NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will hold an important call with the league Thursday to talk about returning to action and what that might look like.
The big topic of discussion of late is that teams would all play at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, but there is still some discussion about whether lottery-bound teams like the Timberwolves would participate or if the league would jump straight to the playoffs.
It’s easy to see why the Wolves might not want to play, if given the option — they have the third-worst record in the league, which would give them a share of the best odds to get the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
More importantly, they have been dealing with the tragic death of Karl-Anthony Towns’ mother, Jacqueline Cruz, to COVID-19 in April.
The Wolves have talked about Towns’ amazing strength during this time, but you can also imagine they wouldn’t want to rush him back to play if he’s not ready.
At the same time, there are arguments for why the Wolves would want to play their final 18 games.
The team added a ton of new players late in the season, and every game and practice they get will only make them that much better for next season.
D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez and James Johnson were just starting to get some significant minutes together when the season shut down.
And if Towns did want to play and was healthy enough to do so, it would be hard for the league to say he wasn’t deserving of that chance, especially since injuries took away so much of his season.
And the further development of the Wolves’ youngsters, such as 2019 first-round draft pick Jarrett Culver and 2018 first-rounder Josh Okogie, would be another big plus.
Earlier this year Gersson Rosas, the Wolves president of basketball operations, said that all the trades to make a revamped roster were going to give Culver and Okogie a chance to shine.
“We really felt like [the new players] could build our identity, not just on offense or defense,” Rosas said. “You go down the line and Beasley is a two-way player who has a lot of athleticism and juice. I think now Okogie and Culver are situated in better places where they can contribute what they do best, which is defensively, and continue to grow their offensive game. You had a guy in there with James Johnson with his toughness and his edge and his ability to impact the game. I really feel like Hernangomez is a perfect complement to Karl at the four. That is exciting to us.
“You have a structure of guys who are tough, competitive, know how to defend and I think overall as a team they’re going to be able to help us be more balanced from both ends.”
The Wolves had won three of their final eight games before play shut down, including victories at New Orleans and Miami, and Beasley was looking like an emerging star, averaging 20.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 14 games after being traded from Denver.
Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck doesn’t like to talk much about individual players because he always tries to steer focus onto the team, but he did say that one incoming freshman he is excited to see develop is Cody Lindenberg, the freshman linebacker out of Anoka.
Lindenberg did a little bit of everything for Anoka. He was a standout on defense while also recording 30 receptions for 506 yards and four scores to go along with 233 passing and 150 rushing yards.
“I think I would have had a little bit better of a pulse if we had gotten through spring ball a little bit more, but a guy like Cody Lindenberg, I think he is a young man who is going to be able to give us a lot as a true freshman,” Fleck said. “We’ve only had three practices, but I thought Cody did a great job, giving him a wonderful opportunity to play in the fall in just those three short practices.”
Lindenberg wasn’t a highly touted recruit out of high school. His other offers came from North and South Dakota, South Dakota State and Northern Iowa. But Fleck and his staff have built great relationships with the local high school coaches, and they may have found a real diamond in the rough in Lindenberg.
Thielen on practicing
The NFL is allowing teams to open practice facilities starting this week, but so far the Vikings are waiting to open their campus on any kind of large scale.
Other NFC North teams are moving more quickly. The Packers brought back 75 of their employees this week.
But for now, Vikings players and coaches will continue with virtual meetings, and for receiver Adam Thielen, that plan works just fine.
“When they say it’s OK, I am not paid to know when that is, but when they say it’s OK to be back and the facility opens up for players, I will be there and I will be comfortable with it,” Thielen said. “I am trying to control what I can control, and that is one of those things that I cannot control. For me I am leaving it up to the professionals for that, and when they say we can go back and start practicing, I will be there and I will be excited to be back.”
Thielen pointed out that even if facilities were open, this isn’t the time of year when players and teammates would be on the field a lot, anyway.
“It would be a lot of teaching anyway, this time of year, it wouldn’t be a lot of on-field stuff as a team, as a unit, right now,” he said. “Really just focusing on little things that you can learn, how we can communicate. It probably has provided actually a better opportunity to kind of share your input of, ‘This is why I did this.’ Or, ‘Maybe on this route do this. This is what you’re trying to make this look like.’ Things like that.
“It has kind of provided a better opportunity to do that to teach and try to help some of these young guys move along. Obviously you don’t have the on-field component, you don’t have the locker room. So there is definitely some things like that that you’re missing.
“But it provides an opportunity, if you’re handling your business outside of the virtual meetings and you’re grinding, you’re taking care of your body, you’re still getting on the field and working on the things that we’re talking about in meetings, I think it creates a really good opportunity to make some strides as an individual first but as a team. The better each individual can get, the better our team will be.’
Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. Monday and Friday, 2 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Sunday. • email@example.com