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NBA PM: Timberwolves Still After Gasol, Varejao
Posted By Bill Ingram On January 4, 2013 @ 5:00 pm In All,NBA | No Comments
It’s one of the worst-kept secrets in the NBA that the Minnesota Timberwolves would love to have Pau Gasol in their lineup. They had multiple conversations with the Los Angeles Lakers last season, and Gasol’s apparent struggles this season have not dissuaded the Timberwolves in the slightest. Head coach Rick Adelman sees Gasol as the ideal big man to run his Princeton offense, and the team has multiple pieces to send out in an effort to make a deal happen, starting with forward Derrick Williams.
For their part, the Lakers are preaching patience after a knee-jerk reaction saw them fire head coach Mike Brown at the beginning of the season. As a result, while the Timberwolves still see Gasol as the best-case scenario for them, they have also had at least preliminary discussions with the Cleveland Cavaliers about center Anderson Varejao, whom the Cavs would prefer to keep but are considering trading because he is more interested in competing with a playoff team than being a part of the rebuilding process in Cleveland.
It does not appear that a deal is close on either front, but as next month’s trade deadline looms expect to hear about more banter back and forth between these teams.
The Timberwolves have been pretty good this season despite losing an unreasonable number of games to player injuries. Right now they are hoping to get Ricky Rubio (back spasms) back in the lineup this weekend, while waiting to see how much time Kevin Love will miss with the sprained finger he sustained against Denver.
One situation to keep an eye on, as ESPN1500.com brings to light, is the play of Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic and the fact that he will be a restricted free agent this summer. Pekovic is easily one of the most improved players in the league, and has been dominant at times in the low post. He’s averaging 15.7 points and 8.10 rebounds per game, both career-highs, and has shown that he is more than capable of being a 20-10 performer if given enough touches. As the Timberwolves plan for the future they understand that they might not be able to match a max offer sheet to Pekovic, something the Portland Trail Blazers were willing to give to Roy Hibbert and would most likely consider with Pekovic, as well.
No matter what happens with Pekovic, it never hurts to have another big man around, especially with Love having problems staying healthy. It sounds like the Timberwolves will be in active pursuit of one leading up to the trade deadline, and that Gasol and Varejao are at the top of their short list.
Denver’s X-Factor Waiting In The Wings
Wilson Chandler has been the subject of much discussion since returning from China last season. He was heavily courted by the Toronto Raptors before the Denver Nuggets ultimately re-signed him, and now only his recovery from hip surgery is holding him back from being the subject of discussion once again. Will he have a spot in Denver, where Andre Iguodala is starting and Corey Brewer is playing quite well off the bench, or will the Nuggets look to deal him before the February trade deadline? Much of that will likely be determined by how well he plays, and the Nuggets are looking forward to having him back soon so they can make that determination.
Like many players, Chandler spent the lockout-shortened 2011-12 NBA season playing in China, an experience he won’t soon forget.
“It was great for me as a player and as a person, off the court,” Chandler tells HOOPSWORLD. “I got to play, and then off the court I just got the experience of being around a different culture and how people work over there. It’s a very humbling experience and I think it helped me as a person, as well.”
Like his NBA peers, Chandler felt the experience of China helped him appreciate the lifestyle and culture of the NBA.
“Definitely, it’s two different leagues, so you definitely appreciate being in the NBA, just the little things,” says Chandler.
Sitting on the sidelines, both at the end of last season and the start of this one, Chandler has a good feel for how he can help the Nuggets right away upon his return.
“Yeah, hopefully if I can get back to how I was playing before I got hurt,” says Chandler. “I can help them out on the perimeter, some defense, rebounding, just playing an all-around game.”
He also thinks he has a pretty good idea of what the Nuggets need most as they aspire to greatness this season.
“I think we just need to mature as a team,” says Chandler. “We’ve got a young team and maturity is a big part. We’ve had a tough schedule so far, you can always blame it on that, but we don’t want no excuses. We just need to come together as a team and build that level of confidence.”
Though he may be Chandler’s primary competition for minutes, Andre Iguodala has already impressed Chandler with his all-around game.
“He helps a lot,” says Chandler. “He’s a great, great player all-around – assists, points, rebounding, everything we need – and on the court he’s a very vocal guy. I think he’s a big help to us.”
The question remains as to how Chandler will fit into the mix. The Nuggets can definitely use another outside threat in the wake of Arron Afflalo’s departure to Orlando, and at the time that he was traded to Denver in the Carmelo Anthony deal he was averaging 16.4 points for the New York Knicks while shooting 46 percent overall and 35 percent from downtown. He won’t be called upon to shoot that much for Denver, in all likelihood, but the threat alone can make the Nuggets an even more dangerous team.
Expect Wilson Chandler to be a factor for the Nuggets.
The Annual All-Star Voting Debate Begins
The All-Star starters are starting to become clear as the NBA has released the third round of balloting, which means it’s time for the annual debate about who should choose the starters to heat up. The loudest opinion on any given subject will usually belong to Charles Barkley, and he wasted no time sounding off on Dwight Howard’s likely starting for the Western Conference team that takes the court in Houston next month.
“Let me tell you something, I have been very disappointed,” Barkley said in a recent interview with 790AM The Ticket in Miami. “I like Dwight Howard a lot as a person, but I have been very disappointed with the whole way he handled the whole Orlando thing. If he’s hurt, he needs to come out and say he’s hurt. Last week, we went over the All-Star starters. One reason I don’t think the fans should ever vote is because they just vote for their favorite players. Listen, these are two guys I always have liked. I’m a big Kevin Garnett fan. But there’s no way in the world he should be starting the All-Star game right now. And the same way with Dwight Howard. Those fans who have penciled those two guys in (to) start … That’s a travesty to be honest. I like Dwight Howard, but he ain’t played like no All-Star this year and Kevin Garnett has not played like an All-Star. That’s why the fans do a disservice to a guy like Anderson Varejao, who’s leading the league in rebounding, who’s been outstanding. The coaches may have to put him on the team, but the fans should reward those guys. Zach Randolph has been great all season.”
It’s difficult to disagree, as Howard is posting his worst statistical season since his sophomore year with the Orlando Magic. It doesn’t help that his Lakers are one of the most disappointing teams in the league to date. There is an argument to be made that Randolph, whose Memphis Grizzlies have been one of the best in the West all season, or perhaps even the surprisingly good Omer Asik (given the location of the game) should be considered ahead of Howard, whose Lakers are currently 11th in the West.
That said, the All-Star game is and always has been about the fans. Fans would rather see a few highlight reel dunks from Howard than strong front court play from Randolph or Asik, who are comparatively somewhat boring to watch. Fans want to see Howard start, and start he will.
There’s also a very good reason why the fans are limited to five selections on each team, while coaches fill out the rest of the rosters. Coaches are objective observers of the game, and there is usually not much argument with their choices. The coaches make sure that the most deserving players get their due, and that makes up for the occasional misstep by the fans.
Don’t expect the All-Star game voting system to change any time soon, regardless of how silly some of the fan picks might be.
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