"Shoot, you could be playing tic-tac-toe and you don't want to lose," Ryan Saunders said after the Minnesota Timberwolves lost their fourth straight game in Las Vegas, 78-73 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. "You dont want to lose, but we made some young mistakes."
One hopes that once the regular season rolls around and Ricky Rubio, Kevin Garnett and the rest of the Timberwolves' veterans are fully in the mix, that refrain is heard a lot less. In a game that LeBron James took in from the sideline, the Wolves led by ten at halftime, but an ugly third quarter let the Cavaliers back into the mix, and the Wolves couldn't find the offense to take the game in the final seconds.
One player that will immediately step into his role with the veterans is Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns had one of his weaker showings of the week, struggling with foul trouble for much of the game. He also did not shoot the ball well, only going 2-8 from the field and 5-9 from the free throw line, a rare misstep for him from the charity stripe.
After the game, Towns was realistic. "Certain things you'd expect for me to do well, I did well this week. Certain things I do well, I just didn't do well this week," he said. He was well aware of his 0-for-Vegas line from beyond the arc as well. "About two or three of those air balls I shot this week, I bet you if I shot them in college, they're straight in, he said.
With Towns, the signs of his potential that have always been there were visible throughout the week: beautiful passing out of the post, tenacious defense, and a solid shot, to say the least. Once the future arrives and training camp starts this fall, the real challenge begins, and coach Ryan Saunders thinks that he is ready. "You get veteran guys around him too, he's going to be able to do some things," said Saunders.
When training camp rolls around, many of the players that were on the court wearing a Timberwolves uniform will not be anywhere to be seen. The ones that will be showed what they can become this week. "Summer league is more than wins and losses. Buzzer sounded, I'll bet you tomorrow probably 90% of the gym can't tell you what the Timberwolves record was in summer league," Saunders said.
"But they can tell you how Karl Towns passed the ball, or they'll tell you that Lorenzo Brown pushed the ball and really helped himself, and they'll be able to tell you that Tyus Jones was really good in pick-and-rolls today, and that he's got a good career ahead of him." When training camp comes, those good careers can really begin.
News and Notes
- Lorenzo Brown led the Wolves in scoring with 19 points. When asked about Brown after the game, Saunders said, "Lorenzo showed he's an NBA player, and he obviously was great for us this week." Unless a trade is made or a quality free agent becomes available for very little money, Brown should be with the team at training camp, and should make the final regular season roster.
- Adreian Payne had another stat-stuffing night, almost recording a first-half double-double and ending the game with 14 points and 15 rebounds. It will be interesting to see what Payne's role on the team will be during the regular season, but he was strong for this iteration of the team.
- Tyus Jones had a stronger game than his last appearance with 11 points and four assists, but committed four turnovers and will need to figure out how to limit those.
- With this, the Wolves are done in Las Vegas and fly home tonight. The next pro men's basketball to watch with an eye on training camp in the fall begins on Tuesday when the Pan Am Games' men's basketball tournament begins, and Anthony Bennett looks to make an impression with Team Canada.