The 1994 Knicks were the first NBA basketball team that I can remember caring about. Born in ’82 I was 11 years old during those Playoffs. Minnesota’s team was in its fifth season and won 20 games; this after winning 19 the year before that and 15 the year before that. Kevin Garnett was still in high school, the Wolves were still irrelevant and my increasing interest in basketball — developing mostly at Williams Arena and local high school games that my dad took me to — needed a professional team to latch onto. For reasons I cannot recall, that team became the Knicks.
Derek Harper, the hand-checking, old-school, floor-general point guard, was my favorite player on the team. Again, I’m not sure why that was. His game was effective but — looking back on it, now — boring. His mustache might be considered hipster today but basically just made him look old then. He was old. Having Harper as a favorite player in ’94 would be like singling out Kirk Hinrich or Andre Miller in 2013. But for whatever reason, 11-year old me was a Derek Harper fan.
Almost exactly one year ago tonight, Dwyane Wade chewed out his coach, Erik Spoelstra. Not behind the scenes away from his team or even the media, but in the middle of a blowout, Game 3 loss at Indiana in the second round of the playoffs. Chris Bosh was hurt, Wade was playing poorly, the Heat were about to fall behind in the series, and frustrations grew to a boiling point. After the buzzer sounded and tempers cooled, water was not yet under the bridge. Wade reportedly made the short drive up to Bloomington to consult Tom Crean, his college coach from Marquette (now coaching the Hoosiers). One could hardly do more to undermine or discredit the head coach than chew him out on Primetime TV and then seek guidance — COACHING — elsewhere.
Clyde Frazier and Earl the Pearl
An outgrowth of the sports-fan aging process is the urge to no longer observe in the present, but in historical context where players compete not only against one another but against ghosts that once occupied that field or floor, or others like it. I fell victim to this — if “victim” is the right word — first with Kobe Bryant; basically, freshman dorm arguments about whether Kobe — a champion at 21 — was better than Michael Jordan at the same age. These debates drive a great deal of sports interest. Without narrative, a bunch of strangers running around to throw a sphere through a ring can lose meaning and (gulp) maybe even seem like a waste of time and money.
I hope you are enjoying the playoffs, as I am. Opening Weekend was kind of a dud, filled with high seeds trouncing low seeds. That changed quickly in the Game 2′s. Chicago rallied to win at Brooklyn, splitting that series 1-1. Golden State turned in the best playoff shooting performance since the early 90′s at Denver, evening that series as well. Perhaps the best series “on paper” is Clippers-Grizzlies. We couldn’t have asked for better Game 2 drama that Chris Paul versus Tony Allen at the buzzer.
The playoffs are, as always, the greatest time of the NBA year. But they don’t involve the Timberwolves. Covering the team isn’t so interesting in the weeks immediately following a lottery bound season. So when Bill Simmons, the most famous sports writer in the world, writes unambiguously and emphatically that Kevin Love WILL be traded this summer or next season, I suppose that calls for a RESPONSE POST.
Here’s the full excerpt from Simmons’ Trade Value Column, where he ranked Love 20th in the NBA.
The Wolves bested the two-seed-bound Spurs by 13 points in the season’s final game. Williams led the way again with 21 points. He had a 360 dunk. The team hit over 40 percent of its threes! Even Ricky had it going from downtown, shooting 3 for 5 from distance. It wasn’t too serious of a competition, but Popovich did play his best guys. I didn’t expect that. Maybe he was test driving offensive sets for the playoffs.
They reached 31 wins; the most since the 32 that Kevin Garnett and Ricky Davis piled up in 2006-07, Garnett’s last in Minnesota. Like last season, the Wolves began surprisingly-competitive (this time the surprise was that they were winning without Rubio and Love; last year was surprising just because they were winning, period) and hit a wall. The loss of Kevin Love for 64 of 82 games was too steep a price for the young Wolves to make a serious run at the playoffs. Ultimately they finished either 13 or 14 behind the playing-as-I-type Lakers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the always-tough Western Conference.
Later this week we’ll put together a season recap post that rehashes the highs and lows, surprises both pleasant and disappointing, and looks ahead to the summer and even next season. We also plan on doing some player “report card” posts, reviewing each Timberwolves’ season in better detail. Finally, we’ll post every few days about the happenings of the 2013 NBA Playoffs. Can anyone stop Miami? Or, as Denny Green might ask, should we CROWN THEIR ASS?!
Thanks again for reading this year. The blog definitely gained readership from Year 1 to Year 2 — the readers and especially commenters are appreciated. Tonight Jim Petersen ran through a long list of excellent contributors to Timberwolves coverage — it’s very flattering to be included in his list — and there are even more than he and Dave Benz were able to get to. See our blog roll for a long list. Dating back to Robson’s blog at The Rake, I’ve found blog interaction to make NBA fandom a lot more enriching and enlightening. We’ll keep this going as long as we both feel that way. Thanks again.
Rick Adelman has 999 career wins. Tonight against the Toronto Raptors, he goes for 1,000.
The hopeful headline in tomorrow’s paper will be that Wolves coach Rick Adelman reached the 1,000-win mark. A win over the Raptors would vault Adelman’s already-legend status into another tier, joining the likes of Pat Riley, George Karl and Lenny Wilkins in an exclusive club of longtime winners. Adelman has not had an easy go of it this season due to health problems of his players and, much more importantly, his wife Mary Kay. Whether it happens tonight or some other night soon, it will be a nice moment when he earns his thousandth victory from the sidelines. For more on his impending feat, read Mark Remme’s feature story.
In the game itself you’ll find two similarly situated teams. Both have 28 wins. The Raptors’ 47 losses are one more than the Wolves’ 46. Neither team is particularly good, or terrible, on either end of the floor. Both are just “below average.” Aside from Kevin Love, the key players for each team should be suited up. Not any egregious tanking going on, in other words. The Raps just beat the Wizards by 10 in a showing of winning effort. Jonas Valanciunas is probably their most interesting player (when Kyle Lowry isn’t in his occasional MVP mode, anyway). JONAS! had 24 points on 7 shots against the Wizards. He was drafted a couple picks behind Derrick Williams, if you’re into revisiting those sorts of things. The two might guard each other for a few possessions in tonight’s game.
Hmm, what else? Check out Britt Robson’s case for keeping Chase Budinger at MinnPost. The guys at Howlin’ TWolf are profiling draft prospects. Derek James has a nice one on Ben McLemore who would look mighty fine running the floor and turning Rubio passes into triples. John over at timberpups.com dug up some George Mikan footage. What sticks out, among other things, is how “hands off” the post play is. Incredibly different today. Zach Harper recapped the win over Milwaukee, noting signs of improvement in Ricky’s perimeter jumper. I’ve made my feelings known on that subject (I think it needs major reconstructive surgery, preferably by an expert like Wolves’ assistant coach and shooting legend Shawn Respert) but Zach makes good observations about Ricky being ready to fire and getting enough trajectory on his threes.
That’s about it. I’ll be catching this one in my living room with the benefit of hearing the great Jim Petersen offer his insights throughout. Wolves fans and League Pass viewers are lucky to have such excellent coverage on TV, the web, and radio with Alan Horton calling games.
Let’s go get Number 1,000.
Late in my freshman season in college I was getting some rare playing time during a blowout loss at St. John’s when I found myself defending a two on one fast break. As the three of us approached the basket, me back-pedaling the whole way, the ball was passed high over my head. I committed the cardinal sin of trying to jump up to tip the pass. Next thing I knew I was seeing stars, lying on my back, staring up at the rim — and the bottom of a pair of sneakers dangling over me. I was alley-oop dunked on. Hard. Not [nearly] as hard as that one, but hard enough to knock me on my ass. Drunk college kids were yelling at me. It was embarrassing.
So, Brandon Knight, I guess I’ve “been there bro.” (Just with no Twitter, YouTube, or even 1/1,000,000 of the amount of people watching.)
Knight used the opportunity to show his good sense of humor and humility:
(What a dunk.)
This was the takeaway from last night’s game. Everything else was about as expected. Lopsided loss (21st consecutive to LaLa), another injury to a key player (Pek) and an all around look of hopelessness. I’ll have more tomorrow.
One of these guys could be a Twolf this season.
Patrick J: Pek is back. Shved is back. Rick is back. TP is back (in the bullpen). The Wolves newfound health happened prior to Wednesday’s loss at home against the Clippers. The Clips took apart the Wolves, and did it without Chris Paul.
Tonight the Wolves host LA’s other team – aka The Lake Show – at 8:30 PM on ESPN.
The Lakers are in transition. Kobe’s passing. Dwight’s scoring. Nash is doing Nash stuff. The Lakers have won 3 of their last 4. Things are looking up in LaLa. Still, Gasol rumors are swirling, Ron Artest is still combustible, and no one really knows what all of this means.
You’re the Lakers guy. Walk us through what you expect the Wolves to see tonight from LAL, and then I’ll talk a bit about how I expect us to counter it.