Monthly Archives: March 2012

Who would you trade for Anthony Davis?

If you’re reading this blog then you are certainly aware of two things:

1)      Kentucky is having a phenomenal season and will play in Saturday’s Final Four; and

2)      Anthony Davis is ridiculously-good at basketball and is locked in as the top NBA Draft prospect.

With that in mind, and without interesting developments in the Wolves season (unless you think Kevin Garnett’s unappreciative and bitter side is interesting) to discuss, why not have a completely hypothetical and unnecessary exploration of Anthony Davis’ current trade value? Continue reading

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A Stale Product (GRIZZLIES 93, Wolves 86)

If you’ve been watching the Wolves for all of this brief season, you must agree with me: This sucks.  No, it isn’t as bad as last year (or any of the past few years) when March and April meant putting Kevin Love or Al Jefferson on the shelf and talking ourselves into Rashad McCants’ upside as a 6th Man (when we weren’t talking ourselves into our cursed lottery chances.)  But now that we’ve seen entertaining and competitive basketball–more than just a small dose (January 2009) but a sustainable product with that magic word UPSIDE right along with a steady flow of W’s–this just sucks.  In my opinion, this loss marks the end of the Wolves bid for a playoff spot.  They won’t tank, since they don’t get their pick anyway, but I think the hole is too deep to climb out of and the Wolves are now playing only for pride.

With that in mind, we’ll probably shift our approach a bit on this blog.  I don’t enjoy writing game wraps after these Rubio-and-meaning-less games, and I doubt very much that you’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve attempted.  If you want game-by-game coverage, check out the blogs on the right-hand column.  Canis Hoopus has been doing a great “Report Card” theme this year, that I think will continue to season’s end.  For an example, check out Jose Cordoba’s wrap of the Nuggets game, here.

Anyway, we’ll still come up with post ideas and maybe a few game wraps if some interesting things develop beyond Love’s individual excellence and the same pros and cons that the others have shown off.  When watching the home stretch, I’ll be paying particularly close attention to Malcolm Lee who showed some defensive chops in the first part of tonight’s game.  But by and large, the content here will probably start to shift toward the upcoming playoffs, with a little bit of draft talk here and there (particularly if Utah continues to surge toward postseason play, giving Minnesota a mid-first rounder.)  I hope you’ll keep checking in and chiming in on the comment board.

Season Record: 24-27

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Must Win

Following the announcement that Ricky Rubio tore his ACL, the Wolves went out and lost a home game to the New Orleans Hornets.  Shortly after that, I wrote them off as a potential playoff team.  They’re 3-6 since the injury as Western Conference competitors have surged over .500.  As of now, the Wolves are 3 games out of a tie for the 8-Seed.  But looking at the upcoming schedule, I realized something: If the Wolves win tonight’s game, they might just climb back into the playoff picture. Continue reading

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The Love & Luke Show (WOLVES 117, Nuggets 100)

As of this moment there are five Western Conference teams within 1.5 games of each other, ranked 4 through 9.  Having lost to the struggling Wolves today, Denver has slid to the bottom of that list, after tie-breakers are considered.  In other words, today’s loss has temporarily removed them from the playoff picture.  Which in Springtime NBA Land means that Denver really wanted this one, but couldn’t get it.  The win, for the Wolves, means a bit more than the recent struggle over Golden State. Continue reading

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Literature Review: Patrick J’s Top 5 Favorite Basketball Books

Ricky is hurt. The Wolves are losing. The games are difficult to watch. It’s spring, and tanking season is underway across the league.

League Pass isn’t enough anymore. What’s a hoops blogger to do to satisfy his addiction?

Here at Punch-Drunk Wolves, we’re turning to books.

Last night, Andy mentioned he’s now reading Mark Titus’ new book DON’T PUT ME IN, COACH: MY INCREDIBLE NCAA JOURNEY FROM THE END OF THE BENCH TO THE END OF THE BENCH. I’m a voracious reader, too, and nothing beats a great basketball book.

Since talking about the Wolves isn’t much fun right now, I decided to follow Andy’s lead and talk books.Below the fold, I list my five favorite basketball books. A subsequent post will contain numbers 6-10. I’ll probably follow that up with a post on “notable basketball books that are conspicuously absent from Patrick J’s top 10 list.”

Without further ado…

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What to talk about? (SPURS 116, Wolves 100)

The score was 32-16 in the Spurs favor after one quarter.  After a half-hearted comeback in the 2nd by the Wolves, the game was lopsided for the entire half.  Nobody seemed to play well.  The box score shows decent work done by Love, Tolliver, Barea and Ellington.  But it didn’t really seem like it.

So what else to discuss in the world of hoops? Continue reading

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Bizarro Night at Oracle (Wolves 97, WARRIORS 93)

The Warriors retired Chris Mullin’s jersey tonight, leading to the longest halftime I can remember for a regular season NBA game.  Or any NBA game.  Apparently the Dubs crowd booed the owner, Joe Lacob, when he wouldn’t stop talking.  And then apparently Rick Barry grabbed the mic and started lecturing the crowd a bit.  Sounds like quite a zoo over in Oakland, these days.  Pat could tell us more about it, I suppose. Continue reading

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Royal Beatdown (KINGS 115, Wolves 99)

With Ricky on the mend (surgery this Wednesday), the season hitting the homestretch, and the Wolves’ playoff hopes looking dimmer by the day (now 2.5 games behind Houston for the 8 seed), there is less and less to add to the discussion with these game wraps.  With that in mind, I’ll share a few brief observations about each Wolves player from this disappointing loss that may not come through in the newspaper: Continue reading

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Royce White: Now and Then

Royce White (Photo by rivals.yahoo.com)

Royce White burst onto the national scene last night with an eye-opening performance against the NCAA Tournament-favorite Kentucky Wildcats. White and Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, who matched up against each other for much of the game, were the two best players of the floor. White ended the night with 23 pts on 9-12 shooting, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 block. He did have 3 turnovers, but had the ball in his hands almost constantly during the 34 minutes he played.

On Iowa State’s first possession of the game, White showed what kind of night it was going to be, taking Davis to the left block, receiving the entry, and making a strong hop move into the middle of the lane and curling in a lefty flip beyond Davis’ outstretched arms. White outmuscled UK’s entire front line several times, using a variety of drop steps and nifty moves to create space and score the ball.  Davis was no slouch either, putting up 15, 12, and 5 blocks, but Royce White was the story.

The question is, why hasn’t Royce White been the story– or, at least, a story–all season long?

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Michael Beasley: Still a Wolf

Jerry Zgoda got some rich material for today’s story on the Michael Beasley non-trade. What follows are a few of the most choice quotes. But you should read the article in full.

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Millsap’d Again (JAZZ 111, Wolves 105)

When Paul Millsap missed a wide-open layup as the regulation buzzer sounded, it looked like the Wolves might actually steal this one from the Jazz.  They had trailed Utah 92-80 with only 4 minutes to go before pulling off a miraculous comeback to force overtime.  After a Pekovic basket tied the game with 0.7 seconds left, the Jazz ran a brilliant out of bounds play that nearly ended the Wolves hopes with a heroic shot.  Instead, Paul’s heroics would come from steals in overtime (8 total for the game!) that sealed a win that Utah probably deserved all along.

Things were actually looking good for the first part of overtime.  Wes Johnson (after a HORRENDOUS first four quarters of action) hit a pair of jumpers and pulled down a tough rebound, and had the Wolves leading 105-103 with 1:31 to go.  But, the next Wolves possessions were as follows:

* With game tied, Luke Ridnour pass stolen by Paul Millsap.

* With Wolves down by 2, Martell Webster misses wide-f***ing-open corner trey.

* With Wolves down by 4, Paul Millsap steals ball from Kevin Love.

Each blunder was followed by Jazz points.  Each blunder was inexcusable.  So it goes.

A whole bunch of bullets:

* Ridnour, that last turnover notwithstanding, made A LOT of nifty assists in this game.  He seemed to look for Pekovic frequently and found him rolling or sealing at the right times.  Luke finished the game with 13 assists.

* Anthony Randolph Sighting!  AR15 had 5 points and 3 steals in 12 minutes off the bench.  He took the ball hard to the basket twice in the second half, each time not getting a call that could have been made.  His biggest weakness right now is the rotation of big men that lie in front of him on the depth chart.  All things considered, his play isn’t that bad.  Those that incessantly rip on this guy are off base to some extent.  Sure, his decision making will leave you shaking your head at times.  But that happens with every player.  Every other player doesn’t get you 17 & 8 per 36 on 50 percent shooting and hyperactive defense.

* Speaking of AR15 getting minutes, Coach went 10 deep tonight despite Mike Beasley being out with a sore toe.  This cut deep into D-Thrill’s minutes.  The rook played 16 total, while Randolph and Tolliver each played 12.

* This was Kevin Love’s best game of the year against Paul Millsap and the Jazz.  But that isn’t necessary saying much.  He took 23 shots to get his 25 points, numbers not befitting of his renowned efficiency.  In three games versus Utah, he’s shooting just 29 percent from the field.  Still, he did plenty of good things in this game (like pull down 16 rebounds) and can hardly be blamed for the result.

I’ll wrap this up with a brief take on the trade deadline (in)activity.  The rumor mill had me and everyone else convinced that Mike Beasley was headed to Tinseltown in a three-teamer that would bring back two-guard chucker, Jamal Crawford.  Jamal has plenty in common with Beasley as a jumpshooting player.  One notable difference is that while Beasley at times seems conflicted about gunning, Jamal is unapologetic and perhaps unaware.  He just chucks.  And chucks.  Would he have helped this team?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I have no idea.

But the reason that the deal did not happen is that one version had Portland requiring Luke Ridnour to come their way.  If you have watched Luke play this year, you realize that this would not be a good thing.  The other version had us taking on Derek Fisher’s contract, adding over $3 million to next year’s payroll.  No thanks.  There are legitimately-good wing players available in this coming free agency.  Ray Allen, Eric Gordon, O.J. Mayo, Nic Batum.  I don’t know which the Wolves prefer most, but I have to believe they’ve got eyes on those guys and want as much dough as possible to toss their way.  With Ricky out for this season, a rash decision to run at the 8-seed–particularly one that might not even be an upgrade over what Beasley provides–would have been a mistake.  No trade was fine with me.

Season Record: 22-22

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Back to Work (Wolves 127, SUNS 124)

Was it a coincidence that the first seven quarters of Wolves ball that I missed in weeks were the first seven quarters of Ricky-less ball?  Yes, actually.  Saturday’s TV coverage was FUBAR’d by the NBA, with reciprocal blackouts for paying customers of NBA TV and paying customers of NBA League Pass.  I actually thanked the NBA (to myself, at least) for this blunder.  It sounds like I missed a wretched display by the home team.  Tonight’s contest mostly conflicted with my men’s league game (we won, thanks for caring) so I was only able to listen to the 3rd Quarter on the drive home and watch the 4th on FSN.

Based on the box score, radio commentary, and my text inbox, it sounds like Mike Beasley, Derrick Williams and Nikola Pekovic collectively carried the Wolves through the first half as K-Love struggled with his shot.  Beasley in particular (15 points on 6-7 shooting in 16 minutes, (tied for) team-high +8) must have been crucial to the 7-point halftime lead.

The radio broadcast of the third quarter sounded like Suns matchups of recent past.  Al Horton repeatedly described Suns action begun by Steve Nash and finished by an open jump shooter.  The Wolves 7-point lead quickly became a deficit.  But then, as is happening more and more often, K-Love came to the rescue by bombing from outside.  Love hit 5 threes in the second half (5-9 total for the game) en route to another 30-point game for the superstar.

Now, the part I was actually able to watch: the fourth quarter.  Or as Magic Johnson and Roger Dodger call it, Winning Time.

The Key Players of #winningtime, in reverse order:

5. Derrick Williams – The rookie was on the court for the first 7:42 of the fourth and seemed to be involved in every play.  He aggressively and stupidly goaltended a floating shot that had no chance of going in (sound familiar?) BUT–he got away with it, somehow.  On offense, he hit a pair of square-up J’s, one from downtown, and converted his own backcourt steal into a dunk.  Defense was another story.  His “defense” on Channing Frye reminded of recent Kevin Love efforts against Magic stretch four, Ryan Anderson.  Put simply, Williams does not want to guard out to 24 feet.  You know why?  He’s a power forward.  (This dilemma of the stretch four is exactly why I want K-Love to embrace his own shooting talent, as he is doing of late.)

4. Channing Frye – As I just mentioned, Frye’s shooting was a problem.  He entered the game with 8:26 to go with his team down by 2.  He quickly hit a pair of 3′s, each giving his team the lead.  While the Wolves were ultimately able to hold off the Suns, Frye’s sniping was nearly a deciding factor in the other direction.

3. Sebastian Telfair – Bassy played well in the last Wolves-Suns tilt, too.  He must have it out for his old team or something.  In the early part of this 4th Quarter he was pretty dominant, even if in ways that are UNSUSTAINABLE.  When JJ went under a ball screen, Bassy buried the jumper.  A moment later on another ball-screen sequence, he hit a three and D-Thrill fouled him for good measure and a fourth point.  RIGHT AFTER THAT, he ripped Luke on a careless dribble and converted a layup.  8 quick points in the 4th Quarter.

2. Kevin Love – The MVP candidate had 13 points in the 4th Quarter, despite resting from 8:26 to 4:18.  Not much else to say.

1. Luke Ridnour – Notwithstanding the turnover to Bassy, Luke was huge down the stretch.  He made a layup with 4:35 to go, and a long 2 with 3:55 to go.  With 1:50 to go he made a sick little hesitation move on Frye (I think) and an even-crazier layup in traffic with the shot clock winding down.  He collected an offensive board with 1:15 to go and a key defensive board with 0:54 to go.  With 17 seconds left and a 1-point lead, he calmly went to the line to extend it to 3 and help seal the win.  Great Winning Time performance for Luke.

Nice to get a win.  It’ll be interesting to see if any moves are made before the trade deadline on Thursday.  Also on that day is the next game, a nationally televised (EXCEPT MAYBE IN MINNEAPOLIS!) contest against the Utah Jazz, a key rival for the 8-seed.  Big Al scored 33 tonight on 14-18 shooting in an easy Jazz win, so we’ll have to have our interior defense ready to roll.  Until then.

Season Record: 22-21

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Down Goes Ricky

Our worst fears have been confirmed: Ricky tore his ACL and will undergo season-ending surgery.  NBA stars from LeBron James to Kevin Durant are expressing their condolences and support via Twitter, and Bethlehem Shoals has already waxed poetic on the topic in ways that nobody else should even try.  But since it’s a huge Wolves story and season development, it should be acknowledged and discussed here.

ACL’s

If you know people that are or were athletes, then you know people who have torn their anterior cruciate knee ligament.  It happens.  A lot.  In my life experience, it seems to happen to soccer players the most, perhaps then followed by football players.  Cutting on grassy surfaces with spikes under your shoes tends to produce this unfortunate result.  Two of my best friends in high school played soccer and both had torn ACL’s on their resume’ before graduation.  My sophomore-year college team had just secured the school’s first postseason bid in years when our point guard and emotional leader went down in a heap.  ACL torn.  This injury happens a lot, yet its news still carries a certain zap with it that makes it seem more devastating than it really is.  I assume that there are different reasons for this.  The reconstructive surgery, as far as I understand, has become fairly routine and successful in building back a functional knee.  But it wasn’t always this way.  Remember when William Gates tore his knee up, and it ruined his whole career?  That doesn’t seem to happen anymore.  Corey Brewer went through it, was making posters in no time.  Al Jefferson seemed to struggle a bit more after his surgery, but eventually he’s come around and even learned the benefits of passing out of a double team.  In short, the surgery seems to work and Ricky will be just fine.  Eventually.

What next?

Well for starters, the proverbial show must go on.  The Wolves tip off against the Hornets about two hours after I publish this post.  At 21-20, they’re a half game out of the playoffs, barely behind the free-falling Houston Rockets.  As much as the Wolves would (understandably) like to sulk about this news, there isn’t any time.  The two big questions are:

1) Will they acquire a point guard before Thursday’s trade deadline?

and

2) How will they generate any offense without their playmaker?

The first question is difficult — impossible, actually — for me to answer.  My guess is that nothing drastic will be done before the deadline by way of a point guard acquisition.  If they did trade for a point guard, it would have to be one with an expiring contract (I think?) so as not to clog up cap space that will be needed this summer.  Are there any free agents out there?  I guess there is this guy.  And this guy.  Crazy as it sounds, a phone call to Iverson or Arenas might not be the dumbest idea in the world.

The second question is more troubling.  Along with a sensible NBA offense installed by Rick Adelman, Rubio’s ingenuity as a dribbler and passer has led to the marked improvement in the team’s offense from a season ago.  Assuming no major roster changes, how does this team generate offense?  In my opinion, Ridnour-Love ball screens are not going to cut it.  This has less to do with Love than it used to; I just don’t think Luke delivers those passes very well.  He’s too little and not nearly the wizard that Ricky is in compensating for seeming shortcomings.  Does Mike Beasley need to play more minutes?  (He was pretty awesome last night, as a scorer for 16 minutes.)  I don’t know.  It’s the million dollar question.  I guess we’ll get a sneak preview of an answer in tonight’s contest.

Of course, there are countless other layers to this sad sports story.  Ricky won’t play in the Olympics to back up the tough talk he dished at Kobe a while back.  (There’s painful irony in how this circumstance came to be.)  There’s the Rookie of the Year Award, then can just as soon be FedEx’d to Kyrie Irving’s Cleveland address.  Rather than dwell on all the bad, I’ll just wish Ricky good luck in recovery and look forward to his return next season.

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Weird is Good (WOLVES 106, Blazers 94)

Minnesota beat Portland tonight for the second time in five days.  The following facts describe the two matchups:

  • Three point guards (Rubio, Ridnour, Barea) played a combined 88 minutes in each game.  The team was essentially going without a two guard.
  • Kevin Love averaged 35.5 points, 13 rebounds, and 3.5 assists over the two victories.  While he didn’t guard LaMarcus Aldridge all of the time, he certainly outplayed him.
  • Wes Johnson played a combined 37 minutes.  In that time he scored 25 points on 10-13 shooting.  In tonight’s game, he even dribbled and cut a few times.
  • Coach Adelman was able to find 56 minutes of playing time for Derrick Williams, despite his playing Kevin Love’s position.  The rook averaged 12 points and 7.5 rebounds over the two games, off the bench.
  • The Wolves won both games; the first two victories over Portland since Kevin Garnett was wearing #21 for the good guys.  If Saturday was a rite of passage, tonight was a statement game.
  • Most importantly, the Wolves combined for 25-46 shooting from downtown.  54 percent shooting from 3 is going to lead to victories for almost any team.  Especially in high volume.

What does it mean?

If you haven’t noticed already I am as prone as any NBA rube to making kneejerk reactions.  One minute my trade machine has Derrick Williams going to Boston for cap space and the next I’m lauding him as the next Amar’e Stoudemire (that used to be a compliment.)  But as more games are played–not just Wolves games but all around the league–what I’m finding more and more is that there is no such thing as a prototype NBA roster.  A team with a classic 1-2-3-4-5 is no more likely to be successful than one with some oddities.  Dallas won the championship last year with a 50-year old point guard and (for the deciding Game 6 at least) our very own midget, J.J. Barea, playing the two.  Miami, the perpetual title favorite for as long as Wade and James are playing, has an offense built around two wings that are almost the exact same offensive player.  Chicago built a contender around a single offensive threat who (oh by the way) happens to play point guard.

The Wolves are winning games with a weird team.  Not only do they start two point guards, but they bring a third off the bench for big minutes.  It is all point guards all the time.  And it works.  Luke is showing off what a tremendous shooter he is, relieved of primary playmaking duties that he sometimes struggles with.  When J.J. comes in and inevitably finds himself defending the post, he draws a charge.  EVERY SINGLE TIME.  Ricky is versatile on defense, often switching and jumping the passing lanes.  On offense, he’s a true point.  It seems to work.

On the front line, things were just starting to reek of conventionality when Pekovic went down with a foot injury.  Tonight (and Monday versus the Clippers) we saw extended sequences with Williams at the 4 and Love at the 5.  I’ve made my feelings clear on this idea.

I write about this because the trade deadline is looming (March 15) and every Wolves fan has their own shooting guard who the team MUST pursue.  Some want Kevin Martin while others prefer Jamal Crawford or Monta Ellis.  I’ve clamored for Eric Gordon.

Well, the Wolves have now won 8 of their last 11 games and if the season ended right now they would be in the playoffs.  Is it really time to deal away a starting player?  The Wolves are a weird team.  When they’re hot, they chuck away from downtown and shots fall.  Kevin Love is the league’s most-productive and stabilizing force.  He is our Batman; a constant force.  His Robin walks through a revolving door with a new face on, each game.  A trade isn’t likely to bring in a star player of real notoriety.  Kevin McHale isn’t walkin’ through that door.  Neither is, I’m guessing, his current shooting guard, Kevin Martin.

In a Western Conference that looks more wide open by the day, why not just embrace the weirdness of a dual point guard/power forward/Balkan center lineup that has all sorts of personalities and nearly shatters the Likeability Scale?

Of course, after Friday’s Laker game the Wolves play New Orleans and Phoenix.  If they drop that pair I promise to write 5,000 words about the need for a veteran wing, balanced roster, go-to hero scorer, and every other adage and convention I can think of.

I hope that doesn’t happen.

Season Record: 21-19 (Currently 8th in Western Conference)

 

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Temper City (WOLVES 95, Clippers 94)

“These technical fouls are starting to… have an actual impact on the score.”

My comment after Luke Ridnour hit a technical free throw to increase the Wolves lead to 91-85 with 2:21 to go.  He had just fouled Blake Griffin on a breakaway attempt, which was met with an overreaction from Blake that warranted the tech.  A moment earlier (3:17 to go) Kenyon Martin was T’d up while his teammate Chris Paul was shooting free throws.  That little outburst allowed the Wolves to retain a 5-point lead at 88-83.  Eventually, the Wolves would win this game by a single point.  The entire outcome of the game was decided by a pair of late-game technicals.

K-Love for MVP?

K-Love put together a gem performance tonight against buddy and rival, Blake Griffin.  Love scored 39 points on 13-25 shooting (5-10 on 3′s–keep em coming!) and also pulled down 17 rebounds (7 offensive) and dished out 2 assists.  Of course, Twitter blew up with a mix of sarcastic jabs at Blake Griffin, preemptive strikes at “Kevin Love haters” and quips about how he is, indeed, a late-game scorer.  I’m less concerned about kneejerk reactions (do these people seriously not remember what Blake did to Love at Staples, last week?) than I am with the 5 for 10 shooting on 3′s.  Love can be so, so amazing when he bombs from outside.  His one-on-one scoring, a game here or there notwithstanding, is not a recipe for success at the highest levels.  It doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea on a .500 or worse team–particularly on nights when Ricky/Wes/Martell combine for 2-15 shooting (!!!)–but his iso scoring is not of a nature that a) works consistently against good defense; or b) draws even a sniff of a second defender.  I’m happy he’s starting to embrace the perimeter jumpshooting.  That is, without a doubt, his ticket to MVP conversations.  Unbelievable performance tonight.

Wes & Martell

There was some buzz before the game about Wes Johnson’s recent shooting success.  He had apparently been shooting something like 50 percent from the floor over his past 5 games.  He was excited about this.  Martell had just come off a 21-point, 8-rebound performance where he looked eerily-similar to a starting-caliber NBA wing.  In this game, Wes reverted back to his worst.  He floated aimlessly around the perimeter, never seeking out real scoring opportunities.  When the ball would (perhaps inadvertently) come his way, he’d feel the need to shoot–if nothing else just to see a number go up in his box score line.  He’d hoist up something off balance, barely drawing iron.  Once his confidence was sufficiently shattered, he would then hesitate on should-be catch-and-shoots, put the ball on the floor, and then take a bad shot instead of the good one he could have launched a moment earlier.  Martell was nonexistent in this game except in the game’s biggest moment.  With a 5-point lead and 30 seconds to go, he threw the ball to Chris Paul and immediately bonus-fouled him for good measure.  That blunder nearly cost the Wolves the game.  Not a good night for the long-and-athletic wings.

Scoring Bursts

Derrick Williams had 14 points in the 2nd Quarter.  Michael Beasley had 9 points in the first 6 minutes of the 4th Quarter.  Those rapid bursts of scoring output were key to building and maintaining a lead over the Clips.  Of course, it also didn’t hurt that Darko made 6 of 7 shots in Nikola Pekovic’s absense (foot injury).  For whatever reason, Darko has the Clippers’ number.

Ricky, and the Elephant in the Room

It pains me to say this:

Ricky’s shooting has officially become a problem.  In his last 5 games, he’s hitting 18.4 percent of shots from the floor.  He’s airballing wide-open threes, calling into question whether Target Center has a Meadowlands-like jet stream coming in from Section 136.  Seriously, I don’t think I can overstate how horrible his jumpshot looks and I say this as a HUGE Rubio fan.  Am I overreacting?  He isn’t just missing by 5 or 6 feet sometimes, but he’s attempting RIDICULOUSLY difficult shots, often with ample time left on the 24-second clock.  Maybe it’s a rookie wall.  Or something.  I’ll try not to think about it.  He still delivers awesome passes and makes heady defensive plays.  He’s the team’s best point guard.  But I can’t in good conscience make favorable comparisons to guys like Irving and Lawson when he shoots like this.  Shooting matters, no matter what sort of magic he creates for others.

Great win and fun game.

Season Record: 20-19

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Blazers Edged (Wolves 122, BLAZERS 110)

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I want to see this Wolves team shooting the three.  Aside from Pekovic post-ups and Love’s free throw generating, it’s the team’s best way to outscore opponents. Ricky Rubio is a big reason for this.  His other-worldly court sense manifests itself with a steady supply of could-be assists to standing spot shooters.  It’s up to those guys to bury enough treys to make it work.

Last night, it worked.  Three-point champion Kevin Love led the way.  15 of his 42 points came from behind the arc.  Love’s 42, 10 & 4 (with 0 turnovers) is pretty insane.  What a great game in front of his hometown fans.

But it wasn’t just Love.  Wes Johnson was 2 for 2 on threes.  Martell Webster (21 points and 8 rebounds) was 3 for 5.  The team combined for 12 threes on 23 attempts; a 52.2 percent clip.

This was a fun game for a lot of reasons beyond the barrage of three-bombs.  It had intensity, which nearly boiled over when D-Thrill mixed it up with Crash Wallace in a late-game encounter.  Talk about a growing-up moment for the rook.  Martell Webster played a magnificent game, producing points and rebounds and even blocking a couple shots.  If Martell can be the “solid” wing that we thought we were getting, that will certainly help.  It is no coincidence that his breakout game came at the expense of Wes Johnson playing time (9 minutes, despite making his only two shots–though he did have 4 fouls.  How is that even possible?)

Another tough one tomorrow night when Lob City comes to Target Center, looking for revenge.  Let’s hope they are as unsuccessful in this pursuit as San Antonio was before them.

Season Record: 19-19

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Fix the Lottery…by Ditching the Draft

Anthony Davis has long arms

For the first time since 2004 in several years, Timberwolves fans are not watching games with an unblinking eye on the NBA Draft. The team is in the hunt for a playoff spot, and even if they fail, the lottery pick is owned by the Hornets (REVERSE MORAL HAZARD!).

We used to spend equal time on the ESPN Lottery Machine as we did reading box scores and watching games. And you couldn’t blame us. Striking gold in the lottery is the fastest way – and sometimes the only way – to add top-shelf talent. And you need elite talent to win in the NBA. And so we obsessed over the Lottery Machine. It wasn’t exactly harmless, but you could take a type of sick pleasure from dreams of the future that weren’t available in the realities of the present.

The problem with all of this was, and still is, that fans aren’t the only ones who look ahead. Teams look ahead too. And the teams that have reason to look ahead are the same teams that have an incentive to TANK.

Teams unload veteran talent via personnel transactions or simply shut down their best players down the stretch with phantom “injuries.” We in Minnesota haven’t been immune. Remember when Marc Madsen was sent out to bomb three-pointers in the season’s last game? A win would have jeopardized a bottom-ten finish, and the Wolves would have forfeited the lottery pick that it will send to New Orleans this coming summer. If I were David Stern, I wouldn’t have let Minnesota win the lottery either. So we must ask ourselves: Was Corey Brewer really worth it?

There is a growing sentiment that the lottery system is broken.  Continue reading

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Pathetic (SUNS 104, Wolves 95)

Wesley Johnson shot 6 for 12 from the floor tonight.  Luke Ridnour shot 5 for 9, and 5 for 5 from the stripe.  Martell Webster shot 3 for 6.  Ricky Rubio shot 3 for 7, and Nikola Pekovic shot 6 for 12.

With this collection of players hitting 50 percent from the field, one would expect the Wolves to prevail over a sub-mediocre Phoenix Suns team.  Unfortunately, the Wolves most-talented players Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams combined for an 11 for 40 stink-bomb that left the team helpless even in an extended fourth quarter sequence when both Steve Nash and Marcin Gortat were on the bench doing Pilates.

Over his last four games Love is shooting 29.7 percent from the field.  Over Ricky’s last five games, he’s hitting 26.1 percent of all shots.

Yikes.

The Wolves probably need more than just “competent wing play” to take this thing up a notch.  Perhaps holding off on any desperate trades, and dumping big money at Eric Gordon in free agency is the best plan.  This team needs somebody whose turnovers are made from aggressive plays that usually lead to good scoring opportunities; not careless travels or failed attempts at baiting a ref.

Or maybe I’m just worn down from this back-to-back-to-back even more than Ricky Rubio is.  It wasn’t fun staying up late to watch an ass-kicking from the Lakers and a pitiful loss to the lottobound Suns.  A much-needed off night tomorrow.  Maybe we can get the first ever win over LaMarcus Aldridge on Saturday at Portland.  That’d make up for this one.  Until then.

Season Record: 18-19

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The Mask (LAKERS 104, Wolves 85)

Since this game was the meat of a back-to-back-to-back sandwich, and it wasn’t competitive or interesting, I’m doing a rapid-fire bullets wrap:

* Kevin Love had the flu and did not play.  This was a bad thing for the Wolves.

* Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, Wes Johnson and Nikola Pekovic started each half for the Wolves.  Ridnour started the first half at the 2; Webster the second.  Of the four that opened each half, only Williams had a (relatively) respectable +/-.  Wes played 17 minutes of (-25) ball, for the team’s worst.  He was basically a ghost on the floor, as is often the case, though 2 for 5 shooting is better than his season average.  Next worst was Pek, with a (-24) in 26 minutes.  Pek had 3 turnovers and struggled with the length of the Laker front line.  He played hard, and scrapped together some garbage points but overall was not very effective.  Ricky was (-20) in 21 minutes.  His 1 for 8 shooting was really awful, but 9 assists to 1 turnover perhaps balances it out.  These three starters were a big reason for the loss, though.

* Coming off a career performance, Derrick Williams only played 23 minutes.  It isn’t clear why this was the case, except that he sat for a long stretch of the 2nd Half when the game looked out of reach and I figured Adelman was resting the guys for tomorrow night.  10 points on 4-8 shooting, 7 rebounds and 1 assist in 23 minutes is respectable.

* Mike Beasley had a decent first half, chipping in 8 points off the bench in a (+4) stint that covered all of the 2nd Quarter.  In the 2nd Half, he looked at different times disinterested and asleep, dropping passes, traveling for no reason, and letting Matt Barnes score layups.  The only thing I’ll say in his defense (because he really doesn’t deserve a defense for lackluster effort) is that he sat the first 8 minutes of the 3rd Quarter while he watched Wes and Company see the deficit extend from 6 to 17.  It has to mentally wear on a talented player to see a scrub like Wes take his minutes and have the game go to shit while he’s rotting away on the pine.  Even in what I would consider one of his worst efforts of the season, Beasley was a net-zero for +/- and produced 14 & 6 in 24 minutes.  If Wes put up that line in 42 minutes, we’d throw a party.

* Kobe wore a mask and was mostly dominant in this game.  31, 8 & 7 seemed pretty ho-hum for him tonight, with our stopper Wes on him.

* Wolves double-teamed Bynum, Gasol and Kobe in the post.  I’m not sure they get this treatment from every team, and I don’t know why Bynum was being doubled by Webster when Darko was in the game.  What purpose does Darko serve if he needs a double team to defend the post?  I wonder if Webster was supposed to be doing this–he didn’t look like he knew what to do or when to do it.

* Anthony Randolph deserves praise for doing what he often does: produce in limited minutes of playing time.  In just 19 minutes of action he nearly posted a double-double, with 12 points (5-9 shooting) and 9 rebounds.  With Love, Williams and Pekovic on the roster, he won’t (and shouldn’t) see much playing time.  He seems to care–he always plays full speed and can be seen working out at Target Center Lifetime in the off-season–and here’s to hoping he can find a regular spot somewhere in the league when he inevitably departs from Minneapolis, this summer.

Season Record: 18-18

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