Category Archives: Previews

Timberwolves at Clippers (The Getaway Day Edition)

The Wolves take on CP3, Blake, and MATT BARNES (!) tonight in LaLa.

The Wolves take on CP3, Blake, and MATT BARNES (!) tonight in LaLa.

Howdy, Wolves fans. Tonight’s game is in LA, at the Clip Joint, against CP3 and the Gang. Tip is at 9:30 CST. The Wolves will fly back to Mpls after the game.

It’s also getaway day for Patrick J, who’s leaving for PIT in a few minutes for a flight to MSP via ORD. (Eds. Note: Yes, he’s expecting the usual delay at O’Hare. He cannot recall having a single flight from that airport leave on-time in the 4+ years he lived in Chicago.)

So I’m going to leave you with a bit of crossover eye candy, courtesy of tonight’s opponent, @oneandonlycp3. (Eds. Note: Why did Paul abandon that Twitter handle? It was one of coolest in the League.)

Part I

Take a deep breath. A short intermission. Grab some eggnog, and feast on some more tasty CP3 crossovers in Part II.

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Wolves vs. Blazers: Can Vengeance Be Ours?

Two of the NBA's best power forwards, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love, square off tonight at Target Center (Photo credit: NBA.com)

Two of the NBA’s best power forwards, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love, square off tonight at Target Center (Photo credit: NBA.com)

The Wolves take on the Portland Trailblazers tonight in Minneapolis. Tip is at 7 P.M. CST. You can watch live on FSN or League Pass, or listen on WCCO 830.

The Blazers have the best record in the NBA at 22-4. They have the best road record in the NBA at 12-2. They’re on a five game winning streak, and they’ve won 9 of their last 10.

In short, the Wolves have their work cut out for them tonight.

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Timberwolves vs. Celtics (The Jordan Crawford Has Killer Steez Edition)

Jordan Crawford's got killer steez. (Photo credit to truthaboutit.com)

Jordan Crawford’s got killer steez. (Photo credit to truthaboutit.net)

The Wolves are in Boston tonight to close a three-game road trip. The game will be on NBATV at 7:30 P.M EST.

The 12-12 Wolves will be going up against a surprisingly decent Celtics team, whose 11-14 record is probably better than a lot of Celtics fans would prefer, given the strength of the top end of the 2014 NBA Draft, which will likely feature uber-prospects Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker, Marcus Smart, Dante Exum, Joel Embiid, and others.

New Celtics coach Brad Stevens is viewed by many as a coaching prodigy whose prowess on the sidelines underlies the Celtics (relative) success so far. There’s been a ton written on Stevens and the bang-up job he’s doing with a Celtics team largely bereft of blue-chip talent. Grantland’s Zach Lowe has a nice interview of Stevens here. (Lowe is always recommended reading, and this piece is no exception.)

The Celtics are a team on the rise.

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How the 76ers are the Best Team in the NBA (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying about Wins and Love their Style)

Exhibit A: Wilt Chamberlain could still give a team more quality minutes than Darko Milicic.

Exhibit A: Wilt Chamberlain could still give a team more quality minutes than Darko Milicic.

The Wolves play the Philadelphia 76ers tonight at Target Center at 7 P.M. CST.  The game will be shown on FSN (Minnesota) and League Pass (everywhere else). It can be heard on WCCO 830.

This is the second game of a back-to-back for the Timberwolves (10-11), who bounced back from a 103-82 by Miami on Saturday to annihilate Detroit on the road last night, beating the Pistons 121-94. Having a rested Kevin Love helps (obvi): Love had 26, 16, and 7 after missing the Heat game because of his grandmother’s funeral and having additional rest because of the Mexico City “Up In Smoke” non-game.

The 76ers (7-15) are not a good team right now. And they’re especially bad on the road, having  lost eight in a row on the road heading into Wednesday.

Making matters worse for the Sixers, it looks like they will again  have to play without injured super rookie Michael Carter-Williams, who was recently released from the hospital after being hospitalized for three nights whilst waiting for  an arthritic skin infection in his right knee to clear up. Carter-Williams is listed as day-to-day, but  appears unlikely to play  in tonight’s tilt.

It’s hard to overstate how much MCW’s absence hurts the Sixers. The dynamic rookie is averaging 17.7 points, 7.3 assists, 5.8 rebounds and (an NBA-leading) 3.1 steals. More important, Philly is 1-6 when Carter-Williams hasn’t played, and 6-9 when he has played. In his absence, they’ll rely on large doses of Evan Turner, with Thad Young and Spencer Hawes their other main options.

The Wolves should win this game. The 76ers are miserably bad and are perhaps the worst team in the NBA.

“But wait,” you might be thinking. “Your headline says ‘How the 76ers are the *Best* Team in the NBA.’ Wtf are you talking about”?  

Below the fold, I explain how the 76ers can be considered the best team in the NBA .

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Super Cool: The Michael Beasley Appreciation Post

beassss

After five days off that included a Mexican vacation and postponement of a Spurs matchup, the Timberwolves return to action tonight at Target Center. They face the two-time defending champion Miami Heat. The Wolves will be without Kevin Love, who is home with family mourning the loss of his grandmother. (Eds note: Best wishes to Love and family.)

The Heat has lost two consecutive games; the latter being a 20-point drumming by the Roseless Bulls on TNT. They’ve been without Dwyane Wade, but the reports on Twitter indicate he’s shooting around and might play tonight. That’s not good news for a Wolves team trying to get back to .500 without its own best player. In any event, it will be a fun game to watch because… well, LeBron James.

But we’re less interested in the MVP or his All-Star teammates than we are a former Timberwolf returning to Target Center with career-best numbers and a renewed sense of basketball purpose. That’s right, we’re talking about the one and only Supercool Mike Beasley, a longtime PDW favorite.

Beasley is only playing 17.6 minutes per game, but that’s 17.6 more than just about anybody expected after his famous regression from prized draft prospect and promising young talent to inefficient chucker who didn’t play defense but did get himself into off-court troubles. Beas isn’t just playing in Erik Spoelstra’s rotation. He’s playing REALLY well. His 23.2 points per 36 minutes is a career high. So is his 54.6 field goal percentage, which is downright ridiculous for a combo forward like himself.

Beas has always had obvious talent and it appears he’s finally begun to tap into it in a way that helps an NBA team win games. The Heat are playing 12.9 points better than opponents, per 100 possessions, with Beasley on the floor. Suffice it to say this is a sharp change from his recent seasons in Phoenix and Minnesota. It’s also way better than LeBron and the other Heat starters, which is probably unsustainable but nevertheless a reflection of how well he’s been playing.

For more on Supercool Mike’s improvement, check out Tom Haberstroh’s espn.com feature (Insider, sorry).

We thought it appropriate to preview tonight’s matchup by recalling our favorite Beasley stories.

Without further ado…

#10 – The Kevin Love 30/30 Game…in which Beas dropped 35 (Andy G)

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Twofer: Wolves Beat Mavs, Face OKC

Last Night

The Wolves snapped their three-game losing streak last night in Dallas. Nikola Pekovic dominated early, posting up Samuel Dalembert. He also made a great slip cut on a play that also had Love cutting before him. Ricky, of course, delivered that pass. The offense was great for most of the game, thanks to the Wolves shooting 11-26 (42.3 percent) from downtown. I don’t know how much later success stemmed from establishing Pek inside, early and often, but that recipe makes logical sense to me. Rubio struggled with his jumper, as he often does.

Team defense was better than against Denver on Wednesday (hardly a high hurdle to clear) but not necessarily good. Dallas scored 106 points in a relatively slow paced game. Some of these points resulted from the elite skills of Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis more than the lethargy we saw versus the ordinary Nuggets players. But there were more than a few basic breakdowns defending pick-and-roll, where the second helper wasn’t there and Dalembert was fed for an open dunk.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute made his Timberwolves debut and logged a surprisingly-high 26 minutes. In that time he registered 4 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 blocks. His defensive skills are evident on one viewing. Luc could probably defend all five positions and defend three of them really well. Whether out of jitters or poor hands, he made 3 turnovers that were pretty ugly. He also botched a layup when he rammed the ball way too hard off the backboard. As he sometimes could also be seen out of place in Adelman’s offensive sets, I’m guessing the turnovers stemmed from nervousness and/or excessive thinking. The guy’s barely been to practice yet. Given his playing time — without any practice — it seems likely that Adelman views him as a much-needed viable bench option.

This game was close. I should emphasize that. Kevin Martin was huge down the stretch, scoring 13 of his 27 points in the final six minutes. When he has his jumper going, the Wolves offense can be pretty damn good.

Final note: Gorgui Dieng played 4 minutes and 37 seconds of first-half action. He grabbed two rebounds, but missed his two field goal attempts. (He might’ve been fouled on the second one.) Gorgui’s stint coincided with — statistically, anyway — the Wolves best defense of the night. He turned his head away from his man (DeJuan Blair) on one play, allowing Blair to cross his face and score. Other than that, he was in good position and looked the part of an active goaltender.

Tonight

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Reversal of Fortune? Wolves vs. Mavericks (The holiday dregs edition)

Dirk N. and his hat will be squaring off tonight against the Wolves in Dallas

Dirk N. and his hat will be squaring off tonight against the Wolves in Dallas

(Eds. Note: Andy G and Patrick J clearly don’t know what to do with themselves over a long weekend because they both wrote preview posts, unbeknownst to the other. Here’s part deux.)

The Timberwolves are in Dallas to take on Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks tonight at 7:30 CST. The Wolves have lost three straight. They’re now 8-9. After getting off to a quick 7-2 start, this the first time this season  the Wolves have been under .500.

‘Sota needs a reversal of fortune in a bad way. And by “fortune,” I mean “effort and execution.” They showed neither in Wednesday night’s home loss against Denver, a point that Rick Adelman lamented repeatedly in his terse post-game presser. Referring to the loss on the Wolves’ home court, Adelman  said,  “the players can’t expect the fans to pump them up. That’s backward. (The players) need to get the fans going.”

(Eds. Note: When you hear a coach emphatically describe how his team wasn’t ready to play and didn’t give the effort you expect from a group of professional athletes–his group of professional athletes–you immediately see the stark difference between a coach who has absolutely no concern about his job security and the majority who aren’t so lucky to have the same leash.)

It was clear that after three straight losses, Adelman has lost any patience with which he began the season for the Wolves’ propensity for unforced errors, lackadaisical defense, and their failure to do basic things–like, say, blocking out opposing bigs (and Andre Miller) on the defensive boards–for painfully long stretches in winnable games.

Worse than that, Adelman clearly knows he doesn’t have a magic bullet to use now that he needs one.

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Wolves-Mavs Preview: The “I found my old Michael Finley jersey” Edition

finleyfixed

Hey Wolves fans. I just got back from Thanksgiving in Zumbrota, Minnesota (yes that’s right, the original home of Jacksonville Jaguars coach, Gus Bradley.) As the lead picture shows, I was digging through some of my old prized possessions sitting in my parents’ storage. More on that below.

The Wolves are in Dallas today where tonight they face the Mavs (7:30 CST, FSN North, 830 WCCO Radio). Dallas is 10-7, slightly better than Minnesota’s 8-9, but they boast a home record of 8-1. That’s why I was surprised to see that the Wolves are currently two-point favorites in tonight’s game. I mean, the Wolves are 2-6 on the road and have lost 5 of their last 6 games. Even if they have extra days of rest, I expected Dallas to be favored. Digging deeper, I then noticed that the Mavs might be without starting point guard Jose Calderon, who sprained his ankle last night in Atlanta, in a game the Mavs lost despite leading 70-55 when Calderon left the game.

Through 17 games, the numbers show the Mavs to be a slightly net-positive (+0.9 per 100 possessions) team in the 31.1 minutes that Calderon registers, per game. This is because of how well their offense plays with him. With Jose running the show, the Mavs score 107.8 per 100, and allow 106.8. It’s an offensive game. When he’s off the court, the Mavs score 102.6 per 100, but allow a much-better 98.3. In pretty small sample size, then, the Mavs have been better with Calderon on the bench than with him on the floor playing. I tend to side with Vegas here in believing that rookies Gal Mekel and Shane Larkin will struggle to replace Calderon when faced with greater responsibility and starting-level competition. I guess we’ll find out tonight.

One last thing about the Mavs: Monta Ellis. He’s playing his best ball since the We Believe, pre-moped accident days. Credit probably goes to Rick Carlisle whose reputation for maximizing production from raw talent is well established. Check out Kirk Goldsberry’s Grantland piece for more about Monta’s early-season success. I should add that Ellis shot a combined 8 for 31 in his last two games, perhaps signaling some regression to the mean. If Calderon can’t go tonight, expect a more ball-dominant Monta to replace the missing offense initiation.

Okay, on to more important things like the other jerseys I found when I was home for the holiday. I wasn’t a huge jersey kid, but I found five of them that span from 5th Grade through sophomore year in college. I suppose it only makes sense to do this Jersey Power Rankings style, because all internet lists are to be power ranked.

Without further ado…

#5 – Jalen Rose, Michigan, Champion

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Why the Wolves Will Struggle against the Pacers

Pacers star Lance Stephenson was a schoolboy phenom at Brooklyn's Lincoln High School

Pacers star Lance Stephenson was a schoolboy phenom at Brooklyn’s Lincoln High School

Hi Folks, I’ve been traveling for the last week, unable to post but catching Wolves basketball on my laptop when I could.

Lots of ups and downs, from the disappointment of the four-point loss in Washington to letting off some steam against KG & the Brooklyn Nyets to a disappointing 112-101 loss at Houston on Saturday night against a Rockets team that was down one James Harden.

The inconsistent play is more a function of stretches of bad Wolves basketball than it is of running into the wrong team at the wrong time. The Wolves struggle to take and keep leads, as was particularly evident in the loss to Washington, with the exception being when they get out to giant first-half leads, which won’t be the case very often against the kinds of teams we’ll need to beat if we make the playoffs.

One team the Wolves are unlikely to get out to a big lead against is the Indiana Pacers, who host them tonight at Conseco Bankers Life Fieldhouse at 7 P.M. Eastern. You can see the game on League Pass.

The 12-1 Pacers are undefeated at Conseco Bankers Life  this season, and are 19-4 all-time when playing ‘Sota in their gym. The Pacers have two of the best defenders in the NBA in Paul George and Roy Hibbert. With his canny feel for the game and his long arms, George guards the wing like a young Scottie Pippen. Roy Hibbert leads the NBA in blocked shots and is the kind of rim protector Wolves fans dream Gorgui Dieng might someday become. Collectively, the Pacers currently allow the fewest points per game of any team in the NBA at 87.6 and hold opponents to a stingy 39.7 field goal percentage.

Lance Stephenson

A sign that everything is clicking in Indiana? Things are so good in Indiana right now that respected columnists have begun to wonder whether the Pacers will be able to afford Lance Stephenson, formerly the punchline of so many sordid jokes.

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Which NBA Coach Will Be Fired First?

Is Monty Williams' head on the chopping block?

Is Monty Williams’ head on the chopping block?

Hi folks. I’m slammed at work today and don’t have  time to write an in-depth preview of tonight’s game at Denver, which will be televised on ESPN. Mea culpa.

Good previews can be found here and here. And a whimsical preview of sort–with lots of good music–is up on Canis Hoopus.

Firing Season

So something fun, easy, and different.

We’re coming up on December–the beginning of firing season for NBA coaches. The fact that capable replacements–George Karl, Stan Van Gundy, Jeff Van Gundy, Lionel Hollins, and even Phil Jackson–are currently twiddling their thumbs at home doesn’t help the current crop of underperformers.

Several coaches might have job security issues this firing season. Randy Wittman is the obvious candidate to lose his job first. But there are dark horses out there, such as Cleveland’s Mike Brown (and his stanky leg offense), Brooklyn’s Jason Kidd (Prok isn’t afraid to do, well, anything), and New Orleans’ Monty Williams (losing a lot of games, not getting much out of Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans).

So which coach do you think loses his job first? Weigh in below.

Enjoy the tilt.

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Can the Wolves Get Revenge Tonight against the Cavaliers? (The Redux Edition)

CJ Miles Cavs

Note to Rick Adelman: Don’t let Alexey Shved near this man tonight. (Wait, Alexey couldn’t get near him if he tried. Nevermind.)

The Wolves are at home for tonight’s tilt against the Cavaliers. The tip is at 7 P.M. CST. You can watch it on FSN (most of you) or League Pass (me).

The Wolves will try to undo some of the damage witnessed in their horrific first-three quarters performance on November 4, which presaged a Wolves run in the fourth quarter that fell a Kevin Love buzzerbeater away from a huge comeback win. (Eds. Note: Andy G and Patrick J attended the November 4 game in Cleveland. A photo diary of the festivities can be seen here.)

The starting lineups should look like this.

Cavaliers Timberwolves
PG Irving 19.4 Rubio 8.6
SG Waiters 14.3 Martin 24.6
SF Gee 4.6 Brewer 13.4
PF Thompson 13.0 Love 26.4
C Bynum 6.2 Pekovic 13.6

Several interesting matchups stand out.

Ricky Rubio vs. Kyrie Irving

Rubio-Irving is the marquee matchup. Ricky is a flashy point guard who’s leading the league in steals and is one of the best defensive point guards in the business. As Wolves watchers know too well, Ricky has his problems shooting the ball, and with scoring more generally. Irving is Rubio’s mirror opposite in many ways, excepting the flashiness part: Kyrie is arguably the best pure-shooting point guard in the League not named Stephen Curry, but he struggles mightily on defense.

Ironically, Mike Brown executed perhaps the best in-game strategy of any opposing coach this year to exploit Ricky’s shooting ineptitude, daring Rubio to take open shots and doubling down hard on Wolves post players, who struggled to get any interior offense going against the Cavs’ collapsed, outsized defensive trio of Anderson Verejao, Tristan Thompson (!), and Andrew Bynum, the last of whom has been moved into the starting lineup in place of Verejao.

The Wolves might consider executing a similar strategy by trying to bait Dion Waiters into taking long jumpers whilst shading Kevin Martin to help against Cleveland’s bigs.

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Afternoon Fun: Invincible J.J. Barea

ICYMI: The Internet Video of the Year

In the words of legendary Canis Hoopus commenter MAYNHOLUP, “u alreddy kno” this is classic material: It pretty much captures everything one needs to know about “Good/Bad J.J.,” without needing a single word of explanation to accomplish it.

This is why we love the Interwebz.

(Big ups to Steve McPherson and Anthony Bain, who made the dream real.)

Enjoy the game tonight.

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INTEL REPORT: Wolves at Lakers (The Swaggy P Edition)

Swaggy P is gonna ball 'til he falls

Swaggy P is gonna ball ’til he falls

Tonight the 4-2 Timberwolves will be taking on the 3-4 Lakers in LaLa at the Staples Center. The game is at 9:30 P.M Eastern, 8:30 P.M. Central. I’ll be watching on League Pass.

Kobe Bryant won’t be walking onto that court. (Eds. Note: He might be limping onto the bench. The operative message is, he won’t be playing tonight against the Timberwolves.) But Nick Young will. Like Kobe Bryant, Nick Young is a shooting guard. Like Kobe Bryant, Nick Young gets up shots.

But Nick Young is not Kobe Bryant. He has more in common with Jordan Crawford and other NBA gunners, and former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos. (It’s the shoes).

Imelda Marcos and her kicks

Swaggy P and his kicks

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INTEL REPORT: Warriors at Timberwolves (The Klay Thompson Edition)

Klay Thompson has one of the sweetest shooting strokes in the NBA

Klay Thompson has one of the sweetest shooting strokes in the NBA

The 3-1 Golden State Warriors are in ‘Sota to take on the 3-1 Timberwolves tonight at Target Center. Tip is at 7 P.M. CST. You can see it on FSN or NBA League Pass.

The Dubs are the darlings of the NBA so far this season, and it’s easy to see why: They’re third in the League in points per game, and are first in assists per game. They have fun players in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who can fill it up from pretty much anywhere inside the 612 area code. Andre Iguodala makes big dunks, and–this is a first for the Warriors–defends well.  David Lee flows to the tune of about 20 & 10 nightly. Andrew Bogut isn’t Andris Biedrins. (Eds. Note: Bogut also belongs on that “Dark Alley” team that was occasionally referenced in Grantland’s NBA Preview marathon, with fellow toughs Lance Stephenson and David West, inter alia.)

The starting lineups should look like this:

PG – Ricky Rubio vs. Stephen Curry

SG – Kevin Martin vs. Klay Thompson

SF – Corey Brewer vs. Andre Iguodala

PF – Kevin Love vs. David Lee

C – Zod Pekovic vs. Andrew Bogut

Yes, it will be a high-scoring game.

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Twofer: A Win at The Garden, on to Cleveland

kyrie

The Timberwolves travel to Cleveland tonight to face Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers. Artwork by Holly Grimsrud (hollygrimsrudart.com)

Andy G: Last night, the Timberwolves beat the Knicks and improved their record to 3-0. This marks only the second time in 25 seasons of franchise existence that the team won its first three games. Setting aside what that statistic says about the past, it is a small, early accomplishment worth feeling good about on the season’s first Monday morning. An undefeated start is especially impressive considering that the Wolves faced Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony in consecutive matchups.

The Wolves won the game at the foul line, where they made 29 out of a whopping 38 attempts. (The Knicks only shot 13.) After a blowout first quarter of steals and pass-ahead assists to Brewer and Love, it was all about survival. Carmelo eventually started making shots and the Knicks cut the deficit to 2 with 4:48 to go. But Kevin Martin converted a technical foul free throw, followed it up with a three-pointer (his fifth of the night; he scored a wildly-efficient 30 points on 12 shots) and the game never got close again.

Patrick J, what’s up with the crazy free throw disparity?

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Timberwolves at Knicks: What to Watch For

Carmelo Anthony is licking his chops at the Wolves' defense

Carmelo Anthony is licking his chops at the Wolves’ defense

Your 2-0 Minnesota Timberwolves are in New York and take on the 1-1 Knicks Sunday night at Madison Square Garden at 7:30 Eastern.

Coming off a blowout victory Friday night against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Wolves face another test tonight in Carmelo Anthony & co.

Here’s what to watch for tonight against the Knicks:

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INTEL REPORT: Thunder vs. Timberwolves

If you see this man in Minneapolis tonight, don't look directly at his shirt or you might go blind.

If you see this man in Minneapolis tonight, don’t look directly at his shirt or you might go blind.

The undefeated Minnesota Timberwolves, fresh off of a season-opening victory in overtime against the Orlando Magic, take on a more formidable opponent in the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight at Target Center.

You should watch it if you want to see how the team responds to the trouble it had putting away a lesser opponent, and to see how they stack up against one of the better teams in the Western Conference.

No, Russell Westbrook won’t be walking through that door–check that, maybe he’ll be walking through that door (I’m not sure if he’s traveling with the team, but if he is, just look for the athletic-looking guy limping around in borderline absurd technicolor hipster garb–you can’t miss him.)

A few quick dashes about tonight’s tilt before my lunch break ends:

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INTEL REPORT: Magic at Timberwolves (The Season Opener Edition)

Orlando appears to be keeping its eyes on the prize this season: The 2014 NBA Draft

Orlando appears to be keeping its eyes on the prize this season: The 2014 NBA Draft

The Wolves open their season tonight in Minneapolis against the already-tanking-for-Wiggins hard-charging  Orlando Magic, who’re 0-1 after last night’s season-opener loss to Indiana.

(Eds. Note: Is there anyway to figure out how many fantasy teams there are this season named “Tanking for Wiggins” or some variant of it? I don’t know how many fantasy teams there are total, but I’d still take the over on at least 10k “Tanking for Wiggins” teams this year. Maybe 15.  There were probably fantasy league owners everywhere trying desperately to change their league rules at the last minute to allow them to use their auction money to bid on the rights to the “Tanking for Wiggins” team name instead of on draft-able  players.)

Anyway, there’s a lot of interesting stuff to watch for, much of which could provide information on the questions we asked in our season preview post about the team’s starting lineup, defense, offense, and rotations.

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