Neither the Minnesota Timberwolves nor the New Orleans Pelicans strengthened themselves before the NBA trading deadline Thursday.
So when they continue their uphill climbs toward playoff contention against each other Friday night in New Orleans, things will be pretty much as they have been.
The Timberwolves didn’t make any moves prior to the deadline, then went out and lost at Orlando 122-112 on Thursday night.
The Pelicans made two trades in the final 24 hours of the trading period but didn’t come up with a blockbuster one involving All-Star forward Anthony Davis, who informed the team nearly two weeks ago that he won’t sign a new contract with them and asked to be traded before he can opt out of his contract after next season.
New Orleans held a healthy Davis, who had been sidelined by a finger injury, out of a 125-120 victory at Chicago on Wednesday in case a trade came to fruition.
When the deadline passed without a deal for Davis, the Pelicans announced that the seven-year veteran will play the rest of the season, beginning perhaps as soon as Friday night.
“Anthony made it clear to us that he wants to play and he gives our team the best opportunity to win games,” New Orleans general manager Dell Demps said in a statement. “Moreover, the Pelicans want to preserve the integrity of the game and align our organization with NBA policies. We believe Anthony playing upholds the values that are in the best interest of the NBA and its fans.”
On Wednesday night, the Pelicans traded forward Wesley Johnson to the Wizards for forward Markieff Morris and a 2023 second-round draft choice. The team plans to release Morris.
New Orleans traded forward Nikola Mirotic, who has been sidelined by a calf injury, to Milwaukee for forward Stanley Johnson, center Jason Smith and four second-round draft picks (Denver – 2019; Milwaukee – 2020; Washington – 2020, 2021).
Meanwhile, New Orleans, which had played four consecutive games without five of its top six scorers, received a boost against the Bulls when forward Julius Randle returned from a six-game absence due to an ankle injury. He scored 31 points as the team won for just the second time in eight games. Six Pelicans scored in double figures, and the other three that played all had at least six points.
“I think it was just a good, collective team effort,” Randle said. “Everybody had their moments.”
The game in Chicago was the start of a busy period for New Orleans, which plays three games in a four-day stretch that concludes with a trip to Memphis on Saturday.
The Timberwolves are concluding a similar stretch, which began with a last-second 108-106 loss at Memphis on Tuesday before the loss at Orlando.
Minnesota interim coach Ryan Saunders said the Timberwolves held a “great” team meeting in Orlando.
“We talked about a sense of urgency, but we also had a great spirit about us again,” Saunders told the team’s official website. “The guys are all in a good way and we feel good about things.”
Center Karl-Anthony Towns told the Wolves’ website he still believes a playoff run is a realistic possibility.
“While everyone is counting us out, we’re counting ourselves in,” Towns said. “We have a lot of time, but we have a lot of room to grow and a lot of things we have to do if we expect to be there. With the team we have and the unity we contain, anything is possible.”
The Wolves, like the Pelicans, have been dealing with a series of injuries.
Robert Covington has missed the last 17 games with a knee injury, Tyus Jones (ankle) had=s missed the last 10 games, Jeff Teague (foot) has missed the last eight and Derrick Rose (ankle) has missed five of the last six. It’s unclear if any will be available Friday.
This is the final meeting between Minnesota and New Orleans this season. The home team has won each of the previous three meetings.
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