Ricky Rubio on Timberwolves: ‘I have to go pull this team in the playoffs’

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Kevin Garnett is the Timberwolves’ most-accomplished player.

Andre Miller is their oldest player.

Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns are their most-important players.

But on any team, leadership naturally falls to the starting point guard and highest-paid player. Ricky Rubio, who fills both titles in Minnesota, is embracing that role.

Rubio, via Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated:

“We know we’re young and we’re building,” Rubio told SI.com in a phone interview. “At the same time, I think we’re ready to win games. Last season we only won 16 games but it didn’t feel like we were a losing team at all. We were just lacking some things. Me personally, I have to go pull this team in the playoffs. I know it’s a big challenge, but I think we have the right assets, the right weapons to get it. I know we’re in the West side, it’s really tough, but I think we can make it happen. I have big expectations for next season.”

I don’t think it’s completely outlandish to suggest the Timberwolves could make the playoffs. They’re loaded with talent at every position:

  • Point guard: Rubio, Miller, Tyus Jones
  • Shooting guard: Kevin Martin, Zach LaVine
  • Small forward: Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad, Nemanja Bjelica
  • Power forward: Kevin Garnett, Gorgui Dieng, Adreian Payne, Anthony Bennett
  • Center: Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Pekovic

That is one heck of the depth chart.

But there are three major reasons Minnesota won’t make the playoffs:

1. Youth. As talented as those players are, many of them are still very young. They’ll probably need more time to develop and learn how to do the little things necessary to win.

2. Fit. Too many Timberwolves prefer to operate in the same areas of the court. They just don’t have enough floor spacers.

3.  Western Conference. It’s darn good.

Rubio could help, though. He’s reaching the age where he should take the next step. And a nifty passer, he could mitigate Minnesota’s spacing issues. He’ll have no shortage of talented players to throw passes. He’s the crux.

The Timberwolves probably won’t reach the postseason, but if they do, it very well could be because Rubio pulled them there.

Kevin Huerter’s 3-pointer gives Hawks first win in San Antonio in his lifetime (video)

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The Hawks beat the Spurs in San Antonio on Feb. 15, 1997.

The next year, Kevin Huerter was born.

Atlanta’s next win in San Antonio came Friday, when Huerter hit the game-winning 3-pointer in a 121-120 win.

The Hawks’ losing streak in San Antonio spanned Tim Duncan’s entire lengthy career – and continued a few seasons beyond that. The only reprieve came during the lockout-shortened 1999 season, when Atlanta didn’t visit San Antonio. So, the skid lasted 21 games.

Buddy Hield on Kings getting booed at home: ‘That’s how Sacramento fans are’

Kings guard Buddy Hield
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Buddy Hield is quite familiar with frustration amid the Kings’ disappointing season.

Sacramento fans showed theirs Wednesday, booing the Kings during their home loss to the Mavericks.

Buddy Hield, via James Ham of NBC Sports California:

“Everybody is frustrated, it’s not even them, we’re trying to figure it out too,” Buddy Hield said following the loss. “But it’s the home team and we get booed…we don’t agree with it, but they’re going to voice their opinion.

“I understand their frustration, but like I said, I’m going to keep shooting the ball,” Hield continued. “When I make a three they like me, when I don’t, they hate you. That’s how Sacramento fans are, man, so you’ve got to embrace it.”

Hield seemingly isn’t looking to pick a fight with fans. He made a point to empathize with their frustration.

But I don’t think he’s being fair, either.

Kings fans are far more loyal than swinging between love and hate depending whether or not a shot falls. They’re fed up after 13 – going on 14 – straight seasons missing the playoffs. This year has been particularly discouraging, as Sacramento has backtracked from fun and fast to sad and slow. Losing to Luka Doncica particular grievance – only adds to the irritation.

The Kings’ problems have spanned multiple owners, executives, coaches and players. So, booing this group isn’t totally fair, either. But this is who’s in front of the fans.

If this Sacramento team plays hard and together, fans will embrace it – and stick with it through thinner times.

76ers play 6-on-5 vs. Bulls (video)

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The 76ers found one way to solve their spacing issues.

Philadelphia showed good ball movement, finding Furkan Korkmaz for an open corner 3-pointer. The catch? Korkmaz got open, because the 76ers had six players on the floor.

I love Kyle O'Quinn trying to slink off the court. He wanted to get away with it. Tobias Harris, who jogged to the bench, was practically begging to get caught.

Honestly, I’m a little surprised how quickly the Bulls noticed the violation. It’s not as if their defense scrambling is anything new.

Thirty days after being called ‘day-to-day,’ Karl-Anthony Towns returns to Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns
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Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders called Karl-Anthony Towns “day-to-day” with a left knee sprain.

That was 30 days ago.

Towns finally returned to Minnesota’s lineup, starting against the Pacers tonight.

While out due to his knee, Towns also battled illness. That undoubtedly complicated matters. But the Timberwolves repeatedly calling him “questionable” raises questions about their commitment to transparency. That’s important in an NBA embracing gambling.

Towns’ 17-game absence is a rare dent in his durability. In his first four seasons, Towns missed only five games – two due to a car crash.

Towns is Minnesota’s best player. He could provide a jolt to a team hanging in the playoff race. But, after a strong start, the Timberwolves began to tumble even before Towns went down. They’re probably won’t make the playoffs, though their odds are definitely better with him. At least he returns in time to make an All-Star case.