In this week's NBA News and Notes, we take a look at second-year big man Karl-Anthony Towns, who is leading a rebirth in Minnesota, as his T-Wolves compete for a playoff berth. For this story and all the other latest NBA headlines, read below:
Cavs sign shotblocker Larry Sanders
Just days after the Cleveland Cavaliers lost center Andrew Bogut to a broken leg, the team quickly filled his void, getting some rim protection for the playoffs by signing center Larry Sanders.
In a related move, the team also waived center Andrew Bogut.
Sanders (6-11, 230), a good weakside shotblocker who spent his entire five-year NBA career with the Milwaukee Bucks, last saw action during the 2014-15 season when he averaged 7.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.44 blocks in 21.7 minutes over 27 games (26 starts).
Originally drafted out of Virginia Commonwealth as the 15th overall pick by Milwaukee in the 2010 NBA Draft, Sanders went on to play in 233 games (113 starts) for the Bucks. He holds career averages of 6.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.84 blocks in 19.8 minutes per game and currently ranks sixth among active players in blocks per game.
Sanders' best season came in 2012-13 when he ranked second in the NBA in blocks per game (2.83), while averaging 9.8 points on .506 shooting from the field and 9.5 rebounds in 27.3 minutes during 71 games (55 starts). Sanders also registered a triple-double that season with 10 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high 10 blocks at Minnesota on Nov. 30, 2012.
Bogut (7-0, 260) was signed by the Cavaliers on March 2, 2017 and appeared in one game for Cleveland. In his lone appearance, he experienced a fractured left tibia after 58 seconds of play against Miami on March 6, 2017.
Warriors' Iguodala fined
Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala has been fined $10,000 for making inappropriate comments during a postgame media interview, it was announced by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.
Iguodala made his comments following the Warriors' 103-102 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 10 at Target Center.
Towns leads Minnesota's resurgence
When the Timberwolves lost swingman Zach LaVine for the season due to an ACL injury, another lottery finish was expected. But after a 6-18 start to the year, the Timberwolves are 21-20 over their last 41 games, and are now moving within striking distance of a playoff berth.
At the center of Minnesota’s surge has been 2015-16 NBA Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns. The versatile, second-year big man is averaging 28.0 points (on 60.3 percent shooting) and 13.0 rebounds over his last 28 games. He has scored at least 20 points in each of his last 20 games, the longest streak in franchise history.
For the season, the 21-year-old is averaging 24.2 points and 12.3 rebounds. The last second-year player to average at least 24.0 points and 12.0 rebounds was Orlando’s Shaquille O’Neal in 1993-94. No player has accomplished this feat in a season that ended with his being under the age of 22, as Towns will be at the conclusion of this season.
Towns has helped drive the Timberwolves' defensive improvement too. Head coach Tom Thibodeau’s team has the NBA’s second-best defensive rating since the All-Star break, allowing 100.0 points per 100 possessions during its 5-3 run. Before the break, Minnesota ranked 23rd at 108.3 points allowed per 100 possessions.
Minnesota (27-38) trails eighth-place Denver (31-35) by 3½ games in the Western Conference standings and also sits behind Portland (29-36) and Dallas (28-37). The Timberwolves play 11 of their final 17 games on the road.
Adam Himmelsbach, Boston Globe: “[Celtics center Al Horford] is quietly in the midst of one of the most complete seasons in NBA history.”
Scott Cacciola, New York Times: “[Hawks forward Ersan] Ilyasova, 29, does one thing better than anyone else in the N.B.A., a specialized skill that often goes unnoticed: He draws charges like a magnet.”
Jody Genessy, Deseret News: “[Jazz guard Dante Exum] is steadily making progress after missing his second season to heal and rehab his surgically repaired knee.”
The Washington Wizards’ John Wall and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns were named NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, March 6 through Sunday, March 12.
Wall led the Wizards to a 4-0 week, with all of Washington’s wins coming on the road. He paced the East in scoring (29.8 ppg) and assists (11.3 apg) while adding 3.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals. On March 7, the 26-year-old recorded 25 points, 14 assists, four rebounds, three steals and two blocks in a 131-127 victory over the Phoenix Suns. On March 11, Wall tallied 39 points and nine assists as Wizards erased a 21-point halftime deficit in a 125-124 overtime win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Towns averaged 29.0 points (fourth in the West) on 63.3 percent shooting and 12.3 rebounds (tied for fourth) as the Timberwolves went 2-1. On March 8, he scored 29 points on 14-for-21 shooting and added 14 rebounds in a 107-91 win over the L.A. Clippers. On March 11, the 21-year-old scored a game-high 35 points on 14-for-21 shooting to go with 14 rebounds and two blocks in 102-95 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. It was the 13th time this season that Towns has scored at least 30 points.
Other nominees for the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week were Atlanta’s Dennis Schröder, Detroit’s Andre Drummond, Houston’s James Harden, Indiana’s Paul George, Miami’s Dion Waiters and Hassan Whiteside, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, Philadelphia’s Dario Saric, Phoenix’s Devin Booker, Portland’s Damian Lillard, and Washington’s Bradley Beal.
Milwaukee Bucks: With six consecutive victories, the Bucks have the NBA’s longest active winning streak as they prepare to tip off a six-game road trip tonight in Memphis. The trip includes a visit to the Clippers on Wednesday, March 15 at 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Anthony Davis, Pelicans: The NBA has had three 40-point, 20-rebound performances since Davis joined the league for the 2012-13 season and he owns all of them, the latest being a 46-and-21 effort in an overtime victory over Charlotte on Saturday.
Carmelo Anthony, Knicks: On Sunday, Anthony (New York, Denver) became the third player in NBA history to score 10,000 points for two franchises, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Milwaukee, Los Angeles Lakers) and Elvin Hayes (Houston, Washington). Anthony, who ranks 25th on the league’s all-time scoring list, is eight points from 24,000 for his career.
Washington Wizards: Riding a five-game winning streak that has catapulted them to second place in the East, the Wizards look to complete a 5-0 road trip when they visit Minnesota tonight.
Buddy Hield, Kings: Since being acquired by Sacramento on Feb. 17, the 23-year-old rookie guard is averaging 13.9 points (on 52.3 percent shooting) in 25.9 minutes in nine games.
Hassan Whiteside, Heat: With 26 points and 21 rebounds against Indiana on Sunday, the NBA’s rebounding leader set a single-season franchise record with his fifth 20-point, 20-rebound games in 2016-17.
James Harden, Rockets: Harden recorded his 16th triple-double of the season in Sunday’s win over Cleveland, which is more triple-doubles than any other Rocket has had in a career with the team.
Kemba Walker, Hornets: The All-Star guard is averaging 27.1 points while shooting 47.4 percent shooting from the field and 45.2 percent from beyond the arc in 10 games since the All-Star break.
Kawhi Leonard cleared to play
The San Antonio Spurs, who have had their fair share of injuries to several key rotation players this season, received some good news this week, as star forward Kawhi Leonard has completed the NBA’s concussion protocol and has been cleared to play.
The NBA Development League today announced that Rio Grande Valley Vipers guard P.J. Hairston has been suspended for five games without pay for violating the terms of the league’s Anti-Drug Program. Hairston’s suspension will begin with the next game for which he is on the active list.
By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services