With the announcement that J.J. Barea will not play (pulled hamstring, likely to return on Sunday versus Dallas) in tonight’s game versus the Miami Heat (7:00 CST, Target Center), I wanted to take this bit of time to write a letter, in (deluded) hopes that you’ll read it and apply three basic tactics to tonight’s game and every other performance in the future. You may already know this, but Timberwolves fans have largely written you off as a draft-day bust. Despite being drafted fourth overall, you’ve set yourself on a performance track that will send you to Europe (if you’re lucky) within a year or two.
I held strong as an APOLOGIST of yours for over sixty games last season. But your lack of improvement and inability to do anything with the ball in your hands eventually wore even me out. J.J. Barea now looks like the team’s best backcourt player. He has a resume’ that includes impacting the NBA Finals from the shooting guard position. BUT– J.J. isn’t playing tonight, so there’s no better team for you to showcase talents (that you were supposed to have when you were drafted) than the Miami Heat.
The three keys:
1) Focus on defense. Entirely. Many, perhaps most, NBA players are heavily-geared toward one side of the floor. What made Michael and Scottie special was that they were the best at both ends. That isn’t you, and it never will be. Join the masses of NBA rotation players who specialize in things. It just so happens that you find yourself on a team in desperate need of help on this end of the floor, particularly a player with the (potential) versatility that your LONG AND ATHLETIC frame allows. Think about tonight’s game: the Heat have the best shooting guard and small forward/player in the world. You may very-well defend both of them, at different moments. If you focus 90 percent of your mental and physical energy on defensive tasks, you just might help your team and show your fans and coaches something they’ve been waiting to see: upper-level perimeter defense.
2) Run the floor. I’m sure you’ve noticed that you’re now surrounded by teammates that can create easy baskets for others. When a shot goes up, and you see that Kevin Love has or will soon have the rebound, take off running. Fans can all agree that you’re a wonderful dunker of the basketball, and K-Love outlets are a great way to get one or two of these easy buckets. ALSO– you may have noticed the Spanish point guard on your team who seems nothing short of obsessed with creating dunks for his ‘mates. Take advantage of this! Everyone else is doing it, and if you don’t join in soon you’ll get left behind or traded to Detroit.
3) Use a triple-threat position. Now we’re getting technical, but no worries: this is something many are taught in the junior-high ranks. I have no doubt that you can master the art of holding the basketball in a way that threatens the defense with a pass, shot, or dribble. Let’s begin with what you usually do when you catch a pass on the wing. Many times, you’ve got a move made up in your mind before you catch a pass. Depending on the player and the level of competition, that can be okay. But for your purposes, let’s not do that. To adopt a cool quote from one of the coolest ballers in history, let’s instead mimick Earl the Pearl Monroe: “The thing is, I don’t know what I’m going to do with the ball, and if I don’t know, I’m quite sure the guy guarding me doesn’t know either.” Just catch the ball with a freed mind, and use your instincts. If there’s a defender in the viscinity, spread your feet and use a jab step. DO NOT do what you often do, which is stand tall with your feet close together and your weight on your toes. This leads to you leaning (the top half of your body, anyway) to one side, losing your balance, and either traveling, dribbling off your foot, or heaving up an errant shot. I can’t tell you how easy it would be to defend these plays when you show your hand the instant you catch the pass. Ask Rob Pelinka to send over as many Kobe tapes as he has in his archives. Kobe’s the best in the world at the triple-threat. You need the ball either swinging through in a way that threatens a shot or drive, or held lower (like Michael Beasley often does–he’s good at this) in a way that seriously threatens the dribble. A rocker-step move would do wonders for your game, but just holding the ball correctly would set you on the right path. Maybe one day you’ll bust out some moves like The Pearl and wonder how any of it happened.
Good luck out there tonight,