Wes Johnson Jerseys: Worthless? Or just worth less than they used to be?
Okay, folks, the Wolves are winners again. Hallelujah, rejoice. They beat the Phoenix Suns 111-107 last night at home.
They did it without Golden Boy Ricky Rubio, about whom I’d written a slurptastic game preview, in which I suggested Rubio and Love were/are/will be the keys to the Wolves winning anything significant. Kirilenko, Shved, and Pek are nice bit pieces – nicer than we’ve had since 2004-05 – but they’re dispensible in different ways. Rubio and Love aren’t, unless we’d flip one of them for someone even better. Pau Gasol probably doesn’t qualify, for those of you still fantasizing about a Love-Gasol trade. If you’re reading, that includes you, Kevin Love.)
A few thoughts from last night’s game:
Mike Beasley, suited up like a closer.
The Wolves have lost four of their last five games. They are 3-2 since Ricky Rubio returned from injury. (Ricky sat out against Miami, because it was the second game of a back-to-back.) Rubio’s role is going to get bigger, and soon. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: give the kid more minutes.
He’s the key to our winning. Not JJ, not Ridnour, not Mal Lee, not Brandon Roy. Certainly not Josh Howard, Will Conroy, Troy Hudson, Sam Cassell, or Pooh Richardson. Not Derrick Williams, and not Dante Cunningham.
Ricky. Just Ricky. Throw K-Love in there too.
That’s what the Wolves basically have: two stars. One is still having his minutes limited (he’s now cleared to play 24 minutes, up from 18), basically nullifying his ability to make an impact by doing what he does – help the team win in lots of non-box score ways while on the floor. The other is out of shape and acting pouty and playing poorly.
Neither star is playing well. The Wolves are losing. End of story.
No need to overthink it. It’s great when guys like AK47 and Pek can carry the team to wins, and we love seeing Shved outperform expectations, but that’s not going to be a blueprint for winning in the playoffs. Which is what we want to do.
So what can be done?
When I saw that the Wolves were a 8.5-point dogs, my naive optimism dwindled pretty significantly. Vegas usually knows what’s up. In this case, Ricky Rubio was sitting out. The Wolves were on the tail end of a road back-to-back. Miami was rested. Miami has LeBron James. The Heat are the world champs. After dropping a winnable one last night, this would be a challenge. How’d it play out? Check it out below the fold.
Ty Lawson and the Denver Nuggets take on the Twolves tonight in Minneapolis
One day after Kevin Love’s disgruntled comments about the Timberwolves were published (see Andy G’s and my analysis here), the Wolves play the Nuggets at Target Center tonight at 7 PM CST. Love is expected to be in the starting lineup. Despite the much anticipated return of Ricky Rubio, it currently appears as if that won’t happen for at least a few more days.
So what do we have in store tonight?
The last time Adrian Wojnarowski dished on the Wolves, he was using the news of Rick Adelman’s hire as an opportune time to blast President of Basketball Operations (POBO), David Kahn. Woj found an anonymous league source to tell him how much Adelman despised reporter Kahn some twenty odd years ago when they both worked in Portland.
This conversation was all Woj needed to run wild with a story that’s central premise was simple: Adelman came to Minnesota in spite of, not because of Kahn.
My initial reaction to the story was incredulous: Woj was just using common sense.
The simple facts of Rick Adelman coming out of retirement at age 65 to coach a 17-65 team in the winters of Minnesota suggested to me (naive as I may be!) that Adelman likely did not hate David Kahn. Also, while Kahn’s responsibilities over personnel decisions were almost certain to change (read: decrease) he maintained his lofty title of president. My suspicions were confirmed in the weeks after the story was published when a local reporter (I believe for the Pioneer Press, which does not seem to allow access to old stories on the internet) wrote a piece, with on-the-record quotes from Timberwolves brass crediting Kahn with the Adelman hire. Even if Adelman privately dislikes Kahn, the tenor of Woj’s story was largely discredited if you listen to the participants themselves.
This is context for yesterday’s Woj Bomb about Kevin Love’s salty feelings toward the Timberwolves organization.
But in this case, it only adds context to a limited extent.
That’s because in “Kevin Love unsure about Timberwolves’ future” Woj didn’t resort to anon sources; this time, he had Love himself right on the record. While we don’t have a recording of the entire conversation that perhaps would at least show a few important contextual layers (how were questions leaded, was there alcohol involved, etc.) some of the quotes are unmistakable.
Let’s all hope the Wolves move right past this and Love will come out with some conciliatory remarks about how he is happy with the direction of the team. But in the meantime, it’s a story worthy of at least a reaction.
Mine, then Patrick J’s.
KG played like his prime years tonight, albeit in fewer minutes.
I feel bad for the fans that only tuned in for the second half. After a couple competitive quarters of basketball that left the Wolves leading by 4 points, everything came unraveled for Rick Adelman’s team. Boston turned the halftime deficit into a 7-point lead after three. The third quarter was largely dominated by large Celtic power forward, Brandon Bass, who scored 10 points on 5-5 shooting in the period. The Wolves second unit, that played quite well in the first half, continued the struggles in the early fourth, seeing the Celtic lead extend to 9 points when Love and Pekovic came back in. Those subs didn’t help and the bleeding continued. Profusely. Boston’s lead ballooned to 15. In the first 6:08 of the final period the Wolves managed just 3 points, blending a toxic mix of bricked jumpers, botched layups, offensive fouls and turnovers, and above all else, missed free throws. Despite getting enough defensive stops to hold out a shred of hope through the 6-minute mark, the game was never again a close one.
Rather than harp on everything negative, I’ll start with some praise:
This is an unusually late game wrap for a number of reasons. First, I could not watch the entire game on Friday. My roommate just turned 30, we hosted a little party for that occasion (that later in the night had a chance encounter with Alexey Shved and much of the Wolves roster, which was fun–Shved is a humble dude, very approachable by
losers superfans like myself), and while the game was on, I wasn’t able to pay close enough attention to feel like my game wrap would provide anything very meaningful. Second, the Wolves have three days off between Friday’s game and Tuesday’s matchup with the Sixers (at Philly, 6:00 CST) so I thought posting in the middle of the downtime would be of more value to readers. Third, this won’t be as much a “game wrap” as some observations about Wolves and NBA issues.
Alexey Shved: Starting to make shots, now what’s his ideal role?
The Wolves (6-8) take on the Milwaukee Bucks (7-6) tonight at 7:00 PM CST at Target Center.
Milwaukee started 6-2, and leads the Central Division. But the Bucks are fading, having lost four of its last five game. Having gone 1-6 in their last 7, the Wolves are a half game out of the cellar.
(In case you didn’t know, the West is way better than the East.)
Injuries are again the key story.
Twitter was going wild on the Timberwolves Injury Report front in the hours leading up to tonight’s game at Staples Center. First, the good news:
Such. Great. News. I can’t wait to see Minnesota’s most-entertaining athlete back on the floor at Target Center. Should only be another week or two.
Now, the bad (for tonight’s game anyway):
That hurts. Through 13 games, AK47 is the team’s MVP. Without him, taking on a title contender, on the road, on 0 days rest, is not a winning proposition. But as Chris Berman might say if he were segueing into a game in which an unexpected result occurred, “That’s why they play the games.”
To the action…
The Wolves, coming off a feel-good victory last night in Sacramento, take on the Clippers tonight at Staples. A few things: