Sunday, May. 20, 2018


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Wolves Owner Fine with Wiggins

 

After reading news media reports this month about Andrew Wiggins, Timberwolves fans might be wondering about both the past and future of the team’s high-potential 23-year-old guard-forward.

Multiple websites last week reported Wiggins is unhappy about being a “third option” on the team after forward Jimmy Butler and center Karl-Anthony Towns. Until Butler was injured and sidelined in February, Wiggins was less a part of the offense than in the past when Butler was playing in Chicago for the Bulls. Speculation Wiggins might ask for a trade next summer is part of the “third option” story.

Wolves’ owner Glen Taylor spoke to Sports Headliners Friday about Wiggins. “He said he didn’t say it, and that’s the end of it for me,” Taylor said.

1500 ESPN reported on the “third option” story, and also earlier this month said there was reason to believe Taylor wouldn’t allow Wiggins to be included in the 2017 trade that sent Butler to the Wolves for Minnesota’s first round draft choice and guards Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine. Station talk show hosts were critical of the possibility the owner overruled his basketball authorities in not allowing Wiggins to be included in trade discussions.

Taylor said he didn’t “recall” Wiggins’ name came up in conversations with Chicago. “If they asked for Wiggins, it probably never even got to me,” Taylor said.

Taylor has owned the Wolves since 1995 and watched a lot of basketball. He has his opinions about players. Would he nix a trade, or other potential personnel move the front office is promoting?

“Yeah, and I have in the past,” Taylor said. “…Sometimes coaches and GMs (general managers) fall in love with a guy and we really don’t need that guy.” (As an example, Taylor said there have been instances where he differed in acquiring a player because the skill set didn’t match the roster’s future needs.)

Wiggins is in his fourth season with the Wolves. A former overall No. 1 NBA draft pick, he is often targeted for criticism by media and fans who question the consistency of his effort during games, but not his talent. “I want him to play as hard as he can.” Taylor said. “Do I think that he can play better? I certainly do. He’s got a lot of potential. My expectation is he should do that (play hard) during the whole game.”

Taylor, though, didn’t single out Wiggins when first asked about effort, and he spoke about how coach Tom Thibodeau talks about the need for better work ethic by all his players throughout games. “It appears sometimes that they rest a little bit, they’re tired or something,” Taylor said. “If you’re going to be an elite player, there’s very little time to do that during the game. It’s kind of between games that you’re going to do that (rest).”

There’s opinion throughout the Wolves organization and elsewhere in the NBA that Wiggins’ basketball skills are so exceptional it’s difficult to define his limits. He is an extraordinary athlete and capable of becoming an all-star offensively and defensively.

Wiggins is averaging 17.9 points per game, third best on the team. He is often guarded closely and Taylor believes that creates the possibility of more offensive efficiency, emphasizing that his young star should drive more to the hoop. “I’d rather see him go to the basket and kind of open up that space,” Taylor said.

The Timberwolves made a mega commitment to Wiggins last offseason with a contract extension reported as five-years, $148 million.

Worth Noting

Butler had meniscus surgery on his right knee February 25. He was the team’s best all-around player, and fourth quarter closer, before injured. There are 12 games remaining on the Wolves’ regular season schedule and the team is trying to make the payoffs for the first time since 2004. When will Butler return?

“I don’t think I have anyone on the medical staff who has given me a date,” Taylor said.

Nemanja Bjelica, Butler’s replacement, has at times been impressive including 13 fourth quarter points in last week’s win against the Wizards. Bjelica becomes a restricted free agent in the offseason. Taylor is an admirer of the Serbian, but cautions, “We only have so much money, and we know we have Karl coming up,” he said.

Center Karl-Anthony Towns becomes a restricted free agent during the 2019 offseason. A potential top five player in the NBA, Towns will command a mega contract.

That was former Timberwolves assistant coach Eric Musselman, now head coach of Nevada, on live TV using the f-word in the locker room in celebrating his team’s opening NCAA Tournament win over Texas Friday afternoon.

Isaiah Washington (photo courtesy of Minnesota Athletic Communications)

It seems likely Gophers coach Richard Pitino will use his one remaining scholarship on a point guard. Theoretically that person could be a graduate transfer, junior college or high school player. Heading into next season Isaiah Washington is the replacement for Nate Mason at point guard, but Washington was unsteady as a freshman. Even if Washington improves, the Gophers need depth at the position.

It’s timely to follow Courtney Ramey, the Scout.com five-star prep point guard from Missouri who decommitted from Louisville earlier this winter. He had been recruited by Pitino’s father, former Louisville coach Rick Pitino, and could be interested in the Gophers.

Gopher women’s basketball coach Marlene Stollings can achieve the biggest win in her four years at Minnesota tonight if the Gophers can upset Oregon in their second round NCAA Tournament game on the Ducks’ home floor. Minnesota is seeded No. 10 in the Spokane Region, Oregon No. 2. The Gophers have never won a second NCAA Tournament game under Stollings.

Stollings once told Sports Headliners she had simple tastes in celebrating a Gopher win: A trip to Taco Bell and a Mountain Dew.

Good news for the Shake Shack location at Mall of America? New Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins reportedly had a postgame win ritual of stopping at a Shake Shack in the Washington D.C. area, according to Vikings.com.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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