Preview: Wolves at Cavaliers

Andrew Wiggins faces LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that drafted the young star No. 1 overall before dealing him to the Wolves.
David Richard/David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Long after the games have ended, LeBron James is still shooting lately.

At Phil Jackson, at his own team and most recently at TNT announcer Charles Barkley.

James is taking out his frustrations for the Cavaliers’ 7-8 January on anyone he can find. His latest target is Barkley, who criticized James for wanting more help on the roster and insisting it means James doesn’t want to compete. James originally dismissed Barkley’s comments, but then returned serve on him following the Cavs’ loss Monday at Dallas.

“I’m not going to let him disrespect my legacy like that,” James told ESPN. “I’m not the one who threw somebody through a window. I never spit on a kid. I never had unpaid debt in Las Vegas. I never said, ‘I’m not a role model.’ I never showed up to All-Star weekend on Sunday because I was in Vegas all weekend partying.

“All I’ve done for my entire career is represent the NBA the right way. Fourteen years, never got in trouble. Respected the game. Print that.”

James concluded by announcing to the world there is “a new sheriff in town” and made it clear he’s not biting his tongue any longer. His latest outburst will take the focus off the fact the Cavs simply aren’t playing well as they begin February by hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday. Consecutive wins against the Nets and Thunder last week seemed to reattach the wheels, but Monday’s loss at Dallas proves the Cavs still haven’t found their rhythm.

Cavs general manager David Griffin ripped his team recently for not creating a defensive identity and for appearing too complacent at times on the court. James, meanwhile, seems to keep one eye on the Warriors at all times and can’t like what he sees.

Golden State has seven losses all season; Cleveland lost eight games in January alone.

“We didn’t play well in the month of January,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “We have to be better in February.”

The Timberwolves, conversely, are trying to climb back into the playoff race by winning five of their last six and eight of 11 following a miserable start to the season. They beat the Magic in overtime Monday at home behind Andrew Wiggins’ 27 points.

Wiggins always plays with an edge against the Cavs, the team that drafted him first overall in 2014, only to trade him to Minnesota after James returned to Cleveland in exchange for Kevin Love.

Love will not play against his former team Wednesday because of back problems. An MRI on his back this week showed no structural damage, but the Cavs held him out against the Mavericks and will hold him out against the Timberwolves. They don’t play again until Saturday at the Knicks.

Wiggins, meanwhile, averages 28.8 points against the Cavs — his highest scoring average against any team in the league.

“The thing that we’ve wanted since the beginning was to get in a rhythm and we’re starting to find one,” Karl-Anthony Towns told the Star Tribune. “Now it’s just about staying disciplined, staying with the method that has been working and not deviating from the path.”