Some nights, all it takes is a tweet for us to take our eyes off the hardwood and send us traveling these Internet streets.
Sunday evening, in the hours after Minnesota’s thorough 108-86 dismantling of the Los Angeles Lakers, The Athletic’s Shams Charania posted this:
Sources with @JonKrawczynski: Minnesota has fired coach Tom Thibodeau.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 7, 2019
From there, it was a high-volume race through tight Twitter corners, with Woj, Jon Krawczynski, K.C. Johnson, Christopher Hines and others each breaking bits to advance the story before (blessedly) official confirmation dropped via team release at 8:36 p.m. ET.
“We would like to thank Tom for his efforts and wish him all the best,” said Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor in a team statement. “These decisions are never easy to make, but we felt them necessary to move our organization forward”
The Wolves choose to do so after two-plus seasons under Thibodeau, who held dual titles as head coach (97-107 overall, with the first playoff appearance in 13 seasons) and president of basketball operations. It was in the latter role that the whole, ah … TimberBulls maelstrom collapsed upon itself like so many black holes in the wake of Jimmy Butler’s arrival and subsequent trade (demand).
At 19-21, and 15-12 since the trade, the Wolves sit 11th in the West, just two games back of the eight-place Lakers and four behind fifth-place Houston. Taylor and the remaining team brass sensed that a postseason return could be in the offing, and clearly didn’t think Thibodeau was the one to get them there.
It’ll be on the well-regarded 32-year-old shoulders of Ryan Saunders, son of late franchise icon Flip Saunders, to lead that push. At the very least, it has to be comforting to know he’s rolling out Karl-Anthony Towns (28 points, 18 rebounds, three assists, two steals and four blocks on Sunday) to crush any challengers:
The Wizards waltzed into Oklahoma City and cracked a heretofore untainted code, earning their first victory in nine attempts there. Key to the win was Otto Porter, who hit 20 points for only the third time this injury-plagued season. Sure, it took 17 shots, but the action’s in the attempts, says one teammate:
The Shoot The Ball, Otto Bandwagon rolls on and the one leading the chorus is Bradley Beal:
"He's always like 'my bad, my bad, my bad!' I'm like, 'you ain't got to apologize, bro. Shoot the ball. I'm not going to get mad. Who else is going to shoot the ball? S—."
— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) January 7, 2019
Going to be interesting to see if Porter can keep that up as we move forward. He’ll need to if the Wizards are to hang without John Wall.
Lowry Returns, Raptors Roll
Kyle Lowry stepped between the lines after missing 10 of the past 11 games with a sore lower back, putting up 12 points and eight assists to lead eight Raptors in double figures. A true team victory, which should come as no surprise given the way they’ve played this season on the way to the league’s best record:
One interesting stat about the Raptors thus far:
In games Toronto has both Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry, the Raptors are 15-6.
In games one of them is missing, Toronto is also 15-6 (8-2 with Lowry playing, 7-4 with Leonard playing).
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) January 7, 2019
#OneLastDance? More like #OneLastReminder that Dwyane Wade’s basketball instincts remain sharp, amiright?
No takers? Whatever, watch this pass:
That Kinda Game
Kemba Walker’s been doing everything he can to keep the Charlotte Hornets in playoff contention, and wrapped a bow on a 119-113 victory that was closer than the final line appeared.
With a Kelly Oubre Jr. dunk pulling the Suns within two just four seconds from the finish, Walker managed to snag the inbounds while pulling away from the defense and heading toward his own bucket. Having already logged 26 points, including 15 in the last four minutes, Kemba turned up court and casually flung a clock-killing heave … that dropped right through the net and instigated an automatic review.
Official ruling: Three more for the board. Hope everyone’s Sunday ended so smoothly.