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Andrew Wiggins: “You always want to shut the people up that doubt you”

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The reaction around the league to the Andrew Wiggins renaissance has been, “that’s nice, let’s see if he can keep it up.” Wiggins has had stretches of strong play before, guys in their sixth season tend not to make leaps, and Wiggins had a reputation of just not being a guy who loved basketball and wanted to put in the work. Reactions to his start have ranged from hopeful but uncertain to flat-out skeptical.

While Wiggins may have slowed down of late — in his last five games his scoring and shooting percentages are down, including 30.3 percent from three — he’s still impacting games is one of the reasons the Timberwolves are above .500. November was the best month of Wiggins’ career.

Wiggins has heard the doubters and told Yaron Weitzman of Bleacher Report that, yes, it got him down at times, and you can be sure he wanted to show them up.

“You hear it, on social media, when you turn on the TV and watch sports, you always see certain stuff; certain people say certain things,” he said. He did his best to remain positive, to try tuning out the noise. “It never really got to me to the point where, you know, it messed up my lifestyle, my life,” he said. “I love myself more than anyone loves me.” But he does admit there have been times, especially last year, when all the criticism dragged him down.

“I’d go through a slump, and then you can’t help but hear it, and then you’re like, ‘F***,'” Wiggins said. “You always want to shut the people up that doubt you.”

Wiggins is averaging 24.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists a game with a 54.5 true shooting percentage (just above the league average) and a PER of 19.8 — every one of those numbers is a career high.

There are concrete things Wiggins is doing better that are sustainable. One big thing is his shot selection has improved. Last season 30.2 percent of his shots were from 10 feet out to the arc (midrange shots) and he hit less than 34 percent of them. This season he’s not shooting them any better, but those shots make up just 19.9 percent of his attempts, and in its place he’s taking more threes and getting to the rim more. Wiggins also is getting to the free throw line more often.

Time will tell with Wiggins, but this could be a case where new GM Gersson Rosas and coach Ryan Saunders have been able to get through to Wiggins — a more mature Wiggins, but still just 24 — and help him turn the corner. The sense that Wiggins was just a bit passive (and with that, not a guy who had a passion for the game) frustrated many a coach and front office person in Minnesota, but maybe this year the Timberwolves broke through.

If so, and if Karl-Anthony Towns can keep playing like the best center in the game (or very close to it), Minnesota’s path back to the playoffs may not be a fluke, either.

 

Rumor: Indiana coach Nate McMillan is on hot seat

Indiana coach hot seat
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Last season, Indiana’s Nate McMillan finished fourth in Coach of the Year voting, taking a team that lost star Victor Oladipo after just 36 games and still got them into the playoffs. McMillan is going to get COY votes again this year for much the same reason — his teams play good defense and overachieve.

Indiana coach Nate McMillan is also on the hot seat.

It’s surprising, and it’s just a rumor, but ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy and Zach Lowe had this conversation on a recent episode of The Lowe Post podcast (hat tip PacersTalk.net).

Van Gundy: “I had two people come up to me since I’ve been here [in the NBA restart bubble] and say, ‘Nate McMillan’s in trouble.’”

Lowe: “It’s been the hottest rumor all season… What you’ve heard in Orlando’s been going around all season…

“Let me be clear: It’s just a rumor. I don’t know if it’s true. When you talk to people around the Pacers, they say, ‘It’s not true’ or ‘Where you’d hear that from?’”

Maybe management wants a more modern offense, the Pacers are bottom eight in both three pointers attempted and pace. Overall, Indiana’s offense is middle of the pack (18th in the league), which is not bad considering it was without Oladipo for most of the season (and he was playing his way into shape when he returned and was not at an All-NBA level).

It’s hard to imagine that the Pacers would make a change this offseason, which will be short and give a new coach less time to ramp up a program. Plus, does owner Herb Simon want to pay two coaches? The finances of the league are helping other coaches keep their jobs.

More than all that, McMillan doesn’t deserve to be fired.

Not that “deserved” has had much to do with NBA coaches keeping their jobs in the past.

 

Report: NBA players bypassing ‘snitch’ hotline to call Adam Silver directly

NBA commissioner Adam Silver
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No NBA players have been diagnosed with coronavirus in the bubble. And they want to keep it that way. A championship and a lot of money are on the line.

That means preventing players from having close contact with anyone outside the bubble. And, in case someone contracts coronavirus, wearing masks (intact masks) to prevent a wider outbreak.

The NBA set up a hotline – quickly dubbed the “snitch” hotline – for players to report violations.

Chris Haynes of TNT:

Players have been circumventing that process. Sources informed me that multiple players are personally calling commissioner Adam Silver to issue their complaints with things they’re seeing in the bubble.

Adam Silver is accessible to players – particularly the president of the union.

I’m not sure about tattling straight to the top boss when there are other protocols in place. Are hotline calls not resulting in changed behavior?

Either way, it’s important for the NBA to keep players safe – both for their health and the league’s revenue (about half of which goes to players in salary). So, cut Chris Paul anyone calling Silver a break. They’re at least trying to help. And so far, violations inside the bubble have led to reminders, not harsher discipline.

Zion Williamson sitting out Pelicans-Wizards (rest)

Pelicans big Zion Williamson
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The Pelicans have been one of the NBA’s most disappointing teams in the bubble. New Orleans has gone 1-3 at Disney World and fallen to 13th in the Western Conference.

Still (barely) hanging in the race to make the play-in, the Pelicans must face the Wizards without Zion Williamson.

Pelicans:

The Pelicans are treating Williamson carefully – and they should. He’s their 20-year-old franchise player with major health concerns.

But New Orleans still has its highest ceiling now with Williamson on the floor. He’s an offensive force. His interior scoring and gravity create efficient looks for himself and teammates.

Williamson has been woeful defensively, and the Pelicans have bigs – Derrick Favors and Jaxson Hayes – to take Williamson’s minutes. New Orleans can go small, too.

The Pelicans should still beat Washington, even without Williamson. Ideally, this will have Williamson ready for a closing stretch against the Spurs, Kings and Magic without sacrificing today’s game.

Yet, this is really just proof New Orleans isn’t as ready to launch as it appears during Williamson’s most exciting moments. His availability remains murky. His team has run hot and cold. I wouldn’t assume a win over the Wizards – though it’s a game the Pelicans need to preserve their fading playoff hopes.

Rumor: Next NBA season could begin in March

Wizards guard Bradley Beal and 76ers center Joel Embiid
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The NBA could reportedly delay the start of next season – currently planned for Dec. 1 – if fan attendance becomes foreseeable.

How long would the league wait?

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

one plan includes starting in March if the NBA feels they can get fans in the arena by then, as well as not lose personnel and viewership to the Summer Olympics.

I understand the temptation to delay. The coronavirus pandemic has made it more difficult for NBA teams to turn a profit.

But this plan would invite all sorts of complications:

  • What if there’s no vaccine, cure or comparable solution by March? Then, the league would have wasted months getting practically no revenue – rather than reduced revenue – without reaching a more favorable point. (However, maybe owners could also reduce costs with a lockout.)
  • Starting the season in March would radically alter the NBA’s calendar. Shifting back to an October – or even December – start date would mean even more upheaval, potentially for several years.
  • The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled for July and August 2021. The Olympics have been a powerful tool for the NBA and its players expanding their global reach.

These are unique and trying circumstances. Coronavirus is a massive and confounding variable. Everything should be on the table.

Do I predict next season will begin in March? No. But apparently the possibility is being considered, which is something.