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?
Hey folks, Patrick J here. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
Game tonight. Here’re the deets: Hornets @ Wolves. 6 PM. FSN, 830-AM.
Given that these game preview posts always include info on where you can see the game, it seems like a fan should never have trouble catching the action. But that’s not the case.
David defeated Goliath last night. Goliath wasn’t at full strength. It was down 3 of its 4 best players.
But that doesn’t really matter right now. Not for the Wolves. It was a good day.
Ricky Rubio showed why people are all jazzed, and always have been all jazzed, about Ricky Rubio.
Ricky being Ricky
That GIF says a 1,000 words. Rubio was great. He f*cked around and got a triple-double. Ice Cube would’ve been proud. Punch-Drunk Wolves sure was.
Tonight, the Wolves play Indiana. They’re real good. Real good. And unlike the Spurs, Indy isn’t sitting three of their top players. Frank Vogel would be happy to eat your heart and mine.
What to know about the Pacers game tonight? Andy G and I break down a few key factors in this INBOX post.
UPDATE (3/12, 12:24 PM): Dan McCarney is reporting that Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard didn’t make the trip to Minneapolis.
Spurs @ Wolves. 7 PM. FSN, 830-AM. Boo-yeah.
The Wolves take on the Spurs tonight at Target Center. On paper, it looks to be a lopsided affair. The Wolves are 21-39. They have lost consecutive games by over 20 points. The Spurs are 49-15. They just beat OKC by 12. Two games before that, they beat Chicago by 18.
The ray of hope for this one is that SAS is not invincible. Dame Lillard & co beat them 136-106 in San Antonio on March 8th in the worst loss of the extremely long Tim Duncan era. Can the Wolves shock the world tonight? If I knew the answer, I’d be on a flight to Vegas, not writing this.
That said, things look grim. The Blazers are fighting for the 8th seed in the West. The Wolves are, well – depending on how you judge incentives – fighting for a respectable finish or a higher lottery pick. One thing they’re decidedly not fighting for is a playoff spot.
Which isn’t to say that they aren’t playing hard.
Anyone who’s been watching knows Ricky Rubio is setting an example that good players on bad teams ought to be required to follow. The energy and leadership Rubio displays nightly is a model for other NBAers to follow (even if his jump shot isn’t).
1. A win! Normally a hard-fought home win over the Wizards in March wouldn’t feel like cause for celebration. But this was — like all too many games this season — an extremely shorthanded Wolves lineup without Andrei Kirilenko, Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Love and Chase Budinger. This collection that trots out Mickael Gelabale and Greg Stiemsma in the starting lineup (and Luke Ridnour starting at shooting guard) should be laughably overmatched. But they play hard and, for the most part, make the best ball decisions within their abilities and tonight that was enough for a win. The Wizards aren’t so bad anymore, either. At least not since John Wall returned from injury, they’re not. With the dynamic young point in the lineup they were 14-11 heading into tonight’s game. For the Wolves to win without 80 percent of their preferred starting lineup is impressive indeed.
John Wall. Ricky Rubio. That’s it.
No Love no Bud no Pek no ‘Drei no Roy.
You should watch tonight’s game if for no reason other than that no other point guard in the NBA can do what John Wall does in that vid.
The Wolves are depleted by injuries and totally removed from contention for a playoff spot. So when the defending champs come to town and J.J. Barea gets into basketball’s version of a fight with a future hall of famer, that kind of steals the show. As the replay makes clear, his foul on Ray Allen wasn’t THAT out of line. He thought he was fouled on the other end going for a layup, and then again when Allen lightly shoved off in the backcourt. So J.J. had enough and put some extra weight — to the extent the little guy has much to throw around — into a blocking foul that perhaps doubled as a body check. Allen fell to the ground and flew up angry.
As is the case with all pro basketball players not named West or Peace (!) it was just a show. Some woofing and “HOLD ME BACK” but no real harm done. But the crowd enjoyed the uptick in feistiness — that is, until Barea was hit with an inexplicable Flagrant 2 and was ejected from the game. That was quickly followed by Adelman’s own technical and a rare departure from Minnesota Nice that had Wolves fans lobbing all kinds of personal insults at the significant contingent of fans donning Miami Red and Black. (This part was actually pretty stupid and made me feel like I was at an NFL game. The Heat fans in my section weren’t provoking anything.)
What had the look of a surprisingly-competitive game (76-70 Miami led) quickly became a rout in favor of the road team. After awarding Allen 3 free throws for the flagrant and technical, Alexey Shved had a 3-pointer waived off for “kicking.” Then Dante Cunningham was whistled for a charge. The Wolves became unglued and Dwyane Wade took over from there. The final score was 97-81.
Some observations from the other 47 minutes and 59 seconds of action:
This was the takeaway from last night’s game. Everything else was about as expected. Lopsided loss (21st consecutive to LaLa), another injury to a key player (Pek) and an all around look of hopelessness. I’ll have more tomorrow.
Sometimes the simple game flow image tells 90 percent of the game story. Last night the Thunder built an early lead — 10 points after the first quarter — and never looked back. The Wolves almost had the lead cut to 5 at half, but Luke Ridnour blasted Russell Westbrook as he attempted a desperation trey at the horn, sending him to the foul line for a gratuitous three points. The 8-point halftime deficit was as close as the game would get from that point forward, with much of the second half showing the Thunder ready to blow the game completely open. They led by as many as 17 points at different moments and ultimately won by 16. It was not a close game, nor was it a particularly interesting game to dissect. But there were some sub plots.
The Thunder are good.
If ya don’t know, now ya know — Oklahoma City has a great pro basketball team. Here’s something interesting about that: OKC’s winning percentage is .727 — obviously great — which if the season ended today would mean improvement for the FIFTH consecutive season. Coach Scott Brooks takes an undue amount of heat (Bill Simmons took his umpteenth jab at him during ESPN’s pregame show, not-so-subtly suggesting that Russell Westbrook’s temper tantrums are somehow on Brooks) for a coach who inherited an incredibly young, 1-12 team and has molded them into a steadily-improving Western Conference superpower. Obviously the talent of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant — on full display last night — is the overriding factor in the Thunder’s success. But there’s so little to criticize about such a successful team that it seems discussion for discussion’s sake leads to Brooks getting ripped way more than he should.
In any case, the Thunder are awesome and reminded everyone of this last night. Durant was his usual studly self. He poured in 27 smooth points along with 7 rebounds and 7 assists. When standing near the Wolves sideline during free throws, he took a moment to extend well wishes to Rick Adelman and family, dealing with a scary medical situation. Dude is true class. Russell Westbrook, whose volatility perhaps makes him less endearing to fans, was the better of the two superstars on Friday night. Russ had 37 points, 9 assists, and 7 rebounds. When he’s hitting that mid-range pull up he’s just a half-click below LeBron James on the Unstoppable Scale. His historically-ridiculous explosiveness was on display when he was isolated one-on-one with Alexey Shved. Shved is very good at staying in front of dribble penetration, erring on the side of backing off too far. But Westbrook made him look knee-deep in quicksand, cruising past back-pedaling Shved for an easy two.
So yeah, the Thunder are good. This isn’t news, but it is the primary piece of information gleaned from last night’s loss at Oklahoma City.
Rubio damn near went Ice Cube tonight, messin’ around and almost getting a triple double. He had 18 points (12-13 free throws) 9 rebounds and 10 assists. He had 4 steals and even 1 block. Just 2 turnovers. The Wolves have formed a bad habit of falling behind in games. This version without Love and Kirilenko does, anyway. A little silver lining is how Ricky continues to scratch and claw, never surrurending defeat no matter the point spread. His TENACIOUS D has been a catalyst for many almost-miraculous comebacks in recent weeks, including tonight’s game. He was pretty damn good in this game.
Defense at End of 3rd/Beginning of 4th
This was a blowout. Blowouts are difficult to analyze. It’s difficult to bring myself to write about it, and it’s difficult to put stats in the proper perspective when most of them meant nothing. The first quarter was close, mostly because the Wolves pounded the glass to rebound their own misses. When that stopped working, the glass-crashing led to Memphis points a plenty in transition. The Grizz won the middle quarters by a combined 55 to 36. Aside from in transition defense–primary or secondary–the Wolves kept fighting and managed to cut the deficit to 11 with 7:33 to go. But that happens in blowouts, and it didn’t matter. The Grizz put their starters back in and closed er down. It was a blowout.
What went wrong? (Besides “everything.”)
The story of last night’s game is best begun with a picture. From espn.com:
In the first quarter, the Lakers curve is pretty much a straight 45 degree line. Everything they put up went in. They scored 37 points (13 from Pau Gasol) and led by 13.
In the early part of the 2nd Quarter, the Lakers inexplicably got even hotter. Their curve spikes upward at a point when Wolves fans at Target Center were desperate for some regression to the mean. They made 7 of their first 8 field goal attempts to open the 2nd Quarter. 4 of those were 3-pointers. With 6 minutes to play in the first half, the Lakers held a 61-32, 29-point, almost-doubling-up-the-opposition lead.
On the graph, you notice two things begin midway through the 2nd Quarter: One, the Lakers curve flattens out. Finally. Two, the Wolves gets steeper, after a sluggish start to the 2nd Quarter. Their shots — including some much-needed three-pointers — began to fall. The Wolves closed the first half on a 21-7 run, cutting the halftime deficit to a troubling but not insurmountable 15 points. Ricky Rubio was key to that stretch, blending his usual feisty defense with some scoring (2 nifty layups, 1 dribble jumper) and capping off a fun stretch with a behind-the-back dime to D-Thrill for a huge dunk.
Things got even closer in the 2nd Half, after Adelman committed to a zone defense that gave the Lakers fits. Until they realized how Pau Gasol was born to be the hub of a zone offense, that is. Once Pau started filling the gaps, and his teammates started hitting him in playmaking spots, the Wolves struggled to defend. But they did cut it to 4 midway through the 4th Quarter, which is an admirable comeback attempt from the 29-point deficit earlier in the game. Moral victories and all that.
We can live with Tony Parker’s 20 points and 6 assists. Manu Ginobili’s 12 points and 5 dimes. Timmy’s 12, 9 and 5. Hell, even his 3 steals and 7 blocks. But the problem with tonight’s game was that Manu only played 12 minutes because of a pulled hamstring shortly before halftime, and with the Spurs shorthanded, Parker and Duncan were both able to be limited to 29 minutes of action.
That’s because, after Parker and Duncan went to the bench for a rest at the end of the 3rd Quarter (Spurs leading by 7), the Wolves got thumped by San Antonio’s short-handed second unit. The three-headed monster of Gary Neal, Stephen Jackson and Tiago Splitter led a dominant 4th Quarter that the Spurs won 28-17. Parker and Duncan iced their knees on the sidelines (just as we feared might happen), this time without Gregg Popovich’s company. Pop drew a quick double-tech and was sent to the showers with his team leading by 13 early in the fourth. Maybe he had dinner plans and wanted to beat traffic. Who knows. In any case, the Spurs won by 18 and dominated long stretches of this game. A few things that should give fans cause for alarm:
This win could be described quickly and simply, or in great detail on each key Timberwolf’s impressive performance. I’ll try my best at each.
Quick and Simple
The Wolves hosted a good Hawks team tonight; one with an impressive and relevant road record of 9-6. From almost the opening tip the Wolves dominated. They defended well, provoking those inefficient shots (contested 2’s) that Britt Robson wrote about the other day. On offense, they made shots–something that has not happened often in this injuries-to-shooters plagued season. The Wolves led by 10 after 1, 16 after 2, and 14 after 3. With 8:11 remaining in the game, Ricky Rubio checked out; his night’s work complete. The Wolves were leading by 11. It was at that moment that two things happened: 1) The Wolves defense relaxed; and 2) The Hawks shooting heated up. A game that was largely dominated by the home team went down to the final possessions as the Hawks steadily chipped away at that lead. Dante Cunningham sealed the deal; first with a baseline jumper to extend the lead to 3, with 15 seconds to play; and second by tipping away the entry pass of the Hawks out-of-timeout play. An impressive win was had for the Loveless Timberwolves.
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?
Let’s get the qualifiers out of the way. Coming into yesterday’s matchup with the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, the Timberwolves had a road record of 5-8. At home, the Knicks were 11-2. Though both teams had the previous day off and were presumably rested, the Wolves were without their top dog, Kevin Love. K-Love was still feeling effects from the eye gouge injury he sustained late in the Thunder game and stayed home from the trip. Taking on the second-best team in the East without the team’s best scorer and rebounder was a tall order and victory was unlikely. But when the final buzzer sounded and the Knicks celebrated what should have been a routine home win against an undermanned squad, Wolves fans had a bitter taste in their mouths. Here’s a rundown that explains why.
Former Wolves guard Mike Miller and those other guys host the Wolves tonight in Miami
The Wolves take their talents to Miami tonight to play the incumbent Finals champions, after losing a winnable game against the Magic Monday night in Orlando. Well, maybe not all their talents: Ricky Rubio is not expected to play in tonight’s game, as part of a program that will have him avoiding back-to-backs until he’s cleared by team medical staff. Rubio, who struggled last night, will never say never, however, suggesting there’s a chance that he will play tonight if his knee isn’t too sore.
The Wolves could certainly use Rubio, even with Ricky coming off a subpar performance against the Magic where the rust clearly showed. Rubio ended the night with 0 points, 4 assists, and 3 turnovers in 16 minutes of action last night after having a nice Ricky-like 8/9/4/3 line in Saturday’s win over Dallas.
Against the Heat, the Wolves need Rubio far more than they did against Dallas or Orlando, and not just because the Heat are (by far) the best of the three teams. Why? Continue reading
Ricky’s back. This is gonna be fun.
He’s back, folks. (At least that’s what they’re saying.) We all know what that means.
There’s no need to overthink it, so no pre-game breakdown today.
If you take anything into this one, it’s this: shut down your Internets for a while, give Ricky your undivided attention, and enjoy the show.