Welcome to the 2022-23 edition of the Wolves Weekly Spotlight. Each Thursday, we’ll track the progress of the players who are trying to help Minnesota compete for a championship and give updates on other players from the previous week.
This is the 13th edition of the 2023-23 Wolves Weekly Spotlight.
SPOTLIGHT ON …
Guard D’Angelo Russell
Vocal, emotional and confident. That’s Russell, the former No. 2 overall pick, in a nutshell.
All three attributes were on full display Wednesday night at Target Center in Minnesota’s 119-114 win in overtime vs. the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors. Russell was locked in and lethal.
Playing 34:41, the Timberwolves point guard poured in 29 points on 11-for-23 shooting (47.8%). Russell drilled seven 3-pointers – on a career-high tying 17 attempts – for the second time in three contests.
Despite fouling out with under five minutes remaining in the extra period, Russell left his stamp on Minnesota’s sixth triumph in its last eight games. He led the Wolves with his mouth, and his actions.
Looking purely at the fourth quarter, Russell was amazing. He had 14 of his 29 in that frame, sinking 5 of 6 shots. Each drew Minnesota, which trailed 93-82 at the conclusion of the third, closer to Golden State.
“Not everybody has the confidence at the end of the game to make a play and want to make a play,” Russell mentioned after the middle-of-the-week nail-biter. “A lot of guys want to be in the shadows. … I’m a guy that’s always wanting the ball, wanting an opportunity … no matter how big the stage is.”
Russell was particularly insightful Wednesday night at the podium talking to reporters.
He gave props to the team’s communication and to Minnesota’s bench, as well as an emerging big man (check out the Wolf Tracks for more on that player, whose name rhymes with Raz Neid (winky face)).
Russell even analyzed his attacking – and borderline arrogant – style of play. He said he’s picked up on traits from some of the NBA’s top players, tried to mold his approach after them and never play passive.
The instinct to close out games is something he prides himself on. Something he learned from a certain Los Angeles Lakers legend, who famously doubled as a deadly assassin in late-game circumstances.
“I’ve been around a lot of the greats,” said Russell. “I got to play with Kobe [Bryant] and see how he attacked the game mentally every day. Not really physically, but mentally – when his body really couldn't go no more, he still had that killer mentality. A lot of the times that confidence gets you over the hump.”
It sure seems to be working for Russell.
In 16 dates in the month of January, he paired 19.7 points per game on 46.8% shooting with 5.6 assists and 1.1 steals. He launched into February on the right foot, just like Kobe would’ve, with a killer instinct.
– Edwards became the first person in Timberwolves history to record five straight games of 25+ points, 5+ rebounds and 5+ assists Wednesday. His streak dates to Jan. 25. Three other NBA players have posted such a run before their 22nd birthday – Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Luka Doncic. Edwards is averaging 31.2 points on 50% shooting, 7.4 rebounds and 5.6 assists in that span. He belongs at the ASG.
– Center Rudy Gobert didn’t dress Wednesday night against Golden State due to right groin soreness. In the three games he appeared last week, he was solid but unspectacular, averaging 13.0 points and 13.7 rebounds. If there’s one area Gobert is excelling recently, it’s on the glass. In his last 10 games where he’s logged at least 30 minutes, the 2021-22 total rebounding champ has snatched 13.9 boards per contest. Gobert’s 517 rebounds ranks fifth in the Association and his 11.8 rpg is good for third overall. That’ll play.
– An impending free agent, Naz Reid is going to secure a bag somewhere – let’s hope it’s in Minnesota. Starting his eighth game this season on Wednesday in Gobert’s stead, Reid was fantastic, and ferocious. He rattled rims, played unselfishly, created turnovers and dominated around the basket. When the dust settled on the Wolves’ win over the Warriors, Reid had documented his fourth double-double, with 24 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block – and a single turnover. The overtime affair literally ended on Reid’s terms. He collected a pair of rebounds and threw down a nasty dunk in the final 00:08.
– Timberwolves stretch forward Jaden McDaniels is one of two NBA players this season with 50+ blocks and 50+ steals. He keeps company with Oklahoma City guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The former has 52 and 51, the latter 52 and 79. In Year 3, McDaniels is averaging a career-high 11.4 points via a 51.6% clip. He’s hit double figures in 31 out of 51 games and has poured in 15+ on 15 occasions, his latest Jan. 28.