An hour before tipoff, a fellow Zumbrotan (where I’m from and my dad drives up from) saw us sitting near the court watching Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah shoot around and offered us an extra pair of tickets in the second row. Typically we sit in the upper corner of the lower bowl. Sitting (basically) courtside has its obvious advantages like viewing player-player and player-ref interaction, better “scenery” including what looked to be a Bull’s girlfriend or wife seated next to me, and just being up close for a better view of the crazy athleticism and skill of the players. But for someone who typically sits further back, I was a little distracted by the foregoing and didn’t digest the hoops action like I normally think I do. So here’s what I *think* I took away from a preseason game versus the Bulls.
* “Both teams played hard.” – Rasheed Wallace. Sheed’s famous quote applied to this game. For the Bulls, this is expected. For the Wolves without Ricky Rubio, this was a problem. Not tonight. Forwards Lou Amundson and Dante Cunningham set the tone early, hedging hard on pick-and-rolls, delivering hard fouls when necessary and barking out defensive orders. Pekovic was an absolute beast under the glass, continually sealing his man (no matter who it was) for baskets. He also collected 17 rebounds. The intensity level was not preseason.
* But the skill level, at times, was very preseason. The Bulls shot 36.8 percent from the floor. The Wolves shot 32.8 percent. Fugly. The Wolves missed 17 free throws, but even uglier than that was that they SHOT 51 OF THEM! Christ, the Bulls would not stop hacking (near our seats Hinrich told the ref we’d be here all night if they don’t stop calling fouls. It didn’t occur to him to stop hacking.) and the refs blew the whistle. Pek got hacked 2 or 3 times that didn’t get called.
* Derrick Williams struggled. He played hard, like everyone else, but did not look comfortable on offense. As a small forward, he might as well stay back on defense. He’s just not much of a threat to do anything. His one obvious advantage over the rest is leaping ability. He can simply get to balls that nobody else can. Now he needs to do a Gerald Green impression and convert that God-given talent into NBA competence (or even stardom!).
* Alexey Shved did not struggle. On offense or defense. In the second half, after playing a careful first two quarters, he unleashed his #Shvedsanity made popular in the London Olympics. Shved started hitting jumpers and capped off a hot run with a nifty all-left hand scoop layup. Why use the right if you don’t need it? We’re going to love this guy.
* But Rick Adelman might not. (Not always, anyway.) Shved did another impression of his Olympic self when he took that mojo and converted it into turnovers and questionable decisions. But overall Shved played a very nice game (15 points on 7 field goal attempts, 2 steals, 4 turnovers) and Adelman had him out there during Winning Time.
* Brandon Roy is just damn good at basketball. He’s the opposite of Michael Beasley (who by now you know I kind of like) in terms of being really strong with the ball. He has hesitation moves and blow-by moves. He’ll get fouled if there’s questionable contact because he knows how to draw fouls. He hit a step back jumper when Noah switched on him. The Wolves have some legitimately-good looking shooting guards in Roy and Shved.
At the risk of saying too much about a preseason game, I’ll stop here. The game was sometimes ugly, but the effort level was there and Shved and Roy give some reason for hope and optimism. Until next time.