The San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves will tip off their 2017-18 campaigns at the AT&T Center in San Antonio on Wednesday night. Perhaps the NBA’s biggest story heading into the season involves Minnesota and Jimmy Butler. As for the new-look Spurs, they may no longer be contenders in the shifting Western Conference.
Can Butler fix Wolves?
Neither party may say it out loud, but all-star guard Jimmy Butler has been a serious distraction for the Timberwolves heading into the regular season. He still has not been traded despite reiterated demands, but Butler insists he will go out there and perform as long as “Minnesota” or “Timberwolves” is still on his jersey. Trade talks with the Heat collapsed, after which Butler went on a well-publicized tirade at an ensuing practice. Owner Glen Taylor eventually sat down with the veteran this past Sunday and the two reached at least a temporary truce.
Oh Jimmy Butler is in petty mode all season long😂 pic.twitter.com/Ebl6YKBPrC
— NBA Inside Stuff (@NBAInside_Stuff) October 15, 2018
“At the end of the day, he expects me to go out there and win some basketball games,” Butler said of his boss. “I think that’s what my team expects me to do. That’s what Minnesota, the fan base, expects me to do. The fans that are not in Minnesota expect me to go out there and compete, be the fun-loving basketball player that I am. That’s what I will be.”
“All I know is when we start playing the real games, Jimmy is someone you want on your team,” former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins commented.
On paper, the Timberwolves are a force with Butler (22.2 points per game last season) in the fold, as they also feature big man Karl-Anthony Towns (21.3 ppg, 12.3 rpg) and Wiggins (17.7 ppg).
A new era
Unlike Minnesota, San Antonio is a distraction-free zone. The Spurs were dealing with a situation of their own involving star guard Kawhi Leonard, but they managed to ship him to Toronto in an offseason deal that landed the Spurs shooting guard DeMar DeRozan. It is the end of an era–again–in San Antonio, with Manu Ginobili joining Tim Duncan on the retirement sidelines, Tony Parker playing for Charlotte, and Leonard with the Raptors. DeRozan, also a four-time all-star like Butler, and power forward LaMarcus Aldridge are now the go-to guys for head coach Gregg Popovich. Initially disgruntled with his trade from Toronto, DeRozan insists he is now excited about being a member of the perennial contender and playing for Pop.
“You definitely want to be around a culture of this magnitude, play with a coach of this status, one of the greatest coaches of all time,” DeRozan noted. “To be here is definitely a blessing.”
The San Antonio Spurs are:
- 4-0 ATS last 4 vs. Northwest Division.
- 10-2 ATS last 12 home games.
- 10-4 ATS last 14 vs. T-Wolves.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are:
- 1-4-1 ATS in their last six overall
- 1-5 ATS in their last six home games
- 6-0 Over in their last six home games
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
The Spurs have won 13 of the past 14 meetings between the two teams. San Antonio small forward Rudy Gay (heel) is expected to play in the opener, while Minnesota backup center Justin Patton (foot) is sidelined indefinitely after being injured in mid-September. Perhaps the bottom line is that DeRozan is happy and Butler most definitely is not. The Spurs should start the season strong in front of their home fans.
Prediction: San Antonio Spurs
Full-Game Total Pick
DeRozan replacing Leonard is certainly a downgrade on defense but San Antonio should not lose too much from an offensive standpoint. Minnesota was fifth in the Western Conference in scoring last season while finishing a mediocre ninth in scoring defense. The over is 8-2 in the Spurs’ last 10 against the Northwest Division and 5-0 in their last five playing on at least three days of rest. It is also 6-1 in Minnesota’s last seven trips to San Antonio. Look for this one to go over the total.