Before he suffered a toe sprain on Nov. 18 that has kept him out nearly a month with no clear timetable for his return, forward Jake Layman was playing some of the best offensive basketball on the Timberwolves.
In the five games he played before sitting out, Layman was averaging 12.6 points on 60% shooting while logging 28 minutes.
He was an important part of what the Wolves were doing on that end of the floor.
"He's a gazelle out there," guard Shabazz Napier said. "He's able to shoot the ball well. He's able to run."
But the Wolves will also tell you he's pivotal for the defense. It might be no coincidence the team has had its worst stretch of the season on that end of the floor while Layman is out.
With Layman on the court, the Wolves' defensive efficiency was 102.3 points per 100 possessions, one of the best marks on the team. With him off the court, that number spikes to 114.1.
One underrated aspect of Layman's contributions on defense is that he understands what assistant coach and de facto defensive coordinator David Vanterpool expects out of their schemes. Layman played under Vanterpool for three seasons in Portland before joining the Wolves.
"He's an underrated defensive player the way he moves his feet, the way he can guard multiple positions," coach Ryan Saunders said. "But also [he knows] pretty much this full system defensively and is able to communicate on the court with guys as they've been continuing to try and learn. There's a correlation in that because before Jake got hurt, he was playing some heavier minutes for us."
Doc more grumpy than happy
Friday's game was originally supposed to begin at 7 p.m., but a few weeks ago the league announced it would move to 8:30 p.m. to accommodate ESPN. That move did not sit well with Clippers coach Doc Rivers, whose team plays again at 7 Saturday night in Chicago, less than 24 hours after tipoff Friday.
The Clippers have come under fire — sometimes from analysts on ESPN — for their handling of players' health, opting to rest players such as Kawhi Leonard in the name of "load management."
Rivers expressed his displeasure with the schedule change.
"Oh, it's ridiculous. It's ridiculous … " he said. "It's funny how everyone talks about these back-to-backs and they're making it better and then they do this. It's the exact opposite of what everyone said they're trying to do, and then you have the Doris Burkes [from ESPN] of the world complaining about guys' load management and then the network they work on [changes] the game times."
A movie, plus presents
On Thursday night, center Karl-Anthony Towns held a movie screening at the Theater at Mayo Clinic Square for 25 children in the HopeKids organization and their families.
HopeKids helps provide support, activities and events for families who have a child with cancer or another life-threatening illness. Towns also handed out gifts that included Xbox One X's and merchandise from Beats by Dre.