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Wiggins Sits Outs, But(t) Anthony Bennett Struts His Stuff

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Andrew Wiggins took the night off as a precautionary measure. Meanwhile, Anthony Bennett continued to show signs of hope entering his sophomore campaign.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Pacers and Timberwolves squared off for the second time this preseason last night, this time at the Target Center instead of Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Earlier this preseason, Andrew Wiggins gave Solomon Hill the business. He swatted three of his shots (shots?) and made the second-year pro look overmatched all night, as I wrote here. Wiggins, however, wasn't able to do the same on Tuesday night.

The #1 overall pick didn't play because his butt swelled up after a hard fall in Sunday's contest against the Oklahoma City Thunder. According to head coach Flip Saunders, he likely won't play in tonight's game vs. the Bucks either.

"He really swelled up yesterday," Saunders said during the postgame press conference.

Saunders continued, "We didn't know what it would be like today, he was just too sore to be able to go. He probably won't go tomorrow either, just because where he's at. He's having a tough time walking and we need to get him ready for next week."

When asked what was wrong with Wiggins, Saunders said "his butt, he's got a third butt." I've never heard that phrase before in my life, so I'll chalk that up to another first time experience. Anyways, the setback from Wiggins is minor and sitting him out sounds more precautionary than anything.

That in itself got me thinking. When was the last time the Wolves demonstrated a proactive (instead of reactive) approach to injuries? One of the themes during training camp and preseason has been a proactive approach to keeping the roster healthy throughout the rigorous 82 game season.

Kevin Martin sat out the first three preseason game with a sore groin. Rubio didn't play in Milwaukee last Friday, but didn't have any particular injury to keep him out. Pekovic was limited in early practices during training camp and held out of the first preseason game against the Pacers. He's also been limited in preseason action - his 20 minutes against the Pacers last night were a preseason high. Additionally, Shabazz Muhammed only played in two preseason games (both against Indiana) due to a sore, though insignificant, Achilles tendon.

Through all of this I can't help but think "Wow, the Wolves are being REALLY proactive this season." Perhaps it's just me, but it seems like we haven't seen a proactive approach in terms of keeping guys healthy for quite some time. To be completely honest, I actually can't remember an instance like this ever. Are the Wolves stealing a page out of the Phoenix Suns book of secrets?

Bennett Scores 17 points in 17 minutes

Second-year forward Anthony Bennett continued his strong preseason with a 17 point, 5 rebound effort for the Wolves (7-for-9 from the field). In other words, he strutted his stuff.

From my point of view, it's hard not to be excited about the flashes Bennett has shown this preseason. This is a completely different AB. He's been confident in interviews, he's in the best shape of his life, his first step is explosive and somewhat lethal, he's supremely focused on proving his worth and ready to prove the doubters wrong.

Bennett madly desires a rebirth; one look and you can see it permeate through his eyes. Last year was an aberration and the Timberwolves have given him a fresh start that every rookie flop desires. This Bennett is not the Cleveland Bennett.

During the second half of the game I overheard the following on media row: "Steal of the trade right there." That, of course, was in reference to Anthony Bennett after he finished a double-pump layup in transition over a Pacers defender. Calling the move impressive would be an understatement; my eyebrows were halfway up my forehead.

"I've said all along, he's been great," Saunders said about the former UNLV star. "He's playing now like a lot of people thought he'd play a year ago. There's no question that the trade gave him a newfound life, energy, and enthusiasm. He committed himself, lost some weight, got back in shape... He's been effective on the floor."

After the game, Bennett was cordial in the locker room. "I feel a lot more confident now and in shape. I'm just trying to get adjusted to the playing style. I know I have to keep coming out strong every day."

Quick Notes:

  • Ricky Rubio was a team-high +22 and finished 7-8 from the charity stripe. On his 24th birthday, Rubio was the point guard the Wolves need every single night. All he needs to do is drain a few jumpers to gain respect from the defense, finish at the rim at a respectable rate, get to the line at a career rate (3.9 attempts through three seasons) and knock down freebies. Like any player, free throws will help Rubio gain confidence. In the last two preseason games, Rubio is 16-18 from the line. Keep getting freebies, Ricky.
  • The bench unit showed signs of hope once again. They scored 65 points, led by Anthony Bennett (17), Mo Williams (13), and Chase Budinger (12).
  • Speaking of Budinger... It's on record that I'm not fan of trading him. The sixth-year wing looks fully healthy and back to his old game. He brings a floor spacing presence to a team in need of outside shooting threats. Sorry I'm not stoked about the idea of adding a future draft pick for his rights. Without Bud, the Wolves simply don't have a capable NBA wing to spread the defense as an outside threat. I want to see what a healthy Budinger brings to the table off the bench. If Tuesday night was any indication, he might be the best long-range shooter and backdoor baseline cutter the Wolves currently possess. Do we really want to trade that for scraps?
  • Without Paul George the Pacers look lost offensively. George Hill might be their only guy that can create his own shot, and he left the game with a left knee contusion sustained midway through the 3rd quarter. My impression of Indiana was this: they should be extremely thankful they play in the East. They would absolutely get eaten alive in the West without George. From what I saw last night, they'll be lucky to even make the playoffs. Sure, they were without David West and Rodney Stuckey but those guys don't tip the scale enough for me to feel comfortable about handing them a playoff spot in the weaker Eastern Conference. The recently extended Pacers head coach, Frank Vogel, has a stressful season ahead of him.
  • Mo Williams is incredibly vocal. Most of the time I have absolutely no idea what he's saying on the court, but it's clear he's taking a leadership role for the Wolves; constantly directing the other players. It's only preseason, but I have a sneaking suspicion that $3.75 million is well worth his services. Beyond his preseason production, Williams appears primed to have a positive effect on team. He finished with 13 points, 9 assists, and 6 turnovers in 28 minutes.
  • Shabazz Muhammad returned to action after missing the past three games with a sore right Achilles tendon. Shabuckets, as I occasionally call him after a left-block, left-hook finish, had six points on 3-for-7 shooting in 18 minutes. If you're into +/- he was second on the team behind Rubio, posting a +21.

In case you missed it...

The @TimberTrolls have done it yet again. This video is pure gold, or as @AverageJer says, "Gold? This is much better than gold."