Injury-ravaged Minnesota looked across the court and saw the Los Angeles Clippers — a team without MVP candidate Chris Paul due to injury. But without him the Clippers this week are 3-0 with road wins against Memphis, Houston before coming to Minnesota.
The Clippers just steamrolled the Timberwolves Thursday and made Minnesota’s complaining about injuries look like an excuse. Granted, the Clippers are the deepest team in the NBA — CP3 gets hurt and Eric Bledsoe comes in and plays better than most team’s starter — and the Minnesota injury list is extensive. Still, players in Minnesota seemed to have a built-in excuse for some sloppy play.
And that’s what Ricky Rubio told the Pioneer Press after the game — no more excuses.
“The players that are healthy have to step up and do a better job,” Rubio said. “We can’t say we’re playing bad because of the injuries. I don’t think that’s the way. In a way, be a man. Everybody has to step up and know his new role. We are here to win games and have fun, but I don’t think we’re having fun, and we’re going to change it.”
So, does he have another excuse for him shooting 22 percent since coming back from knee surgery?
It’s a nice sentiment, but the problem is just the volume of front-line injuries in Minnesota: Kevin Love (hand surgery, out 8-10 weeks), Chase Budinger (knee surgery), Brandon Roy (chronic knee issues), Josh Howard (released due to knee injury) and Malcolm Lee (knee surgery). Rubio himself is still on a minutes limit following ACL surgery (and is not himself yet on the court). Then on Thursday Nikola Pekovic had a bruised thigh and Alexey Shved rolled his ankle.
Minnesota is forced to rely on the guys that shouldn’t be getting this much run. Every team deals with injuries but every season there is a team or two whose season is undone by the volume of them. This year Minnesota seems to be that team.
You want someone in the locker room to step up and say “time to just play better, guys” that has to be the players’ attitude. It’s just not enough sometimes.
Paul George‘s first experience starting as a power forward was going up against Anthony Davis — not just one of the best power forwards in the game, one of the handful of best players in the game period. That didn’t go well for George, and he wasn’t happy about it.
His second experience was in another preseason game Tuesday, going up against the Pistons and their four, Ersan İlyasova. He’s not quite as intimidating.
George scored 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting, 4-of-5 on threes — and that was just the first quarter (you can see it all in the video above).
As we have said before, George at the four is not a bad call by the Pacers, but some of that depends on the matchup. On the nights the Pacers face Davis or Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge or Zach Randolph (or a handful of others) the Pacers’ coaching staff is going to have to adjust. But there are a lot of nights where George at the four is going to force the other team to adjust, and that will play into the Pacers’ hands.
Last season, DeMarcus Cousins received zero MVP votes (the same as every year of his career). Even though he averaged 24.1 points, and 12.7 rebounds a game, which was enough to get him his first All-Star berth, MVP is another thing entirely. Only players on winning teams tend to draw the attention of MVP voters.
This season, can Cousins — arguably the best center in the game — get in the conversation?
He thinks it’s more than just that, he told Kevin Ding at Bleacher Report.
The topic is the 2015-16 NBA MVP award and whether it could be reachable for DeMarcus Cousins.
“Reachable, man?” Cousins told Bleacher Report, his voice rising high. “It’s mine to grab.”
As noted above, the only way Cousins gets into the conversation — fair or not — is if the Kings are in the playoffs (at the very least). He understands that.
“It’s going to take a full team effort,” Cousins said. “I’ll try to play at a high level and bring my team along with me.”
Vlade Divac built a Kings’ team designed to start winning now — as you would expect from a team a year away from moving into a new arena they need to fill. Owner Vivek Ranadive is not about selling hope anymore, he wants to sell wins.
I think Cousins can help provide that.
I’m less sold on the cast around him being able to help.