Wolves Report Card (WOLVES 109, Lakers 99)

We’re not really creatures of habit here and I try to mix up game wrap formats.

So I’ll borrow one from the excellent Knickerblogger site and do this one Report Card style.

Starters

Ricky Rubio: B+
Ricky had 13 assists and just 2 turnovers. Combine those stats with his 6 boards and +5 plus-minus and he deserves a positive grade even when he scored only 4 points on 1-4 shooting.

Coach Adelman yanked Rubio after an unnecessarily fancy pass in the 3rd Quarter, when the lead was shrinking. After the game, Britt Robson asked Coach if the flashy mistake was the reason for the immediate hook. Adelman replied, “We’ve been talking to him all the time about there’s a time and a place to attack the basket. And I think we were up 15 or 16 points up at that point, got the ball, and it’s one on five. And the chances are that nothing good’s gonna come out of that. Make them guard us for 20 seconds. Know the time. Know the score. And that’s just something he’s got to learn; when to pull it back. I was gonna take him out anyway for a blow, but that sealed it.”

It has become clear that Adelman and Rubio are not always on the same page. Ricky handles his late-game benchings with class, which comes as no surprise to anyone who has followed his career. And tonight, I should add, Ricky played down the stretch over Barea. But there are both stylistic and substantive reasons for the times Adelman chooses JJ in crucial situations and the quick hook after the turnover tonight was yet another message, even if a more subtle one.

But all things considered, Ricky played well tonight in his 31 minutes of action.

Kevin Martin: B+
K-Mart had 32 points and 4 assists. He’d get an A, but for the 26 field goals he chucked up to get his points, and his constant reluctance to seek *real* contact, especially in transition. Martin is a really soft player, but when he hunts his jumper like he did tonight, he can be pretty effective on offense.

Corey Brewer: C+
Brew found himself tangled up with Nick Young in the weirdest places. Those two were kind of off on their own island for stretches of this game, doing their own thing, while everyone else played 4 on 4. For instance, Swaggy decided to deny Brewer any wing entry passes, all the way out to half court. Nobody was quite sure why, but the strategy paid off when Brew’s frustration boiled over and he was called for an offensive pushing foul. Corey ended up with a respectable 11 points and 3 steals in a mostly forgettable performance.

Kevin Love (saving for last)

Ronny Turiaf: C-
I was going to give Ronny a straight C for basically not being noticeable in this game. But then I saw he was the only Timberwolf (aside from A.J. Price, who played a couple of seconds before the buzzer) who had a negative plus-minus (-4). Ronny was active trying to protect the basket, as always. And he helps in that way. But he didn’t seem to provide much else tonight, and the Lakers scored a lot while he was on the floor (d-rating of 126.4; by far worst on the team), so his defense wasn’t even all that helpful.

Bench

Dante Cunningham: B+
All in all, a pretty solid Dante Cunningham performance. He only shot 2-7 from the floor, but he pulled down 9 rebounds in 24 minutes and teamed up with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Gorgui Dieng for a stretch of terrific second quarter defense that helped build the biggest lead of the night. Adelman seemed pleased with all three players after the game, as he should have been.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute: B-
LRMAM was stuck on Nick Young for a few plays, which seemed like a good idea, because Swaggy shoots a lot and LRMAM contains scorers. Except that nothing Swaggy does makes sense. ESPECIALLY his shot selection. He scored a time or two on Luc on shots that would’ve been unstoppable if defended by a Ron Artest/Dikembe Mutombo hybrid. The good news for the Timberwolves and 28 other Laker opponents is that Swag, well, does a lot of other stuff in games. And it ain’t all good stuff.

J.J. Barea: B
This feels weird to type, but… pretty solid-not-spectacular JJ performance tonight. He scored 11 points on 8 shots, and dished 4 assists to 1 turnover. Not much else to say. He played well. He posed with little kids who wanted pictures in the closing seconds of the game. Contrary to his on-floor persona, JJ (every time I’ve ever seen him) is one of the more fan friendly players this team has had.

Gorgui Dieng: A-
GORGUI!

Gorgui played extremely well for 8 minutes before getting blasted by an elbow to the cheek, causing him to leave the game. He scored 4 points on 1-1 field goal shooting and 2-2 foul shooting. (His free throw form looks really good for a shot-blocking big man. I’m sorry if that’s revealing my prejudice toward the foul shooting of shot blockers. Actually I’m not sorry. Moving on.) Gorgui pulled down 3 boards, blocked a shot, and registered 2 steals in that short time frame. The team was a +15 while he was on the floor; by far the best on the team. I don’t THINK it’s hyperbole to say that he was a key factor in the Wolves getting this win. Or at least a key factor in the Wolves comfortably getting this win.

After the game, Adelman joked about how Gorgui needs experience, not necessarily to learn how to play, but to learn how to make friends with the referees so they don’t call bullshit fouls on him like they did tonight. (I’m paraphrasing.) Great to see the rook play well when given a chance.

Chase Budinger: B
Chase made one really nice play tonight. With former Wolf Wes Johnson defending him he faked a straight cut off a screen on the perimeter and back-pedaled off it, walling off Wes on the flare screen and freeing himself for an open three. Which he swished. Barea would benefit from playing with better cutters so he doesn’t have to do all of the work, so much of the time.

Back to Kevin Love…

Today was a big day for Kevin Love in a big moment in time for Kevin Love’s career.

Let’s begin with the moment point. It’s February, which means the trade deadline is only a few weeks away. Everyone knows about Love’s Kahntract situation. It expires after next season. The next few weeks, then, mark the last opportunity the Timberwolves have to get reasonable value for Love in a trade. Not for dollar for dollar — that is not going to happen — but maybe $0.65 on the dollar, instead of the pennies they’ll get if they’re forced into a sign and trade in 2015. (If those are still legal in the new CBA?) When Bill Simmons guaranteed last year that Love would be traded, I blogged about it.

My basic conclusion was that if the Wolves know — or strongly suspect — that Love will leave in 2015, then the decision whether to trade him now or not depends on their standing in the West. If they are firmly inside the playoff picture (I used 10 games over .500 as an estimate) then they should keep him and just have two good years before he leaves. The franchise would really benefit from that. But if they are on the outside looking in, then they should probably trade him much the way Utah did with Deron Williams in the same general contract situation.

Well, the Wolves are 24-24, and chances seem pretty high that they are not going to make the playoffs. By my analysis from last year, the decision depends on what the team knows about Love’s intentions. I obviously don’t have that information and I doubt anyone else outside of 600 1st Avenue does either.

But there was some evidence today, via a Timberwolves Press Conference, that Love still considers Minnesota home and has no plans to leave. The team announced plans to partner with the Mayo Clinic in renovating the defunct “Block E” — Downtown Minneapolis’s Walking Dead zone — into a team practice facility. Love was apparently heavily involved in the process leading to the new venture and he’s excited about the new building. He even mentioned how it will help attract free agents, signaling a vision toward the future.

This is far from a guarantee that Kevin Love will sign another contract with Glen Taylor and the Timberwolves. But if we are going to parse the remarks he makes to Adrian Wojnarowski and use them as evidence that he plans to bolt at his first unrestricted opportunity, then we should also consider this development as a positive sign.

The truth is we have no idea. I don’t mind discussing it because I enjoy hypothetical trade discussions. It’s part of being a fan.

But getting back to tonight’s game and Kevin Love’s big day.

Love was an absolute warrior in this game tonight, and by far the game’s MVP. He scored 31 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and dished 3 assists. He got slapped, scratched, elbowed and undercut, but kept right on ticking. Dr Lawyer Indian Chief summed up Adelman’s response to all the hits Love was taking, playing him 41 minutes despite the injuries and tomorrow’s game versus the Thunder on the horizon:

https://twitter.com/DrLwyrIndnChf/status/430904018379223040

Adelman was asked after the game if he’s worried about “what will be left” from Love tomorrow.

His answer was awesome in the most Adelman way:

“No, I don’t. This is a game we were playing tonight. 40 minutes is really not that much. We’re gonna need some guys tomorrow is what’s gonna happen. But if you start subbing, counting on – what do we got, 4 games in 5 nights – and you let a game like this slip away, then where are you?”

I criticize Love more than some that cover this team. I used to think he held the ball too much and spent too much time on offense trying to draw cheap fouls. He’s gotten better at that and is now a good passer. Sometimes, he forfeits layups too easily on defense, reluctant to take any fouls.

But it’s pretty hard to hold anything but admiration and respect for Love when he plays like he did tonight. It’s rare to find any player willing to take those hits for 40 minutes. There is no other player in the entire league who is willing and able to take and deliver hits like that around the basket, and combine that effort with elite skills like three-point swishes, 18-foot bank shots, and nifty backdoor bounce passes from the high post.

Simply put, this was yet another game that the Wolves won largely on K-Love’s back. So…

Kevin Love: A+

Season Record: 24-24

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1 Comment

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One response to “Wolves Report Card (WOLVES 109, Lakers 99)

  1. Nathan Anderson

    Kevin Love! What a joy to watch that man play the game.

    I was telling my dad the same thing you closed with. No other player takes the abuse K-Love does inside and expends as much effort scoring both inside and outside (post ups, 3 pointers, offensive rebounds, drives to the basket).

    Durant has it easier. James has it easier. (Note: they are both *better*). Both those guys work hard, but the physical toll of playing inside and bringing the diverse offense is more brutal than playing elite perimeter defense, (i.e., James).

    If Kevin Love had arms that were each 3 inches longer he’d probably also be a defensive freak (blocking shots and shit). To the simulation!