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The Timberwolves’ trash talk backfired

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Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) tries to get up to the basket against Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday Dec. 8, 2021, in Minneapolis. Utah won 136-104. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

AP

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Sometimes trash talk in sports lands perfectly and the intended target is justifiably roasted, or it makes for a good laugh later on. But sometimes trash talk isn’t well thought out and it just ends up backfiring and that’s what happened on Wednesday night when the Timeberwolves players decided to take shots at Rudy Gobert.

First up was Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards, who said that the Timeberwolves were missing shots at the rim not because Gobert is good, but because Gobert was in people’s heads. He noted that Gobert wasn’t blocking shots, but because he carries a reputation of being a good rim protector, guys get scared.

“He’s the same as anybody else,” Edwards said. “To me, the best rim protector in the league is (Kristaps) Porzingis. Every time I go against Porzingis, I don’t get no layups. I don’t get why we couldn’t finish against Rudy Gobert, he doesn’t put any fear in my heart.”

First of all, the Jazz beat the Timberwolves, 136-104. It’s hard to look past the margin of victory and believe that Minnesota doesn’t respect what the Jazz do defensively. But to top it all off, Edwards answer came after being asked why his team was missing so many shots at the rim and missing easy layups.

Before the game, Minnesota head coach Chris Finch talked at length about how Gobert is a deterrent, who keeps players from even taking shots or forces them to alter their shot by simply being in the paint, not necessarily blocking a shot. That in itself is a skill and an attribute that the Jazz love about Gobert, so Edwards is just giving that more validity here.

Then he brings up Porzingis, who is routinely targeted by offenses because of his lack of defensive prowess and his inability to move quickly on that side of the ball. Edwards saying that he has trouble getting shots against Porzingis sounds like Edwards telling on himself for not getting shots against a poor defender.

Then came Patrick Beverley, who is never one to shy away from trash talk, even if his team just lost by 32 points.

“If I’m defensive player of the year, I’m always guarding the best player no matter what, I’m not roaming,” Beverley said. “It’s no discredit to Royce O’Neale or any of the others on their team, but if I’m defensive player of the year, I’m not guarding Royce O’Neale. I’m guarding Mike Conley, I’m guarding Donovan Mitchell, I’m guarding (Bojan) Bogdanovic. You got Rudy Gobert out there guarding (Jarred) Vanderbilt. And he’s talking about he’s Defensive Player of the Year. So, uh, whatever.”

Well, there’s a lot about this that doesn’t make a ton of sense, because depending on defensive schemes and even the size of a player and switching, you don’t get to choose the player you’re defending at all times. Also, one-on-one basketball is certainly a part of the game, but team defense and helping and hedging and rotating and roaming are also huge parts of the game.

Minor nods should be given to O’Neale and “any of the others” on the Jazz that weren’t named for catching a stray here as guys who aren’t worth putting a good defender on. But the biggest stray bullet actually went straight toward one of Beverley’s teammates.

Vanderbilt, through no fault of his own, ended up being a victim in Beverley’s rant, with Beverley basically saying that Vanderbilt wasn’t worth Gobert’s defensive time. Talking trash should be about the opposing team, not your own teammates. Once they are being dragged into things, you know that what you’re saying has backfired.

New with the Jazz

Stat of the week

Through games played on Thursday, Gobert leads the league in rebounds and field goal percentage. His 14.7 rebounds per game top the charts, followed by Denver’s Nikola Jokic with 13.4 per game, and Gobert’s 72.5% field goal rate is nearly two percentage points above Richaun Holmes’ 70.7%.

This week on ‘Unsalvageable’

Check out “Unsalvageable: A Utah Jazz Podcast,” hosted by Deseret News Utah Jazz beat reporter Sarah Todd and lifelong Jazz fan Greg Foster (no, not that Greg Foster). This week the crew discussed the recent winning streak and some of the positive signs coming out of the last few games. They also talk about some of the misconceptions about scoring guards.

New episodes come out every week. You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Overcast and anywhere else you stream podcasts.

From the archives

This week in Jazz history

On Dec. 7, 1982, the Utah Jazz, in a 137-121 loss at Portland, set an NBA record for free throw percentage in a game, connecting on all 39 of their attempts from the line.

Extra points

  • Dante Exum has a new team — but it’s not in the NBA (Deseret News)
  • Ricky Rubio is doing the same thing in Cleveland that he did for the Jazz (KSL.com)
  • Are the Jazz on their way to the best offensive season ever? (Salt Lake Tribune)
  • Jazz forwards cosplay as centers against Wolves and hold their own (Salt Lake Tribune)

Around the league

The Portland Trail Blazers fired general manager Neil Olshey.

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr named as USA basketball men’s head coach.

The Houston Rockets are on a surprising winning streak.

Up next

Dec. 11 | 5 p.m. | Utah Jazz @ Washington Wizards | AT&T SportsNet

Dec. 15 | 8 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. Los Angeles Clippers | ESPN

Dec. 17 | 7 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. San Antonio Spurs | AT&T SportsNet

Dec. 18 | 7 p.m. | Utah Jazz vs. Washington Wizards | AT&T SportsNet