Jaylen Nowell

Northwest Notes: Nowell, Towns, Maledon, Rivers

Timberwolves guard Jaylen Nowell had a rough time coming back from a right tibia contusion suffered on April 3, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune details. He tried to come back 10 days later and shot 1-for-14 from the field in two games. After taking some time off, Nowell returned on Friday and saw 25 minutes of action on Sunday against Orlando.

“It affected my shot the most,” he said. “I was really shooting off one leg and trying to come back, I came back a little too early; I came back when I was still hurting.”

Nowell, the team’s 2019 second-round pick, has a non-guaranteed $1.78MM contract for next season.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Karl-Anthony Towns will remain with the Timberwolves long term if the franchise continues to add quality pieces, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic speculates in an interview with Hoops Hype’s Michael Scotto. ‘Ultimately, what it comes down to is will the Timberwolves put a winning team around Towns? If they don’t, eventually, he will go. If they do, I think he’ll stay for a long time,” Krawczynski said. “I don’t think that this summer is the be-all and end-all for it. I think he’s got one more year at least of seeing how this is all going to work out.”
  • Rookie Theo Maledon finds himself in a much different role with the Thunder than when he began the season, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman notes. With many players injured or sitting out, Maledon has become more of a scoring guard. “The injuries and the new guys on the roster forced me to be that kind of guy, be more aggressive and have more opportunity to create for me and my teammates,” he said. The early second-round pick has averaged 12.4 PPG since the All-Star break.
  • Austin Rivers has learned to become more of a team player, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes. Rivers, who signed a rest-of-the-season contract with the Nuggets late last month after completing a 10-day deal, has scored 55 points over the last three games while receiving extensive playing time. “When you have a fresh start like (in Denver) … and then you just stop trying to put so much emphasis on yourself,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest difference in my game right now and just my approach as a player. I’ve given myself to the team. Whether I play 35 minutes or five minutes, I’m going to be positive as hell.”

Western Notes: Rubio, Edwards, McCollum, Nowell, Thompson

Timberwolves veteran Ricky Rubio praised rookie teammate Anthony Edwards and his toughness during the highs and lows of the season so far, Chris Hine of the Star Tribune writes.

Edwards, who was drafted by the team No. 1 overall last year, has shown flashes of potential during his first campaign. The 19-year-old is currently holding per-game averages of 15.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 38 contests, though he’s shooting just 38% from the floor.

“When you’re young, every game and every situation it seems like it’s the end of the world sometimes when it’s not working,” Rubio said. “But his character is special. I said it from day one, I think we have a gem here. We have something that — he’s going to be really good in this league.”

Here are some other notes from the Western Conference tonight:

  • Blazers star CJ McCollum is hoping to return next week from a broken left foot, Jason Quick of The Athletic writes. “Friday’s workout went well; how I expected it to go,” McCollum said. “I’ll be back soon, as long as everything continues to go the way it’s been going.” McCollum, who has averaged 26.7 points per game in 13 contests this season, has been sidelined since January 16.
  • Timberwolves guard Jaylen Nowell received an expanded role in the team’s game against the Blazers on Saturday, Chris Hine of the Star Tribune writes. Nowell scored 17 points and grabbed four rebounds in the loss, playing the final minutes despite starting the contest on the bench. “I’m just focused on being aggressive whenever I catch it, making sure I can make a play,” said Nowell, who recently spoke to our Ben Stinar about his impressive season to date. “The one difference that I might say would be when I’m initiating offense, making sure I get guys in spots, making sure I keep the ball moving, making sure the ball doesn’t get stagnant. That’s probably the only difference when I’m in with that second unit rather than the first.”
  • Warriors star Klay Thompson hopes to return early next season from a torn Achilles’ tendon, as relayed by The Athletic. “Definitely. Could be a few weeks after [opening night]. Could be a month after,” Thompson acknowledged. “But definitely geared toward early in the season.” Thompson is a five-time All-Star and hasn’t played since June of 2019 due his Achilles’ injury and a torn ACL.

Jaylen Nowell Talks Career Night, Coaching Change, More

After playing limited minutes as a rookie, Timberwolves guard Jaylen Nowell has established himself as a regular rotation player in his second professional season. But the 21-year-old still remembers his “welcome to the NBA” moment, when he went up against Russell Westbrook during the last game of Minnesota’s 2019/20 season.

“He was one of my favorite players in the league,” Nowell told Hoops Rumors in a phone interview. “Ended up guarding him and once that happened and once that happened in my head while I’m guarding him, I’m like, ‘Wow this is crazy I’m really going against this dude that I’ve been watching on TV for years now.’ I’d say that was my welcome to the NBA moment for sure.”

While fighting to earn more playing time in his second season, Nowell has adjusted to new protocols and routines both during and between games, as the NBA navigates the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s been really crazy,” Nowell said of the 2020/21 campaign. “I actually forgot at a certain point that this is not how the regular NBA is.”

Nowell, who is averaging nearly 10 points per game this season, enjoyed a career night on Thursday in New Orleans to begin the second half. The 2019 second-round pick scored 28 points on 11-of-13 shooting from the field and 6-of-7 shooting from three-point range, adding six assists and five rebounds — and he did it all off the bench in just 28 minutes.

“It felt great,” Nowell said. “I felt really comfortable out there. I was bringing the ball up a lot, initiating the plays, so I kind of got to get into a rhythm without even shooting it.”

The performance came in a 135-105 victory over the Pelicans, which was the Timberwolves’ first win in nearly a month.

“That was amazing,” he said. “I honestly forgot what it felt like to come back to the winning locker room. It was definitely something we needed and to have it the first game after the All-Star break, it’s amazing. Hopefully we can keep this going.”

Last weekend’s All-Star festivities provided a much-needed break not only for a Timberwolves squad that had lost 13 of its last 14 games, but also for Nowell, who traveled to Seattle to see his family.

Before the break, the Timberwolves made a drastic in-season move, firing head coach Ryan Saunders and replacing him with Raptors assistant coach Chris Finch. While that sort of shake-up would throw some second-year players for a loop, Nowell isn’t unfamiliar with adjusting to a coaching change, having experienced one during his college recruitment process. Lorenzo Romar, the coach who recruited him to the University of Washington, had been replaced by Mike Hopkins by the time he began his college career.

“I’m kind of used to it,” Nowell said. “I wasn’t playing there, but it was a coaching change nonetheless. It was the year before I came in, so I was affected by it. I’ve dealt with it before.”

When Finch was hired, he spoke about simplifying and streamlining the Timberwolves’ schemes. According to Nowell, the team isn’t running a lot of plays and has been relying on the players to make more reads.

“We’ve been getting to show off our skills,” he said. “Not just for me individually, but as a team. It’s making us complement each other’s game more.”

Even though the Wolves have the youngest roster in the NBA, they possess an exciting mix of max-contract players, vets and youth. Nowell grew up watching a lot of the guys he now calls teammates.

“I used to watch guys like Ricky Rubio, Ed Davis, KAT (Karl-Anthony Towns), D’Angelo Russell,” he said. “I used to watch all these guys before I was even in the league. To call them my teammates, that’s already an accomplishment in itself. That’s been great, and being able to actually be around them and talk to them and see how they work and see how they approach the game that’s been great for me. I’ve just been watching and learning and trying to absorb everything and anything from them.”

Nowell has learned up close from Russell by watching the way he plays during games and by talking to him one-on-one.

“He’s an All-Star, so whatever he’s doing, it’s right,” Nowell said of Russell. “Every single game I’ve been watching how he picks spots; when he decides to shoot; when he decides to move the ball. I’ve been talking to him one-on-one about the point guard, how to facilitate, how to get guys in spots to put them in the best position for them to score not just myself.”

Nowell, who wants to continue to facilitate the ball at a high level by getting his teammates involved, believes the Timberwolves are making fewer mistakes than they did at the beginning of the year and envisions a strong finish to the team’s season. At 8-29, there’s nowhere for Minnesota to go but up.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Northwest Notes: Muscala, MPJ, Lillard, Blazers, Wolves

Veteran forward/center Mike Muscala has been a regular, reliable rotation player for the Thunder so far this season, averaging a career-high 9.7 points per game to go along with 3.8 RPG and a .368 3PT% in 34 games (18.6 MPG). However, he received a DNP-CD in the team’s first game of the second half, with youngsters Aleksej Pokusevski and Moses Brown inserted into the rotation following their time in the G League.

“It took Mike out of the rotation, but Mike’s a pro and he’ll stay ready,” Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said. “Those conversations with Mike are easy, and he makes it easy because of how professional he is.”

It was just one game, but both Pokusevski (14 points, eight rebounds) and Brown (eight points, 12 rebounds) looked good, and there’s no reason to expect the rebuilding Thunder to dial back their young players’ minutes the rest of the way. A playoff team may have more use for a low-cost bench player like Muscala, so he’ll be worth keeping an eye on as the March 25 trade deadline nears.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. will be eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2021 offseason, and ESPN’s Zach Lowe (Insider link) says he’d be shocked if Porter’s representatives don’t open negotiations with a “max or nothing” stance. That looming payday is one reason why Denver may be wary of taking on much long-term salary in trades, Lowe notes.
  • Despite Damian Lillard‘s repeated insistence that he wants to spend the rest of his career in Portland – and the contract extensions he has signed to back up that stance – it sometimes seems as if everyone wants him to seek a title elsewhere, according to Chris Mannix of SI.com, who explores why that’s the case and what a title with the Trail Blazers would mean for Lillard and the franchise.
  • In his list of players returning from injuries who could impact the playoff race, Matt Eppers of USA Today has Trail Blazers teammates CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic sharing the top spot. Neither play was active on Thursday, but they’re both believed to be close to returning.
  • After a dismal first half, the Timberwolves got off to a promising start in the second half, with young building blocks Jaden McDaniels and Jaylen Nowell playing key roles in head coach Chris Finch’s first win on Thursday, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

Wolves Notes: Towns, McDaniels, Nowell, Rosas

Star center Karl-Anthony Towns is with the Timberwolves on their current road trip and is a good bet to return to action at some point this week, team owner Glen Taylor told David Shama of Sports Headliners.

Towns, 25, has been limited to just four games so far this season due first to a wrist injury and then to a positive COVID-19 test. He has been in the NBA’s health and safety protocols for more than two weeks and hasn’t played since January 13.

Minnesota won its first two games of the 2020/21 season with Towns in the lineup, but has bottomed out since then, losing 15 of its last 18. Still, Taylor is hopeful that the club can make a push for a playoff spot this season, especially with a health Towns.

“I recognize that it’s going to be difficult, but on the other hand, there’s other teams that aren’t performing up to their expectations, too, and I guess we just gotta catch them,” he told Shama.

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • When the Wolves selected Jaden McDaniels with the 28th pick in November’s draft, he was viewed as a long-term project who was unlikely to contribute much right away. However, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune writes, the rookie forward has emerged as part of Minnesota’s regular rotation and has acquitted himself well, blocking three shots on Sunday and scoring 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting on Monday.
  • Wolves guard Jaylen Nowell has also recently entered the rotation and has scored double-digit points in four straight games. The 21-year-old remains a work in progress though, according to Hine, who notes that Nowell hasn’t been able to translate his G League scoring efficiency to the NBA, where he has made just 9-of-48 career three-pointers (18.8%). Nowell is on a non-guaranteed contract.
  • Now that the Wolves are a full 82 games into Gersson Rosas‘ tenure as president of basketball operations, Britt Robson of The Athletic‘s evaluates Rosas’ performance to date. Robson likes what Rosas has done to fill out the front office and to identify low-cost, low-risk players with upside, but identifies the team’s hole at power forward and its mismatched point guard duo as problems, and says the jury is still out on both of Rosas’ lottery picks (Jarrett Culver and Anthony Edwards).

Injury Updates: Exum, Hayes, Bogdanovic, Okogie, Towns

Cavaliers guard Dante Exum departed Monday’s game against Orlando in the opening minute with a right calf strain, according to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He went down with a non-contact injury and eventually hobbled to the bench, unable to put weight on his leg. Cleveland players spoke with optimism regarding the injury after the game, Fedor tweets.

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

  • Pistons lottery pick Killian Hayes left Monday’s game against Milwaukee during the third quarter with a right hip injury, James Edwards III of The Athletic tweets. Hayes has started regularly during his rookie season. He’ll have an MRI on Tuesday, coach Dwane Casey said after the game.
  • Jazz swingman Bojan Bogdanovic has continually experienced soreness in his surgically repaired right wrist, Sarah Todd of The Deseret News writes. Bogdanovic put on a brace during Sunday’s game against San Antonio and it helped dramatically, as he scored 28 points. “I really hate to play with anything on my body, any tape, any brace, anything,” he said. “But I really needed it because my wrist is kind od sore whenever I follow through when I’m shooting.”
  • Josh Okogie is closer to returning than Karl-Anthony Towns for the Timberwolves, Darren Wolfson of KSTP tweets. Okogie has missed the last four games with a left hamstring strain. Towns has only played two games due to a dislocated left wrist. Meanwhile, Jaylen Nowell is ramping up in practice and is close to making his season debut. He’s been sidelined with a left ankle injury.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 2/4/20

Here are Tuesday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 1/29/20

Here are Wednesday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 1/25/20

Here are Saturday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the league:

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 1/3/20

Here are Friday’s assignments and recalls from around the NBA G League:

  • The Timberwolves assigned rookie guard Jaylen Nowell to the Iowa Wolves, according to a team press release. In 15 games with Iowa, the second-round pick has averaged 21.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG and 3.4 APG.
  • The Bucks assigned forward Dragan Bender to the Wisconsin Herd for their game against the Windy City Bulls, the team tweetsIn seven starts with the Herd, Bender is averaging 19.7 PPG and 9.1 RPG while shooting 50.0% from the field.