[This is Part 1 of a season review series. This post looks back in time at the season that was. A subsequent post (or two!) will use what we learned this season to take a prospective look ahead at what the Timberwolves should look like in 2013-14 and beyond.]
1. Season Highlight?
Andy G: Win over the Thunder, December 20, 2012
I’ll kick this thing off. The highlight moment of the season is an easy choice for me: the win over OKC on Thursday Night TNT. It was December 20th, Christmas time. Spirits were high with the Wolves moving to 2 games over .500 (the last point in the season in which this was the case) with a 13-11 record. All of Alexey Shved (the lead guard for the Rubio-less portion of the season), Kevin Love, and Nikola Pekovic were dominant. Pek was pick-and-rolling bigger and stronger than the top team in the West could handle. Love spread the floor with three-point bombs, scoring 28 points along with 11 boards and 7 assists (career high?). He was awesome and looked the part of an MVP candidate. And young Alexey Shved was the orchestrator of everything. Pre-ROOKIE WALL Shved was something to behold and legit reason for Timberwolves optimism. His skillset was on display in that win over Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. Shved had a whopping 12 assists that night. Oh yeah, and JJ was GREAT JJ. He killed it during #WinningTime. All in all, that was a major highlight at a point in the season when the team had statewide interest and expectations of a playoff run.
Patrick J: Concur. OKC, December 20th, or “The Proof of Kahncept Game”
The Wolves’ victory over OKC was one the few games this season at Target Center I got to attend–I was back in Minnesota visiting family and had good tickets with Andy G & co to see what I expected to be an overmatched but spiteful Wolves squad take on the best team in the West, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Good JJ came out in full force that night — the goodest JJ that JJ can be. The rest of the team synced that night, the Wolves snapped a long OKC winning streak. Shved was Olympics Shved, Love owned, and it was basically the team we expected to see in 2012-13, minus Rubio. Imagine the potential of that team plus Rubio. I often do, and it’s a pretty amazing highlight given the way things actually turned out.
2. Season Lowlight?
Patrick J: The K-Love/Woj interview immediately prior to Rubio return.
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.
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor did a long interview with Ray Richardson that appeared in the Pioneer Press on Sunday. There’s a lot there, and it’s worth reading in full: Taylor talks about the status of Rick Adelman and David Kahn for next season, as well as how the Brandon Roy debacle has played out.
Yet much of the interview is cryptic, leaving one to read between the lines for meaningful subtext. My takes are below the fold.
A forgettable Target Center finale on a night when many minds were elsewhere, thinking of the victims of the marathon bombing. My only time spent in Boston was for, of all things, Pat’s wedding a couple summers ago. Thoughts are with the families of the injured and fallen.
The game tonight was not good. Utah took control early, let up a couple of times, but mostly dominated throughout. They won by 16. The closing moments had Wolves fans chanting M-V-P for Chris Johnson, in obvious jest. Al Jefferson and Mo Williams took turns dominating the low block and perimeter, respectively. The Wolves couldn’t defend Jefferson without a full double team. Another former TWolf, Randy Foye, looked much better than his opponents, chipping in 14 points.
Ricky Rubio shot the ball terribly. Derrick Williams played okay (18 points on 7-13 shooting) but didn’t dominate. He never does. Next highest in the scoring column were Dante Cunningham (12) and J.J. Barea (11) who barely hit double figures. For consistency’s sake, the Wolves shot 2 for 17 from downtown. It wasn’t pretty.
The Timberwolves split their weekend back-to-back; games 79 and 80 of this 2012-13 season that reaches its final pages this week. On Friday they narrowly lost at Utah to a Jazz team desperate for wins, one game behind the Kobe-less Lakers in the pursuit of the
opportunity to be swept by the Thunder or Spurs eighth seed in the Western Conference Playoffs. I missed that game. The box score tells me that Al Jefferson had 40 points, 16 rebounds and 6 assists. I bet that was fun to watch for Big Al fans like myself.
We interrupt our ordinary coverage of
meaningless late-season Wolves games with the earthshaking news out of Los Angeles:
Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles tendon and may never play another NBA game.
Just typing that sentence feels outlandish.
Kobe drove left on Harrison Barnes and went down in a heap. On replay the foot plant looked innocuous. Social media commenced a hunt for blame. Mike D’Antoni and the NBA schedule were the chief suspects. Kobe had some liability of his own.
Klay Thompson: Not like Mych (but that’s okay)
The Timberwolves were routed 105-89 last night against the Warriors, as the Dubs clinched only their second playoff appearance in 19 (!) seasons. These late West Coast games are wildcards for Patrick J, as they usually start at 10:30 Eastern Time, which is fairly late on a school night. Which is to say, I fell asleep around 10:30 P.M. last night, just before the tip of the Wolves-Dubs game. That’s what League Pass’s game archive is for. I plan to watch the game in its entirety as soon as I satisfy all of the niggling responsibilities today at my actual job here in DC, hopefully as a prelude to staying up late to catch tonight’s Wolves-Clips game live.
Operating on more forgiving Central Time, Andy G took in all of last night’s action. In this INBOX post, he’s going to wrap last night’s game and I’m going to preview tonight’s game, both with a simple “5 things” rapid-fire approach. Enjoy.
What lies ahead for Greg Oden?
In case you missed it, ESPN reported that a Greg Oden comeback tour may be in the works. Oden, of course, had the misfortune of being selected over Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant with the top pick in the 2007 draft – the misfortune being not that Oden earned a lot of money as the #1 overall pick, but rather that he’s had to endure non-stop rants ever since about how the Blazers should’ve taken Durant and how he’s the Sam Bowie to Durant’s Michael Jordan.
That said, Oden had a pretty ridiculously successful run during that period in 2009 (wow, that really was an eternity ago…) when he was healthy. For the 21 games he played in the 2009-10 season Oden averaged just shy of 17 & 13 per 36 minutes. He also blocked 3.4 shots per 36.
I’ve always been forever enamored of Oden’s talent, soft touch around the hoop, rebounding, and, of course, his size. And I’d really like a rim protector not named Greg Stiemsma to take the backup minutes when Pek isn’t out there. (And yes, for the record, this discussion assumes the Wolves match any reasonable Pekovic deal, so we’re not looking at this as an either/or despite the potential salary cap challenges the Wolves will face.
Andy G and I took to the wheel to discuss whether the Wolves – still scarred, certainly, from last season’s free-agent acquisition of Oden’s former Portland teammate Brandon Roy – ought to take a gamble on Oden this offseason, and what they should do with him if they were to acquire him.
One thousand is just one more than 999 and Rick Adelman is no better coach today than he was yesterday. But large, even numbers serve as milestone thresholds that, when reached, afford the opportunity to reflect on all that led up to the achievement. In the case of our coach, that period spans 22 seasons. It includes not only the 1,000 regular season wins, but also 79 in the playoffs. It inevitably includes many losses as well; Games 6 and 7 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals being the most memorable (infamous?) in non-Finals playoff history. Game 6 was the night that Kobe and Shaq’s Lakers shot 27 free throws in the fourth quarter alone, and was later described by referee Tim Donaghy as fixed by a league conspiracy. Game 7 was the night, on Sacramento’s home floor, that Adelman’s Kings were absolutely snake bit while shooting. They were 16 of 30 from the foul line, 2 for 20 from three-point range, and still took the game to overtime when they lost to the eventual three-peat champion Lakers.
It’s difficult for me not to dwell on those losses because I came to appreciate Rick Adelman the Coach during his time in Sacramento. I was cheering for the Kings in that series about as hard as I can remember for any Minnesota team. I even attended Game 3 at Staples Center; a game the Kings won, going away. Why the attachment to a team so far away — at a time when the Wolves were in the middle of the Kevin Garnett Era?
Let me count the reasons.
This’ll be a stream of consciousness post, but with headers!
Last night’s game: Ricky Choked!
Legit basketball was played last night. I’ve written recently about how this is unusual for the Timberwolves in the Spring months and how it maybe even marks a new day. It’s a thin little silver lining to a season lost by injuries. Credit goes to Toronto for winning a game that both teams seemed to be heavily invested in despite its lack of playoff implications. I hadn’t planned on attending it, but got a last-minute offer of great seats behind the visitor’s bench. It was clear from that vantage point how much the Raps players and coaches wanted that win. Kyle Lowry especially.
The high level of intensity provided background for Ricky Rubio’s two trips to the foul line with under two minutes to play. In each instance the Wolves trailed by two points. In each instance Ricky made just one out of two, leaving the Wolves behind by a point. The second instance happened with only 1 second left in the game, which meant that his miss cost the team a chance in overtime.