Ty Lawson and the Denver Nuggets take on the Twolves tonight in Minneapolis
One day after Kevin Love’s disgruntled comments about the Timberwolves were published (see Andy G’s and my analysis here), the Wolves play the Nuggets at Target Center tonight at 7 PM CST. Love is expected to be in the starting lineup. Despite the much anticipated return of Ricky Rubio, it currently appears as if that won’t happen for at least a few more days.
So what do we have in store tonight?
The last time Adrian Wojnarowski dished on the Wolves, he was using the news of Rick Adelman’s hire as an opportune time to blast President of Basketball Operations (POBO), David Kahn. Woj found an anonymous league source to tell him how much Adelman despised reporter Kahn some twenty odd years ago when they both worked in Portland.
This conversation was all Woj needed to run wild with a story that’s central premise was simple: Adelman came to Minnesota in spite of, not because of Kahn.
My initial reaction to the story was incredulous: Woj was just using common sense.
The simple facts of Rick Adelman coming out of retirement at age 65 to coach a 17-65 team in the winters of Minnesota suggested to me (naive as I may be!) that Adelman likely did not hate David Kahn. Also, while Kahn’s responsibilities over personnel decisions were almost certain to change (read: decrease) he maintained his lofty title of president. My suspicions were confirmed in the weeks after the story was published when a local reporter (I believe for the Pioneer Press, which does not seem to allow access to old stories on the internet) wrote a piece, with on-the-record quotes from Timberwolves brass crediting Kahn with the Adelman hire. Even if Adelman privately dislikes Kahn, the tenor of Woj’s story was largely discredited if you listen to the participants themselves.
This is context for yesterday’s Woj Bomb about Kevin Love’s salty feelings toward the Timberwolves organization.
But in this case, it only adds context to a limited extent.
That’s because in “Kevin Love unsure about Timberwolves’ future” Woj didn’t resort to anon sources; this time, he had Love himself right on the record. While we don’t have a recording of the entire conversation that perhaps would at least show a few important contextual layers (how were questions leaded, was there alcohol involved, etc.) some of the quotes are unmistakable.
Let’s all hope the Wolves move right past this and Love will come out with some conciliatory remarks about how he is happy with the direction of the team. But in the meantime, it’s a story worthy of at least a reaction.
Mine, then Patrick J’s.
“Why do I care?” is the single most hazardous question that a diehard NBA fan can ask himself.
“Junkies” like me, and those I surmise to be a large percentage of this blog’s readership, devote considerable time and energy to a game played by rich men we’ve never met.
Lending more than surface-level thought to the reasons for such devotion is to risk spoiling the fun for ourselves. After all, there is more “important” news in any edition of the New York Times and there are [hopefully] more pressing personal matters in any of our lives, whether they be professional, romantic, familial, or otherwise. (One of the all-time great pieces from The Onion mocks the professional sports fan accordingly.)
Zach Lowe had an interesting take related to this on a recent Bill Simmons B.S. Report podcast. Lowe, an expert NBA analyst who writes for Grantland, grew up a fan of the Boston Celtics, just like Simmons. The Sports Guy asked Lowe how he felt about Ray Allen in a Heat uniform; a potentially sensitive subject for any diehard Celtics fan. Lowe’s reply was fascinating. He said:
I admire your quality to maintain very strong fandom, but the longer I do this, honestly, the more my fandom sort of fades. I still sort of have that in me, and my dad roots for the Celtics and that’s cool. But even last year when they lost Game 7 I remember being like, ‘I actually don’t care all that much,’ and watching Ray [Allen] in Miami is a more analytical experience…
And, honestly, part of the reason for that…[is] just how crazy Boston fans are…Now every fan base is like that…
The “this” in Lowe’s first sentence presumably means analyzing and writing about professional basketball for a living. The statement is fascinating not because he draws a line between “fandom” and “analysis,” but because he paints a huge gulf between the two concepts; one that he outwardly admires the ability of Simmons to cross in his coverage of the NBA.
As my preview post made clear, I thought the Wolves should beat the Cavs without too much difficulty. That is, unless they came out lethargic or complacent against a heavy underdog. Cleveland is a developing team that was playing without its go-to guy. So the Wolves’ 18-point victory in last night’s game is less cause for celebration than relief. Along with Kevin Love’s return to form (36 points and 13 rebounds, importantly regained free-throw stroke) Andrei Kirilenko’s return to the lineup prevented a letdown. AK47 never stands still. Even if he’s stationary in a set, it’s like he can’t keep himself from bouncing on his toes. Never long strides. Short, choppy steps, and quick, short jumps. Rarely flashy. Always efficient. He continues to cut at an elite level, and it seems that his teammates are following suit. Kirilenko sometimes defers on easy passes, knowing that a backcut is only a moment away. He had just 4 baskets last night, but on 5 shots. He had 6 assists, some for backdoor layups. His defensive energy manifested itself with 4 steals and 3 blocks that set the tone that lasted for most of the game. In 31 minutes, he was a team-best +23. It’s natural to wonder what the Wolves’ all-important “ceiling” is. (Other fan bases are doing the same about their own teams.) I don’t know whether it’s an 8-Seed, or a Larry O’Brien Trophy. But I suspect the answer depends strongly on keeping Andrei Kirilenko healthy and allowing his habits to influence his ‘mates.
Last night, about 20 minutes before the anticipated Knicks-Heat game was set to begin on TNT, bad news hit the Twitter waves. Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks leading scorer and best player, would not be playing. His lacerated finger needed the night off, so Melo would join fellow $20 Million-per-year Knick, Amare Stoudemire, in street clothes on the sideline. The reaction was predictable, and reasonable. In short, everybody expected Miami to win in a rout. Barkley didn’t BS fans in the pregame show, trying to hide his laughter as he predicted a lopsided win for the Heat.
KG played like his prime years tonight, albeit in fewer minutes.
I feel bad for the fans that only tuned in for the second half. After a couple competitive quarters of basketball that left the Wolves leading by 4 points, everything came unraveled for Rick Adelman’s team. Boston turned the halftime deficit into a 7-point lead after three. The third quarter was largely dominated by large Celtic power forward, Brandon Bass, who scored 10 points on 5-5 shooting in the period. The Wolves second unit, that played quite well in the first half, continued the struggles in the early fourth, seeing the Celtic lead extend to 9 points when Love and Pekovic came back in. Those subs didn’t help and the bleeding continued. Profusely. Boston’s lead ballooned to 15. In the first 6:08 of the final period the Wolves managed just 3 points, blending a toxic mix of bricked jumpers, botched layups, offensive fouls and turnovers, and above all else, missed free throws. Despite getting enough defensive stops to hold out a shred of hope through the 6-minute mark, the game was never again a close one.
Rather than harp on everything negative, I’ll start with some praise:
Paul Pierce is still a potent threat for Boston
Our Twolves play the Celtics tonight in Boston, my former home. I’ll be rooting for the Wolves, of course, but the Celtics are one of my favorite sideshows in the League, given not only that I lived in Boston for two years and followed the team closely, but also that they (still) have KG.
Speaking of KG: Garnett’s role remains in dispute, but still, the Celtics have beaten the Wolves pretty much ever since we dealt KG to Boston.
A bunch of tidbits below the fold:
Was it 2007 all over again in Philly tonight? Josh Howard thought so.
“We need to get some type of roll going here and, like I said, you do it by winning on the road.” Much of Rick Adelman’s post game presser (televised on FSN North) focused on the Wolves getting on a roll. Clearly impressed by a dominant win over a solid Philadelphia 76ers team, Coach is smelling blood on this East Coast back-to-back and it’s coming from Boston. Tomorrow night, the Wolves take on Kevin Garnett and the Celtics. If you watched the game tonight, you can’t really blame him for looking ahead like a guy playing with house money. This was the best his team has looked all season. Which is strange, when you consider that Kevin Love, continuing the search for his shooting stroke, had just 6 points on 2-10 shooting. (Before I forget though, Love was a beast on the defensive glass and his 5 assists reflect a quick maturation from earlier games when he met cold shooting with forced action. He shared the ball tonight.) It’s doubly strange when you consider that Nikola Pekovic had an inefficient 6 points, and 5 rebounds in 27 minutes of action. Pek never found a groove all night. The Timberwolves’ two best healthy players struggled, yet they won by 17 points on the road against a team that played in Game 7 of last year’s Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
So what exactly was going so well?
Jrue Holiday controls the 76ers’ fate
Okay, kids, game-time is approaching. It’s Wolves vs. 76ers.
This is an unusually late game wrap for a number of reasons. First, I could not watch the entire game on Friday. My roommate just turned 30, we hosted a little party for that occasion (that later in the night had a chance encounter with Alexey Shved and much of the Wolves roster, which was fun–Shved is a humble dude, very approachable by
losers superfans like myself), and while the game was on, I wasn’t able to pay close enough attention to feel like my game wrap would provide anything very meaningful. Second, the Wolves have three days off between Friday’s game and Tuesday’s matchup with the Sixers (at Philly, 6:00 CST) so I thought posting in the middle of the downtime would be of more value to readers. Third, this won’t be as much a “game wrap” as some observations about Wolves and NBA issues.
Alexey Shved: Starting to make shots, now what’s his ideal role?