What To Watch For
While the Timberwolves players and coaches technically had the day off yesterday, the same could not be said for those in Minnesota’s front office.
For starters, it was announced early Monday morning that both Patrick Beverley and Jarred Vanderbilt had entered the NBA’s Health & Safety Protocols, meaning the team now had roughly have of their rotation out due to COVID-19 (Beverley and Vanderbilt joined Anthony Edwards, Taurean Prince, and Josh Okogie).
With three Timberwolves starters joining the Elf on the shelf, Sachin Gupta and his front office quickly took advantage of the newly announced NBA policy that allows teams to essentially sign “replacement players” for each positive case of COVID-19 the team currently has.
The first major Monday move was to recall both Nathan Knight and McKinley Wright IV from the G-League, giving the Wolves a much needed boost of able bodies who have also spent time playing (or at least practicing) with the big league squad.
Calling up the G-League players is standard practice in the NBA, but it was the announcements from later in the afternoon that reflected the league’s updated policy and provided additional reinforcements for Minnesota:
Minnesota is signing forward Chris Silva to a 10-day hardship exemption, sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 20, 2021
The Minnesota Timberwolves are signing G/F Rayjon Tucker of NBA G League Wisconsin on a 10-day hardship deal, sources tell me and @JonKrawczynski.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 21, 2021
You may remember Chris Silva (he was on the Wolves training camp roster). I don’t know much about him, but as Dane Moore mentioned yesterday, Silva is sort of the Iowa Wolves version of Jarred Vanderbilt, so it makes sense why the Wolves brought him in while Vando is currently out:
Chris Silva is the Timberwolves Jarred Vanderbilt down in Iowa with their G-League squad.— Dane Moore (@DaneMooreNBA) December 20, 2021
Silva was also in training camp with the Timberwolves this fall. I’d keep an eye on him for a replacement spot.
As for Tucker, I know even less about him, but according to Jack Borman, 24-year old guard/forward is extremely athletic and could give Wolves a handful of minutes at various positions (if called upon of course).
So there you have it — the Wolves will likely enter tonight’s rematch with Dallas down three starters and five rotation players, but have made a flurry of transactions to prevent them from being extremely short-handed (and/or having to possibly postpone the game). Things aren’t looking much better for the Mavericks either (more on that in a second), but it does appear as if the NBA has come up with a strategy that essentially says “the show must go on,” no matter how bad the COVID-19 situation gets.
One final note — after tonight, the Wolves and Mavs will square off two more times towards the end of the season. While it’s only December, tonight’s result could have future ramifications on both teams in terms of any potential tie breakers for seeding in the Western Conference (the Wolves are currently 8th in the West and the Mavs are 9th).
Minnesota @Timberwolves Status Report in advance of tomorrow’s game at Dallas:— Timberwolves PR (@Twolves_PR) December 20, 2021
Beverley - Health & Safety Protocols
Edwards - Health & Safety Protocols
Okogie - Health & Safety Protocols
Prince - Health & Safety Protocols
Vanderbilt - Health & Safety Protocols
As mentioned previously, the Wolves currently have five players in the NBA’s Health & Safety protocols. Edwards and Prince entered the protocol back on Friday, so there’s a slight chance they could test out of everything by Thursday’s game in Utah. Otherwise, the next game on the schedule after that is next Monday (at home) against the Boston Celtics. It’s borderline impossible to predict when a player will transfer OUT of the Health & Safety protocols, but as mentioned yesterday, the only real “good news” here is that the Wolves only have two games this week, which should hypothetically give them enough time to get most of these players back.
On the other side of the ledger, things are so bad for the Mavericks right now that their injury report takes up multiple tweets:
Reggie Bullock (health & safety protocols), Willie Cauley-Stein (personal reasons), Luka Dončić (left ankle soreness), Josh Green (health & safety protocols), Maxi Kleber (health & safety protocols) and Eugene Omoruyi (right foot injury) will all miss tomorrow night’s game.— Mavs PR (@MavsPR) December 20, 2021
The biggest news here is that Luka Doncic will again miss the game due to left ankle soreness, and now Kristaps Porzingis is QUESTIONABLE due to right toe soreness (Zinger left Sunday night’s game against the Timberwolves and never returned).
On top of all of that, it was announced just a few hours before tip that the Mavericks had lost yet another started to the Health & Safety Protocols:
Tim Hardaway Jr. (health and safety protocols) will miss tonight's game against Minnesota.— Mavs PR (@MavsPR) December 21, 2021
If Porzingis doesn’t end up playing, it’s going to be a HEAVY dose of Jaylen Brunson against Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, and half the population of Des Moines, Iowa. The Wolves are once again favored and should have the best player on the court at all times, so despite the laundry list of players on the COVID list, they should still have plenty of talent available to allow them to keep their winning streak alive.
Prediction time: the holidays are the season of giving, and over the last six game previews, I’ve gone 6-0 (essentially giving away money at this point). With the Wolves favored by just one point tonight, I like them to keep the good times rolling as they knock off the Mavericks for a second straight game and bump their winning streak to five games. Wolves 110, Mavs 98.