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The Week Ahead | BASKETBALL IS BACK!
The NBA season starts this week! Oh my goodness gracious. We are so excited. Our Kyle Ratke previews the trio of games for the Wolves this week.
Wolves at Spurs, 8:30 p.m.
FS North, ESPN, 830 WCCO
Why you should watch: It’s the season opener. Of all years to watch the season opener, THIS IS THE YEAR! The Wolves, who hope to make the playoffs for the first time since 2003-04 (Antawn Jamison won Sixth Man of the Year in 2003-04), are going up against a team that won 61 games last season. Even if Kawhi Leonard can’t play (Gregg Popovich said he won’t play as he recovers from a left quad injury), it will be a huge test for a team with so many new faces against the Spurs who have been the most consistent thing in the NBA since 1996-97, the last time San Antonio had a losing record. The Sixth Man of Year that season? New York’s John Starks.
Why all this Sixth Man of the Year talk? I don’t have any idea. Let’s move along.
Opposing player I’ll be watching: Without Leonard, we can probably expect more playing time from Kyle Anderson, the artist also known as “Slo Mo.” Anderson has that nickname for exactly why you think he would. Because all his moves appear as though they are happening in slow motion, but somehow, he still scores points and makes plays. Don’t fool yourself, though. You might think you’re slow and you can do the exact same thing. That’s not true. Anderson is 6-foot-9. You are likely not.
Watch this video. It looks like he’s connected to dial up. And then BAM. He scores!
Anderson’s numbers don’t jump off the page. He averaged 3.4 points and 2.9 rebounds in 14.2 minutes per game last season. But with no Leonard, he’ll be relied on more in the team’s season opener.
Wolves vs. Jazz, 7 p.m.
THE NEWLY RENOVATED Target Center
FS North Plus, 830 WCCO
Why you should attend: It’s the home opener and the newly-renovated Target Center looks dope.
New seats. Wi-Fi. New railings. New food. New lighting. I just got back from practice over there and it looks like a totally different arena.
It’s also your first chance to see Jimmy Butler and Co. in person.
Utah is looking to make the postseason despite losing Gordon Hayward. Utah should still be competitive with Rudy Gobert, Rodney Hood, Derrick Favors, Joe Ingles and . . .
Opposing player I’ll be watching: It’s Ricky Rubio’s return to the Target Center. The Wolves traded Rubio to the Jazz this offseason in exchange for a future first-round pick. Rubio fills in for George Hill after he scored a career-high 11.1 points and dished out 9.1 assists per game last season with the Wolves. Rubio was solid in preseason, averaging 17.7 points over three games. He’ll be going up against new Wolves point guard Jeff Teague in Friday night’s matchup.
Much like the Target Center, Rubio also has a new look.
Sunday, 6 p.m.
Wolves at Thunder
Fox Sports North, 830 WCCO
Why you should watch: The start of the season for the Wolves certainly isn’t an easy one. This will be their third playoff opponent in as many games and while the Spurs aren’t as good without Leonard and the Jazz probably won’t be as good without Hayward, the Thunder most certainly got better this offseason after acquiring Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.
How will these pieces fit? All three players like the ball in their hands and have been the guy on the respected clubs. Sure, right now everyone says the right things about taking less touches, but when the games actually start, things change.
It’ll be pretty exciting to see Westbrook, Anthony and George go up against Butler, Towns and Wiggins.
Opposing player I’ll be watching: The Carmelo Anthony – New York Knicks experiment didn’t work out all that great over the last six and a half years. Anthony was an All-Star in each season and averaged 24.7 points and seven rebounds over that stretch, but the Knicks only made the playoffs three times, getting out of the first round just once.
Anthony is finally making the change to power forward in Oklahoma City, or so it appears as we start the season. Anthony has taken 18 shots per game or more since 2004-05 when he was 20. If I were a betting man, I’d bet he doesn’t hit that number in 2017-18.