As the NBA continues to push toward a plan to resume the 2019-2020 season, many questions need to be addressed. One of those questions is if its worth it for some NBA stars to play in games, once they resume. The Minnesota Timberwolves are one of those teams, as they weigh the pros and cons of putting their young stars, Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell back on the court if season resumes.
The first domino may have fallen on Tuesday morning, so this is a good time to address this question. In an interview with Chris Haynes from Yahoo Sports, Portland Trailblazers guard Damian Lillard stated he will not be participating in any games if there is no possibility his team makes the playoffs.
Don’t expect Dame Time without a playoff window 👀 pic.twitter.com/velv4A1yqS— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 26, 2020
The Portland Trailblazers are currently the 9th seed in the Western Conference, 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the last playoff spot. This is, of course, assumes that the NBA does not change its playoff format for the season.
The Timberwolves are in a much different situation. For Portland, they would be expected to have a healthy Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins returning to make a playoff push. While the Timberwolves have yet to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, they have dug themselves an extremely deep hole. Minnesota finds themselves 12.5 games out of the last seed in the Western Conference, with only 18 games remaining. We would need another one of these:
Reason #1: Risk of injury
Towns and Russell have not been labeled as ‘injury prone’ in their short careers, but injuries can happen to anyone. A career-altering injury could occur and it would be terrible if it happened in a meaningless game. The dynamic duo of KAT and D-Lo has only played one game together this year which was a 9-point loss in Toronto. A left wrist injury sidelined Towns after that and then everything was shut down.
Are KAT and D-Lo bad teammates if they don’t play? Hopefully, it wouldn’t be their decision and would come from the front office. They wouldn’t be sitting on their asses, playing COD all day. Like Lillard said, Towns and Russell could still participate in practices and workouts. They could still attend games and show support for their teammates. But, no games.
Reason #2 – KAT and D-Lo will help us win…
With the current standings, the Timberwolves are tied with Cleveland and Golden State at 14% for the best odds at the first overall pick in the 2020 Draft, whenever that will happen. Knowing the Timberwolves luck, they’ll miss the top pick, even with the best chance. No matter how bad our luck has been, we still want the highest odds possible. Why add anymore risk if their isn’t a reward for winning?
Let’s say the Wolves get the third overall pick from the lottery. They could select a very good player to complete a trio with Towns and Russell. Or, they could use that pick to make a trade for an already proven player… maybe someone like Devin Booker.
There are some things lost when the rest of your team is playing without you. Team chemistry is an important component to winning games and with a roster that looks tremendously different than it did at the start of the season, it is even more important for the Wolves.
It is still crazy to me, that D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, James Johnson, Evan Turner, Omari Spellman, Jacob Evans, and Jarred Vanderbilt are on this roster. With all of these new faces, gaining team rapport on and off the floor is crucial.
From a fan perspective, you may want to see your star players play. Of course, sports are significantly more enjoyable to watch when the best payers are competing. It is all but confirmed at this point there will be no fans at the remaining NBA games, so attendance would not matter in this case. It would all be about T.V.
At this point however, people are desperate to watch any sport on television. Look at the Korean Baseball League on ESPN.
I am telling you though, it is not worth it to sacrifice their play for the 18 remaining games. Let me know what you think.
Sam Sklar | Minnesota Sports Fan