Talkin’ Flip Saunders Blues

PI-NBA-Flip-Saunders-081414.vresize.1200.675.high.67[Eds note: We reached out to FreeDarko author, Timberwolves fan, and friend of the blog, Dr. Lawyer Indian Chief to engage in some TWolves discussion on the topic of his choosing. The email exchange started on 1/25/15, so some of the stats have inevitably changed a bit. Also, Rubio has returned and the Wolves are playing better. But nothing has materially altered the opinions expressed here. Enjoy.]

DR LIC

I guess the question I’ve had is that EVEN if you give [Flip Saunders] a full mulligan on this year, and even if you give him a full pass on the record given its youth and injuries, is there anything that he has shown you that feels like a net positive?  I really can’t think of anything, but you know I’ve long been a Flip-detractor.  Maybe I’m biased?  Maybe the fact that Bazz and Wiggins have improved is something? But how much of that can really be credited to Flip?

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The Michael Beasley File: Dispatches from Shanghai

Michael Beasley played this season with the Shanghai Sharks, which are owned by former NBA great Yao Ming.

Michael Beasley played this season with the Shanghai Sharks, which are owned by former NBA great Yao Ming. Delonte West (right) was also on the Sharks roster.

Vice Sports published an epic meditation today on former Timberwolf Michael Beasley’s season in China. Beasley, who played for Miami last season and spent (literally not much more than) a hot minute in Memphis before being waived and inking a deal with Yao Ming’s Shanghai Sharks, had an interesting season.

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Some Questions about Rubio’s Return

Like everyone else, Ricky wondered why the Seahawks didn’t hand off to Lynch for the Super Bowl-winning touchdown. Tomorrow night, he returns to action against the Mavs.

On Saturday evening at Target Center, Ricky Rubio went through what must have been the most watched individual practice session of any basketball player, this year. Working with special coach Mike Penberthy, about one hour before tipoff versus the Cavs, Ricky shot threes and dribble jumpers before a surprisingly big crowd, for such an early time. This was because LeBron James was in town and, perhaps more importantly, because it was #TheReturn of Kevin Love (and Mike Miller!).

The Wolves had a huge crowd that showed up early, and Rubio was going through a workout on the game floor while his teammates and opponents were getting dressed in their locker rooms.

He was going full speed, and making a lot of shots. His form doesn’t look great, but it does look improved. There is some visual evidence, for those of us who have been able to watch him in these non-televised moments, that he is improving as a shooter. Just not any data. Yet.

That changes tomorrow, when he returns to game action. The Wolves play at Dallas against the Mavs, and Ricky will be playing. Apparently he’ll be under a minutes limit for a while, presumably because he’s not in regular game shape. Who knows how much he’ll play at first (maybe 25 minutes?) but any amount of Rubio action is cause for excitement for this win-starved team that has lacked floor leadership since his injury way back in early November.

A few questions to consider with Ricky Rubio returning:

* Will the Wolves play better?

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Waiting for Wiggins: Day 20 of 30

Andy G:

Rather than write about Love again, I’m just reblogging this one from back in July. It looked back on what I’ll remember most about Love’s time in Minnesota. It’ll be fun to see him play again, tonight.

Originally posted on Punch-Drunk Wolves:

Wiggins-Calendar20

I suppose one of these posts should be about Kevin Love.

He is the centerpiece of the Wiggins trade after all; at least in one direction. Love is also the second greatest player in Timberwolves franchise history and one of the ten — maybe 4 or 5, depending on who you ask — best in the league, right now.

But I don’t feel like writing about how great, or not, that I think Kevin Love is at basketball. Too many people (including me) have spent thousands upon thousands of words doing that for the past six years. He is, as Bill Simmons pointed out in his lengthy Friday column, an unusually polarizing player. At this point in his career, Love is probably most closely identified with disagreement.

Along with that polarizing nature and in some cases in cause of it, here are a few things that I will remember…

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How Will the Wolves’ Improved Health Affect Shabazz Muhammad’s Role?

kevin-martin-23-kevin-love-42-shabazz-muhammad-15-and-nikola-pekovic-14

Kevin Martin Returns from Injury

Kevin Martin came back to the lineup last night in the Wolves’ victory over the Boston Celtics at Target Center. Martin had 21 points in the win and felt like a spark plug for the team, even though his +/- rating was -3 for the night. (Eds. Note: A fairly meaningless statistic in a single game, especially when close to zero.) I dislike Martin’s style and defense, and his fugly-j, nerdy, weak, aesthetic. But Martin did what he does–score–and the Wolves won. That’s what matters.

Martin was excellent off the bench. A sixth man role might be the one he’s best suited for in the future–if he’s ever going to play an key role on a high-end contender, that is.

Pekovic Also Returns, Thaddeus Young Moves to Small Forward

The recent lineup changes are not limited to Martin’s return. Nikola Pekovic, another of the team’s season-opener starters, is back. This is more unexpected and, frankly, better news.

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Wednesday Jottings

Happy Hump Day, Timberwolves fans. Your favorite team will look for its eight win of the season tonight in its game against the Boston Celtics, the 45th of this season. It should be a winnable contest against a Celtics team that fields fewer bad players than the Wolves, but no good ones either. They’re 16-27 and have traded away their two best veterans, Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green. At Target Center, the Wolves should have enough pride to expect a win, or at least a game that goes down to the wire.

Rather than dig into the details of this late-January matchup of lottery-bound rebuilders, I felt more like discussing different things I’ve come across in NBA news and writing over the past few days; some of it Wolves-related, some not.

* Wolves whiffing on Whiteside

I might as well start right here at Punch-Drunk Wolves, where Patrick J wrote about Hassan Whiteside, the current buzz of League Pass; specifically how the Wolves failed to spot a talented, available big man from the free agency scrap heap when Nikola Pekovic was first declared injured and instead Jeff Adrien was pursued and signed. Pat specifically mentioned the relationship between Flip Saunders and Adrien’s agent, perhaps suggesting that the marginal roster decision was made for reasons other than merit. Whatever reasons were behind the Adrien pickup, we know they had nothing to do with long-term potential because he had none of it. And Whiteside did.

I understand the rebuttal to this, because it’s pretty simple: The Wolves missed on Whiteside along with the other 28 teams who failed to sign him when he was available. Props to Miami for finding him and having the proper infrastructure to tap into his enormous talent. He had a points/rebounds/blocks triple-double on national TV on Sunday.

Another rebuttal point could be that the Wolves have enough “upside,” between Zach LaVine, Anthony Bennett, and even Glenn Robinson III. (I leave Andrew Wiggins out, because he’s already pretty good and not a clear-cut “project.”)

But newer readers may not be aware that we’ve both been big fans of Whiteside — or at least “the idea of Whiteside” — for a long time, even devoting a short post to him in August 2012 when there were some rumors swirling that the Wolves might have interest in bringing him in.  I just did a quick “Whiteside” word search in my email inbox, and the list of hits was long, going back over three years. So it wasn’t just after-the-fact, hindsight-is-20/20 for Pat to write that. Whiteside was blocking shots like whoa in his first, abbreviated NBA stint, and his physical tools didn’t disappear in his time away from top-notch competition. If you read his post in full, it’s not like he was crucifying Flip for missing on this, but just acknowledging that the Wolves have been rotating new anonymous big men in all season, and none of them was the available guy who is now dominating the Eastern Conference.

* Lorenzo Brown: a point guard at last! Continue reading

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How the Wolves Whiffed on Whiteside

Hassan Whiteside

Hassan Whiteside

How Things Went Down

Here’s a little chronology for y’all. (Eds. Note: Warning: The following contains Wolvesian content that may not be suitable for perma-optimists.)

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