1. Andrew Wiggins is the Catcher in the Rye
“If a body catch a body coming through the rye,” Holden Caulfield misremembers the Robert Burns poem in The Catcher in the Rye. He dreams of catching children who are playing in a field of rye near the edge of a cliff and saving them from phoniness. Andrew Wiggins fulfilled Holden’s fantasy Wednesday night when he caught Karl-Anthony Towns’s body. Not once, but twice.
The first was on a baseline drive with KAT making a half-hearted challenge before realizing the futility mid-air. Sorry, KAT, but that’s not how business decisions are made.
The second is an early candidate for dunk of the year: an emphatic putback over the back of the near 7-foot KAT. I was watching it live and it looked so nasty in real-time that I had to do a double take.
Woah! The Dubs commentating team were caught napping there because a dunk that nice deserved a call like this.
Wiggins finished the game with a team-high 35 points on 14-of-19 shooting and furthered his reputation of playing well against teams that traded him. He is averaging 26 points against Minnesota, where he spent his first 5 1/2 years in the NBA. He averaged 28.8 points in his first 4 games against the Cavs, who drafted him and whom he suited up for in the 2014 Summer League before trading him for Kevin Love prior to training camp, and holds a career 23.8 points average against them. The Wolves and Cavs are 1-2 in terms of Wiggins’s scoring average by opponent, so you know he plays with an extra edge against the teams that have slighted him.
Sadly, it also serves as a reminder of why Wiggins has been so frustrating to watch over the course of his career. He’s had numerous games like this when he looks like an absolute stud but he follows it up with a dud—just like his 15-point outing (5/15 FG) in the Dubs’ next game against the Bulls. The lack of consistency is maddening because we know the talent is there. He’s not a bust by any means—let’s not forget that he’s a former Rookie of the Year with a career scoring average of 19.5 ppg now going on his 8th year—but he is a tease.
Steph Curry has a plan to get Aggressive Andrew to show up more often: “I’m gonna text Wiggs that picture of him dunking on KAT every game, right before the game. Let’s see if that helps get the juices flowing. He has 72 text messages from me coming his way.”
I guess it’ll be like The Suicide Squad‘s Robert DuBois telling Polka-Dot Man:
2. Is Joe Lacob trying to jinx the Dubs again?
The Warriors’ owner, he of “light years ahead” fame, is at it again. Lacob said in a recent interview: “I mean, it’s back, baby! That’s all I can say. We’re back! And it’s exciting. And you can feel it. This feels like 2014-15 to me.”
The Dubs have the league’s best defense and second-best offense, while also boasting league-leading point-differential and net rating. They’re doing it without Klay Thompson and James Wiseman, so there are plenty of reasons to get excited if you’re a Warriors fan. The caveat, though, is that the Warriors have had the easiest strength of schedule played to date. But hey, it’s still better to be 11-1 than barely over 0.500 when you’ve been playing easy opponents.
3. Word of the season so far: ALTERCATION
There’s been no fisticuffs, but there has suddenly been an uptick in “altercations” this season. An altercation lies somewhere between a “fight” and a “beef.”
Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard started it on the Lakers bench in Week 1. Nikola Jokic and Markieff Morris had theirs early this week.
Then it was Rudy Gobert and Myles Turner’s turn last Thursday:
Of course, Draymond Green—always concerned about his “tough guy” perception—doesn’t want to be outdone and decided to have himself a verbal altercation with Jordan Poole.
God, I wish Anthony Mason, Charles Oakley, and Dennis Rodman were playing today.
4. Dame is back to being Poor Man’s Steph
Damian Lillard didn’t deserve to be among the 76 names in the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team. I’ve already shared my thoughts about it, but his performances this season have done nothing but reaffirm my belief. He’s averaging 20 points while shooting 38% from the field and 26.8% from deep. His 16.1 PER is the lowest of his career, while his value over replacement player rating of 0.0 tells us just how mediocre he has been so far.
He is also averaging a career-low 3.4 free throw attempts per game, so he decided to blame it on the new officiating rules. “I feel like the way the game is being officiated is unacceptable,” Lillard told reporters. “I don’t want to go too deep into it so they make a big deal out of it, but the explanations, the shit that’s getting missed, I mean, come on. I felt like coming in, the rule change wouldn’t affect me, because I don’t do the trick the referees, I don’t do the trick plays, and it’s just unacceptable. Then the explanations and the remarks in return when you tell them is just like [Lillard shrugs]. I don’t even have nothin’ else to say about it.”
To be honest, I also didn’t think it would affect Dame as much as James Harden and Trae Young—I even left him off my foul rules impact assessment—but we’re 4 weeks in and the numbers don’t lie. Steph is balling though, proving once again that the original is always better than a poor man’s copy.
5. Chris McGowan resigns as Blazers president
No, it has nothing to do with the alleged Neil Olshey workplace misconduct. (Felt like that word is not being emphasized enough in today’s reporting. Everything is an allegation unless there’s incontrovertible audiovisual or documentary proof, or an impartial investigation has been concluded.)
According to Blazers reporter Jason Quick, McGowan resigned because he was unhappy with his role in the organization. Though he was team president, McGowan was not in charge of the messaging for the team. He reportedly wanted to be the primary spokesperson for the team but was denied that opportunity by owner Jody Allen.
McGowan’s contract was set to expire in June and the sides had until December 31 to decide if he would get an extension, so the timing makes sense. Otherwise, he’ll be a sitting duck until the end of the season, one which is already off to a rocky start for Portland.
One name to look out for as a possible replacement is former Celtics president Danny Ainge. SI’s Howard Beck floated Trader Danny’s name as a potential candidate to replace Olshey, but the Blazers could kill two birds with one stone given McGowan’s departure. Ainge has ties to Portland, being a native of nearby Eugene, Oregon and having played for the Blazers for two seasons, including a Finals appearance in 1992, so don’t be surprised if this gains traction in the coming weeks.
6. Sixers should hire Sir Charles as special consultant to handle the Ben Simmons situation
Last week, it was reported that the Sixers have resumed fining Ben Simmons due to his refusal to work with team physicians on his so-called “mental health issues.” Then last Thursday, Simmons’s agent, Rich Paul, told Shams Charania of The Athletic that the Sixers are “targeting” Simmons and exacerbating the player’s “mental health issues” by fining him. Paul argues that Philly is trying to force Simmons to play regardless of what he tells a team-recommended shrink.
Wow, that might’ve been the biggest insult Paul has hurled at Daryl Morey. Come on now, does he really believe that Morey bought into all that mental health farce? I’m not a Morey fan but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t born yesterday.
Sixers legend Charles Barkley proffered the perfect way to handle the situation: “They’ve bent over backwards to kiss this dude’s ass. Now they start kicking his ass. There’s only two: you kiss somebody’s ass and kick their ass. It’s time for them to kick his ass.”
Include Rich Paul’s too, Chuck.
7. Throwback video of the week
The Raptors’ Fred VanVleet was recently fined by the NBA for doing the “Big Balls Dance.” So for this week’s throwback, let’s jump back to Game 2 of the 2004 WCSF between Minny and Sactown, where Sam Cassell kept hitting ballsy shots in the fourth: