February 15, 2018, 6:52 pm
Many teams are looking forward to the All-Star break. It’s a time for the players to let themselves unwind a bit, take the pressures of the season off their shoulders for a few short days. The Timberwolves are especially feeling the weight of their season and could use some down time.
After such a scorching hot streak through half of December and January, the Wolves have limped their way through February.
With coach Thibs’ style wearing guys down, the heightened expectations getting even more dramatic after the terrific start and the general wear-and-tear that goes with the long season all factoring in, many guys will be ready to kick their feet up, presumably.
There is one last game the team has to get through first, and while on paper it may seem like a nice way to coast into the break, it would be a mistake to overlook the Los Angeles Lakers.
Despite their record of 23-32, the Lakers have been playing some pretty good basketball of late. Over their last 18 games they have a record of 12-6 and have been playing some tough defense (though their last two games have been extremely rough).
Conversely, over that same span, the Wolves’ defense has utterly collapsed after they managed to put together a solid unit for a few weeks. The offense has still been elite.
This will make for an interesting matchup. The Lakers are an interior team that relies on transition baskets for their offense. They own the fastest pace in the NBA, loving to generate turnovers and push the pace. They also look ahead on missed shots often as well.
They’re not a good 3-point shooting team, with only one player averaging over 2.0 makes per game. They did add Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye, two major deep threats, and they have a number of players capable of making deep shots, but they typically don’t incorporate it into their game.
Typically the Wolves don’t mind going up against teams that play inside the arc as opposed to outside, as they’re able to out-score most teams from the interior anyway. They run into trouble when teams get hot from the outside, like the Houston matchup. When that happens, the Wolves have trouble keeping pace.
In the past meeting between these teams on Christmas Day, the Wolves didn’t employ many tricks or wrinkles. They kept the Lakers right on their season averages for 3-point attempts, 2-point attempts, turnovers and free throws.
They didn’t necessarily slow their pace down because they didn’t have to. The Wolves simply got a few stops at some key moments, while their offense took care of business.
This time around it will be interesting to see what the young Lakers do to adjust, and how their new additions influence their team game. If they look to trade some “two’s” for “three’s” while improving their defense, it could make for a much closer matchup than last time, where the Wolves won by 17.
– Taj Gibson vs. Julius Randle
– Nemanja Bjelica vs. Kyle Kuzma
– Jamal Crawford vs. Isaiah Thomas
In addition to being an interior, transition based team, the Lakers are very active on the offensive glass. They rank fifth in offensive rebounding on the season, and Randle is one of their best inside, ranking first with Larry Nance Jr. traded away. In the last meeting alone Randle grabbed four total and the Lakers had 13 as a team.
The Wolves are, somehow, among one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the NBA. They remarkably rank in the middle of the pack in opponents’ second chance points, though.
It’s a fine line the Wolves toe, and they’ll have to continue to work that into their favor against a Lakers’ team that generates the second-most second chance points in the NBA.
Meanwhile off the bench is where things may get dicey for the Wolves. The Lakers have brought Kyle Kuzma off the bench of late, allowing his proficiencies to shine, and to hide his deficiencies.
Defensively Kuzma is not the strongest player, typically getting beat by post-up bigs and longer power forwards. Taj Gibson made for a tough assignment for Kuzma.
Offensively, though, Kuzma is a nightmare for the same types of players. He torched the Wolves last time out, and may even have a bigger game in this one without having to worry as much about Gibson.
Kuzma is a solid deep-shooting threat, but also willing to take it off the dribble and score at the rim. Bjelica is not great with closing out and staying with players, and size-wise doesn’t disrupt Kuzma like Gibson does.
Thomas may also prove to be a tough cover for the Wolves as well. It’s likely Tyus Jones spends most of the time on IT, but Jamal Crawford is well-known to be a dear friend, and mentor, to Thomas. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if they decide to matchup with one another and have a one-on-one battle, for better or worse.
Containing the potent Laker bench will be the biggest key for the Wolves winning this game.
Jeff Teague – PG
Jimmy Butler – SG
Andrew Wiggins – SF
Taj Gibson – PF
Karl-Anthony Towns – C
Josh Hart – PG
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – SG
Brandon Ingram – SF
Julius Randle – PF
Brook Lopez – C
Marcus Georges-Hunt (illness) – QUESTIONABLE
Lonzo Ball (knee) – OUT
Channing Fry (personal) – OUT
Where to Watch:
9:00 ET/8:00 CT on TNT
May 25, 2020, 3:16 pmTerry RozierPG, Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets are the latest team to re-open their facilities, with the Novant Health Training Center set to open up on Tuesday.
With this, there are only eight teams left to open their practice courts back up, though nobody has been able to engage in any sort of team work yet. Individual workouts are better than no workouts, however, and the league appears to be getting its ducks in a row in terms of returning to play. There's still no firm timelines but things do appear to be heading in the right direction.
Source: Charlotte Hornets
May 25, 2020, 3:13 pmJon LeuerPF, Milwaukee Bucks
Jon Leuer has announced his retirement from basketball.
Injuries completely destroyed Leuer's career, as he played in a combined 49 games over the previous two seasons with zero appearances in the 2019-20 campaign. Leuer's high point came with the Suns, where he averaged 8.5 points to go with 5.6 rebounds, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks and a 38.2 mark from deep. His eight-year career comes to an end, with Leuer saying that his body simply won't let him play at a high level anymore.
Source: Jon Leuer on Instagram
May 24, 2020, 9:20 pmKyrie IrvingPG, Brooklyn Nets
Following Governor Andrew Cuomo's greenlight from earlier on Sunday, the Nets will reopen their practice facilities on Tuesday.
The team will open its doors to voluntary player workouts. The team's statement went on to elaborate that they would strictly follow NBA and infectious disease expert protocols as they resume activities. It's another small step in the right direction as the NBA continues its climb towards trying to play actual games.
Source: Malika Andrews on Twitter
May 24, 2020, 8:03 pmKemba WalkerPG, Boston Celtics
Kemba Walker feels that his left knee hampered him earlier this year because of all of the basketball he's played over the course of his career.
The knee pain has been a constant this season, and Walker has missed eight games due to the injury overall. He should be fully recovered for when the season does resume at this point, and if he is able to get enough practice reps in he'll be able to avoid any restrictions whenever the league-wide shutdown is lifted.
Source: The Athletic
May 24, 2020, 7:56 pmAnte ZizicPF, Cleveland Cavaliers
If Ante Zizic chooses to leave the NBA when he hits free agency this offseason, he could draw interest from Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Zizic had a lot of success in 2016-17 when he was last in the Euro League with Darussafaka, averaging 9 points and 6.7 rebounds in under 21 minutes per game. In comparison, he's been an afterthought for the Cavs this season, only averaging 10 minutes per game. Moreover, the Cavs declined to pick up his player option for next season, and they already have plenty of options for the frontcourt between Kevin Love, Larry Nance Jr., and possibly DeAndre Drummond (player option). Maccabi will have to see how much salary flexibility they have this offseason as ticket sales are likely to take a hit in Israel next year.
Source: Euro Hoops
May 24, 2020, 7:33 pmKevin DurantSF, Brooklyn Nets
On Sunday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that professional sports teams based in New York may resume operations immediately.
With Governor Cuomo's green light in place the Knicks and Nets are now just waiting for Adam Silver's seal of approval on getting back into there facilities. The majority of the league now has state approval to access their practice facilities and the NBA is slowly ramping up activities in hopes of resuming games in July.
Source: Andrew Cuomo on Twitter
May 23, 2020, 9:43 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported that the NBA has entered "exploratory conversations" with Disney on restarting the season at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.
NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said the NBA and NBPA have discussed with Disney on restarting the season in late July. Marc Stein reported on Friday that it is looking increasingly likely that games will resume in July, and it appears that the stage for the rest of the 2019-20 season is likely to be Orlando.
May 23, 2020, 9:32 pmLaMelo BallPG, International
The Knicks have LaMelo Ball as their top-rated point guard for the 2020 NBA Draft.
The Knicks have a need at point guard and Ball is considered the point guard with the highest upside in this draft. He had poor shooting numbers in his 12 games in the NBL this past season, shooting .250 from deep and .375 from the field. He is a gifted passer though and averaged 6.8 assists per game in 31.3 minutes, adding 17.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals. If Ball was drafted by the Knicks, he could help younger players RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson get easier looks. Ball will likely be given an opportunity to run the offense by the team that drafts him and he could put up big assists numbers. He also has an impressive steal rate in limited play in Australia, but his shooting percentages are a big concern.
May 23, 2020, 9:15 pmBradley BealSG, Washington Wizards
Bradley Beal’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, said “There are no Beal Sweepstakes and that’s why he re-signed with the Wizards.”
Bartelstein continued to say “Brad re-signed with the Wizards because he wanted to stay in Washington and the Wizards wanted to keep him there.” Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reported earlier in the week that the Nets had internal discussions with the Wizards for Beal. A trade out of Washington would likely hurt Beal’s fantasy value, but it’s not worth putting too much stock into trade rumors for Beal in dynasty leagues.
May 22, 2020, 9:13 pmJonathan IsaacPF, Orlando Magic
Jonathan Isaac, who sustained a serious left knee injury in January, said his knee is "feeling strong" and that he has been squatting increasingly more weight recently.
Isaac also said recently that he's open to returning if and when the NBA season is resumed and as long as the Magic organization is on-board with it. He has been running on an anti-gravity treadmill and indicated that his knee feels "110 percent" after more than four months of rehab. Isaac is a huge part of the Magic's future and it remains to be seen whether or not they will take the risk.
Source: John Denton on Twitter