Former NBA player John Salley, filling in for Mike Golic on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike” program this morning, raised some eyebrows and ruffled some local feathers with comments about the last two No. 1 overall picks and back-to-back NBA Rookies of the Year — Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns of the Timberwolves.
Granted, Salley’s comments are a tired refrain that no doubt will be repeated elsewhere, but still. Here’s what what he had to say, after Mike Greenberg asserted that Towns is the future of the NBA based on his accomplishments as a rookie and his potential down the road.
Said Salley: ” I think he could be the future … I think he needs to get out of Minnesota. He and Wiggins need to get out of Minnesota.”
Greenberg stopped him at that point with the bizarre question — phrased perhaps half-jokingly — of why the NBA even has a team in Minnesota. Salley took the bait, saying he agreed with Greenberg before launching into the oh-so-clever discussion of how cold it is here and how we have to walk through “tubes” in the winter. Salley added that Towns’ presence in Minnesota won’t make NBA fans go out and buy Wolves jerseys.
Greenberg, after that, was the voice of reason — pointing out (correctly) to Salley that in modern sports, the stars make the city. He cited the perfect example of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City.
“We both know that Westbrook and Durant will not be in OKC,” Salley countered. After a brief continued discussion of that duo (Salley thinks they will both be gone in short order if the Thunder doesn’t win the title this year), the talk shifted back to Towns.
“I think he needs to be in a place that literally gets more TV time, and the NBA is more focused on. Those are the teams on the coast,” Salley said.
Yes, those were actual things said by a man who 1) won two NBA championships in Detroit and 2) wasn’t half the player Towns figures to be in the future.
The over-simplified dismissal of how Towns (and Wiggins) could thrive here was summed up perfectly on Twitter by Timberwolves TV analyst Jim Petersen:
“Watching the idiocy of John Salley regarding his comments about Karl-Anthony Towns on @MikeandMike. I think he’s stuck in 1987.”
Petersen is spot on. The five best teams in the NBA this season — four of which are the only ones left standing in the playoffs — were Golden State, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Cleveland and Toronto. Outside of the Bay Area rep, that’s an awful lot of flyover country that seems to be doing just fine.
So this is perception more than it is an NBA reality — and a perception that changed for most people long ago, even if the likes of Salley and a few others will surely bring it up as Towns, Wiggins and co. continue to progress in Minnesota.
You can listen back to the segment here. It’s roughly the final 3-4 minutes.