Jarred Vanderbilt

Northwest Notes: Vanderbilt, Murray, Barton, Alexander-Walker

Jarred Vanderbilt played 25 minutes on Wednesday, but the Timberwolves forward is still bothered by a left quad contusion, Chris Hine of the Star Tribune tweets. Head coach Chris Finch said Vanderbilt, who is listed as questionable to play on Saturday, is closer to 70% than 100% and he’ll remain on a minutes restriction.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Jamal Murray‘s practice with the G League Grand Rapids included some live work but he still must overcome some hurdles before he makes his season debut, coach Michael Malone told Mike Singer of the Denver Post (Twitter link). The Nuggets guard was assigned to Grand Rapids early this week and is expected to report back to the NBA team on Saturday.
  • Nuggets swingman Will Barton has missed opportunities to play in the postseason due to injuries and he’s hopeful that will change next month, Singer writes“That’s really all my focus is on is just staying healthy, trying to play good basketball and getting ready for the playoffs – something I’ve been looking forward to my whole career,” he said. “And I haven’t been able to be in there healthy. Now I have the chance if everything keeps going well.” Barton, who is signed through next season, is averaging 14.7, 4.9 RPG and a career-best 3.8 APG.
  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker has looked sharp while getting extended playing time this week, Tony Jones of The Athletic writes. Alexander-Walker had 13 points and five assists against the Clippers on Friday after a 16-point outing against Chicago. The Jazz also believe Alexander-Walker, who is eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason, can be a defensive factor off the bench.

Injury Notes: G. Hill, D. Green, Suggs, Vanderbilt

While his return will likely be overshadowed by Brook Lopez‘s, another key Bucks contributor appears poised to be available on Monday night in Utah. Veteran guard George Hill no longer shows up on Milwaukee’s injury report after missing the last 17 games due to neck soreness.

[RELATED: Brook Lopez To Return On Monday]

Prior to his injury, Hill had been a regular part of the Bucks’ backcourt rotation, starting 16 of his 41 games and averaging 25.5 minutes per contest. While his shooting numbers this season (.436 FG%, .316 3PT%) are well below his career rates, the 35-year-old will give the club another ball-handling and floor-spacing option down the stretch, and he won’t shy away from the postseason spotlight this spring — Hill has appeared in 139 career playoff games.

Here are a few more injury-related updates from around the NBA:

  • Warriors forward Draymond Green is officially set to return on Monday after being sidelined since early January with a back issue, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Green, who no longer appears on Golden State’s injury report, said last week that he was targeting March 14 for his return.
  • After missing games on March 5 and March 8 due to a right ankle sprain, Magic rookie Jalen Suggs doesn’t appear to have put that issue fully behind him. He left Sunday’s game early, with the team again citing a sprained right ankle (Twitter link).
  • Timberwolves forward Jarred Vanderbilt will be unavailable on Monday for a second straight game due to a left quad contusion, tweets Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Discussing Vanderbilt’s status on Saturday, Wolves head coach Chris Finch called it “kind of an odd” injury. “The only way to loosen it up is by moving, but it hurts too much to move,” Finch said (Twitter link via Hine). “Just got to keep working on it. The way he plays, he needs all of his physical attributes to be highly impactful.”

Northwest Notes: McCollum, Cousins, Vanderbilt, Mitchell

CJ McCollum returned to the Trail Blazers’ lineup this week, but the team is much different than when he suffered a collapsed lung in early December, writes Casey Holdahl of NBA.com. Damian Lillard is out indefinitely after abdominal surgery and Anfernee Simons has blossomed as a star with the starting guards absent. Before he began playing again, McCollum addressed his teammates to let them know he’s willing to accept a complementary role in the offense.

“CJ was home watching us play a lot of games and I feel like we’ve gotten a ton better in so many different areas during that time,” coach Chauncey Billups said. “He recognized that and, not only recognized it, came back to the team and said ‘Don’t worry about fitting me back in. Just do what y’all do, I’ll be fine.’ That’s just the type of professional that he is. Didn’t surprise me but it was good and I’m pretty sure all the young guys were happy to hear that.”

Holdahl points to two plays in the closing minute of Friday’s win in Boston as evidence of McCollum’s commitment. Instead of forcing shots against a defense that was keying on him, McCollum got the ball to open teammates both times.

“I get in where I fit in,” he said. “I know how to play the game, I know what I have to offer to this team and I know how to contribute. I told them ‘Keep doing what y’all doing, be yourselves and I’ll do what I got to do.’”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The additions of Bryn Forbes and DeMarcus Cousins may solve the Nuggets‘ problem of inconsistent play from their reserves, notes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Forbes, who made his debut on Friday, is already impressed by the passing skills of Nikola Jokic. Cousins, who might play today after missing Friday’s game with a minor injury, will add an extra dimension to the offense, according to coach Michael Malone“When you’re a four-time All-Star, and you’re a guy that can put 28 points a night up, he has talent,” Malone said. “So many times this year we’ve seen second units just switch everything. I think DeMarcus is a guy that it makes it hard for other teams to just say we’re going to switch one through five and live with it.”
  • Timberwolves forward Jarred Vanderbilt saw his NBA career turn around after a trade that sent him from Denver to Minnesota two years ago, per Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “I was shocked when I got traded,” he said. “Honestly just because it was the realization that it wasn’t like college. … But looking back on it, I feel like it happened for the best, for me and my career. It allowed me to make a way and make a name for myself in this league.”
  • Jazz star Donovan Mitchell remains in the concussion protocol and will miss today’s game against the Warriors, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Timberwolves Notes: Defense, Trade Season, Watts, Nowell

The Timberwolves have been encouraged by their play at the midway point of the season, but they know they still have a long way to go to achieve their goal of making the playoffs, as Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic writes. The team generally gets along well, which is important because chemistry has been in short supply in Minnesota for many years, Krawczynski notes.

Another major change is the defense has improved dramatically to this point, ranking 11th in the league entering Thursday’s game against Memphis. The last time the Timberwolves had a defensive rating better than 21st was 2013/14, when they ranked 12th. A major contributor to the team’s aggressive defense has been forward Jarred Vanderbilt.

I think a couple of games we tried to change it up and go dropping, but we realized we’re just a better team when we’re aggressive and getting into the ball, being in the gaps, flying around and just making multiple efforts,” Vanderbilt said. “I think that was the biggest change for us.”

Minnesota is expected to be a buyer at the trade deadline, sources tell Krawczynski. The Wolves remain interested in Ben Simmons, but the Sixers haven’t shown any interest in Minnesota’s offers to this point. Myles Turner has been floated as a possibility, but Vanderbilt’s emergence has dampened that notion. Krawczynki believes the team should be targeting size off the bench and more three-point shooting.

Here’s more from Minnesota:

  • The Timberwolves have hired Marquise Watts to become their new chief experience officer, the team announced. Watts previously worked at Under Armour, Adidas, and Klutch Sports Group. Jon Krawczynski and Shams Charania of The Athletic explore why Watt’s hiring is a significant move, noting that it’s the first major hire under new owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez, who are determined to change the perception of the franchise.
  • Aaron Gleeman and John Hollinger of The Athletic explore how good the Wolves can be this season and what trades they should target ahead of the deadline, among other topics. Hollinger believes Jerami Grant or Harrison Barnes could fit nicely in Minnesota if Simmons is unattainable.
  • Guard Jaylen Nowell recently suffered an ankle injury, but participated in shootaround Thursday. Coach Chris Finch said the injury doesn’t appear as serious as the Wolves originally thought, and while Nowell missed Thursday’s game against Memphis, Finch is hopeful he could return Sunday against Golden State, tweets Chris Hine of the Star Tribune.

Julius Randle, Three Pacers Enter COVID-19 Protocols

Knicks power forward Julius Randle has entered the health and safety protocols and will miss Friday’s game vs. Oklahoma City, the team announced today (via Twitter). If Randle registered a confirmed positive COVID-19 test, he’ll remain sidelined for at least six days or until he can return two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart.

Randle logged 26 minutes in the Knicks’ win in Detroit on Wednesday night after playing over 37 minutes on Tuesday in Minnesota, so his teammates and recent opponents will likely be monitoring for symptoms of their own in the coming days.

Here are a few more COVID-related updates from around the league:

  • After placing Jeremy Lamb in the health and safety protocols on Wednesday, the Pacers have had three more players enter the protocols today, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, who reports (via Twitter) that Malcolm Brogdon, Chris Duarte, and Isaiah Jackson are joining Lamb. Indiana had avoided a COVID-19 outbreak so far this month, but it may be catching up to the team now.
  • Bucks forward Semi Ojeleye has entered the protocols, tweets Wojnarowski. Milwaukee had multiple players in the protocols earlier in the month, but Ojeleye is the team’s lone player affected for now.
  • Timberwolves forward Jarred Vanderbilt has exited the COVID-19 protocols and should be available on Friday vs. Utah, according to Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link). Minnesota is down to just three players in the protocols, though Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell are two of those three.

Timberwolves’ Beverley, Vanderbilt Enter Protocols

The Timberwolves‘ COVID-19 outbreak appears to have affected a couple more players, as Shams Charania of The Athletic reports (via Twitter) that guard Patrick Beverley and forward Jarred Vanderbilt have entered the health and safety protocols.

Beverley and Vanderbilt join Anthony Edwards, Josh Okogie, and Taurean Prince in the protocols, bringing the total number of Wolves players impacted to five.

If Beverley and Vanderbilt have tested positive for COVID-19, they’ll be out for 10 days or until they return two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart.

The news may be of concern to the Mavericks, since both Beverley and Vanderbilt were in the starting lineup when Minnesota faced Dallas on Sunday night. Beverley played almost 31 minutes, while Vanderbilt logged over 38 minutes.

Timberwolves Notes: Russell, Edwards, Rubio, Starters

Point guard D’Angelo Russell may be having a down year shooting the ball (.383/.330/.817), but he’s proven to be an essential player for the Timberwolves, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Krawczynski argues that Russell might be the team’s most important player this season due to his unexpected two-way impact — he’s defending with gusto for the first time in his career — and the lack of other play-makers on the roster. 

Krawczynski relays that the 12-15 Wolves, currently the No. 9 seed in the West, are 0-5 without Russell this season — each defeat by double figures. They are a respectable 12-10 when he plays. He writes that Russell’s willingness to shoot creates space for teammates, and his presence on defense has been a boon. Head coach Chris Finch praised Russell’s communication when playing zone defense.

He’s smart, knows where he should be, knows where his teammates should be, so yes, for sure, he can anchor the defense with his voice,” Finch said. “Certainly gives confidence to those guys that they know what’s behind them.”

Here’s more from Minnesota:

  • Second-year wing Anthony Edwards has been in a slump recently, but Finch isn’t alarmed by his drop in efficiency, per Chris Hine of the Star Tribune. “He’s just kind of overthinking things,” Finch said. “And as he works through that he’ll come out the other side better and in a better rhythm. I’ve seen it a million times with a lot of guys, and it’s just part of the process. Teams go through it, players go through it.”
  • Although he was upset when it occurred, Ricky Rubio acknowledges that his trade from Minnesota to Cleveland over the summer was for the best, Hine writes in a separate article. “Things didn’t work out for a year over there (Minnesota), so I think we were looking for a change, both of us, at the end of the day,” Rubio said. “It’s something that happened in a way that I didn’t expect, but this is the business that we’re in.”
  • In another piece for the Star Tribune, Hine notes that Minnesota’s starting lineup of Russell, Patrick Beverley, Edwards, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Karl-Anthony Towns has proven to be highly effective — when healthy. As Hine observes, the group has the best five-man net rating in the league at +49.6 in 127 minutes.

Timberwolves Notes: Prince, McDaniels, Vanderbilt, Beasley

After spending some time out of the Timberwolves‘ rotation, Taurean Prince delivered his best game of the season on Thursday with 13 points and three rebounds in 15 minutes, writes Chris Hine of The Star-Tribune.

Prince, who was acquired from the Cavaliers in an offseason trade, has been putting up the worst numbers of his career since coming to Minnesota. He’s been particularly bad as a three-point shooter, connecting at just 19% before Thursday’s game. After sinking three of his five shots from long distance vs. San Antonio, Prince hopes the worst is over.

“Maybe a couple years ago I would’ve felt some type of way or acted a certain way,” he said of the reduced playing time. “But now I’m to the point where I just want to hoop. I’m with a great organization. We got something going here. … For me to feel any type of way about playing time right now would be — it’d be a little bit selfish on my behalf. Just try to stick together, see it all through and things will come together.”

There’s more from Minnesota:

  • Jaden McDaniels has struggled with foul trouble in his second NBA season, but apart from that he has been tremendous on defense, Hine adds in the same story. Coach Chris Finch rates him as an “A or A-minus” defender and says opponents are starting to take notice. “Every game pretty much we have some opponent coming over saying to our bench he can really guard,” Finch said. “(Suns guard) Chris Paul said it the other day: ‘Who is this guy? He can really guard.'”
  • Since moving into the starting lineup five games ago, Jarred Vanderbilt has provided an edge to the first unit, notes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Minnesota doesn’t have a traditional power forward, so the undersized Vanderbilt tries to fill the role by outworking opponents. “Very aware, very self-aware. Mature,” Finch said of Vanderbilt. “Understands who he is as a basketball player. That’s 90% of the battle of getting better in this league.”
  • Malik Beasley‘s shot has been off this season, but he has been able to hold onto his rotation spot by improving on defense, Krawczynski adds. Beasley credits studying film with helping him to better understand what opposing players are trying to do.

Northwest Notes: Giddey, Jokic, Hyland, Vanderbilt

The Warriors were planning to take Josh Giddey with the seventh pick in this year’s draft if the Thunder hadn’t scooped him up at No. 6, Giddey’s father tells Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Warrick Giddey says the Warriors told his son’s agent, Daniel Moldovan, that Josh would be their target if he was still on the board.

The Thunder and the Warriors were the only teams to hold private pre-draft workouts with the Australian guard, and both came away impressed. Giddey is averaging 10.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.6 assists through his first five NBA games and appears ready for the league at age 19.

“We’re not overly surprised by what we’ve seen,” coach Mark Daigneault said, “but obviously there’s a lot of work to do and we’re excited to continue to work with him. He’s gotta get a lot better as well.” 

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets center Nikola Jokic didn’t consider sitting out Friday’s game after suffering a bruised knee earlier in the week, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Jokic underwent an MRI that showed no structural damage and said he plans to keep going as long as the knee doesn’t feel weak. “They’ve been making him go through the protocols, the testing, different drills and they felt that he was more than capable of getting out there and playing,” coach Michael Malone said.
  • The Nuggets have one of the lowest-scoring benches in the league and may turn to rookie guard Bones Hyland for a spark, Singer adds in a separate story. Hyland saw his first game action this week and scored seven points in 10 minutes. “I keep on saying it, but Bones Hyland,” Malone said. “That second unit’s struggling to score, make shots. Well Bones has shown he can do that.”
  • His Timberwolves teammates love playing alongside Jarred Vanderbilt, who got his first start of the season this week so he could guard Giannis Antetokounmpo, per Megan Ryan of The Star Tribune. The fourth-year power forward is known for an aggressive, unselfish approach to the game. “He’s a contagious person,” Anthony Edwards said. “Anytime he’s on the floor, we’re playing better, we’re playing harder. We’re making the extra pass, making the extra closeout. We’re one step faster.”

Chris Finch Talks Gupta, Wolves Offense, Vanderbilt, Defense

Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch recently sat down for an extensive interview with Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Finch and Hine engaged in some nitty-gritty conversations pertaining to the team’s plans for development on both sides of the ball, Finch’s relationship with new team president Sachin Gupta, and how power forward Jarred Vanderbilt is an under-appreciated contributor.

Under Finch, Minnesota sports a competent record of 18-25. They are currently 2-0 this year. Team stars Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, and D’Angelo Russell have exhibited encouraging chemistry together during this early portion of the 2021/22 NBA season.

The Timberwolves boast a 93.1 defensive rating thus far, good for the second-best in the league. Their 104.8 offensive pace ranks fifth in the NBA.

The full conversation is well worth a read, but here are some highlights from the chat:

On his time developing a relationship with Gupta with the Rockets, where Finch was an assistant coach and Gupta was a front office advisor:

“I remember the first project that (Sachin) and I ever did together. We were studying corner threes and I was looking for places on the floor where the passes came to generate the best corner threes. Some of it made sense just looking at the game, but he mapped it out. He gridified the half court and had all different color zones about the best way to create open corner threes from where you were passing on the floor.”

On how he hopes to re-tool the Timberwolves’ offensive possessions:

“I think probably develop a little bit more of a complete package for Anthony. So he’s kind of not like going through the game looking for opportunities. Maybe direct the ball more to him. Opportunities to post D’Angelo for his playmaking down there. Then continue to experiment with (Towns). Just move him around and continue to play him more like a guard as well as a big. When you have a guy like that, it’s a lot of fun.”

On how the recently re-signed Vanderbilt helps the team win, per analytics research:

“Multiple possessions guy (with offensive rebounding). So anyone who gets you multiple possessions is worth it. If you think about the average possession in the NBA, it’s worth like 1.1 points or whatever, let’s say. If you get three more possessions than your opponent, that’s about 3.5 points more. So it’s just basketball mathematics in that way. That’s one. Two is his defense, versatility on defense. So when he’s on the floor with multitude of defensive lineups, they are generally plus defensive ratings. Then, his rebounding too. He’s not only getting you extra rebounds offensively, but he’s helping a place where you’re already weak defensively. With that, it’s probably not as strong as the other two for sure. And a lot of the defensive stuff is his ability to be successful in pick and roll as a switch defender.”

On how he intends to improve the club’s defense:

“Transition, eliminate our fouling or reduce it, and rebounding. If you look at those three play types, from an offensive point of view, they’re the three most efficient play type starts. Teams that score in transition score at a higher rate. Free throws are big and then offensive rebounds. So even if we got back and we’re not a great half-court defense, but we make them play in the half court more, we’re going to win that small battle, even if they’re making shots against us. They’re not going to make shots at the rate they do in transition.”