All Things 2021-2022 Minnesota Timberwolves In-Season Thread

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Just downloaded my tickets (not a whole season). I have no idea what to expect, but I do have a smidgen of hope for a .500 season. I've been doing this for many years, so I know it is most likely a Lucy/Charlie Brown football thing..1633012075130.jpeg
 

BleedGopher

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STrib: Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns entering season with 'massive' chip on his shoulder

Karl-Anthony Towns watched last spring as his friend and former Kentucky teammate Devin Booker advanced to the NBA Finals with Phoenix. He saw another skilled big man in Denver's Nikola Jokic, who at 26 is one year older than Towns, take home the MVP award and another in Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo, also 26, win the title.

Towns' generation of the NBA is no longer relegated to sitting on the sidelines while the 30-something stars of the league like LeBron James, James Harden and Kevin Durant got all the hardware.

"It didn't make the vacations any better," Towns said.

When asked Wednesday how big of a chip he had on his shoulder, Towns replied: "Massive."

"This is a big season for me," Towns said. "I've just got to go out there and get it done. I'm prepared to give everything I have. I plan to do that. I'm more than prepared. And to top it off … I'm ready. I'm mentally ready for this season. So it's much different than how I felt coming in last [season]."

Towns feels this way despite the upheaval the organization has experienced recently with the firing of President Gersson Rosas. An exasperated Towns laid out the tribulations he has dealt with when it comes to multiple coaching staffs and front offices during his six-plus seasons at media day. Not to mention all Towns has dealt with in his personal life with the death of his mother and other family members from COVID-19.


Howl Wolves!!
 

BleedGopher

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Timberwolves’ success hinges on their defense going from terrible to mediocre. What’s their plan for getting there?

Finch understands that strategic schemes are not as influential as the physical and mental buy-in from his offensive stars in attaining the level of defensive mediocrity necessary for the Wolves to compete for the playoffs. Yes, he has strategic reasons for wanting to limit the amount of switching that occurs in defensive coverage. He believes that offenses have begun counterattacking the trend and are purposefully running plays that trigger a switch that enables the matchup and shot they wanted all along. In a similar vein, he wants to ensure that his best defenders stay with opponents’ best scorers.

But the money quote on the subject came from Finch this summer: “It drives accountability if you don’t switch. If your job is to do something, then we can decide if you are doing it well enough.” The simpler the assignment, the harder it is to shift blame onto another defender.

The finger is adroitly pointed at KAT and DLo here. Finch cleverly coats the accountability in enthusiasm, answering this summer that he was optimistic about the coming season because “There is a deep and genuine motivation by Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell to have their best offseason ever. And that’s really where it begins and ends because if your best players aren’t all-in and ready, you’re not going to go very far.”

It is not an overstatement to call this a pivotal season in the tenure of KAT and DLo with the Wolves. Towns is right to call out the chronic instability that has riddled his six years in Minnesota. But the one constant over that period has been subpar defense, and more often than not, the situation worsens when KAT is on the court. It’s unfair to say Towns hasn’t tried to address the issue — there was a noticeable uptick in his defensive intensity and attention to detail last year — but myriad injuries and Covid-related grief sapped his conditioning and offseason preparation last season.

When he came in last season, Finch reduced KAT’s default assignment of dropping back for rim protection under Vanterpool and began to play him meeting his man further out “at the level” and even venturing out to the perimeter as a power forward in a twin towers frontcourt with Naz Reid. He expects to increase that mix this season while asking for “ball contain, reduced fouling and continuing to rebound at a high level.” He expects opponents to continue challenging KAT with pick and rolls and hopes his better conditioning, core strength and overall commitment will improve that aspect of his game. “We’ll try and protect him as best we can,” Finch said, adding that he will structure the team’s half-court rotations off of how much help KAT does or doesn’t need.

DLo’s help has already arrived in the person of Pat Beverley, a knowledgeable and ferocious defender who can take the tougher backcourt assignment on defense and enable DLo to play both on and off the ball when they are the combo guard tandem on offense. That said, DLo will also be paired with lesser defenders such as Beasley and, in larger lineups, Edwards in the backcourt. His lack of respect for Saunders last season manifested itself in his glaring indifference at both ends of the court and certainly contributed to Saunders’ demise.

While the team as a whole had a more porous defense under Finch than under Saunders, their performance with DLo in the lineup flipped the script: a whopping 118.2 points per 100 possessions allowed when DLo played for Saunders, and 115.4 points per 100 possessions allowed when DLo played for Finch. One would expect his ongoing fidelity to Finch to produce better overall effort and results this season.

For his part, Finch believes Russell “has good length, good anticipation, and knows personnel tendencies in terms of what is going on out on the court.” He won’t talk himself into regarding DLo as a reliable on-ball defender but sees a way to maximize him “in situations off the ball where he is the help guy rather than the primary guy.”

Unlike KAT and DLo, the challenge facing Edwards is about experience and awareness rather than effort and energy. When Finch replaced Saunders in February, he concluded that Vanterpool’s “solid is enough” philosophy of disciplined, situational rotations was too nuanced and physically restraining for the teenaged rookie, so he put Edwards much more frequently on the ball or in the gaps to go for steals as he executed the rotations behind him. But this season there will be more rotations and disciplined pick-and-roll assignments where Ant’s awareness and reactions will be part of the chain.

“Yes, we will challenge his awareness off the ball, which should be higher and which we definitely have to have,” Finch concurred. “Ant wants to be good, and to be getting better all the time. It isn’t a matter of effort or intelligence; he just has to learn it. We’ll be more rotation-based and that means more accountability and less gray area about where you should be. Everybody has a certain job at a certain time and if it isn’t done it is obvious to the team.”


Howl Wolves!!
 

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STrib: Patrick Beverley ready to challenge his new Timberwolves teammates

Patrick Beverley said over the summer when he and the Clippers could not agree to an extension that they asked him where else he might like to play.

Beverley said he had Minnesota "in my top three, my top two I believe."

Part of that was his familiarity with Gersson Rosas, the now fired president of basketball operations, who scouted Beverley and helped bring him to the Houston organization. Even though Rosas is gone, Beverley also has a strong relationship with coach Chris Finch, who coached Beverley in the D-League (now G-League).

Beverley said he knew for weeks before the trade came down that he would be coming to Minnesota. Beverley was a Memphis Grizzly for a day before the Wolves swung a trade with the Grizzlies to essentially make it a three-team trade between the Clippers, Memphis and Minnesota that sent Juancho Hernangomez and Jarrett Culver to the Grizzlies.

Beverley has made his career on the defensive end of the floor and is in Minnesota to provide some needed experience there along with veteran leadership.

"I don't know how much one player can change a culture defensively, but Pat's certainly got all the right tools to do so," Finch said. "His leadership, he goes out and does it. He competes. But the biggest thing is he brings the experience to a relatively inexperienced team on defense and he helps them with where they should be at any given time."

So far, after missing a few days of practice for travel-related health and safety protocols, Beverley has had no regrets on his decision to push a trade to Minnesota.

"The intensity is there," Beverley said. "Playing hard, playing with passion, trying to get right. I think the small things that come with teams offensively and defensively, that takes time, and that's what we've been seeing. Obviously, age is a very young factor in this case, but at the same time, there's a lot of passion, a lot of hunger there."


Howl Wolves!!
 

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STrib: Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns entering season with 'massive' chip on his shoulder

Karl-Anthony Towns watched last spring as his friend and former Kentucky teammate Devin Booker advanced to the NBA Finals with Phoenix. He saw another skilled big man in Denver's Nikola Jokic, who at 26 is one year older than Towns, take home the MVP award and another in Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo, also 26, win the title.

Towns' generation of the NBA is no longer relegated to sitting on the sidelines while the 30-something stars of the league like LeBron James, James Harden and Kevin Durant got all the hardware.

"It didn't make the vacations any better," Towns said.

When asked Wednesday how big of a chip he had on his shoulder, Towns replied: "Massive."

"This is a big season for me," Towns said. "I've just got to go out there and get it done. I'm prepared to give everything I have. I plan to do that. I'm more than prepared. And to top it off … I'm ready. I'm mentally ready for this season. So it's much different than how I felt coming in last [season]."

Towns feels this way despite the upheaval the organization has experienced recently with the firing of President Gersson Rosas. An exasperated Towns laid out the tribulations he has dealt with when it comes to multiple coaching staffs and front offices during his six-plus seasons at media day. Not to mention all Towns has dealt with in his personal life with the death of his mother and other family members from COVID-19.


Howl Wolves!!
Does his chip include trying on defense?
 




jamiche

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Let's not get ahead of ourselves here. I think it means he'll attempt a few more 3's this year.

Howl Wolves!!
Maybe it means he'll get back on defense instead of screaming at the refs every time he doesn't get a call.

I'll bet KAT's problems with refs cost the wolves 3-5 points a game.
 

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tomorrow nights game is going to air on Bally Sports Net. Friday's game will also be on.
 



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Sinclair is still operating? Haven't they lost their ass yet from their disastrous deal to acquire the RSNs.
 

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For those who care, Dane Moore has the best Timberwolves podcast that I've found, especially when he has Brit Robson on with him.
 

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Wolves preseason observations: D’Angelo Russell shines and new-look defense impresses with Patrick Beverley

It has been whispered about in Wolves land all summer long. As the team gathered sporadically over the last few months and started to prepare for the upcoming season, members of the organization were naturally asked about who was looking primed and ready for what is sure to be a challenging year ahead.

One name kept coming up over and over again — from the lips of players, coaches and executives — about who was standing out in the workouts and informal runs that were taking place. The name was D’Angelo Russell.

In the preseason opener against New Orleans on Monday night, Russell sure looked like a player ready to make a big jump. On a night when many teammates couldn’t find the mark as shooters, Russell went 6 for 10 from the field, 3 for 6 from 3-point range and scored 19 points with five assists in just 16 minutes of a 117-114 victory.


Howl Wolves!!
 

BleedGopher

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Really well done and fascinating read by Jon K:

Sachin Gupta tries to steady Timberwolves after tumultuous start to training camp

Sachin Gupta had a lot on his plate when he headed into Timberwolves headquarters on Sept. 23. He had just returned from an extended honeymoon overseas with his wife, a trip that had been delayed a year by the pandemic, and was preparing for an important face-to-face meeting with Wolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas after a summer of tension between the two of them.

The two top members of the Wolves front office had not seen eye-to-eye for some time, and the meeting presented an opportunity to get on the same page less than a week before training camp started. At the urging of Wolves ownership, Rosas and Gupta met at the team’s offices, spoke about the situation and left it with a plan to work together entering a crucial season for the team.

Unbeknownst to both men, Wolves owner Glen Taylor was on his way up from Mankato that morning to fire Rosas amid growing concerns about the atmosphere in the organization under Rosas’ leadership and details surrounding an inappropriate relationship Rosas was having with a female team employee that had just come to light. Just a few hours after Gupta met with Rosas to smooth things over, he found himself summoned to another meeting, this one with Taylor, who handed Gupta the keys to the front office.

What followed was a break-neck transition of power from Rosas to Gupta, one so frantic that Gupta did not see his wife, Anuja Singh, for three days after the announcement. The couple kept missing each other at their home in Minneapolis as Gupta would come home late at night, long after Anuja had left for work as an OB/GYN. By the time she got back from her shift, Gupta was already at work calling players, coaches, agents and everyone he needed to connect with as he took hold of a job that was thrust into his lap.

Two weeks later, Gupta is gaining his footing as the new lead wolf, trying to instill a sense of normalcy and calm in an organization that was dizzied by the abrupt change at the top.

“I’ll be honest, it was definitely a whirlwind that first day,” Gupta said with a smile as he sat in his office overlooking the Wolves’ practice court. “But now that we’re in camp and everyone’s ready to go, definitely everyone’s moved past what’s happened and is really focused on our goals for this year. There’s a lot of good energy in the building and a lot of excitement.”

Gupta nearly left the Timberwolves two offseasons ago, when he was a finalist for the Sacramento Kings GM job that ultimately went to his friend Monte McNair. He also explored leaving earlier this summer when the Houston Rockets came calling with an offer to join their front office at a substantial raise in pay, an overture that Rosas blocked because it was technically a lateral move to a spot under GM Rafael Stone. That decision, among other things, put considerable strain on the Rosas-Gupta relationship, just two seasons after Rosas lured Gupta away from Detroit to become his right-hand man in Minnesota.

“Those types of things happen around the league,” Gupta said. “I was just focused on doing the best that I could for everyone here in this building and for the team. I’m excited about the decisions that we were all able to make together. Really excited about where we’re at now and about moving forward.”

Now he steps into a major opportunity, and a daunting one, with the Timberwolves. He is the first person of Indian descent to lead an NBA front office, and now takes over a front office that is in the middle of an ownership transition from Taylor to Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez, who have purchased 20 percent of the team with the intent of gaining majority control by the end of 2023. They are also desperately trying to return to the Western Conference playoff picture after making it just one time in the last 17 years, and are exploring the possibility of trading for disgruntled 76ers star Ben Simmons.

Gupta has spent his first days trying to connect with as many people in the organization as possible. He has spoken with every player to assure them that the goals for this season have not changed. He is meeting daily with coach Chris Finch in a partnership that both say has been seamless and has already forged a strong relationship with the ownership group, which has assured him that he will have all of the authority necessary to make any deals he thinks will help the team.

“The first thing is I just wanted to make sure that, after the shock of it all, that people felt reassured that what happened was in no way a reflection on anyone else, that we have stability and that we just move forward,” Gupta said. “That was the big thing. I think everyone here knows who I am and knows what I’m about. I think people are just excited with the start of the year and knowing that with me there’s always an open ear that truly will be a collaborative process going forward.”

Gupta enjoys strong relationships with the rest of the front office staff, but it will still be a big change from a personality standpoint. Rosas was an outsized figure in the organization, seemingly omnipresent in every corner of the basketball operations department from the draft room to the locker room to the media room, where he was always sharing his vision for turning around the franchise. He ran scouting meetings, game-planned with coaches and regularly gave pep talks in practice, also sending motivational text messages to players in an effort to put his fingerprints on every surface.

Gupta is much quieter by nature. He prefers to listen rather than dictate in meetings and wants to empower those underneath him. He also figures to be less of a presence in the locker room, giving the coaches and players more of their own space to operate, with the understanding that his door is always open if anyone wants to talk.

“I’m not going to be in the middle of the huddle at center court giving a rah-rah speech. But I’m always available,” he said. “I’m a listener. I believe in servant leadership and I just want to be available. I view my role as helping everyone, players, staff, to put them in the best position possible to succeed as individuals, as a team, on the floor and off the floor.”

Part of that listening for Gupta has been speaking with mentors he has worked with in the past and members of the current staff about how to go about taking the reins under such unconventional circumstances. He has met with assistant general managers Manny Rohan, Gianluca Pascucci and Joe Branch, also having conversations with several close confidantes who have all urged him to stay true to himself as he assumes greater authority.

“Maybe in the past, I may not have been sure how people would react or take to that different style of leadership. But honestly it’s been great,” Gupta said. “I’ve gotten a lot of advice from many people to just be me. That’s what I’ve done. So far, I feel like people have really taken to it.”

He already has the strong backing of ownership, the coaching staff and star Karl-Anthony Towns, who spoke with reverence on media day about Gupta breaking the barrier of becoming the first Indian leader of a front office.

“He’s opened doors for a multitude of kids who never thought they’d have a chance to be a part of NBA operations and business,” Towns said. “Now, they see themselves in Sachin and have a chance to do something amazing and change your family’s lives. Those kids now see that being possible and that’s the first thing — I want to shout out him and congratulate him on being that person.”

Gupta has known Finch since they were both in Houston, and the communication has been flowing early and often between the two of them. They are presiding over a roster that includes Towns, Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell, and the belief internally is that the door is opening in the West for them to get back into the playoff hunt.

“We’re leaning on each other a lot right now,” Finch said. “He’s been great because he’s just focusing on his floor and I’m focusing on my floor and we connect twice a day to talk about the issues, about what’s going on. He’ll ask me questions and I’ll give him my opinion, but I also say it’s not my expertise. So I got you and I’ll trust whatever you decide to do and likewise.”

“I think we’re completely aligned, not just in terms of basketball philosophy, but in terms of our values and the kind of culture we want to build here,” Gupta said.

He also has received some major votes of confidence from the ownership group. Taylor had primarily dealt with Rosas and didn’t have a close relationship with Gupta, but the two have started to build a rapport. Gupta is already close with Lore, an analytics-loving, enthusiastic new owner with big ideas and deep respect for Gupta’s basketball knowledge.

Lore is an entrepreneur and a longtime sports fan, but he didn’t have any experience in the NBA prior to joining the Timberwolves ownership group. When he was asked on media day who he was leaning on for guidance with the basketball part of the business, Lore did not hesitate to say it was Gupta.

“I’ve already started to build a relationship with Sachin, and he’s quite a talent,” Lore said. “He also exhibits many of the core values that we’re looking to instill in this organization, and as we flush it out, I think that’ll become more clear. But yeah, it’s been great getting to know Sachin.”

Taylor, Lore and Rodriguez made it a point not to place an interim tag on Gupta’s job title. While it is expected that they will conduct a search at some point, they have assured Gupta that he has every chance to win the job for the long term and has their full support when it comes to trades and other roster decisions.

“The support from Glen and Becky and Marc and Alex has been tremendous,” he said. “I have so much trust in all of them. They’ve all always been so transparent with me, which I really appreciate. It’s nice to hear those things publicly said also, but honestly, it’s more about the trust and transparency that we have with each other.”

League rules prevent Gupta from commenting on Simmons, but it is an interesting situation for him to navigate. He built his reputation as an expert in the trade market, and the Wolves may need that creativity again. He called this a perfect opportunity for him because of the way his vision aligns with Finch and the owners. Even though he has been given no assurances that this is his job for the long term, Gupta said he will make decisions with the long-term interests of the organization at the forefront over moves that could be termed short-term fixes to make an immediate impression and strengthen his chances to keep the job.

“My job is to make the best decisions for this team. That proof is in what we did in Philly,” Gupta said, alluding to the famed “Process” in Philadelphia, a strategy deployed by GM Sam Hinkie and Gupta aimed at losing and compiling as many high draft picks as possible in search of franchise-changing stars. “That’s how I’m going to operate. I’m grateful for the opportunity that Glen and Becky and Marc and Alex have given me. I’m going to do my best and hope to make them proud and make everyone in this building proud and all of our fans proud.”

From a philosophy standpoint, Gupta said he will be nimble. Rosas, who had more of a traditional scouting background on his way to the top job, had a more defined system built on playing small and fast and shooting a lot of 3s and layups. He was so committed to that system that the Wolves ran it in the first year of his tenure even though they did not have the shooters to do it properly.

Gupta plans to be more flexible and play to the roster’s strengths. He said with Finch as the head coach and the roster they have assembled, the Wolves will continue to focus on pace and space and emphasize defensive improvement as the keys to being competitive this season. But if they need to pivot, they will.

“I’m not dogmatic about anything,” he said. “I want to find the best answers based the information in front of me. As variables change, as information changes, as rules change, I want to reassess those philosophies. They’re not rigid. They’re not written in stone.”

The Wolves have one preseason game under their belts, a 117-114 win over New Orleans on Monday, and the overwhelming feeling in Target Center during that game was one of relief. All of the tumult from two weeks ago was nowhere to be seen in the building. Players were focused and engaged during the game, further indicating that the front office, in their eyes, is another world beyond their control or concern.

Coaches went about their business, focused on improving the defensive execution and getting a young team to gain some confidence. And more than a few members of the organization quietly mentioned how much of a difference there was in the atmosphere now that the tension that had permeated the group for much of the summer was gone.

One of Gupta’s first moves in charge was to bring back Zarko Durisic, a very popular and respected scout who has been with the team since the 1990s but did not have his contract renewed by Rosas earlier this summer. Durisic was walking around the practice facility again this week, a little morale boost for a front office that had been put through the wringer in recent months.

Rosas had backers on the staff, some who insisted that any of the tension being described by a number of their coworkers was no different than any other organization in the league. But even his most ardent supporters acknowledged that there was a heaviness in the air because of the frustrations that others, including Gupta, had with Rosas’ leadership style and his never-ending preaching of the importance of family. Those concerns resonated with the owners, who want to see a more collaborative environment under Gupta.

“This is not about me in any way. I think people want to be heard,” Gupta said. “Maybe they felt like they haven’t been before, but certainly they do now.”

“So far, so good,” Finch said with a chuckle. “No water’s come over the bow yet.”

And that is the key point. The vibes are great right now, but the Wolves haven’t hit any adversity yet. As happy as many in the organization may be with the change and Gupta’s ability to instill a sense of calm in a staff that was on pins and needles, everyone knows that they will ultimately be judged on wins and losses. Bringing back a beloved scout is great and all, but if the team falls flat, all bets are off.

But Gupta has already changed the temperature of the room, and that had to be done. They were all smiles on Monday night. It may only be preseason, but it’s a start.

“He’s got zero ego and he doesn’t get hung up on little things,” Finch said. “Maybe as he develops he needs to harden to some things that are going to come down his path like we all do. Right now, it’s been a real pleasure to work with him.”


Howl Wolves!!
 



jamiche

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One should never, ever draw any conclusions from NBA preseason hoops. OK, so how about a couple of observations after two meaningless games?

The wolves have real depth. They may run 11-12 deep. Imagine if they had a power forward!

Speaking of PF's, Nathan Knight might be good enough to get meaningful minutes. I don't know how two way contracts work and I've only seen him against other teams' backups, but he has talent and toughness.

The wolves still look like a team that will have to work hard for points. They have a lot of individual talent but they don't move the ball well enough to get open looks.

They are small. Rebounds will be tough against big teams.

Yes, we know Gupta invented the trade machine, but they don't have enough to offer (outside of Towns and Edwards) to pull Simmons out of Philly.

With decent health, there's enough talent and depth on this roster to get to 40 wins.

Should be a fun year.
 

BleedGopher

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He almost back:

Discussions have gained momentum on All-Star Ben Simmons returning to the Philadelphia 76ers, likely as soon as this week, sources told ESPN on Monday.

Philadelphia management and coach Doc Rivers progressed in talks over the weekend with Simmons' agent, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, on a resolution for Simmons to report to the team, sources said.

Simmons could soon speak with team officials, something he hasn't done directly since a late August meeting in Los Angeles when he reiterated his desire to be traded, sources told ESPN.


Howl Wolves!!
 

tikited

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He almost back:

Discussions have gained momentum on All-Star Ben Simmons returning to the Philadelphia 76ers, likely as soon as this week, sources told ESPN on Monday.

Philadelphia management and coach Doc Rivers progressed in talks over the weekend with Simmons' agent, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, on a resolution for Simmons to report to the team, sources said.

Simmons could soon speak with team officials, something he hasn't done directly since a late August meeting in Los Angeles when he reiterated his desire to be traded, sources told ESPN.


Howl Wolves
Stay away Wolves brass. Stay away.
 


tikited

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Do not stay away. I can't believe the love Jaden McDaniels gets.

Go get Simmons. He's the perfect fit here.
The ask is way too much imo. Jaden plus D-Lo, 3 #1's and more is crazy. That's the rumor at least.
 





JimmyJamesMD

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He almost back:

Discussions have gained momentum on All-Star Ben Simmons returning to the Philadelphia 76ers, likely as soon as this week, sources told ESPN on Monday.

Philadelphia management and coach Doc Rivers progressed in talks over the weekend with Simmons' agent, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, on a resolution for Simmons to report to the team, sources said.

Simmons could soon speak with team officials, something he hasn't done directly since a late August meeting in Los Angeles when he reiterated his desire to be traded, sources told ESPN.


Howl Wolves!!
How is this not a perfect trade?
1634207747176.png
 




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