Even with Karl-Anthony Towns back, Naz Reid’s minutes aren’t going anywhere
If the center/forward is going to stay in Minnesota, the Wolves need to see how he fits on the floor with Towns and Gobert
It was only fair to wonder if Karl-Anthony Towns’ return from a calf strain that had sidelined him since late November would lead to a diminishing, or even full-on extinction of Naz Reid’s minutes.
Between Rudy Gobert and Towns, there simply aren’t available minutes at the center spot. Towns starts at the power forward spot, a position where Kyle Anderson has also excelled.
But Reid never pondered the thought of not playing much ahead of Wednesday’s contest against Atlanta.
“Even if it was (the case), it is what it is,” he said. “I’ve got to keep fighting to get in my position and do what I do. I’m not really tripping.”
There is currently no reason to. Not only did Reid play Wednesday, he tallied 26 points on 11-for-15 in 26 minutes, playing a critical role in Minnesota’s 125-124 victory.
“Naz was spectacular. He really was. He played offensively like he didn’t try to change how he played. I think that was key,” Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said. “Defensively, he was really good. He got his hands on a bunch of stuff. He guarded well.”
Other than a couple of minutes where Gobert and Towns — who was limited to 26 minutes in his first game in four months — were off the floor, Reid’s minutes all came at the power forward spot. Those lineups frankly haven’t been good for Minnesota during Reid’s career. But the Wolves are determined to keep them coming if that’s what’s required to keep Reid on the floor.
“He’s been one of our better players all year. We’ve got to find a way to make the two-big lineup work. It has to be who we are in these last eight (regular-season) games,” Finch said. “We have the flexibility to go a lot of different directions, but when a guy’s playing this well, he deserves to be out there in some form or fashion. It’s my job to figure it out.”
That’s quite an endorsement from the head coach but it’s clear Finch isn’t the only one who feels that way about Reid. Teammates openly praise his play and potential. Austin Rivers noted earlier this season how much better Reid is than he thought upon arrival. Mike Conley echoed that sentiment Wednesday.
“I thought he was good playing against him but I didn’t know his bag; he has such a variety in his bag. He can just do so many different things. He’s like a guard at his position,” Conley said. “He’s got great skill around the rim, his touch around the rim is unbelievable. His shooting ability is a lot better than I thought. It’s a lot that he’s shown me in a little bit of time.”
That’s certainly a possibility, even as Reid heads into unrestricted free agency this offseason. The center’s play this season means he’ll certainly have suitors willing to offer him more money and a bigger role than he’s experienced to date in Minnesota.
The Wolves likely won’t let him walk easily, but for Reid to stay, the team and the player need to know how he fits into the two-big lineup. His play on Wednesday made it look more feasible than it ever has; he looked like the same dynamic player he is as a center even when lined up alongside Gobert.
“I think I’ve built enough confidence, and my teammates have built enough confidence in me to believe that I can go out there and do those things no matter who’s on the floor, whether it’s those (centers) or guards, whoever it may be,” Reid said. “Just to go out there and produce whichever way I can.”
That’s all Finch wants.
“Put yourself in actions, be that dynamic player that you still are,” the coach said. “Even if Rudy is in there, you can still mix some rolls. We had a couple big-to-big plays (Wednesday that) we haven’t seen that for a little while, and one of Naz’s benefits early in the season, when he was playing really well when we were playing him as a four, he was moving the ball side to side for us, kinda being a catalyst for us.”
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