If the choppy Charlie Bucket photoshopping doesn’t make clear, I’m not devoting much time to this. The draft lottery. It’s tonight. 7:00 on ESPN. Kevin Love will be there, representing the Wolves. I’d guess that Adam Silver or some Ernst & Young executive will announce the results around 7:30.
The reason I’m skimping on the LOTTERY PREVIEW is that it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the Wolves will pick 9th (81.3 percent chance) or 10th (12.2 percent chance). Who knows, maybe that will be a blessing in disguise? The high end of the lottery has not been very kind to Minnesota. The highest pick in team history, Derrick Williams, was chosen 2nd and will probably not be an NBA starter next season, his third in the league. Third overall, the team has selected Christian Laettner and O.J. Mayo. One never played for the Wolves. The other, well, we wish hadn’t. Fourth overall the Wolves have taken Donyell Marshall and Wesley Johnson. Bust, and… major bust.
[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.
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.
David Kahn: Back in the saddle for at least one more season
Ric Bucher reports the Wolves are set to extend David Kahn as POBO for at least one more season. And no, Flip Saunders didn’t turn down the Gophers coaching gig because he’s already secretly agreed to replace Kahn at 600 1st Ave:
Latest on Flip Saunders and Minnesota Timberwolves: source says David Kahn’s position as GM is secure and that the one-year option on his contract, if it has not been exercised already by the TWolves, will be shortly.
via Ric Bucher’s post on Basketball | Latest updates on Sulia.
What does this mean? More below the fold.
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?
Jrue Holiday and the Philadelphia 76ers come to Target Center tonight
Tonight it’s back to the grind. The Philadelphia 76ers come to town for a 7 PM (FSN) tilt at Target Center.
The 76ers are 22-29 on the season, 6-16 on the road. If the season ended today, the Sixers would be the 9th seed in the East. They’re sniffing the playoffs. Every game matters.
The Wolves are 19-31, and 12-13 at home. They’ve lost 16 of their last 19. The playoffs are pipe dream, but the Wolves are still trying to win now – no one’s calling in the tanks yet. A deal before Thursday’s trade deadline does not appear imminent. But you never put it past Wolves POBO David Kahn to find a way to move pieces. (We floated this on Twitter earlier today for fun, and it provoked some, errrm, “strong” reactions (here, here, here.)
What does this mean for tonight’s game? We’re not looking at a Battle of the Titans, but we are looking at a couple of relatively evenly-matched teams. Both teams have stuff to prove. It’s a winnable game. It will be fun.
So who are these 76ers I speak of? Continue reading
The Wolves’ hipsters take on Thunder’s hipsters tonight in OKC
The Wolves got a nice win over Atlanta last night at Target Center. Tonight they have the Thunder, in Oklahoma City, on the wrong end of a back-to-back against the team with the second-best record in the NBA. As nice as last night’s tilt was, the Wolves are in for a long night if they aren’t ready from the get-go tonight.
The Thunder are really good (26-8). They have freak athletes (see Westbrook, Russell; Ibaka, Serge; and, of course, Durant, Kevin). They don’t have James Harden anymore, but they do have a former Mr. Efficiency, Kevin Martin, whom they received for Harden and who missed the last game OKC played against Minnesota, when the Wolves beat the Thunder 99-93 in Minneapolis on December 20th in one of the signature wins of the post-Garnett era.
Could Kevin Love occupy a season on another team’s bench after the trade deadline?
Kevin Love: 2012-13 Return Uncertain
Wolves fans learned today that All-Star forward Kevin Love may miss the rest of the 2012-13 season.
How big is the loss? It’s hard to say. Love missed the Wolves’ first nine games with a broken hand and the Wolves went 5-4 record. They were 9-9 in games he played after he returned November 21st, and they’re now 1-1 since he exited the lineup January 5th. So in terms of the W-L column, the team has been basically the same with or without him.
But the W-L column aside, one thing is for certain: Kevin Love did not play well in his limited time in the lineup after returning from breaking a bone in his hand while doing knuckle pushups under the supervision of his personal trainer in his downtown Minneapolis condo.
You don’t need stats to describe what was before every observer’s eyes: in his brief foray back, K-Love couldn’t shoot. He couldn’t run the floor. He stopped the ball too often.
Love just wasn’t the same guy we came to like last season. He was out of shape. He was disgusted with the team. He may have been – and may still be – jealous of Ricky Rubio.
Love just never came ready to play after the Olympics. That was definitely his best 2012 moment, unless you count his co-starring role as “Wes” in a great commercial with Kyrie Irving.
On and off the floor, it was pretty much a perfect storm of crappy-ness. This was a wasted season for Love, and one that should have been his time to cement his claim as the game’s best power forward.
Now, there’s another question looming: should the Wolves trade Kevin Love? Possibilities below the fold..
1. Kevin Love broke his hand. Again.
This was the big news to hit Twitter in the hours leading up to the game. Kevin Love had an MRI exam done on his right hand and it showed that he re-fractured the same bone that he previously broke during the preseason. Given that Love came back earlier than expected from the last fracture injury and never regained his shooting form (or anything remotely close to it) I think it’s fair to expect the team to take better caution this time around. Love’s latest injury could likely be a fatal blow to the Wolves’ playoff chances. Even if the team can hover around the .500 mark, they’ll do so while watching competitors like Houston (20-14), Denver (19-16), and yes, probably the Lakers (15-17) claim ownership of those final spots with records 5 to 10 games over .500. Portland, currently 18-15, could continue to look like a playoff team, but I personally don’t think they’re that good. One high ankle sprain to Nic Batum or LaMarcus Aldridge (or Wes Matthews or Dame Lillard) would probably mean a losing streak for the shallow Blazers roster. In any case, the Western Conference is loaded and Kevin Love playing so few minutes of good basketball this year is going to keep the Wolves out of the playoffs, barring a major surprise.
2. Blazers Shooting
Last night Portland attempted 24 three-point shots and made 16 of them. 48 points from downtown on 66.67 percent shooting is going to mean a win for almost any team against any opponent. Some of them were open, but that happens. The three-point line is never covered perfectly, and certainly not against a team that also has a matchup problem in the post like LaMarcus Aldridge and a capable playmaker like Damian Lillard. In his press conference, Adelman first pointed the finger at his own team’s lack of effort but then conceded that Portland made just about everything. Damian Lillard’s threes (3-5) were tough to stop because they came off the dribble. Wes Matthews’ threes (5-7) were tough to stop because some were ridiculous fade-aways. Nic Batum’s threes (5-6) were tough to stop because he’s 6’8″ and releases the ball high without even a split second of hesitation.
“I think Minnesota at times plays better without Love.”
-George Karl, following last night’s Wolves-Nuggets game.
It didn’t take George Karl’s comments to detonate the nuclear bomb of Kevin Love derision that followed last night’s surprising win at Denver. This is 2013 after all, when public opinions bare in a matter of seconds. By the time an NBA coach finishes a post-game presser (let alone by the time his remarks are published by the Star Tribune) fans have already had it out on the interwebs on whatever the night’s hot issue. Last night, the Timberwolves rallied to overcome a 10-point deficit and win at Denver; a place only the Miami Heat had left victorious before. Kevin Love became a hot-button issue because his third quarter hand injury coincided exactly with the moment the comeback began. In other words, it looked like they were going to lose before Love got hurt and left the game. And then they won it without him.