What To Watch For
“Where were we again?”
When we last left the Minnesota Timberwolves, they were casually preparing for a Friday night home game against the Memphis Grizzlies (again). In the blink of an eye, not only did the game itself get postponed due to health and safety protocols (related to COVID-19), but it was later announced that Karl-Anthony Towns had tested positive for the virus and would likely be out at least two weeks.
Technically speaking, the Wolves are only 27 days into the new season, but to some of us (myself included) it’s felt like 27 months. Between KAT’s wrist injury, Josh Okogie’s “cramps,” and now Towns’ positive COVID-19 test, it’s been extremely difficult to analyze the on-court basketball product with all of these various hurdles and roadblocks.
On a somewhat lighter note, it does seem like the Wolves have (so far) been able to contain everything in-house as it pertains to COVID-19 (knock on wood). While the team will be without additional rotation players for today’s contest against the Hawks, all reports thus far are that it’s purely due to health and safety protocols and not additional confirmed positive tests.
As many of you know, today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which is a federal holiday in the United States marking the birth of Dr. King (who was actually born on January 15). The NBA has done a great job of honoring Dr. King and his legacy, so it is a pretty cool thing for the Timberwolves to be able to play a matinee game today (on national TV nonetheless).
In honor of MLK Day, I’ve included his famous “I Have a Dream” speech below, which was originally delivered back on August 28, 1963 during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, in which he called for civil and economic rights and an end to racism in the United States. If you have 6-7 minutes to spare, I highly suggest re-watching this powerful speech as it still rings true, especially at this very moment in our nation’s history.
Back to hoops — the full slate of games today (see below) is really, really strong, so I hope you all can sit back and enjoy at least a half or so of basketball to get your week started on the right foot.
tonight’s today’s opponent, the Hawks came out of the gates on fire to start the season, winning four of their first five matchups, but have since dropped six of their last seven games. Even more interesting has been the play of Trae Young, who started the season on absolute fire, but after Brooklyn Nets head coach called him out publicly for his style of play (i.e. flopping to draw certain calls), his production has dramatically fallen off a cliff:
Trae Young’s first 4 games of the season— Top Ball Coverage (@TopBallCoverage) January 16, 2021
33.0 PPG - 51% FG - 35% 3P - 90% FT
Trae Young since Steve Nash’s “that’s not basketball” comments
17.1 PPG - 33% FG - 23% 3P - 84% FT pic.twitter.com/nuy6To9trh
On top of all that, there has been some growing frustrations between Young and his Atlanta teammate John Collins, who is set to be a free agent after this season (Collins that is):
Sources: Hawks' film session in which John Collins spoke out puts spotlight on Trae Young and the early growing pains of one of the NBA’s most intriguing teams. Story with @ChrisKirschner, at the @TheAthletic https://t.co/61uTcbra70— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) January 8, 2021
As Amick points out, the constructive criticism from Collins and Young might be nothing more than growing pains for a young team, but I thought it was interesting to share nonetheless. I’m definitely guilty of this, but being so locked into one team (i.e. the Timberwolves) can sometimes blind me to how many other teams in the NBA are simultaneously experiencing issues like underperforming, internal strife, etc.
Minnesota @Timberwolves Status Report in advance of Jan. 18 at Atlanta:— Timberwolves PR (@Twolves_PR) January 17, 2021
Okogie – Left Hamstring Strain
Hernangómez – Health & Safety Protocols
Rubio – Health & Safety Protocols
Towns – Health & Safety Protocols
As mentioned at the top, Minnesota will be without Towns for at least two weeks after he tested positive for COVID-19, but it remains to be seen how long they will also be without both Juancho Hernangomez and Ricky Rubio — both of whom are currently in the health and safety protocol. I’d expect a starting lineup of D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Josh Okogie, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Naz Reid, with guys like Anthony Edwards and Jordan McLaughlin getting extra run for the shorthanded Wolves.
It should be mentioned that the Hawks come into today’s game with their fair share of injuries as well, as both Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic — the team’s two prized offseason signings — are both expected to be in street clothes.
Our own @Y0Leo will be recapping today’s game, so be sure to give him a follow on Twitter. Outside of all that, I hope you all have a great start to your week, continue to mask up, and can practice social distancing whenever possible. Better days do lie ahead!