Tag Archives: Nikola Pekovic

Reality Check in OKC: THUNDER 106, Wolves 84

1. Excuses

The Wolves had plenty of them.  Coach Rick Adelman remained away from the team, for the second consecutive game, for undisclosed personal reasons.  Without more (or any, really) information, I won’t comment other than to say I hope everything is okay with the Adelman Family and he comes back soon.  Along with Adelman’s absence was the continued loss of Chase Budinger and Kevin Love.  Love indeed does need to have surgery and the expected recovery time is 8 to 10 weeks.  That means roughly 30 games.  That means the Wolves need to figure out an alternative path to the playoffs that they have explicitly labeled as the team’s 2013 destination.  J.J. Barea also sat out tonight with back spasms.  You might recall that he dominated the 4th Quarter of the Wolves recent win over OKC.  Along with absent players and coaches was the simple fact that the Wolves traveled last night and were playing on 0 nights rest.  Their opponent, who also happened to be the best team in the conference, had not played since Monday; a night they lost to the lowly Wizards.  Oklahoma City was certain to come out looking for blood in tonight’s game.

All of this is to say the Wolves were not favored to win.  The excuses were built in.

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Wolves Beat Suns, Beas is Schwag

Wes Johnson Jerseys: Worthless? Or just worth less than they used to be?

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:

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Unarmed (CLIPPERS 101, Wolves 95)

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…

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Timberwolves – Nuggets Preview, or When Manimals Attack

Andy G and I are exhibiting withdrawal symptoms after a multiday layoff from Wolves hoops. That should be fixed soon. Here’s what we’re thinking heading into tonight’s game.

Another thing: Punch-Drunk Wolves is at full strength tonight in the flesh. I’m in town for the holiday and about to head over to 600 1st Avenue.

Box Out

A fatal mistake of the Wolves in Friday’s game against Golden State was a failure to box out and prevent second-chance points. The 17 offensive rebounds pulled down by the Warriors were key in staving off a last-ditch comeback effort. Tonight, the Denver Nuggets come to town with a league-leading average of 16.8 offensive boards per game. Kenneth Faried in particular has been a beast–or MANIMAL, I should say–in attacking the glass, averaging an absurd 6.9 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes. If the Wolves want to win tonight, they need to get stops–which, against Denver, means working on the glass after forcing the missed shot.

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INBOX: With Pek’s emergence as a great center and DMC’s continued problems, is the 2010 Draft validated?

30″ x 22″
mixed media on paper
painting by Holly Grimsrud

Andy G: SCENARIO: You just pressed rewind all the way back to June of 2010.  You are David Kahn and you possess the rights to the fourth pick in the NBA draft.  You have two choices.  Draft Wesley Johnson out of Syracuse or DeMarcus Cousins from Kentucky.  You cannot draft any other player and you cannot trade the pick. Oh, and most importantly, you have all the benefit of hindsight from mid-November 2012 going backwards. What do you do?

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Half & Half: A 2-Part Game Wrap (Wolves 90, MAVERICKS 82)

In the interest of getting some much-needed, early-in-the-week sleep, I’m doing this wrap in two parts–first and second half splits.  So the first half is being written at halftime.

1st Half Notes

The first half–and especially the first quarter–was dominated by the Wolves two best healthy players: Andrei Kirilenko and Nikola Pekovic. [Eds note: In hindsight, I should not have phrased that sentence that way. More on that in the 2nd Half.]  Pek showed off a move that he’s clearly been working on with Coach Billy Bayno, the standard jump hook.  He buried three of these with his right hand in the opening quarter and finished the half with an impressive 13 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists.  It’s hard to understate the importance of this new skill, because as defenders become forced to defend it honestly it will open up his go-to favorite, the drop step.  We’ve seen Pek taking a hard right-hand dribble into the paint when defenders cheat to his right (baseline side/left block) shoulder and try jump hooks.  He makes them sometimes.  What we saw in the first half tonight was on the right block–more of a standard post hook.  Pek improves at things.  That’s mostly a credit to him but also to Rick Adelman’s coaching staff.

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Bullish Defense (BULLS 87, Wolves 80)

Bo Ryan’s face while watching tonight’s beat-em-up halfcourt struggle in Chicago.

Without Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls are the NBA’s Wisconsin Badgers.  There are no elite athletes or SportsCenter top plays.  Just execution and defense.  They set big screens.  They use most of the shot clock.  They talk on defense.  They rotate on defense.  They push people around in the lane.  At United Center, they push people around without fear of hearing a whistle blown.  The pictures are not pretty, but the final score is in Chicago’s favor.

All of those qualities were on display in Chicago tonight as the Wolves fell to the Bulls 87-80 in a game that felt neck-and-neck until Marco Belinelli (of all people) caught fire in the early part of the 4th Quarter.  The Italian shooter made three treys in the first 2:05 of the fourth, extending a 4-point lead to 9.  A 9-point deficit to the Bulls in Chicago might as well be 30.  Everything felt like a struggle from that point forward–and that’s just me watching on the couch.  I can’t even imagine how Dante Cunningham and Derrick Williams felt when Taj Gibson was swatting their shots into the third row.  Gibson is truly an incredible defensive player.  So is Joakim Noah, who also passes at an elite level and even showed off some fancy footwork on the block.  The game-clinching play was when Noah did an Al Jefferson-like array of pivots that eventually left Nikola Pekovic in his dust as he laid in an easy two.

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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.

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Back to Target Center

Alexey Shved makes his Target Center debut tonight versus the Chicago Bulls.

Thank God that the short window of nice Minnesota weather is behind us and we can get back to our usual routine of spending 1 or 2 nights per week inside Target Center watching the Wolves, amiright?  The fun parts of preseason are seeing the new faces and looking for signs of change, good or bad, that could impact the team’s chances at regular (and post!) season success.  Two years ago at the home preseason debut, I was taken by how big and athletic Michael Beasley was, and the ease with which he could rise up for clear looks at the basket.  Though Beas has enough weaknesses to offset this strength, it has been one that serves him well in giving his team a scoring punch.  This was evident in a single viewing of a game that didn’t actually *matter*.  Last year was Ricky’s debut.  We did our best to temper enthusiasm, but the passes he was delivering were unlike anything we’d seen.  Ricky had eyes on all sides of his head, it seemed.  Like with Beasley’s dribble jumpers, Ricky’s passing wizardry carried over into the real games and he’s now one of the league’s most marketable young stars.

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Preseason Game 1: Wolves vs. Pacers, Fargo-Style

Pek will happily run any Pacer through ye olde wood chipper!

It’s on. It’s what you’ve all been waiting for. Twolves. Pacers. 7:00 tonight. Fargo.

Fargo, baby, Fargo!

Pek and his wood chipper. K-Love and Danny Granger getting chippy. Paul George’s defense.

No TV or radio, so you’ll have to keep ‘specially close tabs on Mark Remme & the carrier pigeons Andy G and I deployed to the Fargodome to bring you the latest news and analysis.

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Looking at the Wolves Offense, Part II: Interior Scoring

Pekovic plays the post like a Boss

Last season the Wolves offense was often out of whack, and it was usually blamed on poor wing play. But their interior play was also spotty. Nikola Pekovic’s emergence was a revelation, but Darko Milicic’s stinky jump hook almost canceled out Pek’s brilliance. Mike Beasley tried at times to play around the hoop, and he never managed to establish and maintain that part of his game.

What will the Wolves interior offense look like this season? In Part I of our series on the Wolves offense, I looked at three-point shooting. Now, in Part II , I look at the Wolves’ interior scorers to see how things might unfold in 2012-13.

The player-by-player rundown is below the fold.

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Top Wolves Questions Heading Into Training Camp, Part I

What will David Kahn do next??

With training camp just around the corner, there are a bunch of top-level questions that remain unanswered as October 2nd approaches. There’s been a ton turnover on the roster, and many players’ roles are anything but clear. Long story short, the team’s success this season will likely hinge on the answers.

In a two-part series, I look at the ten questions I think are most important heading into the 2012-13 season. More below the fold.

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J.F.KAAAAHHHHHNNNNN!!!!: An inappropriate comparison of Presidents and situations

This coming October marks the 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when President John Kennedy was faced with fresh knowledge of missile bases in Cuba.  (Yes, I know I’ve now begun consecutive posts with “anniversary” sentences.  Don’t ask me.)  JFK quickly assembled a panel to meet in secret and decide on appropriate measures.  The three basic choices were an airstrike on the weapons base, a full invasion of Cuba, or a naval blockade.  After days of debate and internal struggle, Kennedy decided against an attack on Cuba, instead opting for a naval blockade.  This was against the overwhelming consensus of his panel which included officials of intelligence, military and finance.  Kennedy’s primary concern was that an attack on Cuba would be met with a nuclear response on Berlin, commencing an all-out nuclear war in Western Europe and possibly America.  The prez’s decision could not have been more correct, as the blockade prompted talks with Khrushchev that resulted in the removal of weapons from Cuba.  In his recently-published, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, Chris Matthews explained:

It was later learned that the Soviets had deposited in Cuba a disturbing cache of nuclear weapons in early October, well before the Kennedy administration had the photographic evidence that spurred it into action.  There were ninety nuclear warheads in all.  Thirty of them possessed sixty-six times the explosive power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.  There was an equal number of warheads with the firepower of the Hiroshima atomic bomb, plus an assortment of other, smaller ones.

Matthews, Chris. Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero. Simon & Schuster, 2011 (p. 317-18).

Matthews then quotes from Nikita Khrushchev’s memoirs:

“If a quarter or even a tenth of our missiles survived–even if only one or two big ones were left-we could still hit New York, and there wouldn’t be much of New York left.  I don’t mean to say everyone in New York would be killed–not everyone, of course, but an awful lot of people would be wiped out…And it was high time that America learned what it feels like to have her own land and her own people threatened…

The Americans knew that if Russian blood were shed in Cuba, American blood would surely be shed in Germany.”

(Matthews, 317-18).

Kennedy’s foresight, courage and restraint prevented nuclear war and preserved world peace.

So what the hell does this have to do with Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations, David Kahn, you ask? Continue reading

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Some notes on a Wolves win

1st Quarter Notes:

  • Pekovic going right at Greg Monroe in the early going, racks up a handful of quick baskets.  On the other end, Detroit color guy says Monroe will be able to take Pekovic off the dribble.  Not so; Pek cuts him off the only time he tries.  Pek finishes the quarter with 11 points.
  • Tayshawn Prince, who would seemingly be tired of playing for loser Piston teams after playing for SIX consecutive teams that made it to the conference finals or beyond.  He’s schooling Wes right now.
  • Randolph with 5 energy points and 5 rebounds in the 1st.  Missed some wild shots, though — needs to calm down when he’s holding the ball. Continue reading

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Millsap’d Again (JAZZ 111, Wolves 105)

When Paul Millsap missed a wide-open layup as the regulation buzzer sounded, it looked like the Wolves might actually steal this one from the Jazz.  They had trailed Utah 92-80 with only 4 minutes to go before pulling off a miraculous comeback to force overtime.  After a Pekovic basket tied the game with 0.7 seconds left, the Jazz ran a brilliant out of bounds play that nearly ended the Wolves hopes with a heroic shot.  Instead, Paul’s heroics would come from steals in overtime (8 total for the game!) that sealed a win that Utah probably deserved all along.

Things were actually looking good for the first part of overtime.  Wes Johnson (after a HORRENDOUS first four quarters of action) hit a pair of jumpers and pulled down a tough rebound, and had the Wolves leading 105-103 with 1:31 to go.  But, the next Wolves possessions were as follows:

* With game tied, Luke Ridnour pass stolen by Paul Millsap.

* With Wolves down by 2, Martell Webster misses wide-f***ing-open corner trey.

* With Wolves down by 4, Paul Millsap steals ball from Kevin Love.

Each blunder was followed by Jazz points.  Each blunder was inexcusable.  So it goes.

A whole bunch of bullets:

* Ridnour, that last turnover notwithstanding, made A LOT of nifty assists in this game.  He seemed to look for Pekovic frequently and found him rolling or sealing at the right times.  Luke finished the game with 13 assists.

* Anthony Randolph Sighting!  AR15 had 5 points and 3 steals in 12 minutes off the bench.  He took the ball hard to the basket twice in the second half, each time not getting a call that could have been made.  His biggest weakness right now is the rotation of big men that lie in front of him on the depth chart.  All things considered, his play isn’t that bad.  Those that incessantly rip on this guy are off base to some extent.  Sure, his decision making will leave you shaking your head at times.  But that happens with every player.  Every other player doesn’t get you 17 & 8 per 36 on 50 percent shooting and hyperactive defense.

* Speaking of AR15 getting minutes, Coach went 10 deep tonight despite Mike Beasley being out with a sore toe.  This cut deep into D-Thrill’s minutes.  The rook played 16 total, while Randolph and Tolliver each played 12.

* This was Kevin Love’s best game of the year against Paul Millsap and the Jazz.  But that isn’t necessary saying much.  He took 23 shots to get his 25 points, numbers not befitting of his renowned efficiency.  In three games versus Utah, he’s shooting just 29 percent from the field.  Still, he did plenty of good things in this game (like pull down 16 rebounds) and can hardly be blamed for the result.

I’ll wrap this up with a brief take on the trade deadline (in)activity.  The rumor mill had me and everyone else convinced that Mike Beasley was headed to Tinseltown in a three-teamer that would bring back two-guard chucker, Jamal Crawford.  Jamal has plenty in common with Beasley as a jumpshooting player.  One notable difference is that while Beasley at times seems conflicted about gunning, Jamal is unapologetic and perhaps unaware.  He just chucks.  And chucks.  Would he have helped this team?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I have no idea.

But the reason that the deal did not happen is that one version had Portland requiring Luke Ridnour to come their way.  If you have watched Luke play this year, you realize that this would not be a good thing.  The other version had us taking on Derek Fisher’s contract, adding over $3 million to next year’s payroll.  No thanks.  There are legitimately-good wing players available in this coming free agency.  Ray Allen, Eric Gordon, O.J. Mayo, Nic Batum.  I don’t know which the Wolves prefer most, but I have to believe they’ve got eyes on those guys and want as much dough as possible to toss their way.  With Ricky out for this season, a rash decision to run at the 8-seed–particularly one that might not even be an upgrade over what Beasley provides–would have been a mistake.  No trade was fine with me.

Season Record: 22-22

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INBOX: Target Practice, the Pau and Monta Edition

THE PAU GASOL IDEA


RUMINT has it that the Lakers would throw in Pau's Ed Hardy shirt for a conditional second-rounder, which Kahn demanded as a part of any trade

Patrick J: With all rumors swirling around Pau Gasol, the only thing for a hard-up blogger to do is fire up the good ol’ trade machine.

Wolves get:
Pau Gasol
Darius Morris

Lakers get:
Michael Beasley
Derrick Williams
Wes Johnson
Luke Ridnour

In this two-team trade, the Wolves’ lineup would look something like:

PG – Rubio
SG – Barea
SF – Webster
PF – Love/Randolph/Tolliver
C – Gasol/Pekovic
6th man: Pekovic

The Wolves end up with a Pau, Ricky, K-Love core. Barea and Webster are arguably upgrades over Johnson and Ridnour as starters at the 2 & 3. Pek is a matchup nightmare against opposing teams’ second units. We still have one high-upside enigma with Anthony Randolph. (One’s enough, right?)

An elephant in the room common sense question is whether the Wolves would be competitive in a Pau Sweepstakes.

John Hollinger’s (Insider) column suggests the answer may be no:

“It’s not hard coming up with dance partners, that’s for sure. Send him to Houston for Luis Scola,Goran Dragic, Marcus Morris and Chase Budinger, and the Lakers suddenly fill four rotation spots with one deal while saving several million on luxury tax; deal him to Indiana for David West,George Hill and Dahntay Jones and you accomplish a similar feat. These aren’t the only possibilities; one can build similar trades with several other teams, ones that don’t bring back a talent on Gasol’s level but plug so many gaps that it may be worth it anyway.”

Can a Williams/Beasley/Ridnour/Johnson package compete with Scola/Dragic/Morris/Budinger or West/Hill/Jones? We know the Rockets really want Gasol, and that’d be a pretty strong offer. What do you think?

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Mile Low (NUGGETS 103 , Wolves 101)

Tonight was a weird, weird, game. The play was rough and sloppy. The Wolves lost in OT.

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JRUBIO (WOLVES 92, 76ers 91)

Jrue Clownin'

Tonight’s matchup with Philly turned into an interesting contest.  It was interesting because a near-capacity crowd showed up on a Sunday night even though the Sixers don’t have a “superstar” talent that typically draws big attendance.  It was interesting because it was very close for nearly the entire game.  It was interesting because Jrue Holiday and Ricky Rubio are each fascinating players in different ways.  And it was interesting because the Wolves won by a single point, in somewhat bizarre fashion.

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Two for the Money (Wolves 111, HOUSTON 98)

The human head weights 8 pounds. Pek's head weighs 18 pounds. (Photo courtesy of Bleacher Report)

In a comment yesterday, I said the Wolves hadn’t really owned a game since their last victory over Houston. They broke that streak Friday night, again against the Rockets, in a 111-98 victory in Houston.

Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love were the big stories.

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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

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