The NBA Western Conference playoffs have been competitive to a point. The games themselves are good yet it looks like we’re only going to get one, maybe two Game 6s. The Los Angeles Clippers and Minnesota Timberwolves got bounced Tuesday, and as valiant as they fought — injuries or self-inflicted wounds be damned — it quickly became apparent that their 2023 playoff run was going to be short-lived. While that was telegraphed, what each organization does next is not.
If you’re unfortunate enough to be a fan of either of these two franchises, first, I’m sorry. And, second, woo boy, do you have some offseason-ing to do. Los Angeles can’t justify running back this roster as is, and the only way Minnesota can is because they have nothing to do after digging themselves a massive hole trading for Rudy Gobert.
If you empathize with LeBron James, Nick Claxton, or Royce O’Neale after getting their junk tenderized last week, you should send Wolves and Clippers supporters a bottle of bubbles, with the other Zalinsky promise — “Tough break, get drunk on us. Use the bucket to ice down your marbles. Yours, Z.”
However, times are tough, and my bank account can’t exactly finance get-well packages to both fanbases, so let’s look at who’s more deserving of some Mumms.
Ideally, the Clippers’ new arena is outfitted with Bacta tanks
News dropped Wednesday that Kawhi Leonard tore his meniscus, which would’ve been nice to know anytime within the past week. He joined Paul George in street clothes for the last three games of the Phoenix series, and Steve Balmer looked like he wanted to fire the entire team when they got down 20 in the second half on Tuesday.
The medical staff, and organization, have enabled a culture of load management, but no matter how stringent the regimen, Leonard and George’s knees and calves pop like tulips in late March and early April. All of the team’s aging role players are squarely in the grizzled veteran stages of their careers, and they have a shit load of contracts still on the books.
The good is those pieces are movable, the bad is they own one of their next four draft picks after this year, and the ugly is Leonard and George are set to make $90 million combined next year. A rebuilding team is going to want picks, and a contender isn’t going to part with their star for 10 cents on the dollar, so L.A.’s only real option is reconfiguring a bunch of fringe guys around the same flawed stars.
That’s rough, and I don’t expect a lot of patience from Balmer because he’s debuting 1,160 new toilets and urinals in Inglewood in 2024, and the crap jokes will overfloweth if he runs out a shit product.
Anthony Edwards isn’t Carl, not looking for a golden parachute
While the Clippers’ comeback was falling short, Karl-Anthony Towns committed four fouls in the final five minutes of Game 5, fouling out for the second time in as many games, and for the 11 millionth time in 16 career playoff appearances. Rudy Gobert also fouled out, and Anthony Edwards missed a game-tying three off the back iron as time expired.
The budding star then sprinted to the locker room, and got slammed by Nuggets fans for the “disrespect.” Edwards started the season being called out for his immature eating habits, and didn’t display much growth during his handshake-less exit to the showers or at the postgame media availability.
KAT joined Ant in the presser, but I don’t know if the guard heard the glowing things Towns said about him as he had his face buried in his arms on the table, hood up, with headphones on top of that. It was weird how much KAT went out of his way to praise Edwards, and maybe that’s because the 21-year-old shooting guard is eligible for his max rookie extension this summer.
We all assume nobody would be dumb enough to pass up that kind of money, yet you’d equally question Edwards’ mental capacity if he signed up for an extended future next to Towns and Gobert at those salaries.
Minnesota also has shit for picks, and even fewer quality role players than Los Angeles to dangle as trade bait. Nobody wants Gobert, and the only way you’re moving Towns is if he fetches a star of his caliber or better in return. Seeing as few of those names are out there right now, I don’t know what the Wolves do other than pray Edwards signs the extension and desperately try to move Gobert.
If Edwards does return, Alex Rodriguez and the rest of Minnesota’s ownership group will be allotting more than $100 million of their cap to three players, two of which don’t fit together and get played or play themselves out of postseason games.
So, yeah, I don’t know who’s more deserving of pity because, for the first time in NBA history, you can’t go wrong picking either the Wolves or Clippers.