Today’s news that JJ Barea’s contract will be bought out is not surprising, but it is also not insignificant.
Barea struggled last season and played his worst basketball in years. Not only were his numbers down, but his style of play was extra disruptive. And for J.J. Barea, that is saying something.
Slotted next to the passive and overwhelmed Alexey Shved, J.J. took ball dominance to levels previously unheard of. To watch the six-foot combo guard (presumably measured in platform shoes) attack five waiting defenders all by himself was sort of like witnessing a train wreck while at the same time listening to nails on a chalkboard.
Well… except for the times that it actually worked, and he scored. This didn’t happen enough to carry the Wolves lackluster second unit, but when J.J. would herk and jerk his way into the lane, intentionally bounce off of a power forward’s body, and drop in a floater off the glass, fans would just shake their heads. Partially in wonder and amazement, and partially in resignation that by succeeding now he would only be encouraged to try it again next time. Continue reading
Chauncey Billups, Suited Up. (Photo credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
The Wolves lost to New York on Wednesday night 118-106. The Knicks seized the initiative right away, and the game was only really close after an 8-0 run in the third-quarter brought the Wolves to within three, with the ball.
On the ensuing possession, Kevin Love got the ball on the block against Tyson Chandler and shot an ill-advised jump hook airball. It was a look Love has made plenty this season, including against solid defenders who are longer than he is.
But on Wednesday it was emblematic of his struggles to establish himself as the purveyor of the game. Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler instead did that.
Neutralizing Kevin Love
You see, Love typically sets his self apart from the competition each and every night, doing things in quantity and quality that have almost never been seen before. Usually when Love steps on the court, “u alreddy kno” who it is, to paraphrase famed Canis Hoopus commenter MAYNHOLUP!, because of Love’s dizzying barrage of three-point shooting, outlet passing, offensive rebounding, high-low feeds, foul draws, and, yes, jump hooks. There might not be a more unique player in the NBA – including LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
If in most games, Love stands out like the unique superstar he is, in the New York game, he blended in – in the wrong way – like the role player his critics expected him to be when he came into the League.
Okay, so there’s a bunch of stuff to review. Let’s cover it by way of an INBOX to flesh out some of the ideas and knowns and unknowns.
First, let’s briefly cover last night’s game. I’ll pass the torch to you for first reactions.
Last night’s game at Atlanta
Andy G: First reaction would be that last night’s game is a microcosm of the Kevin Love Era of Timberwolves basketball. Love put up Chamberlainian NUMB#RS in a losing effort to a “decent” team. No exaggeration here: Love dropped 43 and 19. In a loss. To the Hawks.
I’ve seen this movie before. It’s not a good movie.
So yeah, #fml.
The Wolves aren’t very good defensively. (Duh.) Yeah, they’re smart about not fouling too much and their efficiency stats are pretty decent. (They remain 11th ranked in the league.) I tried to think of a way to capture what I feel like is the truth (the Wolves stink on defense, despite the overall efficiency metric that says otherwise). The best I could come up with is to filter by 4th Quarter defense in losses. The Wolves have too many blowout wins (and almost no close wins) to make their fourth quarter performance a reliable measure of anything. But they have 24 losses in 47 games, and a great deal of those were games that the Wolves *could’ve* (should’ve?) won.
By that measure (fourth quarter defense in losses) the Wolves rank 23rd in the NBA with a defensive rating of 114.5. (In those 24 games, their fourth quarter offensive rating is 100.0.)
Last night, the Wolves scored a ton in the fourth quarter. 38 points. That should’ve been enough to come back and win, but they allowed the Hawks — THE HAWKS! — to score 34 in the same period.
I don’t have it in me to dig into more detail than that. The roster just isn’t built very well, right now. There are too many one-way players. I’m not even sure there’s a single “two-way” player on the team. That makes it hard to win against good teams, or build anything resembling a sustainable formula for success.
So, there’s more to it than that – what of the Adelman-Rubio-Barea dynamic that’s been overshadowing backcourt rotations lately?
Kemba Walker has the (second) meanest crossover in the East.
Your Minnesota Timberwolves will be playing basketball tonight against the Charlotte Bobcats at Target Center. Tip is at 7 P.M. CST. The game can be seen and heard through the usual channels.
The Wolves are coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night at home. Former Wolf Gerald Green–a longtime Punch-Drunk Wolves favorite–hit the game-winner on a tough baseline jumper with seconds remaining.
One question to ponder after the Phoenix loss is whether the Wolves have chemistry problems. (Eds. Note: No, not the Breaking Bad kind of chemistry problems, at least that we know of.)
Tempers flared on Wednesday after Rick Adelman pulled J.J. Barea with 8:07 to go in the 4th quarter. Barea, a player whose passion and intensity run so thick that they’re palpably evident even in pre-game warmups–the sideline-to-sideline defensive shuffle-suicides J.J. does each night as part of his pre-game ritual is all you really need to see–was visibly upset and stormed off the court, cursing in at least two languages. (Eds. Note: Barea was in fact cursing in three languages, if you count Spainglish.) The next thing you know, neither Barea nor Dante Cunningham joined the team huddle during a timeout.
Kevin Love, the team’s best player by orders of magnitude and an League-wide MVP candidate, didn’t appreciate Barea and Cunningham’s lack of team spirit. But Love himself was moody, and it doesn’t take a trained psychologist to deduce that Love appeared to be projecting frustration with his own sub-par performance onto Barea and Cunningham.
Love is serious about his image and is protective of his NUMB#RS. This video is by now a cliche, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t mean anything.
Kevin Love’s image took a hit on Wednesday night’s loss. In one of the Wolves’ few nationally-televised games of the season–Love played downright bad basketball and looked nothing like an MVP candidate. In fact, Love’s performance was sub-par on both ends: he shot 4-20 from the field, and got lit up by Suns three-point specialist Channing Frye after repeatedly failing to close out on Frye three-point attempts. Love’s failure to close on active shooters like Frye and Ryan Anderson is not a new phenomenon, and is one of the few aspects of his game for which he can be legitimately criticized and for which he is not called out enough by writers, many of whom give him the benefit of the doubt because they love Love for his fat stats.
The Wolves play at Philly tonight. I’m sure everyone involved is happy to be outside of Minnesota where the temps are so cold that the Governor canceled school (and apparently Minneapolis has already done the same for tomorrow). The game is at 6:00 CST and can be seen on FSN and heard on 830 WCCO.
Let’s preview this one in INBOX format.
ICYMI: The Internet Video of the Year
In the words of legendary Canis Hoopus commenter MAYNHOLUP, “u alreddy kno” this is classic material: It pretty much captures everything one needs to know about “Good/Bad J.J.,” without needing a single word of explanation to accomplish it.
This is why we love the Interwebz.
(Big ups to Steve McPherson and Anthony Bain, who made the dream real.)
Enjoy the game tonight.
It’s a great relationship with Mark Cuban. If they want to bring me back to Dallas, I am very [good] with it. But I’m happy in Minnesota. They’re the ones that wanted me there, the ones that signed me for four years, so until they decide to trade me, I’m going to give them all my effort in the games.
–J.J. Barea to Gonzalo Aguirregomezcorta of ESPNDeportes.com
Type in “J.J. Barea trade rumors” into Google, and stuff comes up:
Signs point to a strong likelihood of Barea playing for a different team in the 2013-14 season: