The news of Chase Budinger’s knee aggravation and need for surgery brings two cliches to mind:
“Here we go again,” and “Things will work themselves out.”
We’ll take them one at a time.
“Here we go again…”
I hardly need to explain this one. Budinger missed 59 games last year due to a torn meniscus. His teammate Kevin Love, All-NBA the season prior, missed 64. Ricky Rubio missed 25 and had to play his way back into shape after ACL reconstruction. Andrei Kirilenko and Nikola Pekovic missed 18 and 20 games respectively. I suppose I should also include Brandon Roy, here. For a minute, we talked ourselves into his comeback tour. It lasted five games before the former Blazer great called it a career.
In short, what many expected to be the team’s first playoff appearance in years turned into a 31-51 season of medical updates and frustration.
With just a few days remaining before media day (Eds note: I’m excited to make my inaugural media appearance on Monday.) and the start of training camp, this Budinger news carries an inescapable sense of doom-and-gloom, in light of everything that went down a season ago. Let’s hope it’s the only setback the team faces in the season’s early stages.
“Things will work themselves out.”
Alexey loves the land of 10,000 (frozen) lakes. It’s like Moscow.
Alexey Shved: Minneapolis is Moscow and Moscow is Minneapolis and I like Moscow so therefore I like Minneapolis
Andy G: Amid all of the
pre-draft Playoffs craze, we haven’t devoted nearly enough (any?) attention to our favorite Timberwolf, Alexey Shved.
For some background, in case anyone forgot, here is the best visual representation of how Shved met “The Rookie Wall”:
It was tough to watch, both as a fan of Shved the player, and the Timberwolves team. His off-season will be as important to the team as anything it does in the draft or free agency. The team needs help at shooting guard in a bad way, and Alexey has had/might continue to have the opportunity to make the job his. He just needs to get [a lot] stronger and more consistent with his jump shot.
He gave an interview in Russia recently, which was partially interpreted in a Canis Hoopus thread by commenter RussianBeesnyestEenterest.com (I love that moniker, btw.) Shved had this to say about his rookie season, and hitting the rookie wall:
“I was not able to sustain that level of play for the season – mainly because it was very tiring. Other players also warned me that could happen to me. Avoiding these slumps was not possible though. Playing 82 games in five and a half months – that’s quite a prize (ironic). It is, for example, possible to have 5 games in just 7 days! And if the coaching staff gives you 25 to 30 minutes of playing time it is very hard to give them good basketball until the end of such a stretch. At the end of the day I had very pleasing games and very unpleasing ones. It gave me experience. And for next season, I will know what to expect right from the start. Of course I will work to ensure that I will play much more consistently.”
Importantly, he goes on to say that he’s returning to Minnesota on June 25 to work individually with the team on his off-season program.
[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.
Why hasn’t Alexey Shved played more point guard this season?
Andy G: First things first: The Wolves won by 31 points last night. On the road. On the tail end of a back-to-back. That never happens. I guess I should mention that it came against the Phoenix Suns and — unlike the last time the Wolves played (and lost) in Phoenix — it wasn’t a WESLEY JOHNSON REVENGE GAME. (Wes shot 2 for 12 from the floor.) I’d ask for your thoughts on the game, but I doubt yours are any different than mine, which could be summed up as: Nice to get a win, nice to see Chase Budinger contributing right away, but Phoenix is horrible and we’re in the thick of Tanking Season. If any of that is incorrect, let me know.
Patrick J: Ditto. We like those wins, and as much as that, we like how the team performs so far with Chase on the floor. Granted, they aren’t playing worldbeaters – SAC and PHO are peer teams at best – but still, you see the potential there. It’s almost enough to make me wish I knew how it looked at full strength, with Kevin Love on the floor. But not quite. We’re in the dog days of the season, writing posts that feature Youtube vids of our favorite college prospects whom we’re watching in the NCAA tourney, and are far, far, far from playoff contention. Do you agree that you’d rather K-Love stay away the rest of the season so as not to risk reinjuring his hand, or (let’s just assume this for a fun hypothetical), do you want to see him return so we can see whether a healthy Wolves squad with a few rusty pieces can compete with the Murderer’s Row schedule they have coming up?
David defeated Goliath last night. Goliath wasn’t at full strength. It was down 3 of its 4 best players.
But that doesn’t really matter right now. Not for the Wolves. It was a good day.
Ricky Rubio showed why people are all jazzed, and always have been all jazzed, about Ricky Rubio.
Ricky being Ricky
That GIF says a 1,000 words. Rubio was great. He f*cked around and got a triple-double. Ice Cube would’ve been proud. Punch-Drunk Wolves sure was.
Tonight, the Wolves play Indiana. They’re real good. Real good. And unlike the Spurs, Indy isn’t sitting three of their top players. Frank Vogel would be happy to eat your heart and mine.
What to know about the Pacers game tonight? Andy G and I break down a few key factors in this INBOX post.
UPDATE (3/12, 12:24 PM): Dan McCarney is reporting that Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard didn’t make the trip to Minneapolis.
Spurs @ Wolves. 7 PM. FSN, 830-AM. Boo-yeah.
The Wolves take on the Spurs tonight at Target Center. On paper, it looks to be a lopsided affair. The Wolves are 21-39. They have lost consecutive games by over 20 points. The Spurs are 49-15. They just beat OKC by 12. Two games before that, they beat Chicago by 18.
The ray of hope for this one is that SAS is not invincible. Dame Lillard & co beat them 136-106 in San Antonio on March 8th in the worst loss of the extremely long Tim Duncan era. Can the Wolves shock the world tonight? If I knew the answer, I’d be on a flight to Vegas, not writing this.
That said, things look grim. The Blazers are fighting for the 8th seed in the West. The Wolves are, well – depending on how you judge incentives – fighting for a respectable finish or a higher lottery pick. One thing they’re decidedly not fighting for is a playoff spot.
Which isn’t to say that they aren’t playing hard.
Anyone who’s been watching knows Ricky Rubio is setting an example that good players on bad teams ought to be required to follow. The energy and leadership Rubio displays nightly is a model for other NBAers to follow (even if his jump shot isn’t).
It has come to this.
Wolves @ Portland. 9 PM CST. CH. 29 (830-AM). Kaboom.
Coming off a 116-94 beating in LaLa on Thursday night, the Wolves close out their West Coast tour tonight at the Rose Garden as guests of the Portland Trailblazers and VULCAN INC. [Has there ever been a more evil-sounding company backing a pro sports franchise? Seriously, just hearing VULCAN(!) gives me shivers, especially when I then think about Paul Allen terminating GMs like they're Al Qaeda's #3. VULCAN!]
The Blazers haven’t been winning. Since beating the Wolves on February 4th, they went on a seven game losing streak before getting a win last Sunday against Boston. In all, they’ve lost eight of their last nine. But like the Lakers, the Blazers are fighting for a playoff slot in the West. Another thing they share in common with the Laker is that they ALWAYS beat the Wolves – Portland has won 20 of the last 22 contests versus the Wolves. So despite the dry spell, the Blazers should be ready to go tonight.
The Wolves? Maybe, maybe not. Continue reading