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January 2016

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PLUS: Kevin Love’s 2nd Year Kyrie’s Return +More

GUESS ’ WHO S BACK?


onversatons Courtside onversatons Courtside onversatons Courtside The Cavaliers went into last years playoffs with the expectation (in LeBrons words) not to win but rather gain the neccessary experience that a majority of the key players were lacking. This experience would be the key that the new “Big 3” would need if they hope to get not only their own rings but help deliver a Larry O’Brien to the city of Cleveland and check one more thing off LeBron’s basketball bucket list. After LeBron’s big return to the Cavs, the basketball waited to see what the Cavs would do to the roster as James rolled back into the franchise. Kevin Love was a big part of this change, in a big trade that sent one of the top college players in Andrew Wiggins to the Timberwolves, which was followed by alot of skepticism. Regardless, the deal was done an LeBron seemed to now have his new Big 3 with Love and Kyrie Irving, however it was the year ahead that Love would be truly tested and criticised more than in his days in Minnesota where he was the number one guy, the double-double machine. Love’s first year on the Cavs went from a great amount of potential to a on-court and off-court storm that once it took off, did not stop for a long period throughout the first year of this new team. Alot of this of course is due to the fact that the storyline sorrounding LeBron alone that put the spotlight on this team much like the spotlight that was on Miami, where everything was under a microscope every day of the NBA season. Like the players of the Miami Heat learned, to have LeBron means your game will change, and consequently Love was no exception to this and because of this change his game took a decline. There were those moments however that made your eyes wide with glee as Love would hit a big 3, battle on the boards and show off the now famous touchdown chest pass to LeBron streaking down the court for a signature dunk. The on-going question of whether Love was fitting in drowned out these flashes of a solid all-star player when the better question should have addressed what was to come to this Cleveland team.

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Without bringing stats into the conversation, from a strictly basketball viewing perspective, Love is clearly being used in a lot more offensice sets in Cleveland. Last year alot of the time they would just have Love hang around on offense and then most likely end up shooting a three point shot and that was about as far as his shots varied. This year however, there seems to be alot more trust in Kevin’s game to the point where they will allow him to work on the block and even spot up on calculated 3 point shots rather than becoming the end of the shot clock option. His defense is not the worst at his postion, but it is situational depending on who he is matched up against during games. At time he can be sound and even dominate on offense against his match-up, but when you get to the finals and a team has days to game plan for you, it can fustrate even the better offensive players. Loves importance to the Cavs success is much more apparent this year and it does seem that he is very much an integral part of the Cavs offense and one of the pieces to a deep playoff run. After all, this is what Kevin Love should be looking forward to and you could even argue that the Kevin we are currently seeing was beginning to shine through during that Celtics series. The Cavs will most likely go through another run of the eastern conference playoffs, this time hopefully avoiding injury as they go and what will be interesting is if Love can continue his strong season so far. The Cavs playoff run last year was almost certainly an experience gainer for not only Love but Irving as well, in order to get them prepared for this year, because this year is theres for the taking and with the confidence of heatlh and the knowledge of the playoff grind behind them, the acclaim is warranted. With the slight playoff experience that Kevein Love has gained, it is now his opportunity to really showcase his game against the better teams as he is required to do so now more than ever. Even if he stays consistent with his current game, he gives the Cavs a huge chance to have the scoring they need to secure a conference and possible finals win this coming June.

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GAMETIME

A selection of picks from our wr

Jo rda n Tom Da ve M ark W arr en Na tha n Ja me s

SPURS v CAVS

CAVS v GSW

BULLS v GSW


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DECISIONS

riters for this months big games

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GSW v SPURS CAVS v BULLS

CAVS v SPURS


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WRITTEN BY: TOM STEFANOU

THE RELENTLESS: JIMMY BUTLER

From most improved to the MVP discussion in years to come Jimmy Butler has shown that hard work trumps all with his improved game. In the 2014-2015 offseason, Jimmy Butler spent his time in the gym. He was putting up shots, lifting weights, practicing his handles, the kind of training that is typical of the NBA offseason. The only difference that these weren’t one 3 hr sessions. Butler and a few friends rented a house, deliberately not installing cable or internet, the only free time being spent playing basketball, eating and resting.

Did

it pay off?

His shooting percentages increased, his points per game went up by 7 points, and he generated more assists. Pretty much every facet of his game changed for the better, while still being known as one of the best lockdown defender as a guard. Duels against LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and James Harden were televised and fans eagerly awaiting every possession from his opponent as well as seeing his new offensive prowess against tough defense.

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His hard work was not to be unnoticed as he received the Most Improved Player award in the 2014-2015 season, and also becoming an NBA AllStar. A hard fought series win in the postseason against the Milwaukee Bucks showed his play could remain consistent from the regular season into playoffs. However, Jimmy and the Chicago Bulls were humbled by a strong, determined and deep Cleveland Cavaliers and the best player in basketball LeBron James. There was no talk about an internet-less and cable free offseason, but this season has already shown yet another improvement from Butler. Questions were asked about his leadership within the team, taking the reins from former MVP Derrick Rose. With comments about new coach Fred Hoiberg needing to “coach us harder”, he was met with claims of arrogance and selfishness.

This season has had it all for Butler, with clutch shots and blocks, a new system with him as a first scoring option, and 5 days ago scoring a career high 53 points, close to single handedly carrying the team in an OT win, while previously beating Michael Jordan’s record of 40 points in a half. To beat a Jordan record itself warrants stardom in this league. While the Bulls are slowly adjusting to the “Hoiball” offense and the new players, they have shown that through the adversity of a playoff loss and a new coach and system that they still are one of the top contenders of the East and Jimmy Butler has played a key part in this success.

This two-way player has only shown a consistent, efficient and always improving game that will be valuable to his team and to the future players who idolise him. Butler won’t rest. He won’t stop, until he holds the Holy Thankfully, things did patch up and Grail, the NBA Championship and a while there was no denial of Rose’s legacy of one of the greatest guards leadership, Butler became the new in the league. star and leader of the team but with not too much detriment to Rose.


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Throughout his career, and perhaps more specifically in the last 5 years, one of the greatest basketball players currently, if not of all time, has run into the one opponent he couldn’t overpower. The Media; omnipresent and vindictive has seen to strip Lebron James of the greatness that, in my opinion, he no doubt deserves. Fans have forever been divided in their opinions of Lebron, categorized into either the “haters” or the “bandwagonners” with little room between the two. In his move to Miami, James perhaps gained a heftier portion of bandwagon fans, whilst the bitter breakup left broken hearts and burnt jerseys scattered across Northeast Ohio, and yet “The Decision” as horrifically arrogant and self-indulgent as it was, was undoubtedly the right move to make at the time for a title-starved MVP. I argue that James’ phenomenal and league leading caliber of play not only catapulted his team to new heights, but also turned the fans that once so strongly hated him, into a new hybrid breed of superfan born from the ashes of burnt Lebron James “23” jerseys. Moving forward to present day, James once again resides in Cleveland, the Cavaliers are leading the east and The King has once again shown to all of us, Haters and Fans alike that he is not only an ever-present power on the basketball court, he is a leader; molding and leading a collectively young core of players to the NBA finals, and likely back again this season. Lebron James is an incredible basketball player, humanitarian, father and teammate, but that doesn’t mean I like him. There are aspects of Lebron’s game that every fan can appreciate; The dunks, the passing, the defense and more importantly – the winning, but to a dedicated and longtime Cleveland fan such as myself, the winning can be seen to breed contempt. Many times throughout a game Lebron will draw a foul, which in all reality was not a foul, a ghost call of sorts. Though that said, there are calls in which he does not draw the foul, often regardless of the hefty contact, and through this treatment, our King has begun to complain, sook, cry, whatever you’d like to call it, he does it. Several times a game a casual observer can see Lebron fire a pass out of bounds, only to scream at Tristan Thompson for his incompetence, turn beautiful fluid offensive possessions into 20 dribble isolation plays – ending in a missed step back three pointer – only to shake his head at another one of his numerous big men, and perhaps worst of all and most frequent of all is the complaining, akin to the whining’s of Chris Paul and the LA Clippers, Lebron often complains and harangues referees after a “no-call” on a layup attempt, failing to get back on defense and impacting several consequential possessions down the road. The greatest part of being a leader, as James claims to be, is the way in which you act yourself, leading by example is an integral part of breeding championship success amongst your peers in the NBA, and if Lebron’s 2014-2015 finals campaign is anything to go by we can expect a great more deal of leadership to come and perhaps a return to the hallowed NBA finals for his Cleveland Cavaliers.


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Come the end of season awards, will the voters be so fixated on the way the Warriors and Steph Curry started the season that they over look a young star in Texas? Much like the franchise he is apart of, Kawhi Leonard has quietly been doing work on the court this season. Averaging 20pts a night, up 4 on last season at above league average percentages, and an incredible 48% from deep (Better then Steph). Steph on the other hand has taken his game to another level (if it was possible) with points and rebounds per game up and currently sitting in the exclusive 50/40/90 club. Where they are separated though is on the defensive end of the court, with Kawhi taking an award normally associated with the bigger men of the league as the DPOY last season. He regularly guards some of the best players in the league on the offensive end and has become a lock down defender with his long reach often causing havoc for many of the current great shooters/scorers. Curry gets the luxury of having a back court partner in Klay Thompson that loves playing defense as much as offense. So he may be able to preserve some energy where he is needed most, not taking anything away from Steph as he can hold his own when needed. The latest issue hurting Curry’s quest for back to back MVP’s is the emergence of Draymond Green, a potential vote stealer, also the development of some small leg injuries that have appeared recently could also be a factor to not vote for him if he sits out. Maybe it’s a good thing that these two teams have 3 of their 4 meetings in the last month of regular season match ups, so that these two players can battle it out against each other and be fresh in the minds of voters before the ballots are entered. Regardless of the player that wins at the end of the season, let’s have our fingers crossed that they can keep up their stats and percentages and that we have a season long race so that the voters don’t get tunnel vision.

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THE REASON – STRUCTURE? BIOMECHANICS? LOAD?


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There wouldn’t be a day in the clinic where we aren’t asked or hear the question as to “why am I injured?” and often our response is then followed by “I’ve been doing that for years”. Let’s break it back down to basics and the most simplified version as to how injuries occur. It’s best thought to be in a bar graph formation, with injury or pain, being set at a specific level, at which under this level, no presentation of pathology occurs, however over this threshold is when a patient may present. Under this threshold to pain and injury, we can simplify it, by breaking down 3 categories that contribute – structural, biomechanical and load. If we were to complicate the issue, it may then be further deconstructed and this would involve intrinsic and extrinsic involvement. It must also be recognised, everybody has a different threshold level, and this can most definitely be affected by mood, stress and sleep levels. Other factors influence this, but start to realm out of our area of expertise so we will stick to outlining that of what we know.

PAIN THRESHOLD

LOAD BIO-MECHANICAL STRUCTURAL

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- Emotional Factors - Eg. Fear, Stress - Environmental Factors - Eg. Firmness, Weather - Fatigue Factors - Eg. Sleep, Game Time


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Structural

Structural involvement is the building block of our bar graph. Generally we see this section as somewhat of a genetic or congenital abnormality, where somebody may have a dysplastic hip. Sometimes through developmental years of the body we can also develop structural abnormalities. If you sustain a form of structural lesion or damage, depending on the extent, it can contribute to the biomechanical section. It is also important to understand that often biomechanical and structural sections are not mutually exclusive and often work on a sliding scale that poor biomechanics can lead to further structural pathology. It must be understood that structural components can influence biomechanics such as the degree of depth, direction and integrity of hip socket. Structures such as bone, tendon and cartilage are those that are load bearing and where changes can be seen. Surgical measures are often the most logical methods to eliminate the structural component of our bar graph. When this is taking up too much of your threshold, it is the most viable option if you are not willing to compromise the other sectors. For example, a patient suffering from extensive osteoarthritis who may be wanting to play golf, and walk the entire 18 holes, 4 times a week. It may be a simple solution of restricting the amount of golf they play and walk, but if this cannot be reduced, and they are biomechanically sounds, strong and wear appropriate footwear, the next modifiable step is the structural integrity of the joint. In a basketball scenario, a patella tendon may be an appropriate example. The load required is dictated by the season and prescribed amount of training. If the body has shown to not tolerate this, and biomechanically the patient has restored range, strength and neuromuscular patterning, it may be appropriate that surgical intervention/debridement or other methods such as injections be the best avenue of management. Biomechanical Working with athletes day to day, it astounds us how poorly many of us move. Even in the NBA we see long limbed movement patterns of freaks of nature like Giannis Antetokounmpo that make me roll over and wince, that at any given time his knee may give way. Plenty of bad movement patterns fly under the radar, because either we haven’t abused the body enough in terms of load, be it short term or long term. Long term load, as previously discussed, inevitably impacts on structure. To us, it isn’t that surprising the see that a large percentage of people in the general population have developed arthritis in later years through the lumbar spine, hips and/or knees, because of terrible lumbopelvic stability and glute/core control throughout their younger years of physical abuse to their bodies. At the time, their short-term load was not sufficient to present as pathology, because they remained under that threshold line we mentioned initially. This is the sector where we feel we can have the most influence, especially seeing as many people are unwilling to compromise with their load. Biomechanics play a huge part in the way our body performs. It may be as simple as increasing your running cadence to reduce the ground reaction force, inevitably reducing bone and tendon stress. Strength along with movement patterns result all from the correct amount of wellcoached training. We have a good statement that “the body is the greatest cheater out there” because we just love to be able to perform tasks, no matter the technique involved. This becomes more apparent as we demand more of the body. We are trying o move through it’s weaknesses and in less demanding environments this can be established with ease. It is when further stress takes place, that the body resorts back to its most comfortable and poor mechanical patterning. Eventually if this is the case, enough becomes enough, and compounded with load, the structure becomes grumpy.


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Biomechanical (cont.) Don’t feel like you are the only one out there moving terribly, we have seen terrible mechanics even in elite athletes. Maybe this is why some are more prone to injury than others? Often we never reach our threshold to unveil how badly we move, and it can be just those that reach higher level of competition where the body is under more pressure than previously. Load We have touched on load in previous posts with regards to tendon management, but load is crucial to a lot of injury presentation. It can be argued that you could be very poor structurally, move equally as badly, but just never do anything, and you probably won’t ever experience pain. It is why those who do a lot, and can’t compromise it, must minimise the influence of the other two factors in building towards their threshold of injury. Load constitutes multiple influences. It can be just the level of competition, being faster and harder than your body previously was exposed to. Is it that it is doing more, more frequently, with reduced recovery between bouts of activity? It is a different terrain or environment to what the body was previously comfortable with? All of these plus more, count towards just a different amount of load that the body is trying to adapt to and tolerate to remain pain free. If the other factors are taking up added percentages of your threshold, you are obviously left with less room to move in your load sector, before you present with some form of breakdown. Load is a very easy factor to change, and allows for a band-aid affect in the short term. Unfortunately, it is one thing however that we don’t enjoy modifying. It’s plain and simple that structure and biomechanics sit in somewhat of a sliding scale as we continue to perform activity over the years. Load is the simple modifiable factor and is often the thing people choose to change. As our tendon tissue quality, it’s structure becomes a greater component to pushing you above your threshold, and patients become all too content with saying, I’m just not what I used to be, and reduce their amount of activity accordingly. It should be recognised that this is most definitely not the only solution. The body is an amazing creature that provides adaptations to all that we throw at it. We can retrain it due to the amazing capabilities of our brain, to minimise the percentage affect of the biomechanical section, which in turn influence the structural sector to injury in the longer term. This, resultantly allows us to continue the load we want to partake in, in an injury free and reduced risk manner. Hopefully our diagram now makes far more sense. You can see how each sector can contribute a different amount to the underlying result. Those who may have exactly the same structure may have differing loads, or move in completely different ways. they may even train the exact same amount of hours, just at differing intesities. Identifying the most contributing factor can be one of the joys of the job. We do know that each is modifyable, just many people want to avoid the knife of surgery and even more of us are unwilling to compromise our work load. We are left staring biomechanical contributions in the face and with lots of work to do.

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Sixth Man

PAYNE

-------Long

@AboveTheRimBlog www.abovetherim.com.au

WRITTEN BY

TERM

Gain

Mark Bruty @markbruty

T

he Oklahoma City Thunder are yet to win a title. With arguably two of the games top 5 players, it seems weird to think that the ultimate success has eluded them – but it has. Injuries over the past two seasons have conspired to ruin any chance the Thunder had of collecting their first NBA title (Thunder’s first – not Seattle Supersonics) – firstly with Russell Westbrook tearing his meniscus and last season with the well documented foot injury to superstar and MVP Kevin Durant. There have also been some issues with Serge Ibaka’s knee along the way too. OKC’s best chance so far has been in 2012 when they ran head on into the Miami Heat and LeBron at the pinnacle of his powers. Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka were talented but young, and their lack of poise, inexperience and perhaps inability to make in game adjustments (potentially due to sub-par sideline support and guidance at the time) saw them defeated quite comfortably by the Heatles. The other key factor in the Thunder’s run to the NBA Finals was James Harden. While not a definitive factor in the Finals series, his play in the preceding rounds helped the Thunder advance. It’s a role they’ve been trying to fill since Harden decided he wanted his own squad and opportunity to be “the man”. At first, Kevin Martin was brought in (as a direct result of the Harden trade) and things looked really good. Martin provided a solid veteran scorer with deadly long range marksmanship that aided in spacing the floor for the trio of Durant – Westbrook – Ibaka. However, Martin was often a defensive liability and, in the end, took advantage of his quality play and form and signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Jeremy Lamb, who was another piece of the Harden deal, never really got the chance to show what he could do. Buried deep in the Scott Brooks rotation, Lamb was only able to show flashes of his skillset in limited minutes. He then found himself out of the rotation altogether when the Thunder brass decided Derek Fisher and Caron Butler were the “helping hands” his star trio needed. (Jeremy Lamb has since gone to the Charlotte Hornets and continues to improve and develop into a quality player and scorer. I for one, wish this had have occurred whilst at OKC and I believe he may have actually been the missing piece to help the Thunder over the hump)

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Caron Butler and Derek Fisher were solid but unspectacular, unreliable and never really improved the Thunder on the floor – rather providing the young core with great veteran leadership in the locker room and on the practice floor. Reggie Jackson was the next in line. In Russell Westbrook’s absence, Reggie really started to break out of the 6th man role and it became clear he was good. Really good. Good enough that he wasn’t going to stay in OKC in the hope of winning an NBA Championship as a reserve guard, when he could head over to Detroit on big dollars and get his own team to run.

So, after the history lesson, it brings me to my point. The Oklahoma City Thunder need a quality 6th man in order to steer the second unit, provide ball handling relief for Russ, score the basketball and spread the floor. Dion Waiters was traded into the fray at the deadline last season, and he has been serviceable. He is probably the best thing the Thunder has to a “two-way” shooting guard but his lack of consistency is hurting them. The quality of his play in spurts will also see his value rise and other teams looking for some scoring potential will put together a decent offer – likely enough to lure him away from OKC who will be focused on paying Kevin Durant this off-season, and Serge Ibaka / Russell Westbrook / Steven Adams the year after. Enter Cameron Payne.

The Thunder rookie, taken with pick 14 in the 2015 NBA Draft out Murray State University has finallybroken through and is seeing regular minutes under Billy Donovan. He has had to work hard to dislodge the experienced NBA journeyman DJ Augustin (college teammate of Durant) but is finally seeing the reward for his efforts. The Thunder are also beginning to see in him, what they felt they were getting all along when they drafted him. Payne is a slender character – in a similar vein to Durant and Lamb. He is a lefty – like Harden and can shoot the ball and run and offence – like Augustin / Waiters / Jackson etc. The point I am trying to make is that all signs are pointing to Cameron Payne being that quality 6th man, fourth option, cheap, long term solution for the Thunder to compete for a title. He isn’t ready right now, but Donovan seems ready to continue his development by giving him regular minutes with a range of different line-ups andteammates on the floor. He is already showing he can keep up with the pace of the game, he is taking and hitting the right shots and he is gaining the confidence of his teammates. If anything, Payne also shows just how deep this Thunder squad is. Easily the deepest and most talented roster ever assembled by the Thunder. Enes Kanter, Anthony Morrow, Dion Waiters, Payne – even Kyle Singler form a bench unit that most teams in the league would be very envious of (players like Steve Novak and Mitch McGary can’t even break the rotation and DJ Augustin is almost non-existent now). Will this be the final roster as OKC make their push towards the playoffs? Who knows. Sam Presti always has something up his sleeve (hence the Kanter and Waiters trades last season) and he knows just how important it is to win AND to be seen doing what is best for the franchise for now and the future. As previously mentioned, Waiters is going to be a fair bit more expensive to sign that the current $2.4million he is still making in the last year of his rookie contract. Will Presti cough up the cash? Looking at the long term viability of the franchise and the fact that Waiters has been really good, but not great (and not as consistent as OKC would like) this might be the last time we see Neon Dion in the Thunder uniform. Will he be traded at the deadline or will he remain with the team as they take aim at the title?

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Payne appears to take the pressure off that decision in the short term, and with every game he plays, he is auditioning for that 6th man role that many have played and few have mastered. If he can find his feet quickly and play his role consistently he could become that two-way-spark-plug-floor-spacer the Oklahoma City Thunder need. And the long term gain might just be an NBA Championship.


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” k c a B m ’ I “ 20.12.15


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What does it take to reach the NBA Finals and succeed? Almost everyones top 5 list includes health somewhere in there, and for now the Cavs have acheived that nirvana. Kyire Irving returned to the Cavs line-up on December 20th agaisnt the Sixers and hasn’t looked back since. Questions sorrounding returning players is usually how long it will take for them to get back to being the true version of themself and Irving has answered that so far without doubt. In Kyries first 5 games hes averaged 3.4 Assists and 13 points which don’t immediately jump out at you, however he followed this up in his 6th game with a 25 point game and then a 32 point game 2 nights later. Safe to say that Irving is finding his legs very quickly and if his effect on the Cavs wasn’t clear by now, since his return they have only lost 1 game and that was of course the Christmas day re-match with the Warriors. The Cavs have been able to go through this season starting without Kyrie in order not to rush him back too quickly, and if not for having that luxury, they can rely on that by being in the east they don’t need to worry about getting wins consistently like teams in the west. If the Cavs were healthy in the finals..... Well now they are, so there should be no further talk about what could have been and the Cavaliers seem to already be looking ahead to June now the cast is whole again. This is also huge for the fans as the elite point guard pool around the league has re-gained another big name to add to the constant battle of the point guards. Lets see if Kyrie can give us another second half of the season 50 point showout game and continue to take other point guards to school with those sick handles.


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THE YOUNG WOLVES

Iitsnglory the NBA, when a franchise enters the end of years and is faced with the daunting task of rebuilding from the ground up there are a few places that they may look.

One place that comes around each year is the NBA Draft, a place where the young talent from around the world can turn your franchise in a direction you could only imagine and then other times it doesn’t work at all. Minnesota’s pick last year of Karl-Anthony Towns is only appreciating in value with each game he plays. However before Towns, it was the Timberwolves move of Kevin Love to Cleveland for Andrew Wiggins that has some fans wondering “What if?”. Wiggins is an atheltic monster with a growing game of solid offense and good defense. Ok so Minnesota have young talent, but of course that doesn’t mean you’ll be seeing this team in the playoffs anytime soon, but for this team, where they currently stand, expectation is not distracting them, because they are too busy building it right before our very eyes.

If re-building was ever done the right way, in todays current NBA climate of young teams, Minnesota are doing it right and then some. This development is only made easier with the Wolves veteran pick-up over the summer last year of Kevin Garnett, Andre Miller and Tayshaun Prince. Those 3 names are no joke, and they bring with them an NBA knowledge worth more than any playoff spot right now. What these veterans will do for the younger players of not just Wiggins and Towns but also Lavine, Jones, Rubio etc. is something that most teams rebuilding either overlook or simply are unable to fit into their roster. Contenders? At this point they have a solid core that they must keep together and hopefully avoiding injuries would defintiely give them a real shot in a few years, but like any other team, things need to go right, as for now, things really couldn’t be going any better in Minnesota.


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Courtside Conversations - January 2016  

Courtside Conversations - January 2016 Issue, Covering the NBA and College Basketball topics - A great conversation about hoops throughout t...

Courtside Conversations - January 2016  

Courtside Conversations - January 2016 Issue, Covering the NBA and College Basketball topics - A great conversation about hoops throughout t...

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