The Rockets brought The Beard.
The Timberwolves countered with The Bored.
The Rockets feature James Harden, who is trying to prove he is the greatest player in NBA history who could hide a Spalding in his facial hair.
The Wolves employ Andrew Wiggins, who looks like he could fall asleep during a fireworks display.
A sellout crowd at Target Center watched Harden continue his campaign for Most Valuable Player, in a 126-108 victory over the Wolves, on Tuesday night, while Wiggins failed to make a field goal until late in the fourth quarter.
The Wolves had won 13 consecutive at home. They are competing for the third seed in the West. They were playing the most important February game in Target Center since the middle of the last decade.
This would be the kind of game that lights fires in competitors’ bellies, and eyes. Wiggins played like he was full of asbestos.
He imitated a florist the day after Valentine’s, and took a half off.
In the first half, Wiggins went 0-for-6 from the field, missing three three-pointers. He did not get to the free-throw line. He amassed one (1) rebound. He amassed zero (0) assists. He managed one steal, one block to go with his one turnover. He committed three personal fouls.
Asked if he could have done more, Wiggins said, “I feel like the fouls took away my aggressiveness a little bit. It is what it is.’’
The performance was not just troubling; it was also bizarre. What Wiggins has demonstrated as a pro is that he may disappear in Orlando in December, but he can look like one of the league’s best players when facing top competition.
LeBron James brings out the best in him. Visits to Los Angeles do too. So why couldn’t he play with fire against one of the best teams and players in the league?
Last year, Wiggins averaged 23.6 points per game, prompting the Wolves to offer him a maximum contract. That he delayed signing it until October should have been a sign.
Maybe he wasn’t calculating. Maybe he just couldn’t muster the energy to lift a pen.
Did the Wolves trade the wrong player?
They dealt Zach LaVine to Chicago in the Jimmy Butler deal, keeping Wiggins.
LaVine has returned from knee surgery to play in 13 games for the Bulls. LaVine, playing shooting guard, is outrebounding Wiggins, a small forward, while regaining his game legs.
Despite length and leaping ability, Wiggins is averaging just 4.2 rebounds a game.
Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau often emphasizes that players on winning teams must sacrifice individual statistics. That has happened, whether purposefully or not, with Wiggins’ scoring. He is averaging 17.9 points per game, his lowest production since his rookie season.
But playing on his first good NBA team should be reflected in his assist total, if Wiggins were playing the right way. He is averaging a career-worst 1.8 assists per game.
Statistics aside, Wiggins’ body language continues to be telling. He appears to coast far too often.
Asked if he was disappointed with Wiggins’ play, Thibodeau placed blame on the entire team.
LaVine is more energetic than Wiggins and is a better three-point shooter, a better dribbler, a better free-throw shooter, and may be even more athletically gifted.
Perhaps if the Wolves had traded Wiggins and been forced to wait for LaVine to recover, they wouldn’t be competing for the third seed in the West, but now that LaVine is healthy Wiggins may want to consider him a threat to his reputation.
Wiggins may also want to consider the benefits of real and false hustle.
Real hustle would get him more rebounds, steals, blocks and put-backs.
False hustle might give him the outward appearance of someone who cares.
Tuesday, Wiggins looked apathetic, and his performance matched his mien.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. • firstname.lastname@example.org