Life is filled with unanswerable questions, and Timberwolves assistant coach Sam Mitchell has asked himself many more than usual lately.
In a matter of hours recently, Mitchell learned former Portland star Jerome Kersey was dead at age 52 and current Miami star Chris Bosh has been hospitalized and is sidelined for the season.
Kersey died Feb. 18 when a blood clot traveled from his calf to his lung and killed him. The clot could be related to minor knee surgery he had five days earlier. Bosh was hospitalized in Miami because of blood clots in his lung after he felt poorly following All-Star break trips to Haiti and New York City.
Mitchell banged against Kersey often during their playing careers. He coached Bosh for four-plus seasons in Toronto.
“You just don’t know, man,” Mitchell said. “A blood clot traveled to his lungs and killed him. A blood clot. A tiny blood clot? How does a blood clot travel from your calf to your heart and kill you instantly, just like that? I just don’t know. Then you see Chris flying around the way he was, not feeling well and it’s just by the grace of God something didn’t happen to him.”
Former Portland teammates Terry Porter and Kersey appeared together at a Portland high school the day before Kersey’s death, gathering for an event that celebrated African-American History Month. Kersey visited the Blazers’ office hours before he died.
Mitchell watched a television interview that Porter, his former teammate, did remembering his friend not long after Kersey died.
“I saw how upset Terry was, and it just reminded me of when Malik died,” Mitchell said. “It’s just so unexpected. You don’t think it can happen, not at this age.”
Mitchell’s Wolves teammate, Malik Sealy, was 30 when his car was struck and he was killed by a drunken driver on his way home from Kevin Garnett’s birthday celebration in May 2000.
Wolves assistant coach David Adelman last week e-mailed Mitchell a photograph of Mitchell and Kersey entangled while fighting for position during a game long ago.
“I knew him well enough from playing against him and being around him,” Mitchell said. “He was a great guy, man. People compared us a lot because of how we played. We both played physical and played hard. I just remember that when you played against Jerome, you had to bring it. We would lock up and bang and hit each other and then we’d just look at each other and laugh because we both played like that. That’s how we played. We respected that in each other.”
Mitchell is 51. The past two weeks have prompted him to ponder his own mortality.
“To see pictures of him now and you’re thinking you’re still here and he’s not, it’s just a weird feeling,” Mitchell said. “These young guys in the locker room don’t think about it. When you get over 50, you start thinking about that stuff now. It’s just all of a sudden. I don’t know, man: If it’s going to happen, just let it happen all of a sudden, I guess.”
Among all those questions he has pondered lately, Mitchell does not pretend to know for whom the bell tolls.
“Life is short and precious, man,” he said. “Don’t take it for granted.”
NBA short takes
Making it perfectly clear
The NBA on Monday will begin making public reports regarding all officiating calls and non-calls in the final two minutes and overtime of close games.
“I don’t care after the game, sometimes it’s even worse,” Wolves coach Flip Saunders. “The league’s trying to be transparent. I give them credit for trying to do that, but it’d be no different to us. We send in bad calls, we know they’re bad calls, but you can’t do anything about it.”
You don’t see that often
Uber-intense Kevin Garnett broke from character during Wednesday’s emotional return and busted into a big smile when a local improv actor reprised his dancing “Jiggly Boy” character who, like Garnett, had left Target Center long ago.
“I think if you saw a fat guy with everything off, dancing with your name on his chest, I think you would pay attention to that, or at least for five seconds,” Garnett said. “You know what, the guy was over the top. I had to give him a big shout-out. It was all love. That’s probably one of the craziest things I’ve seen in 15 years.”
There’s no ‘I’ in assist
Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook is trying to pull his team to the playoffs while injured superstar Kevin Durant is out and probably will succeed and get himself into league MVP consideration. Still … he scored 39 points in Thursday’s overtime loss at Phoenix but needed 38 shots.
“You can be a good player, you can even be a really good player, but you can’t become a great player until you learn how to make the guys around you better,” TNT analyst Charles Barkley said. “When you are as explosive as Russell Westbrook is, you can take 38 shots a night because you can get a shot every time down the court. However, he should say, ‘I’m going to get [Serge] Ibaka a shot, I’m going to get [Enes] Kanter a shot, I’m going to get Dion Waiters a shot.’ ”
Wolves’ Week Ahead
Monday: 7 p.m. vs. L.A. Clippers (FSN)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. vs. Denver (FSN)
Saturday: 7 p.m. vs. Portland (FSN)
Player to watch:
Chris Paul, Clippers
While his team waits for Blake Griffin’s forthcoming return from elbow surgery, Paul’s still delivering ridiculously good nights such as Monday’s 30-point, 10-assist game, even if Mike Conley stole the ball from him to win the game.
« I didn’t know I had that much love in the state of Minnesota. »
– Old Wolf turn new Kevin Garnett on Wednesday’s emotional homecoming.