In the wake of Jimmy Butler‘s meniscus injury, the Timberwolves find themselves in a worse position than their Western Conference rivals who have lost star players, writes Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated. With the trade deadline already passed, Minnesota has few options to replace Butler if he is sidelined for several weeks or the rest of the season.
The Grizzlies lost Mike Conley early in the season and started pointing toward next year before Christmas arrived. Rudy Gobert of the Jazz and Paul Millsap of the Nuggets both had time to heal before the stretch run. The Pelicans were able to deal for Nikola Mirotic when DeMarcus Cousins got injured. The Spurs have a successful foundation to fall back on without Kawhi Leonard.
None of those benefits are available to the Wolves, who are trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Coach Tom Thibodeau has relied heavily on Butler on both ends of the court since acquiring him from the Bulls in an offseason trade. Butler ranks second in the league in minutes per game at 37.1 and is the key to a defense that becomes the NBA’s worst without him on the court.
There’s more from the Northwest Division:
- Some tears can’t be fixed surgically, meaning the meniscus has to be removed, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. That leads to a faster recovery, adds Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link), but it has become less popular since Dwyane Wade had it done and blames it for his ongoing knee pain.
- Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony is enjoying himself away from the stress that marked most of his time in New York, relays Tim Keown of ESPN. Anthony’s tenure with the Knicks was marked by disappointing results and a long public feud with team president Phil Jackson. “In New York, there was so much going on with the organization and the city,” Anthony said. “It was very tense up there, and you never really get a chance to have stability there. Here, man, I’m having fun with the game again. The joy of it — that’s what guys know me as: laughing and smiling and enjoying the game. I think over the past couple of years I’ve lost that, and I think guys around the league have seen it.”
- After climbing to sixth in the Western standings, the Nuggets face the challenge of incorporating two injured players back into their rotation, writes Nick Kosmider of The Denver Post. Mason Plumlee returned to the lineup Friday, and Millsap is expected back soon. “It’s just great to have those guys back,” said coach Michael Malone. “We’ll figure out who plays and when they play, but being healthy with 24 games to go [is] a good thing to be.”
- The Jazz, who haven’t hosted an All-Star Game in 25 years, have submitted a formal bid to bring the game to Utah in 2022 or 2023, according to Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News.