you’ve probably heard more about. Bill Cosby might have vivid memories of Pacers great Roger Brown, but he’s among the few. Those Indiana squads were balanced and beautiful, but their ABA renown was drowned out by the bigger city in the bigger league. Later, Julius Erving’s exploits would come to define what people knew of the ABA. He played for the Nets, who hailed from New York.

The “Hicks vs. Knicks” rivalry of the 1990s drew off Indiana’s resentment of the big, attention-hogging city and its self-regard. As was detailed in the “Winning Time” 30 for 30, the combative, confident Reggie Miller became an ideal avenger of local resentments with his knack for annoying Knicks.

The Pacers of that era were -- like they still are -- a team that garnered a fame by proxy. They were never the standalone draw, but they became notable as antagonists to the big-market bullies. It started with a memorable 1991 series against the Boston Celtics, where Chuck Person trash-talked his way into Larry Bird’s accomplishments. Later, there were the aforementioned series against the Knicks, a classic seven-game Eastern Conference finals against Jordan’s Bulls in 1998, and a competitive six-game Finals against the seemingly unbeatable Shaq-Kobe Lakers.

We’re seeing history repeat with a Pacers team that draws its narrative focus off being enemy to the glitzy Miami Heat and LeBron James. They built a season around beating the Heat, and we cared about that storyline accordingly. The question was less what the Pacers were, and more whether that was good enough to upend the team we’ve been talking about since 2010. In the tradition of the Pacers, they couldn’t quite pull off their underdog arc.

It's a shame, but there’s a good chance this team has maxed out its potential. Stephenson is an unrestricted free agent, and Indiana doesn’t have much room to maneuver with or without his services. Paul George, David West, Roy Hibbert and George Hill are all signed to expensive, long-term deals. Hill would be the obvious upgrade at point guard, but other teams likely don’t want to pay him $8 million in 2017. Despite his quality defense and 3-point range, he’s especially hard to move.

On the face of it, the Pacers seem boxed in. They can’t improve the position they need (point guard), and suddenly develop a position of need if they let their volatile shooting guard walk. It’s asking a lot to rely on Paul George as nearly the singular source of Indiana improving. Even if he gets better, who’s the other threat that defenses will have to account for over a series?

Perhaps, in the Indiana tradition, the answer will be some unheralded guy we’ve yet to consider. This is a team built from draft picks who fell outside the top 10, after all. The Pacers have made a habit of punching above their weight. They just can’t ever seem to win the big one as the bellicose underdog.

Lance's lair

May, 29, 2014
Serrano By Shea Serrano
Writer/illustrator Shea Serrano and his collaborator Sean Mack put their spin on the NBA.

Previously: Westbrook's fashion forward »

The Heat are just better

May, 27, 2014
Abbott By Henry Abbott
David Thorpe says the Eastern Conference finals have demonstrated that the Pacers and Heat are not evenly matched.

Head games

May, 24, 2014
By Michael Rubino
Paul George and Lance StephensonAP Photo/Michael ConroyThere were glimpses of the good ole Pacers, but after a Game 2 loss, is Indy down and out again?
Observers of the Indiana Pacers’ troublesome second half and postseason have wondered if a proper head examination wasn’t in order. An assessment of Paul George’s concussed noggin wasn’t likely what they had in mind.

With 6:50 left in Tuesday’s 87-83 home loss to Miami that tied the Eastern Conference finals at 1-1, George caught first the calf and then the foot of the Heat’s Dwyane Wade. Splayed face-down on the floor for a good 12 to 15 seconds, George received medical treatment on the sideline and returned to the game, but afterward told reporters that he had “blacked out.” On Thursday, he was practicing in a red do-not-touch jersey, and, more importantly, questionable for Game 3 in Miami after losing a game Indiana should have won.

Expecting the unexpected hasn’t come easy to Pacers fans, but they’re getting the gist: It’s beast or famine. Sunday’s emphatic 107-96 Game 1 win in which Indiana could do no wrong (the team hit 42 percent from 3-point range and went to the foul line 37 times) gave way to a Game 2 effort that was winnable, but, at times, seemed not want-able.

For a good spell, though, the Pacers appeared on their way to a 2-0 series lead, and this was thanks, in large part, to the play of guard Lance Stephenson. George is now a legitimate medical head case, but Stephenson has often been smeared as a figurative one. Or a genius on the floor. Fans are split on Lance. (Pacers duality has no bounds.)

“Born Ready” (Stephenson’s self-given nickname) was anything but the first time the Pacers and Heat mixed it up in the conference semifinals back in 2012 and Miami eliminated Indiana in six. Back then, Stephenson was a bit player, a Larry Bird project whose one shining moment came in Game 3 when he jeered LeBron James after a missed free throw, playing court jester for The King with a pantomimed choke sign. Stephenson logged seven minutes in that entire series and scored just one point. “Lance Stephenson?” James said to the media at the next day’s practice. “You want a quote about Lance Stephenson?”

Cold, yes, but for most of Tuesday it was Stephenson who threw shade, finishing the game with 25 points, six boards and seven assists. And while Stephenson mean-mugged a few times, he was largely under control, particularly on an in-bounds tip-in from 6 feet out with 0.1 on the clock to end the first half.

The Pacers actually led 75-72 with 5:33 left in the game, but Miami went on a 10-0 run to put the game out just out of reach. After being held in relative check by George for most of the game, James scored 12 of his 22 in the fourth quarter. While Wade’s 23 led the Heat, LeBron’s performance was the one that stung.

This wasn’t a vintage James line (50 percent from the floor, 50 percent from free-throw, and 1 3-pointer bucket), but the Heat still head to Miami all even. After months of mess, the Pacers, at times, finally look like the dominant team that steamrolled to the top of the East. But not being able to capitalize when James’ effort was subpar (for him) makes you wonder if Indiana will ever break through that glass ceiling.

But it’s certainly not all bad. Overlooked in the Pacers’ up-and-down playoff ride has been the team’s 5-1 record on the road, a franchise best. Indiana lost its first road game of the first round in Atlanta, but hasn’t lost away from home since.

More importantly, through this entire fit of schizophrenia, Pacers coach Frank Vogel hasn’t wavered or panicked. He stuck with Roy Hibbert through the center’s early-round yips and has never let one game -- bomb or beauty -- define a series.

Ultimately, throughout the playoffs -- the near-catastrophe of the Atlanta series, the bumpy patch with Washington -- it’s been the Pacers who have been Pacers’ greatest enemy.

Tuesday that continued as they turned in another Janus-faced performance. The Roman deity presides over liminal or transitional spaces, like doorways and gates, and is depicted with two faces, one looking forward and the other backward. As the Pacers move toward the threshold of the NBA Finals, the face they see guarding that thruway is their own.

Michael Rubino is a senior editor at Indianapolis Monthly.

Daily Postseason MVP rankings

May, 23, 2014
Thorpe By David Thorpe
Check back daily for our latest Postseason MVP rankings. Here's the current Top 3:

Also, check out our weekly Insider column on the Top 10 Postseason MVPs every Friday.

Daily Postseason MVP rankings

May, 22, 2014
Thorpe By David Thorpe
Check back daily for our latest Postseason MVP rankings. Here's the current Top 3:

Also, check out our weekly Insider column on the Top 10 Postseason MVPs every Friday.

Gift of Love: 29 trades for 29 teams

May, 21, 2014
Harper By Zach Harper
Special to
Kevin LoveBrad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports
The end is nigh. Or so it seems. Reports about Kevin Love’s uncertain future with the Minnesota Timberwolves are coming out left and right. Every team in the league is positioning itself to capture the star power on the market right now.

With the draft a little more than a month away, it would behoove the Timberwolves to maximize the trade market now while cap flexibility, draft picks and crushed lottery night dreams are fresh in the minds of the potential suitors.

The Wolves don’t have the upper hand in this situation, but they do have the ability to leverage ravenous front offices against one another and create a trade-market bidding war. As team president Flip Saunders and owner Glen Taylor face a gut-check moment of whether to risk Love leaving for nothing in summer 2015, here are the deals I would blow up their phones with if I were in charge of one of the 29 teams in the league.

Atlanta Hawks

The deal: Trade Machine

Hawks receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Paul Millsap, Dennis Schroder, the rights to Lucas Nogueira, No. 15 pick in 2014

This is a big haul for the Hawks to give up, with three rotation guys plus the pick going to Minnesota. But pairing Love and Al Horford together in Mike Budenholzer’s offense would be an alien invasion without Bill Pullman and Will Smith to fight it off. For the Wolves, Millsap is a nice option you can win with now and flip if he isn’t happy; Schroder is the backup point guard they crave; and Nogueira would give the Wolves a tandem with Gorgui Dieng that makes Nikola Pekovic and his contract expendable.

Boston Celtics

The deal: Trade Machine

Celtics receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger, Brandon Bass, Phil Pressey, Vitor Faverani, Nos. 6 and 17 picks in 2014, Celtics’ first-round pick in 2016

Here, the Wolves are basically getting the picks and then a bunch of cap filler and former first-rounders. There’s no reason to pretend Olynyk and Sullinger would be pieces for the Wolves at all. Being a Wolves fan since they've come into the NBA, I am pretty good at recognizing overvalued first-round picks who won’t be as good as you hope they are. This is about the picks, and with Nos. 6, 13 and 17 in this draft, they could load up or move up.

Brooklyn Nets

The deal: Trade Machine

Nets receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: The 2003 Kevin Garnett

Look, I don’t know how owner Mikhail Prokhorov got his hands on a time machine, either, but billionaires have access to things we don’t. Let’s just take advantage of the opportunity to grab 2003 Kevin Garnett and get this team back into the playoffs.

Charlotte Hornets

The deal: Trade Machine

Hornets receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, Gary Neal, Nos. 9 and 24 picks in 2014

The Wolves never got to truly test out the Al Jefferson-Love big man tandem because Love wasn’t that great yet and Jefferson hurt his knee. They get a redo in Charlotte in this scenario, and with coach Steve Clifford’s defensive stylings, it could actually work.

Wolves would get a former No. 2 pick with potential; Zeller, whom they were enamored with before last year’s draft; and two first-round picks. The Pistons conceding the No. 9 pick to the Bobcats makes this a very attractive deal.

Chicago Bulls

The deal: Trade Machine

Bulls receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Carlos Boozer, Jimmy Butler, the rights to Nikola Mirotic, Ronnie Brewer, Nos. 16 and 19 picks in 2014

Of the most realistic trade scenarios for the Wolves in unloading Love for assets, cap relief and picks, this is probably the best move they could make, unless Phoenix is willing to be bold. You could also swap out Boozer for Taj Gibson, but his long-term money isn’t ideal for a rebuilding team. The Wolves could flip him to a contender later. The Bulls would be giving up a lot, but a big three of Joakim Noah, Love and Derrick Rose (assuming he's healthy) is an amazing way to battle whatever the Heat end up being after this season.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The deal: Trade Machine

Cavaliers receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Alonzo Gee, No. 1 pick in 2014

Why would the Cavaliers possibly trade the No. 1 pick in a loaded class, plus three rotation players, for Love? Because they seem to have a pipe dream of bringing LeBron James back to Cleveland this summer and this is the way to do it. It’s not stockpiling a bunch of young role players for James to play alongside. He wants to play with stars, and having Love and Kyrie Irving in tow would go a long way.

Dallas Mavericks

Mavericks receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: 2011 NBA championship banner and one free pass for a business idea on “Shark Tank”

I’ve always had a problem with teams hanging up “division title” banners in an arena because it seems like a lower-level franchise thing to do. Considering the Wolves are about to lose their best player and potentially miss the playoffs for an 11th straight season, it’s safe to consider them on that lower level right now.

It would be nice to take down the 2003-04 division title banner and replace it with a championship banner. And the extra revenue from getting a business idea funded through “Shark Tank” could give this organization a little extra money to play around with during the next few years. The Wolves are renovating their arena, so they could use the cash.

Denver Nuggets

The deal: Trade Machine

Nuggets receive: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin
Wolves receive: Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari, Darrell Arthur, Randy Foye, No. 11 pick in 2014

Coach Brian Shaw gets his coveted big-time power forward and a nice offensive complement to Ty Lawson in the backcourt. While Martin isn't even close to being a defender, he at least has some size to utilize on offense.

The Wolves get a lot of quality players and a couple of veterans (Arthur and Foye) they can flip. They could even add a lottery pick here in this draft, although this sort of feels like a lot in return. Oh, who cares? The Wolves get to be greedy here.

Detroit Pistons

Pistons receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Stan Van Gundy

I don't want your horrible Josh Smith contract and shot selection that makes most government agencies look like well-oiled machines. I don’t want an improbable sign-and-trade deal with Greg Monroe. I don’t want any of the young players. I don’t even want the pick. I want SVG in all of his coaching glory and I’m willing to relinquish this fake GM power to him when the trade is completed. I’m going full-on Veruca Salt on this one. I want Stan Van Gundy to coach the Wolves and I want it now!

Golden State Warriors

The deal: Trade Machine

Warriors receive: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin
Wolves receive: David Lee, Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson, right to swap picks in 2015 and 2016

I don’t actually think this is a good trade, but it allows me to bring up a point. I get the mindset of wanting to maximize the value you receive in a trade versus what you’re sending out. But there are Warriors fans worried about giving up Thompson and Barnes in a deal for Love, while ridding themselves of Lee’s contract. Back when the Clippers were trading for Chris Paul, there were fans and writers who thought it was a bad idea to include Eric Gordon. Think about that now. Sometimes it can get out of hand for players who probably won’t be All-Stars.

Houston Rockets

The deal: Trade Machine

Rockets receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Jeremy Lin, Donatas Motiejunas, Chandler Parsons, Jordan Hamilton, first-round picks in 2015 and 2017

This is an incredibly tricky situation because while the Rockets have lots of assets to move, the inclusion of Parsons makes the deal really difficult. The Wolves would need to pick up his team option for next season, but that means he’s an unrestricted free agent in 2015. How likely is it that he will want to stay in Minnesota?

Lin’s contract will cost more than owner Glen Taylor wants to pay for a non-winning team. Motiejunas would be the best prospect in the deal and you’re taking late first-round picks in the future. Can we just forget this deal and ask Hakeem Olajuwon to be an adviser to the Wolves instead?

Indiana Pacers

The deal: Trade Machine

Pacers receive: Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic
Wolves receive: Roy Hibbert, David West

I want to see just how good of a coach Frank Vogel is. The Wolves were 29th in defending the restricted area this season, and I would guess the only reason they weren’t the worst is because of Dieng’s late-season rim defense. The Pacers were the best at defending the rim this season. Can Vogel keep that defensive prowess with these non-shot-blockers? Can the Wolves defend the rim with these two big men? These two teams don’t match up at all in the trade department, so we might as well experiment.

Los Angeles Clippers

The deal: Trade Machine

Clippers receive: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin
Wolves receive: Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford

I don’t know why the Clippers would ever do this trade, but it’s unfair for other fan bases to have all of the fun and none of the depression. Griffin gets to receive alley-oop passes from Ricky Rubio while Crawford dazzles the media members with his dribbling and charm.

The Clippers get another shooter to stretch the floor to allow DeAndre Jordan to further develop. Martin wouldn’t exactly add anything to what the Clippers do now, but again, I’m sick of all the depression in these scenarios, so just take one for the team, please.

Los Angeles Lakers

The deal: Trade Machine

Lakers receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Steve Nash, Robert Sacre, Nick Young, MarShon Brooks, No. 7 pick in 2014, future first-round pick, Flip Saunders gets a statue outside Staples Center, Minneapolis Lakers’ title banners

In this scenario, I suffered a head injury when I tried to pull off one of those 360 layups Swaggy P loves to do so much and I fell into the celebrating elbows of Sacre. It left me a little woozy, but I think I came up with a good deal to finally get Love to Los Angeles. Nash's deal is expiring, Sacre and Ronny Turiaf form the greatest bench-cheering duo ever, Young gets to teach me that layup and Brooks is cap filler. Those Minneapolis Lakers banners will look great at Target Center, too.

Memphis Grizzlies

The deal: Trade Machine

Grizzlies receive: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin
Wolves receive: Zach Randolph, James Johnson, Jon Leuer, Jamaal Franklin, first-round pick in 2017

This does one thing that’s pretty cool: It gives a Grizzlies team that struggled to score in the half court two very good half-court scorers. They lose some toughness but they can actually round out their overall game quite a bit. For the Wolves, it gives them the potential for a Pekovic-Randolph-Johnson frontcourt, which, if Randolph opts in this summer, will protect Minnesota when the zombie apocalypse happens. Nobody is taking out that frontcourt.

Miami Heat

The deal: Trade Machine

Heat receive: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin
Wolves receive: Chris Bosh, Norris Cole, right to swap first-round picks in 2016 and 2018

The Wolves are torn between a full-on rebuild (try selling that to the fans again during this decade-long playoff drought) and trying to still find a way to sneak into the playoffs. Granted, Bosh has to agree to this deal by not opting out of his contract this summer, but the Wolves would at least remain hyper-competitive on the playoff bubble. They’d also grab a backup point guard who isn’t as erratic as the incumbent, J.J. Barea.

The Heat get younger and give LeBron the chance to really have a great second scorer with him in his next deal in Miami.

Milwaukee Bucks

The deal: Trade Machine

Bucks receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Larry Sanders, O.J. Mayo, No. 2 pick in 2014, Wisconsin has to pretend the Vikings are the best team in the league

Sure, Sanders has the potential to be a nice defender in this league for a long time, Mayo would be a possible cap-relief trade chip in a year and the No. 2 pick, whoever it ends up being, could be a major star in this league. But the win here for Minnesota is Wisconsin having to pretend the Vikings are the best. A fan base that was 27th in attendance in the NBA and 13th in attendance in the NFL doesn't really care how they make out in any Love deal. They just want the football win. Vikings fans aren't used to getting a lot of those.

New Orleans Pelicans

The deal: Trade Machine

Pelicans receive: Kevin Love, Chase Budinger
Wolves receive: Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon

Sure, you guys are laughing at me and how ridiculous this is, but in my head the deal has been made and I’m doing a little dance of celebration. Have your laughter, and I’ll have my delusional mind, and never the twain shall meet.

New York Knicks

The deal: Trade Machine

Knicks receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: [processing ...]

The Knicks gave up a first-round pick to get Andrea Bargnani. Comparable value means they’d have to give up the entire Wall Street district for Love. I can’t even pretend there is a combination here that works for the Wolves. Maybe they could do a double sign-and-trade and swap Love for Carmelo Anthony? Someone ask cap guru Larry Coon if this is allowed. Can we get a reality show just recording La La’s face when Melo has to tell her they’re moving to Minneapolis?

Oklahoma City Thunder

The deal: Trade Machine

Thunder receive: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin
Wolves receive: Serge Ibaka, Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones III, Hasheem Thabeet, Mavericks’ first-round pick in 2014, Thunder’s first-round pick in 2017

I’m not going to be unrealistic and pretend Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook are in play here, but there’s no reason the Wolves can’t ask for Ibaka, while also unloading Martin’s deal (three years, $20 million left) and picking up young talent in Lamb and Jones, a first-round pick this year and an unprotected pick in 2017. Why 2017? Let’s pretend this Thunder thing doesn’t work out and Love and Durant both leave in 2016. In this scenario, the Wolves position themselves to take advantage of a team falling apart. It’s like what every team does to Minnesota every single time it trades a draft pick.

Orlando Magic

The deal: Trade Machine

Magic receive: Kevin Love, No. 13 pick in 2014
Wolves receive: Victor Oladipo, Andrew Nicholson, Jameer Nelson, No. 4 pick in 2014

I recognize that the Wolves getting the No. 2 pick from last year’s draft plus the No. 4 pick in this draft seems like a lot, but Love is a lot better than Oladipo and it’s not all that close. Even if Oladipo maximizes his potential, he’s probably not reaching Love’s status. Flip was enamored with Oladipo heading into the 2013 draft and would probably be willing to swap firsts with the Magic this year in order to complete this trade.

Philadelphia 76ers

The deal: Trade Machine

76ers receive: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin
Wolves receive: Thaddeus Young, Jason Richardson, Nos. 3 and 10 picks in 2014

The Wolves get a young asset, cap relief and two lottery picks in this draft in exchange for Love and getting rid of Martin’s deal. It sounds like the Sixers are giving up a lot here, but they have assets to spare. You’re teaming Love with a defensive-minded center in Nerlens Noel and a pass-first point guard in Michael Carter-Williams. Plus, the Sixers still have room to add another major player.

Phoenix Suns

The deal: Trade Machine

Suns receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Eric Bledsoe, Timberwolves' first-round pick in 2015

This is the dream scenario. The Wolves would have to convince Bledsoe to want to play in Minnesota, and then execute a sign-and-trade. Most likely, they’d have to max out Bledsoe in the process. The Suns do it because of the knee concern for Bledsoe, and Love is a much better player who fits coach Jeff Hornacek’s style of play. Getting their top-12 protected pick back for dumping Wes Johnson in Phoenix helps, too. It’s a risk by the Suns and a concession by the Wolves, but this is the “fingers crossed” scenario.

Portland Trail Blazers

The deal: Trade Machine

Trail Blazers receive: Kevin Love, medium-quality bike lanes from Minneapolis
Wolves receive: LaMarcus Aldridge, second-best bike lanes from Portland

This needs to happen and it doesn’t have anything to do with basketball. I just want to see both fan bases reverse course on the vitriol thrown each other’s way when discussing which power forward is better. The Blazers fans would have to embrace Love as the top PF while the Wolves fans pretend they never meant the things they said about Aldridge’s rebounding.

The bike lane aspect of this trade would really help Portland take back its title as top cycling city in the country.

Sacramento Kings

The deal: Trade Machine

Kings receive: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin
Wolves receive: DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Williams, Jason Terry

This one doesn't even involve a draft pick because Cousins has so much potential. The Kings can take a big man with the No. 8 pick this year and pair him next to Love. Martin returns to Sacramento and doesn't have Tyreke Evans to hog the ball and make him want to get out of town. Terry is salary-cap relief for the Wolves, and they can to try a do-over with Williams. This trade can’t happen until after July 1, so that and reality are the only two hang-ups right now.

San Antonio Spurs

Spurs receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Gregg Popovich

This works out perfectly in a couple of ways. Let’s say the Spurs win the title this year and we see Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili ride off into the sunset. Love would immediately be the replacement for Duncan and give the Spurs a bridge from this era into the next successful one.

For the Wolves, I don’t even want to subject Popovich to coaching the team. He should just be a consultant for a month and let the organization know all of the awful ways in which they do things and the way the Spurs “would never consider something like this.” He’d essentially be The Wolf in "Pulp Fiction" for Minnesota.

Toronto Raptors

The deal: Trade Machine

Raptors receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross, John Salmons, No. 20 pick in 2014, Knicks’ first-round pick in 2016

It would leave the Raptors searching for a big man to protect the paint, but in today’s NBA, you could get away with a Love-Amir Johnson frontcourt against a lot of teams. The Wolves get the young assets they crave, the draft picks they need and the cap relief necessary to keep their options open. They’d have to move Pekovic next, and they don’t get rid of Martin's contract in this scenario, but it’s a good start to the rebuilding plan. This might be a lot for the Raptors to give up, but general manager Masai Ujiri can just fleece the next four trades he makes and even it all out.

Utah Jazz

The deal: Trade Machine

Jazz receive: Kevin Love
Wolves receive: Derrick Favors, Jeremy Evans, John Lucas III, Rudy Gobert, No. 5 pick in 2014

Requesting the Jazz’s top big man and the fifth pick is asking Utah to do the Wolves quite the ... Favor(s) ... you know? No? Wait, where are you guys going? I still have one more team to poach players from!

Washington Wizards

The deal: Trade Machine

Wizards receive: Kevin Love, Kevin Martin
Wolves receive: Bradley Beal, Nene

This would be an incredibly tough decision for the Wizards to make. They have one of the best young shooting guards in the NBA, and pairing him with John Wall would produce an awesome tandem for a decade. And yet, they could upgrade for Love while still keeping a scorer at the shooting guard position. In the process, they’d rid themselves of the long-term money owed to Nene. They would owe long-term money to Martin, though.

It’s not an ideal scenario in a few ways, but you’d be making this team a big threat. Plus, it would give coach Randy Wittman a chance to apologize for telling a young Love that he should abandon the 3-point shot.

Daily Postseason MVP rankings

May, 20, 2014
Thorpe By David Thorpe
Check back daily for our latest Postseason MVP rankings. Here's the current Top 3:

Also, check out our weekly Insider column on the Top 10 Postseason MVPs every Friday.

Not time for Heat to panic

May, 19, 2014
Abbott By Henry Abbott
Questions going into Game 2: Is Roy Hibbert making scoring too hard for the Heat? Does Miami miss Mike Miller? Is Chris Bosh useless against a huge frontline? David Thorpe scoffs at all that, and calls Heat in 6.

Daily Postseason MVP rankings

May, 19, 2014
Thorpe By David Thorpe
Check back daily for our latest Postseason MVP rankings. Here's the current Top 3:

Also, check out our weekly Insider column on the Top 10 Postseason MVPs every Friday.