Tag Archives: Derrick Rose

Bull Fight (The Wolves-Bulls Edition)

It is Nikola Pekovic's job - it's his vocation - to wipe smiles like Joakim Noah's from opposing centers' faces.

It is Nikola Pekovic’s job – it’s his vocation – to wipe smiles like Joakim Noah’s from opposing centers’ faces.

Following a disappointing loss in Portland on Saturday evening, the Wolves (21-22) continue their four-game road trip tonight in Chicago (22-21). Tip is at 7:00 P.M. CST. The game can be seen on NBATV and heard on WCCO 830.

Derrick Rose won’t be walking through that door. (Eds. Note: He might limp to that bench, I’m not sure. Key thing is, he isn’t playing tonight or for a long time.) Neither will Luol Deng, or even Kirk Hinrich.

But beating the Bulls tonight will require the Wolves  to play top-level basketball. The Wolves haven’t beaten the Bulls in a very long time. Last season, Chicago swept the season series against the Wolves for the fourth straight year. They’ve now won seven straight against Minnesota.

And despite being decimated by injuries, the Bulls are perhaps the NBA’s hottest team that no one really cares about.

The Bulls are tied for the League lead in January wins so far, going 10-3 in 2014. They’re 8-3 since trading  Luol Deng earlier this month in what appeared a clear towel-throwing move.

But the Bulls keep winning. Because Tom Thibodeau.

Remember when I said Derrick Rose, Lu Deng, and Kirk Hinrich won’t be walking through that door? That doesn’t  matter. Thibs keeps the engine running on overdrive no matter what lineup he can put on the floor.

A few things stand out for tonight’s game.

Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under Previews, Timberwolves, Uncategorized

Sunday Post: Weekend Split, Superstars Injured & How Opponents are (and are not) Scoring

Weekend Split: A Friday Win & Saturday Loss

The Timberwolves won on Friday against the Nets and lost on Saturday against the Rockets, continuing an early season trend of winning at home and losing on the road. (The Wolves are currently 6-2 at home and 2-5 on the road.) The weekend split also reinforced a growing body of evidence suggesting that the Wolves will end the season very close to the cut line of Western Conference Playoffs inclusion. As things stand, the Grizzlies are 8th in the West; the Wolves 9th.

Friday’s game seems like a great win because the Wolves won by 30 points against a team that had Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson and Kevin Garnett playing. But it wasn’t a great win as much as it was a terrible loss by the Nets who turned in such an embarrassingly unprofessional effort. Any of the league’s other 28 teams would’ve defeated Brooklyn on Friday.

Saturday’s game seems like a bad loss because Houston was without superstar guard James Harden, yet controlled the game from start to finish. There weren’t many moments when a Wolves win seemed likely, if even possible. But it wasn’t a bad loss as much as a combination of a “schedule loss” (The Rockets were at home and hadn’t played since Wednesday. The Wolves played Friday and obviously had to travel.) and an unlucky night to play against reserve guard, Aaron Brooks. He had barely seen the floor this season, but the Harden injury gave him a rare chance. Brooks made the most of it with 26 points in 25 minutes. He was 6-7 from downtown. If Brooks plays his usual game — whatever that is exactly — the Rockets may still have won, but the game would have been competitive.

Friday Injuries

Panic spread around the NBA world on Friday night when three marquee players went down with scary injuries. In a matter of minutes, my Twitter feed announced a(nother) possible ACL tear for former MVP Derrick Rose, a non-contact knee injury for Defense Player of the Year Marc Gasol, and a hamstring injury “with a pop sound” to Warriors linchpin Andre Iguodala. If every injury realized its worst-case potential, the 2013-14 season would be damaged beyond comprehension. In the case of Rose and Gasol, they are unquestionably the best players on their teams that are gunning for a title in pure “win now” mode. Iggy is new to the Warriors, but his defensive chops and impeccable fit with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have given the Dubs a title-contending look that doubles as the league’s most watchable brand of ball.

Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under Timberwolves

Preview Post: Wolves vs BULLS

Joakim Noah leads the Bulls tonight against the Wolves

The Wolves play the Bulls tonight. The Bulls aren’t the same without Derrick Rose.

They struggle to create their own shots.

But they’re still 3-2.

The Wolves are in a similar situation without Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio – their core.

They’re 4-1, after some inspired play last night and in other games.

Continue reading

Comments Off

Filed under Timberwolves

INBOX: The Trade Speculation Edition

An impossible dream?

 

Q: How about this: Derrick Williams and Nikola Pekovic for Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza? The Wolves need a shooting guard. Pek is playing out of his mind. Williams still has the reputation value of a #2 pick. Gordon is pissed about being traded to New Orleans and has only played 2 games this year, with a “knee contusion” that wasn’t really a contusion. He’s probably not even injured. Trade machine says it’d be legal. Why don’t both teams help themselves and do this deal?

- Andy G

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Timberwolves

SAVE THE CENTER: A Rule Change That Should Actually Happen

George Mikan, Minneapolis Lakers

Kyrie Irving is a 6’3”, 191 pound point guard who left college after his freshman season at Duke to declare for the NBA Draft.  Having played only eleven college games, and without any of the special physical gifts that made scouts’ mouths water over Derrick Rose and John Wall in previous years, the Cavs selected Irving first overall to be the cornerstone of Dan Gilbert’s Post-Decision Rebuilding Project.

Irving’s rookie season and NBA career are off to a wonderful start.  The Cavs are noticeably improved (6-7 at this point), and he’s averaging an efficient 18 points and 5 assists per contest.  Only he’s no lock for Rookie of the Year, even if he can continue this pace.  That’s because Ricky Rubio happened. Rubio is the buzz of the basketball world due to his style and incredible ability to impact games as the Timberwolves’ floor general. Last year, Rubio couldn’t get anything right in Spain. Now he flourishes night in and night out against the best players in the world.

A month or two before David Stern (or was it Adam Silver–I’ve tried to permanently erase all memories of these suits since the LOCKOUT) called Irving’s name in New York, Derrick Rose–another 6’3” guard barely old enough to get into Chicago bars–won the league MVP for leading the Bulls’ revival from his spot at the point. The Bulls won 62 games last year, in large part due to his offensive dominance.

Irving, Rubio, and Rose are not alone in succeeding to improbable levels at point guard in the NBA.  John Wall, drafted first overall a season before Irving, had a dynamite rookie season for the Wizards and has the look of a future All-Star.  Philadelphia (10-4) is a dark horse title contender, starting 21-year old Jrue Holiday at the point.  The 11-4 Atlanta Hawks are starting a 23-year old, Jeff Teague, who was barely drafted in the first round.

Jrue Holiday...really?

Do a quick scan of every team in the league and ask yourself if any DOES NOT have a good point guard.  Sacramento?  Maybe, but only if Tyreke doesn’t qualify for the position.  The Lakers and Heat?  Perhaps, but they’re so stacked at the wing that having a point who dribbles a lot would be more of a hurt than a help.

So, all of these great point guards… does it reflect something nation or worldwide about basketball interest, and an influx of newly-20-somethings that have been dedicated to hoops?

If that were the case, wouldn’t there be a similar phenomenon amongst the bigs, too?

It isn’t.

Dwight Howard is the only center in the NBA who can fairly be categorized as a “superstar.”  And he isn’t a star for his offense.  Last season, his seventh as a pro, Howard averaged a career-high 22.9 points per game.  The only other centers who played in the All-Star Game (Tim Duncan and Al Horford, each of whom started his career in the league as a power forward) each averaged under 16 points per game.

What happened to the 1990s, when centers ruled the league? (Well, other than games that Michael Jordan was playing in.) In different seasons, Ewing, Robinson, Olajuwon, and O’Neal averaged between 27 and 30 points per game.  Today, that simply doesn’t happen with back-to-the-basket players. Shaq, Hakeem, and Robinson won championships; Ewing came preciously close.  Yet Dwight Howard remains ringless.

If the plethora of good points and the dearth of good bigs isn’t a coincidence, then what explains it?

The rules changed.

Instead of “illegal defense” (guard your man or double-team the ball, essentially) defenders would only be restricted to a “three-seconds” rule for situations were they weren’t defending an individual player.  In other words, zone defense was now legal–with limitations–and perimeter players could now hedge down on the post without having to commit a full double team that left their own player wide open for a jump shot.

Why the change?  No need to speculate, there.  NBA Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations explained for us back in 2002:

The illegal defense guidelines needed to be eliminated because they have become problematic. They are problematic for our fans, who don’t understand the rule. They are problematic for the officials, who admittedly have had difficulty administering the rule. And finally, our teams have used the guidelines in a way that produces isolation basketball. Teams identify areas on the floor that they can use to their advantage in a given offensive matchup and this produces a real sameness of play amongst a lot of our teams. With isolation basketball, a lot of our teams began standing around. There is little player movement, there is little ball movement, and there is a decreasing amount of fastbreak opportunities. These developments began with the misuse of the illegal defense guidelines and therefore they needed to be eliminated. By eliminating them, our desired result is to get a game that once again is based on passing, cutting, player movement, and ball movement. A game that hopefully produces fastbreak opportunities because that is the way our game should be played.

Those admirable goals were, in large part, met with the rule change.  But along with the changes were some unintended casualties: namely, most of the superstar centers who used to dominate games with their backs to the basket.  Sure, Shaq won MVP’s and titles with the Lakers, but he was a unique case of overwhelming size and skill that has never been seen before, or since.  Tim Duncan was almost as dominant as Prime Shaq, but much of his play was at power forward, thriving off of a square-up game and bank-shot that is now emulated by fours like Chris Bosh and even Kevin Love.

After the announcement of the rule change, Shaq was asked for his opinion.  All he would say was, “Stinks.”  In the same Sports Illustrated piece, P.J. Brown added, “I don’t think it’s good at all. Zones will bring the games to a grind.”  What he wasn’t taking into consideration were the ever-tightening restrictions on hand-checking that would help make point guard the easiest offensive position in the league.  In other words, the game would only come to a “grind” for posts now facing more defenders from the same island, eight or more feet from the basket.

How many NBA players today actually prefer to score with their back to the basket?  Al Jefferson is probably the best, and it’s up for debate what type of role he can command on a competitive team.  The help-down defense on the strong side, combined with allowing free roaming of the other three defenders, is a strong deterrent to the post moves once relied upon by the best in the game.

Al Jefferson's post game is muted with the current rules

Given that the point guard-to-center exchange rate seems to be approaching 50:1, and there isn’t a single center as offensively-gifted as Patrick Ewing was in an average year, shouldn’t something to be done to remedy the situation and clear the way for some talented bigs (DeMarcus Cousins, Al Jefferson, Roy Hibbert, Greg Monroe) to challenge the sort of impact that Rose and his ilk are making?

Here’s a basic idea that is more-conventional than many rule changes that the most-conservative NBA has made over the years:

NARROW THE LANE.

In 1951, the NBA widened the lane from six to twelve feet.  This change, by no coincidence, occurred during George Mikan’s reign as the best player in the league and a flurry of (MINNEAPOLIS) Laker titles.  In 1964, a different Laker-to-be was dominating the league too much on the interior.  With Wilt dropping 100 on a hot night, the league felt the need to expand the lane even beyond twelve feet, out to sixteen.  Note that zone defense was outlawed back in 1946.  So the compromise was reached.

Defense: You can’t mess with Wilt too much; either a full double team or guard him straight up.

Wilt: Get out from under the damn hoop.  You’re enormous.

This equilibrium lasted for almost 40 years, until Pat Riley’s Knicks started playing clutch-and-grab, hack-a-anybody defense that damn-near carried them to a championship not seen in New York since the seventies.  But while New York is a big market, and the Spike-Reggie Rivalry was high entertainment, the brand of basketball was lacking.  Scoring was way down, players were being rewarded for thuggery under the hoop, and fan interest was deflating fast after the (second of three) retirements of His Airness.

Patrick Ewing going head-to-head with David Robinson

But with zone defense principles allowed for the first time in over fifty years, the league should have reciprocated to the tall folks of the hoops world by narrowing the lane.  Wilt and Mikan (and Shaq, had these changes not happened before him) needed a bigger lane because only one player was allowed to guard them.  In today’s game, posts are faced with defense from all directions.  This isn’t entirely center-specific (can you even imagine Charles Barkley trying to back his man down for 12 seconds with today’s rules?) but the seven-footers of the world are affected the most for two reasons:

* Their comparative advantage (height) is most-negated by being pushed away from the rim; and

* They possess the least ability to dribble with nearby defenders.

If the league narrowed the lane back to 12 feet (same as high school and college) two things would undeniably happen:

* Centers would score more points.  They’d be allowed to establish position closer to the hoop and traditional back-to-the-basket moves, like drop steps, up-and-unders, and jump hooks would all be executed from a reasonable distance.  Rather than having to square up and essentially dribble penetrate from the extended elbow, posts could be posts again.  In the 90’s, Ewing and Hakeem could spend as much time as needed backing down their man to get prime position.  In today’s NBA, there are too many quick hands and sneaky help defenders for the tallest players to be putting the ball on the floor with any frequency.

* Shot Blockers would matter more than they do now.  If Darren Collison and Eric Maynor and Jeff Teague and D.J. Augustine can be solid NBA players, why can’t Hasheem Thabeet?  Why shouldn’t a 7’4″ freak who can bat your weakass shit into the fifteenth row be able to make a living despite weaknesses, the same way a 6’1″ lead guard with court awareness but no value added to league entertainment be able to?  With a narrow lane comes quicker helpside defense.  Shot blocking would be more relevant than it is now.

A narrow lane would not make centers unstoppable.  The best post scorers like Jefferson, Howard, and Bynum, would simply attract more defense and their teams would have to hit perimeter shots to counter.  It’s still the team game and free-flowing concepts sought by Stu Jackson in 2002, just with a fair fight between the less-coordinated-but-mammoth centers and the lead guards that will soon need their own league to employ all capable job candidates.

The NBA has made radical changes to its rules over its history.  Think about the three-point shot.  How crazy would it seem to us young adults (who weren’t around when that change happened) if a four-point shot was instituted for 30-footers?

Is narrowing the lane to a width used at an earlier point in history so crazy?  Do fans simply not enjoy great bigs? Did somebody forget to consult Bill Walton?

One final question:

If the league had to widen the lane when centers become too dominant, shouldn’t it narrow the lane when the position is nearly extinct?

4 Comments

Filed under Features

Enlightening Loss (Bulls 111, WOLVES 100)

Ricky Rubio and Derrick Rose battled Tuesday evening at Target Center. (AP, 1-10-12)

In another hard-fought defeat, the Wolves were actually close to a full-fledged disaster on their hands at Target Center, Tuesday Night.  In front of a capacity crowd and after Coach Adelman stubbornly started the same lineup as in recent games, the game quickly fell out of control.  MVP Derrick Rose made it rain from outside (14 first-quarter points), and the offense could hardly have been more stagnant coming out of the gates.  The score was 51-29 in Chicago’s favor when Kevin Love and Luke Ridnour checked in for Derrick Williams and J.J. Barea.  The following were then on the floor together:

1 – Ricky Rubio

2 – Luke Ridnour

3 – Anthony Tolliver

4 – Kevin Love

5 – Anthony Randolph

Love scored 11 points in the next 2:23, with three treys coming off of nifty Rubio assists.  That pairing is dynamite on pick-and-pop, and penetrate-and-kick sets.  Love was done challenging the incredible interior of Chicago (there is no better defensive front line than Chicago’s, particularly when Gibson and Noah are on the floor) and instead was floating in the right spots where Ricky could fire those one-handed rockets right on the numbers.  But things weren’t done after Love’s triple-three sequence.  Next would be a Rubio-to-Randolph alley-oop that perfectly captures everything about why Ricky is the buzz of NBA talk everywhere.  The crowd was going crazy, the refs were all of a sudden exchanging heimlich maneuvers as they choked on their whistles for about five should-have-been Wolves fouls, and Randolph finished another Rubio dime to cut the once-24-point Bull lead down to 6, at the half.  ORDER WAS RESTORED.  A lineup was established.  That five was (+16) over a 4:50 closing stretch.

Unfortunately for Minnesota on this night, reality would bite in the form of its opponent’s excellence.  Da Bulls are possibly the best team in the world, depending on the health of Dwyane Wade and the chemistry between Westbrook, Harden and Durant.  Chicago plays a brand of defense–both its starting five and second unit–that is probably unmatched across the league, perhaps save the offensively-challenged Bucks of Milwaukee.  In tonight’s game the Wolves not only faced this defensive monster, but also white-hot shooting nights from Derrick Rose (12-22, 31 points, 11 assists) and Luol Deng (21 points, 11 rebounds) and just to remove any doubt as to who would leave Target Center victorious, Ronnie Brewer hit a pair of clutch jumpers, both coming at times when the Wolves desperately needed a stop.  In short, the Wolves took Chicago’s best shot tonight and came up empty.  Whether a proper starting five would change tonight’s result is up in the air.  My guess is that there would have been too much Rose-and-Deng for the young T-Pups to prevail in this one.

Some bullet points:

  • Derrick Rose is more than worth the price of admission.  In my opinion, Rose represents the best of everything about NBA basketball.  He has world-class athleticism and strength and yet is visibly improved–certainly due to his maniacal work ethic–season after season.  His MVP award last year was controversial amongst many experts, particularly those who analyzed it by statistics.  Certainly, the award stemmed from his team’s success which is often true of all NBA accolades.  But make no mistake about it: Rose is the Peyton Manning of that offense.  Every decision and meaningful action starts with him at the top.  He torched the Wolves from downtown in the early going, and then deferred while his teammates took shots.  When the Wolves’ hot shooting and improved defense made the game close, he stepped on the accelerator and every Wolf’s throat with dagger jumpers and crazy-acrobatic moves in the paint.  There is no comparison around the league for a lead guard who can carry a team to victories.
  • Another Derrick–this time Williams–struggled in this game.  He shot 1 for 7 and sort of got away from the catch-and-shoot basketball that has, at times, made him a nice sidekick for fellow-rookie Rubio.  There is no getting around that he is a bit of a “tweener.”  My advice to D-Thrill would be to focus on the Rubioop highlights, and then stick mostly to jumpers where he has advanced skills.  His coach preaches focusing on strengths and simplifying where appropriate.  Derrick should follow those principles.  Oh, and practice free throws.  He’s now shooting about 59 percent at the stripe–barely above his college 3PT%.
  • Anthony Randolph is nothing if not an enigma, but he seems to anticipate Rubio’s… well, anticipation.  More than any other Wolf–and this may be in large part due to his length and ability to catch different passes–AR15’s game is bolstered by Rubio passes.  His (+6) tonight is consistent with his season-long on/off numbers that show his minutes to be the best for the team.  I worry about his head sometimes–he can quickly spiral into crazy play–but his aggressive style and instincts with Ricky are certainly working for the team in the season’s early going.
  • Up next is New Orleans, on Friday Night, on the road.  Eric Gordon has been out with injury, but the Hornets just beat the quality Nuggets without him.  They aren’t to be taken lightly.  PLEASE RICK ADELMAN DON’T PLAY WES JOHNSON OR DARKO MILICIC.  That’s all.

Season Record: 3-7

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized