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Wolves pledge playoffs in new ticket campaign

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Wolves pledge playoffs in new ticket campaign

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Minnesota Timberwolves have been saying all season the playoffs are the goal this year. Now they're banking on it.

The Wolves are promising anyone who renews their season ticket or purchases a new one for next season a 10 percent discount if the team does not make the playoffs this year. The Wolves are currently in ninth place in the Western Conference, one spot out of the playoff field.

``It's sort of a part pledge, part challenge,'' Timberwolves chief marketing officer Ted Johnson said.

It's also the latest in a series of aggressive marketing tactics aimed at getting fans to consider the Timberwolves again after years of struggling and getting them on the bandwagon as the team has started to show signs of promise. They started a sometimes painfully honest advertising campaign four years ago, telling fans they were beginning a ``re-re-re-rebuilding'' plan, alluding to the difficulty they had re-inventing themselves after trading star forward Kevin Garnett to Boston.

With fans turning away from the product, they went to great lengths to try to keep them coming to Target Center, slashing ticket prices and increasing the amenities given to season-ticket holders. During one of the roughest years of the recession, owner Glen Taylor even offered fans who purchased a season ticket the chance for a full refund if they lost their job in the calendar year. They also drew some jeers league-wide when they took out an ad in the local Star Tribune of Minneapolis acknowledging that they weren't going to win the NBA title before the 2010-11 season began.

Now that the team is more competitive, with All-Star forward Kevin Love, dynamic point guard Ricky Rubio and bruising center Nikola Pekovic giving coach Rick Adelman a strong core, the Wolves are trying to seize some momentum.

``It's just the next chapter in that process,'' Johnson said. ``We were very open and honest with our fans when we didn't think we were going to be as competitive and we were asking their patience to bide their time and join the journey with us. Now that the expectations have changed we're willing to put skin in the game. We know our expectations of ourselves will be to challenge for that (playoff) spot.''

It can still be considered a bold maneuver.

The Wolves started the season fully confident that they were going to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004 in the powerful Western Conference. But Rubio only returned from a torn ACL in his left knee in the middle of December and has been bothered by back spasms that have kept him out the last four games. Love missed the first three weeks of the regular season with a broken hand, then broke it again last week and is expected to be out for several weeks. The team is also missing Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger, Malcolm Lee and Josh Howard because of knee injuries.

Through it all they've managed to stay afloat at 15-15, but the playoffs are no sure thing. Another ad appeared in the Star Tribune on Monday morning, saying that ``the days of the `building season' are over.'' Johnson said the campaign didn't need to be discussed with the basketball side of the franchise because it is essentially an extension of what president David Kahn, Adelman and the players have been saying from the outset.

``If you commit to us for next year, we know that part of that is you're making a commitment to a team that is competitive,'' Johnson said. ``We're in the playoff hunt and our expectation is to challenge for the playoff spot. Just like we're asking you to make us a commitment now for next season, we're willing to make a commitment to you.''

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Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter:http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski

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Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard out against Wizards

Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard out against Wizards

The Wizards will catch a break on Saturday night when they host the Toronto Raptors in the second game of their regular season, as Raptors superstar Kawhi Leonard is being held out due to rest.

Leonard, who has been dominant so far for the 2-0 Raptors, is being limited in back-to-backs after he missed 73 games last season due to a quadriceps injury. The Raptors played the night before against the Celtics.

With Leonard out, the Raptors will likely rely on C.J. Miles and O.G. Anunoby at the small forward position. Shooting guard Delon Wright is also out with a shoulder injury.

Though Leonard and Wright are out of the mix, Toronto still has plenty of talent including All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry. Lowry is averaging 21 points, seven assists and 3.5 rebounds through two games. 

Serge Ibaka has been their third-leading scorer with 15 points per game to go along with 6.5 rebounds. They also acquired Danny Green in the Leonard deal and he's off to a strong start with 12.5 points and five rebounds per game.

Leonard's absence may be noticed more on the defensive end, as he is one of the best in the NBA on the perimeter. That could make things a bit easier for Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr.

The Wizards and Raptors next play on Nov. 23. That game is in Toronto.

 

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'It's a house divided': The Redskins-Cowboys rivalry is affecting these 'Skins' families

'It's a house divided': The Redskins-Cowboys rivalry is affecting these 'Skins' families

Zach Brown is a fearless player. Turns out, Zach Brown's dad is pretty fearless, too.

That first statement is one you can confirm by watching the Redskins linebacker play each time he takes the field, often times hurt.

The second statement, on the other hand, was confirmed earlier this week in an interview between Brown and JP Finlay about the Washington-Dallas rivalry.

"It got under our skin, knowing we got swept by them [last year]," the defender told Finlay after a weekday practice. "You just hate to go back home and hear them talk so much trash."

The leader of the brave "them" who actually taunt a 250-pound LB following a loss? Oh, just Brown's father, who's a diehard Cowboys supporter.

"My dad was giving it to me," he said while looking back on the 2017 season. "I said, 'Don't worry about it. Next year's gonna be a different movement.'"

"I'm gonna talk trash at the end of this season," Brown added. "It's a house divided."

Adrian Peterson knows what Brown's talking about. The Texas native even went as far as to break down exactly how his own house is divided.

According to him, 75-percent of his family are all about the Cowboys, 10-percent are looking for him to put up good numbers in a 'Boys victory and the final 15-percent have converted to the burgundy and gold.

Rookie corner Greg Stroman can relate as well. The Virginia kid who'll be making his debut in the series he's very familiar with said his grandma and her relatives fall on both sides of the matchup.

Stroman does have one advantage over Brown and Peterson, though. Unlike the two veterans, he was able to get his entire family's rooting interests in order for Sunday, at least.

"They all bought in now," he said.

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