David Sherman

We’ve all been there. We’re watching a basketball game, and someone goes to the line for free throws, so we take our eyes off of the ball. Maybe we’re going to the bathroom or responding to a text message. It happens. You check in once the free throws have been shot and the game resumes. We’re able to do that because, crucially, none of us play in the NBA.

Ever wonder what would happen if an actual NBA player spaced out while his team was at the line? Well, D’Angelo Russell showed us on Wednesday as his Minnesota Timberwolves played against the Phoenix Suns. Teammate Jaylen Nowell made a driving layup with 7:53 remaining in the second quarter. He drew a foul on the shot and went the line for his and-one free throw. Russell, who was waiting at the scorer’s table to check in, simply forgot to do so. After Nowell made the free throw, the Timberwolves went back to playing defense… with four players on the floor.

Russell eventually realized what was happening, but it was too late. The Suns made a 3-pointer thanks to the 5-on-4. Phoenix ultimately won the game 129-117, so it would be hard to boil the outcome down to a single possession, but Russell’s gaffe certainly didn’t help.

The Timberwolves entered this season expecting to be a contender after trading for Rudy Gobert. They’re off to a disappointing 5-7 start. Russell is in the last year of his contract and trying to prove to the Timberwolves that he should be their point guard of the future. Mistakes like this aren’t going to help him secure a long-term deal. It may not have swung the game, but it was emblematic of Minnesota’s struggles all season.

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