Monthly Archives: January 2012

Enlightening Loss (Bulls 111, WOLVES 100)

Ricky Rubio and Derrick Rose battled Tuesday evening at Target Center. (AP, 1-10-12)

In another hard-fought defeat, the Wolves were actually close to a full-fledged disaster on their hands at Target Center, Tuesday Night.  In front of a capacity crowd and after Coach Adelman stubbornly started the same lineup as in recent games, the game quickly fell out of control.  MVP Derrick Rose made it rain from outside (14 first-quarter points), and the offense could hardly have been more stagnant coming out of the gates.  The score was 51-29 in Chicago’s favor when Kevin Love and Luke Ridnour checked in for Derrick Williams and J.J. Barea.  The following were then on the floor together:

1 – Ricky Rubio

2 – Luke Ridnour

3 – Anthony Tolliver

4 – Kevin Love

5 – Anthony Randolph

Love scored 11 points in the next 2:23, with three treys coming off of nifty Rubio assists.  That pairing is dynamite on pick-and-pop, and penetrate-and-kick sets.  Love was done challenging the incredible interior of Chicago (there is no better defensive front line than Chicago’s, particularly when Gibson and Noah are on the floor) and instead was floating in the right spots where Ricky could fire those one-handed rockets right on the numbers.  But things weren’t done after Love’s triple-three sequence.  Next would be a Rubio-to-Randolph alley-oop that perfectly captures everything about why Ricky is the buzz of NBA talk everywhere.  The crowd was going crazy, the refs were all of a sudden exchanging heimlich maneuvers as they choked on their whistles for about five should-have-been Wolves fouls, and Randolph finished another Rubio dime to cut the once-24-point Bull lead down to 6, at the half.  ORDER WAS RESTORED.  A lineup was established.  That five was (+16) over a 4:50 closing stretch.

Unfortunately for Minnesota on this night, reality would bite in the form of its opponent’s excellence.  Da Bulls are possibly the best team in the world, depending on the health of Dwyane Wade and the chemistry between Westbrook, Harden and Durant.  Chicago plays a brand of defense–both its starting five and second unit–that is probably unmatched across the league, perhaps save the offensively-challenged Bucks of Milwaukee.  In tonight’s game the Wolves not only faced this defensive monster, but also white-hot shooting nights from Derrick Rose (12-22, 31 points, 11 assists) and Luol Deng (21 points, 11 rebounds) and just to remove any doubt as to who would leave Target Center victorious, Ronnie Brewer hit a pair of clutch jumpers, both coming at times when the Wolves desperately needed a stop.  In short, the Wolves took Chicago’s best shot tonight and came up empty.  Whether a proper starting five would change tonight’s result is up in the air.  My guess is that there would have been too much Rose-and-Deng for the young T-Pups to prevail in this one.

Some bullet points:

  • Derrick Rose is more than worth the price of admission.  In my opinion, Rose represents the best of everything about NBA basketball.  He has world-class athleticism and strength and yet is visibly improved–certainly due to his maniacal work ethic–season after season.  His MVP award last year was controversial amongst many experts, particularly those who analyzed it by statistics.  Certainly, the award stemmed from his team’s success which is often true of all NBA accolades.  But make no mistake about it: Rose is the Peyton Manning of that offense.  Every decision and meaningful action starts with him at the top.  He torched the Wolves from downtown in the early going, and then deferred while his teammates took shots.  When the Wolves’ hot shooting and improved defense made the game close, he stepped on the accelerator and every Wolf’s throat with dagger jumpers and crazy-acrobatic moves in the paint.  There is no comparison around the league for a lead guard who can carry a team to victories.
  • Another Derrick–this time Williams–struggled in this game.  He shot 1 for 7 and sort of got away from the catch-and-shoot basketball that has, at times, made him a nice sidekick for fellow-rookie Rubio.  There is no getting around that he is a bit of a “tweener.”  My advice to D-Thrill would be to focus on the Rubioop highlights, and then stick mostly to jumpers where he has advanced skills.  His coach preaches focusing on strengths and simplifying where appropriate.  Derrick should follow those principles.  Oh, and practice free throws.  He’s now shooting about 59 percent at the stripe–barely above his college 3PT%.
  • Anthony Randolph is nothing if not an enigma, but he seems to anticipate Rubio’s… well, anticipation.  More than any other Wolf–and this may be in large part due to his length and ability to catch different passes–AR15′s game is bolstered by Rubio passes.  His (+6) tonight is consistent with his season-long on/off numbers that show his minutes to be the best for the team.  I worry about his head sometimes–he can quickly spiral into crazy play–but his aggressive style and instincts with Ricky are certainly working for the team in the season’s early going.
  • Up next is New Orleans, on Friday Night, on the road.  Eric Gordon has been out with injury, but the Hornets just beat the quality Nuggets without him.  They aren’t to be taken lightly.  PLEASE RICK ADELMAN DON’T PLAY WES JOHNSON OR DARKO MILICIC.  That’s all.

Season Record: 3-7

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Winning Time (RAPTORS 97, Wolves 87)

This.

Look at me, Nick, and answer me this question.

All right.

Who is the greatest basketball player in the history of the game?

- Do you mean ever? – Come on. This is easy.

- Michael Jordan? – Michael Jordan.

Why was he the greatest? Because he paced himself.

Because he always had something left at the finish.

Magic Johnson called it ”winning time.” See those guys over there?

Yeah. Those guys think they’re kicking ass.

Believe me, it is early.

We are a long way from winning time, so pay attention.

- Okay. – You say you want it.

If you really wanted it…

you’d be in here, suffering the tortures of the damned with those guys.

- What? – There’s a big difference between…

being horny and being willing to put in the time night after night–

I want it. Okay? I go to high school. You don’t think that’s torture?

This is a lot of information.

I’m giving you the keys to the kingdom.

Yeah, I know.

How many boys your age get an opportunity like this?

Yes.

So, stick your finger down your throat. Drink ice water, call it gin–

I don’t care what you do. Be ready to dive in at the moment of truth.

So… how often do you, like…

you know, like, get somebody to go home with you?

Every night.

Bullshit.

Just because you’re not having sex, doesn’t mean the rest of us…are sitting around playing cribbage.

 

Until tomorrow.

Season Record: 3-6

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On the Rebound (Wolves 93, WIZARDS 72)

The Wolves came back from a pair of lackluster home losses against Memphis and Cleveland to beat the Washington Wizards 93-72 Sunday afternoon in D.C. in the first tilt of a back-to-back-to-back on the road.

Today’s win felt great, mostly because Friday’s loss felt so bad. But before we get carried away with blowout euphoria, let us remember that the Wiz are truly awful. As a DC area resident, I can assure you that the ‘Zards really are that bad and that it’s no mistake the Wiz are 0-8. The Flip Saunders offenses Wolves fans grew accustomed to are nowhere to be found these days at the Verizon Center. The Wiz stand around a lot and eventually do some kind of iso for one of the Three Stooges–Andray Blatche, Nick Young, and Jordan Crawford. For variety, they’ll sometimes indulge Rashard Lewis’ itchy trigger finger and let him take a heat check from the three, which he’s currently shooting at a smelly 22%.

There are bright spots. John Wall could be Westbrook or Rose on another team – hell, in 2009/10 Wall excelled in Rose’s role for John Calipari’s  Kentucky Wildcats team, the year after Rose was the uber-athletic one-year rental who drove Cal’s Memphis muscle car all the way to the NCAA championship game – and JaVale McGee is leading the L in blocked shots and is DeAndre Jordan East. But the Stooges and Lewis drag down the ‘Zards like a rusty anchor and there’s no hope for the ‘Zards unless Ted Leonsis and Ernie Grunfeld overhaul the roster and give Wall a fresh start with a new cast of characters. (Hey! You know what? Wolves POBO David Kahn just did this in Mpls! And we just blew out the Wizards. Leonsis should poach him for a Wiz redemption project!)

***
We’ll do a full wrap after the three-game set, but a few Wolves notes on the Wiz game:

  • Rubio outplayed Wall en route to 13pts/14 ast/+29 in 30 minutes. What the 5-14 in the box score fails to reflect is that Ricky knows when to shoot, and that he shoots it in rhythm/with confidence. It took Rondo–whose rep as a weak shooter has led defenses to sag off him like they do on Rubio–2-3 years to get as comfortable calling his own number as Ricky is right now. Can you believe we got this guy for Mike Miller and Randy Foy?
  • Beasley was out and the offense ran better. But again, it was the Wiz. So, correlation or causation?
  • Williams/Tolliver/Love is my favorite front line. They outwork everybody, they’re strong, and they’re physical. They play D. On offense, they all know how to exploit seams in the D and swing the ball to open shooters or make 3s themselves. I hope Adelman gives them more time together, with Rubio and Barea in the backcourt, once J.J. gets healthy.
  • Ellington made shots. With Beasley out at least three games I wanted Adelman to start Rubio or Williams, so I was pretty bummed when I heard Ellington was getting promoted. But he played okay today and we won.

We’ll get to test the experiment again tomorrow night against the Raps. Until then.

Season Record: 3-5

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Two Steps Back (Cavaliers 98, WOLVES 87)

Friday Night’s matchup with Cleveland was a new sort of test for the Adelman Wolves.  After a brutal stretch of title-contending opposition, the Wolves now faced an eminently-beatable opponent in the Cavs.  Of course, as you probably already know, the Cavs came in and took control of this game, almost start-to-finish.  Aside from Kevlar’s 29 & 14, Wolves starters provided little production and many mistakes.  Darko was the only other starter to score in double figures with all 11 of his points coming in the opening quarter.  Michael Beasley pulled down 12 rebounds, but continued his puzzling shooting woes that have plagued the early part of his season.  Supercool Beas added injury to insult by spraining his foot.  He is unlikely to play tomorrow night at Washington; a bummer that he won’t perform in front of his hometown friends and family.

Cleveland leaned on wily veteran Antawn Jamison, who chipped in 22 points, and also the energetic and unselfish Anderson Varejao.  The Brazilian big man looked like his old self, after a serious foot injury cut his 2010-11 season short.  He scored an efficient 13 points, but more importantly grabbed 12 boards, assisted 5 field goals, blocked 2 shots and had 4 steals.  Varejao is an underappreciated talent.

There weren’t many interesting story lines to this one.  The Cavs 7-point halftime lead would never get closer than that, and grew as high as 18-points in the middle of the fourth quarter.  The Wolves continue to struggle at the free throw line (21-31 in this game; 68.6 percent on the season, good for 27th in NBA) and on this night also misfired on three-point attempts shooting 4 for 20.  Cleveland hit 8 of 17 three-pointers, with spark plug Daniel Gibson hitting 3 dagger-treys that essentially buried the Wolves and their chances.

Rather than further relive a pretty miserable game, let’s take a peak at some stats after seven games:

* Everything NUMB#RS begins with Kevin Love.  He’s now scoring 26.1 points/game to go along with 14.9 rebounds.  His scoring bump from last year (20.2 PPG) can be attributed to a few different things.  First, he’s playing more minutes (39.1 versus 35.8 MPG, more on this below); second, he is shooting more often (16.0 FGA/36 min. versus 14.1); third, more of those shots are 3′s, and his percentage on 3′s has gone up slightly (5.4 3PA/game versus 2.9; .421 versus .417); and fourth, he is getting fouled and sent to the line more often (9.3 FTA/game versus 6.8).  The only problematic stat for Love is assist-to-turnover ratio.  Through seven games, he assists 1.6 times per 36 minutes, compared to 3.4 turnovers in the same time frame.  This is mostly speculation, but I think his high turnovers may be in part due to his attempts to draw fouls.  When the refs don’t bite, those can lead to turnovers.  Love’s numbers should earn him his first All-NBA honor, this year.  We all hope that his personal accolades are paired with team success, once and for all.

* Michael Beasley is struggling to hit shots.  Anybody who has watched the Wolves certainly knows this fact.  Beas is hitting 39.4 percent of field goal attempts, this year.  Whatever you think of Beasley’s game, it’s hard to not think that this will improve as more games are played.  His career FG% is 45.5 and he’s never been lower than 45.0 for a season.  Strangely this year, he is hitting 40.0 percent of 3′s–an excellent percentage, albeit on low frequency–and a PITIFUL 44.4 percent of free throws.  Mike has hit 8 free throws and missed 10, this year.

* Things get a little weird with the on-court/off-court numbers.  Well, the worst on the team is not weird.  The Wolves are 22.2 points better per 100 possessions when Wesley Johnson is off the court versus when he is on.  (-11.9 on; +10.3 off).  That makes sense.  But the weirdness comes with the second-worst on/off player, Kevin Love.  Love’s net-difference of on-court/off-court is (-15.7).  Most of this comes from the “off” column, where the Wolves are 13.2 points better than their opponents per 100 possessions, when K-Love sits on the bench.  When Love is on the floor, the Wolves are 2.5 points worse than their opponents per 100 possessions.  Anthony Randolph must be the sub for Love on many nights, because his on/off numbers are a mirror image of Love’s.  In short minutes (18 percent of total, through 7 games) the Wolves are +13.4 per 100 possessions with Randolph on the court.  When he’s off, they are -2.4 per 100.  Ricky Rubio has positive “on” numbers (+4.7 versus “off” of -5.4), with much more playing time than AR15, and all of the 4th Quarter, winning-time minutes.

What can be taken away from these early on/off numbers?  “Nothing” is one answer, perhaps.  These measurements can have as much or more to do with correlation as causation, and certainly in Kevin Love’s case, they do not accurately reflect his value to the team.  However, the second unit with Rubio, Williams and Randolph has been strong at times, even against mighty competition (they saved the Miami game from a blowout with a great first-half effort) and could stand to play a few more minutes.  Kevin Love is currently third in the entire NBA in minutes/game with 39.1.  The Timberwolves may improve if that number is cut to something like 36 or 37, and 2 or 3 extra minutes of high-energy bench play is the substitute.  Rubio, quite clearly, is deserving of more than his 27.7 minutes/game.  I think all fans, and presumably Coach Adelman, expect that figure to increase as the season moves along.

Season Record: 2-5

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Memphis Buzzkill (Grizzlies 90 WOLVES 86)

The Zach Randolph-less but playoff-tested Memphis Grizzlies came out and punched the Wolves in the collective mouth, tonight.  Without their best offensive weapon, Memphis locked in a defensive effort that held the Wolves starters to 3 points in the first 8 minutes of Wednesday’s game.  The 18-3 early deficit was not only thanks to the Grizzly defense, but also careless dribbling by Michael Beasley, whose 5-turnover, 5-16 shooting night marked a solid regression from Monday’s seeming snap-out-of-it effort.

Despite the lethargic and carefree effort against the reigning Western Conference Semi-Finalist, the Wolves found themselves ahead 68-63 with 7 minutes to go in the 4th Quarter.  I was pleasantly surprised to see this young-and-flashy crew surviving a dogfight of a game with the tone clearly-set by the dogged defensive effort of the veteran Grizzlies.  The game bore resemblance to the recent loss to Milwaukee, where a half court, physical battle was not to the Wolves liking.  Particularly with respect to young Rubio (12 points, 10 assists, 4 turnovers) tonight showed an ability to respond proactively to elite pressure defense.

But alas, the game fell apart down the stretch.  Spearheaded by former Timberwolf draftee, O.J. Mayo, the Grizz ripped off a 13-0 4th Quarter run that was more reminiscent of last season than anything us excited fans have witnessed, thus far in the Adelman Era.  Along with defensive struggles against the versatile Memphis swingmen, the Wolves (specifically, Ricky Rubio and Michael Beasley) missed 4 of 4 free throw attempts during this ugly and extended sequence.  In fact, Minnesota shot a pitiful 13-24 from the charity stripe; a lousy 54 percent that, more than anything, cost them this otherwise-winnable contest.

Thanks to desperation three’s sunk by Rubio and Love, the game went further than expected.  But the final was 90-86 in favor of the Grizz, leaving Minnesota 2-4 after this most-difficult stretch to open the shortened season.

A few more jottings to wrap this one up:

* Kevin Love, as always, filled the stat sheet with 27 points and 14 rebounds.  This was not even close to his finest effort, however.  He started the game almost as sluggishly as Beasley did, turning the ball over a total of 3 times with 0 assists.  Love was a team-worst (-11) tonight.

* Anthony Tolliver–typically my go-to-guy for identifying the embrace of Rubio-led catch-and-shoot basketball–made the fatal mistake of passing up an open trey to put the ball on the floor.  With one minute to go, down by 2, AT drove and jumped to pass to a Grizzly player who gladly accepted the charity layup to seal the deal on this night.  AT is a smart and aggressive player who will certainly remember next time to catch the ball and shoot it.

* Wes Johnson reverted to his old self after an outlierish 6 for 6 against the Spurs.  Tonight’s 0-5 in 16 minutes is more reflective of his NBA worth.

* Derrick Williams probably earned more playing time in this game than he received.  In just 16 minutes he put together a 6-point, 2-rebound, 1-assist, 0-turnover stat sheet and the team was (+5) with D-Thrill on the court.  As usual, he threw down an emphatic Rubioop with authority.  The rookie is making strides.

* Although Darko rebounded better than usual (8 rebounds, 3 offensive, in 22 minutes) he struggled in parts of this game against the savvy Marc Gasol.  The Spaniard big man is one of the few true centers the NBA has left, and Adelman–perhaps wisely–left Darko on the floor to counter this mammoth interior presence.  In any case, Darko had a (-7) tonight and shot only 1-6.

The Timberwolves cannot relax, BUT– the schedule will now ease up a bit.  We now dip into the extremely-weak bottom half of the Eastern Conference, with Cleveland coming to Target Center on Friday Night.  After that is a short road trip against the atrocious Washington Wi-ZARDS and then the improving-but-beatable Toronto Raptors.  If I had to bet, it would be that the Wolves will win 2 of 3.  However, a clean sweep of these bottom feeders would show a strong resurgence after blowing this one against the depleted Grizzlies of Memphis.

Season Record: 2-4

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Game 5: Taking Down Texas (WOLVES 106, Spurs 96)

The Wolves extended their winning streak to two on Monday night, defeating the Spurs 106-96. 294 days passed between the last Wolves regular season victory and last night’s win over the defending champion Dallas Mavericks. They only needed 24 hours to get this one. Life is good.

The Wolves put away the four-time champs from the get-go and never looked back. The loss was especially bad for the Spurs, who lost Manu Ginobili in the second quarter to a broken hand.

The New Wolves showed that (1) their starting five is capable of playing well (2) that they can run an NBA offense .

Fans have criticized Rick Adelman for starting the same 5 Kurt Rambis started last season. On Monday, the starters looked like they all deserved to be there. They led the Wolves to a 35-25 lead after one quarter and again played well together in extended 3rd quarter run.

The offense was crisp.  The team put a lot of pressure on the Spurs D, whipping the ball around the perimeter to open shooters or running the pick-and-rolls that were so rare under Rambis. All five starters scored in double figures, with Kevin Love putting up 24, Beasley and Ridnour adding 19, Wes Johnson with 14, and Darko with 10 in 22 minutes.

As good as Kevin Love was in 2010/11, Adelman’s offense has helped him as much as anyone. Love still can’t create his own shot in iso opportunities, so this is key. Love’s increased scoring this season–25.8 so far in 2011/12 compared with 20.2 in 2010/11–comes from his finding more 3PFG opportunities in the seams of half-court sets and as a trailer on the break. Some of this comes from better conditioning (“Skinny Kevin”) and some from playing with the Spanish Ricky Buckets, but Love’s ability to find and get to open spaces on the floor so far this season has been nothing short of remarkable, as has been his rebounding (15.3 per so far) given that he’s spending more time away from the basket.

Beasley appeared to buy into Adelman’s offensive schemes for the first time all year, and Adelman rewarded him with 43 minutes. Beasley was both more selective with his shot and more efficient than usual, getting his 19 on 15 shots and letting the game come him. He looked like he trusted that he’d get the ball back if he were to pass it off to his teammates first. Beas played some nice two-man games with Rubio and looked to attack the basket more, rather than settling exclusively for jumpers, and although he only got to the line twice, he appeared to have been fouled a couple of times when the refs didn’t blow their whistles. Beasley’s scoring efficiency will pick up as soon as he attends the Kevin Love School of Drawing Fouls.

Wes Johnson. What to say? For once, I felt like I enjoyed Wes’ smile as much as David Kahn must have during Wes’ pre-draft workout: those toothy grins came out after WJ made a few jumpers and loosened up en route to shooting a perfect 6-6 and being +7 in 30 minutes. More important, Wes looked truly confident for the first time this year, and while confidence unfortunately can’t help Wes dribble, it can help him make open jumpers and increase his trade value.

Other notes:

* Ridnour played great–better than Rubio tonight. Ridnour shot and passed well, getting 9 assists to go with his 19 points, while Ricky looked uncomfortable, especially after the Spurs sagged off of him and dared him to make open jumpers. Ricky has been a huge difference-maker all season, but it was nice to see Luke remind us why he’s been respected around the league for a long time.

* Williams looked very good in only 12 minutes tonight, and the Williams/Tolliver/Love trio is clearly a tougher and more physical frontcourt than the Beasley/Love/Darko group that starts. In rapid succession, D-Will hit a three, stuck a deep two after going behind his back and crossing his man over, and spun off his defender for a SICK alley-oop from Rubio. When’s Adelman going to give him more rope?

* We missed J.J. Barea. Even with Wes stepping up at the SG, the Wolves lack backcourt toughness without J.J. You really notice how important the little guy is when he’s absent. Here’s hoping both he and Malcolm Lee can get right soon.

That’s all for now. The Wolves try to extend their winning streak to three at home on Wednesday against the Grizz. See you there.

Season Record: 2-3

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Down Go the Champs (WOLVES 99, Mavericks 82)

There was a matter-of-fact, ho-hum sort of feel to tonight’s 99-82 victory over the defending champion Dallas Mavericks.  That sort of language has not been in Timberwolves lingo since the departure of Kevin Garnett in 2007.  The precious few victories that Wolves fans have enjoyed in recent seasons have typically come against non-playoff teams.  A win like this one marks a clear change of course that early moral victories against contenders Miami and OKC hinted towards.

Game MVP

This goes to Kevin Love for his 25-point, 17-rebound, 1-turnover performance.  Love led the team in +/- with a +15.  In the fourth quarter holding an 84-75 lead, the Wolves called a full timeout.  Immediately after the break, Dirk proceeded to hit three jumpers, the second of which was a trey, cutting the deficit to two points.  With the crowd growing restless and sensing another late-game collapse, Love answered the call.  He hit a pair of 25-footers, stepping back off the dribble to show off some increased mobility from his offseason workout efforts.  The eight-point lead quickly extended to sixteen and victory was sealed.  I should point out that Love continues to play solid defense against most types of bigs, including Dirk and Odom in this game.  If he will quit head-faking and just SHOOT from downtown, he may become the MVP-type of player that Dave Berri and some others already think he is.  He’s playing outstanding basketball in the early part of this season.

Rubio

I feel obligated to write something about Ricky Rubio after each game, because he is so by far and away the biggest draw of fans returning to Wolves games.  Tonight was a tale of two halves for Ricky.  In the first half, with speedy Rodrique Beaubois picking him up full court, Rubio struggled some.  He made one careless turnover in the backcourt leading to a Dallas layup.  He also forced some decisions that were atypical of his aggressive-but-smart self.  In the second half, often being defended by Jason Kidd, Rubio flourished with both scoring and passing.  His perimeter set shot continues to drop when he is left open.  Ricky’s baseline bounce pass to Tolliver for the dagger-trey was something we’ll see plenty more of.  Let’s hope AT’s teammates (WES JOHNSON!) can copy the obvious and successful strategy of catch-and-shoot basketball with the wizardly point guard they’ll so benefit from playing with.

Quick Hits

* Beasley can’t get a shot to fall, and fans are growing restless with him.  Adelman stuck with him tonight, and Mike didn’t make him regret it.  His 8-point, 7-rebound stat line is hardly anything to write home about, but he met his shooting woes appropriately by taking a deep breath and making some easy passes.  Mike also hit the defensive glass hard, down the stretch.  His defensive play remains a noticeable improvement from a season ago.  He badly injured his finger in the closing minutes of the game.  As the injury is reported to be on his shooting hand, I doubt he will play tomorrow night.

* Wes Johnson can’t play.  There isn’t much else to add.  His 13 minutes of playing time (and (-3) in a 17-point win) is indication that his days as a starter are numbered.  Wayne Ellington is plenty mediocre, but he hurts the team less than Wes by a long shot.

* Between Love, Anthony Tolliver, and Derrick Williams, the Wolves have interior players who fight tooth and nail for every rebound and loose ball near the basket.  The outrebounded Dallas 54-35 in this one.  The Wolves collected 17 offensive rebounds to the Mavericks’ 6.

* J.J. Barea, I think, has drawn an offensive foul in each of his three games played, this year.  If memory serves, each instance was when a bigger guard was posting him up.  It seems as if the feisty five-ten guard has grown used to this position and learned how to flip a weakness into a strength.  It steals possession and frustrates an opponent all at once.

Around the NBA

DeMarcus Cousins has apparently demanded a trade from the Sacramento Kings.  His team has met this demand by banishing him from team facilities and events.  In other words, he is likely to get his wish.  This is an interesting development for Wolves fans who followed the 2010 Draft lead-up with interest.  A great many—perhaps a majority—of Wolves fans desperately wanted the big man from Kentucky with center size, soft hands, and advanced footwork.  Another sizeable contingent dreaded what was expected to be a cancerous on-court persona and attitude.  He was often seen berating Coach Cal on live television, in college.  If he is ultimately shipped out of Sac-Town for marginal value, his pre-draft detractors will have been proven correct.  Unfortunately for Wolves fans, Greg Monroe and probably Paul George appear to be infinitely-better than the player we drafted, Wes Johnson.  For what it’s worth, I’d love to see the Wolves trade for Cousins and see if a new environment can get him happy and productive.  He has a rare combination of size and skill, and could be a legitimate third stud next to this quickly-developing duo of Rubio and Love.  Perhaps an ironic flip of Wes for DMC would help both players and teams.

Up Next

San Antonio Spurs come to town, tomorrow night.  Not much time to enjoy this one.  The Spurs will have 24 extra hours of rest on the Wolves, having had tonight off.

Season Record: 1-3

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