The Grizzlies have a quick turnaround after blowing a 25 point lead against the Nuggets on Monday night. They’ll face off against a talented, yet injured Timberwolves team trying to remain in the Western conference playoff race. To figure out what’s going on in Mind, I caught up with Eric Golden, Site Manager for SB Nation’s Canis Hoopus.
1) The Timberwolves somewhat surprisingly fired Tom Thibodeau on January 6th. The team is 5-5 since Ryan Saunders took over as interim head coach. What’s been the good and the bad in Saunders’ 10 games as interim head coach?
The good has been a renewed sense of enjoyment in the game. Saunders is a much more positive personality than Thibs, and it was clear that Thibs had worn down many key players. Saunders is much more flexible in his rotations and player use, something we always criticized Thibodeau for. I think everyone feels more involved and invested with Saunders at the helm. That said, the team isn’t performing particularly better, which in part speaks to a spate of injuries and in part speaks to the limited talent on hand.
2) The Timberwolves were able to sneak into the playoffs last year but currently find themselves outside of the playoff picture for this season. What’s going to be the biggest key for the Wolves to make consecutive trips to the postseason?
Health. They have been down to playing their fourth point guard (Jerryd Bayless) and are desperately missing Robert Covington, who has been out with a bone bruise. Frankly though, it might be too late. The playoff teams are beginning to separate, and the Wolves have a very tough schedule the rest of the way, so we’re beginning to recognize the lottery writing on the wall for this season.
3) Former Memphis Tiger Derrick Rose has been arguably the biggest feel good story of this season as he finally looks healthy after multiple knee injuries. How big has he been for the Wolves, and do you think they’ll be able to afford to keep him this offseason?
Rose is a very divisive figure in Wolves fandom. He’s been in and out of the lineup after Thibs used him very heavily for a while, and it’s unclear whether he’ll have a healthy stretch the rest of the season. He’s missed the Wolves last two games with a persistent ankle problem. He’s scored well, better than he has in some years, but the team has been better off without him for the most part, as he sucks offensive oxygen from others and hurts them defensively.
I personally have no interest in bringing him back regardless of cost this summer. From a purely basketball perspective, he’s not going to keep shooting like he has, and he’s not going to stay healthy.
4) A popular trade idea within Grizzlies twitter is a deal centered around sending Chandler Parsons to Minnesota and Andrew Wiggins and Gorgui Dieng to Memphis. Is this a deal you think Minnesota would consider to get out of Andrew Wiggins contract?
More salary would have to come back to Minnesota, but if most of it is expiring, then the answer is: I would absolutely consider this. Getting off both of those contracts at the cost of one more season of Chandler Parsons’ deal seems worth it to me. The Wolves would not consider it, however. They are not yet willing to look at Wiggins as a salary dump candidate. They still see him as a potential building block. I think that’s unwise, but it’s where the franchise is right now.
5) The Timberwolves and Grizzlies match up pretty well against each other. Which positional matchup are you most looking forward to tonight and what is going to be key to a Minnesota victory?
As I’m writing this, you guys are up 20 on Denver at halftime, with Marc Gasol dominating. The answer is always Gasol-Towns. Gasol has really made Towns work over the years, but KAT has started figuring out some of the other guys who have given him trouble in the past. Can he do the same with Gasol? The Grizzlies physicality has been a huge problem for the Wolves in recent seasons, but clearly this isn’t the same Memphis team.
Thanks again to Eric for catching me up on all things Timberwolves. Be sure to follow Canis Hoopus on twitter (@canishoopus) for all things Timberwolves.
Stick with GBB for all your Grizzlies needs.