Tag Archives: Timberwolves

Towns, Tyus, and Building a Nucleus


As you already know, the draft was last Thursday, and it was a big one for our favorite team. I decided to take it in over at the new Mayo Clinic facilities, and swing through the arena for the announcement of the first pick. What follows is some parts recap of that night, with some thoughts about the Wolves two draft picks and where the team finds itself right now, heading into Summer 2015.

Karl-Anthony Towns

The Wolves first draft selection was equal parts boring and exciting. For at least a few days, the media had been reporting that Flip was going to draft Karl-Anthony Towns from Kentucky. Brian Windhorst went on ESPN — live, from Minneapolis — shortly before the pick was officially announced by Adam Silver, to confirm that this was still the case. So there was not the unpredictability that has come to define Timberwolves drafts of the past decade. As expected, the Wolves chose Towns.

Perhaps that was a good thing this time around, because in taking Towns the Wolves set the Target Center crowd on fire with cheers. Its team had just taken the consensus “best player in the draft,” for the first time in franchise history. In his conference call with Minnesota media on Thursday night, and especially at his introductory press conference the next day in Minneapolis, Towns said all the right things. He compared joining the emerging nucleus of young Timberwolves talent to playing for Kentucky. He looks forward to being mentored by Kevin Garnett, because he wants to learn what it takes to become a champion. He looks forward to taking care of his parents, who sacrificed so much for him to reach this point. He is emphasizing “playoffs” as a goal for this team. Like, right away. Whether unrealistic or not, that’s a refreshing thing to hear said, after a season spent losing on purpose.

The psychoanalysis that we all perform on these 20-year olds is unfair for a number of reasons; perhaps most of all because of the unusual venue in which we observe them. But we do it nonetheless. Andrew Wiggins is a man of few words. He’d rather let his actions on the court speak for themselves. Zach LaVine has a well-intentioned cockiness about him. When most of the new, young Wolves looked nervous on Media Day last year — usually sharing the press conference table with a teammate — the 19-year old, looked-more-like-15-year-old, LaVine sat by himself and began his own presser with a, “Sup wit y’all?” to the media before him.

Towns is thoughtful and gregarious. He enjoys speaking to an audience, but carefully considers a question before answering it. In the past year, he has listed Len Bias as his favorite player, and shouted out Felipe Lopez as a fellow Dominican baller. For a 19-year old, he’s showing off impressive knowledge of basketball esoterica. Whether any of this matters once he steps on the court is a fair question, but for now the personality is all we’ve had a chance to see, and Karl-Anthony Towns “won” his press conference. Assuming he can play like most expect, Towns is going to be a fan favorite.

Tyus Jones

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KG Returns: Initial Reaction


You already know the news: Kevin Garnett is coming back to Minnesota to play for the Timberwolves. In a trade-deadline deal that required Garnett’s signature to be official (he had a “no trade” clause that needed waiving) the Wolves are sending Thaddeus Young to Brooklyn for KG.

On pure basketball merits, I don’t find the trade to be particularly interesting or controversial. Young is, well, younger. He’s 26, with a future career ahead of him that could be brighter than his already-accomplished resume’ to date. But he struggled mightily for long stretches this year, and only came alive recently when his veteran teammates returned from injury. It would be disingenuous at best to say that the Wolves gave up an important long-term asset in this deal.

They didn’t. If they were in the hunt for a playoff spot this year, or had reasonable expectations for a playoff run next year, I might feel differently. But that’s not where this team is right now, with its best player in the middle of jump-shot reconstruction and its best prospect only 19 years of age.

More on Young: not only is he a “tweener” whose most natural position of small forward (and the one he was playing recently, with better results) is the same as Andrew Wiggins’, but he has the option of becoming a free agent at the end of this season and the Wolves certainly had a better understanding of his intentions in that regard than the fans do. For all we know, Young was planning on leaving the team this summer and signing somewhere else.

So the cost was not very significant, in my view.

The return, on the merits, was also fairly insignificant.

Don’t get me wrong, Garnett is one of the greatest forwards to ever play. He’s an MVP, a champion, and a future first-ballot hall of famer. If this franchise EVER has a better player than KG we’ll be seeing a short-list “Greatest of All Time” candidate.

But KG isn’t The Big Ticket anymore. He’s 38. He turns 39 in May. He can still play a little bit — he’s posting very close to league averages in advanced stats like PER and win shares — but his potential value to this T-Wolves team is not in his statistics or his in-game production. We don’t think “league averages” when we think of KG, and especially not in the 20 minutes he is playing, per game this year. He’s not going to make an impact in games, on the floor. Not anymore.

So yeah, the boring side of this trade is the basketball part. Thad wasn’t a particularly important piece of the Flip Saunders puzzle, and neither will Garnett be.

I like the trade for two basic reasons, and I dislike it for one. I’ll start with the part I don’t like, and keep it short.

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Thinning the Herd (The Field of Dreams Edition)

A lot has changed in Timberwolves Land since mid-May. It was then that the organization was informed that Kevin Love planned to opt out and leave the franchise — per his contractual rights — in the summer of 2015. From that point through August 23, Flip Saunders was scrambling. Not only did he have multiple picks in the June draft, but he was also charged with the task of trading a superstar player.

Rather than re-hash the process and results for the umpteenth time, it’s sufficient to say that Flip got ‘er done. For Love, he got back Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young. If either Wiggins or Bennett reaches his potential (or, gasp, if both do) it could go down as the greatest ever return in this “departing/disgruntled star wants out” trade scenario. Plus, Thad Young is already a good player who might fit nicely in a front court that already includes Gorgui Dieng and Nikola Pekovic at the center position.

But there is one little problem with this Timberwolves roster, as currently constructed:

There are too many guys. (Eds. Note: For more on this, see, inter alia, excellent posts here and here.)

More specifically, there are too many guys that will expect — and *should* expect — some playing time. And that brings us to positional battles, and the possibility that some Timberwolves players will need to spend time in the D-League — playing for the Iowa Energy (technically this is the Memphis Grizzlies affiliate, but that’s where they sent Shabazz last year because the Wolves don’t have their own team). Saunders has extensive experience in minor league basketball, coaching in the old CBA, and is a firm believer in it as a developing environment for certain players. It seems inevitable that, at some point this season, a Wolf or two will be sent down for some game reps.

For a young basketball player, the NBA — even on the Minnesota Timberwolves — must feel a bit like heaven on Earth. There are the big crowds, the SportsCenter highlights, the glitz and glamor, and the competition against players that were considered celebrity heroes just a short time ago. The whole thing must be a real trip for a new player entering the league.

The D-League… well, the D-League probably feels a bit more like Iowa.

So we thought it worthwhile to run through the candidates for D-League Duty, and predict which guys might end up playing some minor league ball in 2014-15.

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ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!!! (Wolves Beat LeBron, INBOX Edition)

Andy G: The Wolves took on LeBron James and the two-time defending champion Miami Heat last night, so they must’ve lost, right?


For the first time in approximately forever the Wolves were victors over a team with LeBron James on it. (Eds note: I think Dave or Jim on the broadcast said the last time was 2005, back about when ‘Bron was going to war with Agent Zero and Caron Butler’s Wizards in the Playoffs. How long ago does that seem?) It took a pair of overtimes, some Kevin Love and even Chase Budinger heroics (!) and every ounce of Ricky Rubio’s floor-generaling stamina, but they eked it out.

They eked it out, of course, on a missed Corey Brewer backwards alley-oop layup attempt… in which he was fouled for some reason! He made one of the free throws. Crazy ending to a crazy game.

I enjoyed it tremendously.

Your thoughts?

Patrick J: The Brewer “shot” (at about 3:20 in those highlights) was one of the most amazing I’ve ever seen that didn’t go in. You know how Corey does inexplicable stuff all the time and it’s sort of endearing and sort of grating? This was one of those times. I still don’t know (1) how he even got in position to get that shot, (2) how he formulated the idea that the shot could look like that, (3) how he managed to draw a foul call on such an ill-advised shot. But that’s just Brew. Continue reading


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Wolves Report Card (WOLVES 109, Lakers 99)

We’re not really creatures of habit here and I try to mix up game wrap formats.

So I’ll borrow one from the excellent Knickerblogger site and do this one Report Card style.


Ricky Rubio: B+
Ricky had 13 assists and just 2 turnovers. Combine those stats with his 6 boards and +5 plus-minus and he deserves a positive grade even when he scored only 4 points on 1-4 shooting.

Coach Adelman yanked Rubio after an unnecessarily fancy pass in the 3rd Quarter, when the lead was shrinking. After the game, Britt Robson asked Coach if the flashy mistake was the reason for the immediate hook. Adelman replied, “We’ve been talking to him all the time about there’s a time and a place to attack the basket. And I think we were up 15 or 16 points up at that point, got the ball, and it’s one on five. And the chances are that nothing good’s gonna come out of that. Make them guard us for 20 seconds. Know the time. Know the score. And that’s just something he’s got to learn; when to pull it back. I was gonna take him out anyway for a blow, but that sealed it.”

It has become clear that Adelman and Rubio are not always on the same page. Ricky handles his late-game benchings with class, which comes as no surprise to anyone who has followed his career. And tonight, I should add, Ricky played down the stretch over Barea. But there are both stylistic and substantive reasons for the times Adelman chooses JJ in crucial situations and the quick hook after the turnover tonight was yet another message, even if a more subtle one.

But all things considered, Ricky played well tonight in his 31 minutes of action. Continue reading

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The Wolves Year in Review, 2013 (The Punch-Drunk Edition)


Here we go. A month-by-month rundown of our best and worst Wolves moments of 2013.

January (AG)

Best: Gelabale & Johnson Beat the Rockets

Remember all of the injuries last season?

What’s that? You’re hoping to never think about them again? Okay fine.

Let’s talk about who *was* healthy during the middle of the 2012-13 campaign. Signed to 10-day Kahntracts were Mickael Gelabale from France and Chris Johnson from Louisiana State and the D-League.

On January 19, 2013, riding a five-game losing streak and playing in James Harden’s house, a Timberwolves win was not expected. DNPs would be registered for Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Chase Budinger, Alexey Shved (pre stock plunge), and Brandon Roy.

Worries of a sixth consecutive loss were put to rest in the fourth quarter thanks to the dominant play of the 10-Day Wonders, Johnson & Gelabale. The Wolves won by 13, largely on the backs of the two newbies. Johnson had 15 points and 6 boards. He made all of his field goal attempts. Gelabale scored 11 points, 10 of which came in a hot stretch of the fourth quarter. He also contained Harden on the other end.

For one night, amid a miserable season of bad news and medical updates, the Wolves provided a feel-good story about two young guys trying to carve out NBA careers for themselves.

Worst: Everything else

Aside from that win over Houston, the Wolves were 2-10 in January. In the month’s first game, at Denver, Kevin Love reinjured his hand; this time shelving him for the rest of the season. In our season retrospective post, I named the January freefall as the lowpoint. I stand by that. They were getting blown out repeatedly. The injuries were such a real excuse that fans couldn’t really even get mad. What’s the opposite of cathartic?

I hated last January.

February (PJ)

Best: Timberwolves Destroy the Hornets in a Laugher on February 2

On February 2, the Wolves beat the New Orleans Hornets 115-86 in a laugher (boxscore here). The 29-point win was the only lopsided win the Wolves got in February, and it’s nice for Wolves fans to get to sit back and enjoy a dominant performance every once in a while.

Kevin Love was already out for the season by this point, but everyone contributed, making the lopsided win even more satisfying.

Indeed, the bench did most of the damage: Dante had 18 points on a perfect 9-9 from the floor; Shved had 12 points, 8 assists, and 4 boards and looked like a real prospect; Gelabale had 11 and 5, shooting 4-5 in 21 minutes.

Worst: The Games Didn’t Mean Much Anymore…and Alexey Shved Started to Disappoint

February was another bad month for the Wolves. After going 3-12 in January, they went 3-10 in February. Apart from the lopsided win over NOLA on February 2, their only wins in February were over Cleveland and Philly–not exactly powerhouse teams.

The NOLA game was one of the last times Good Alexey has been seen in an NBA game. Starting in mid-February, his game took a precipitous decline. The Alexey of late 2012 and early 2013 hasn’t been seen again.

March (AG)

Best: Ricky Rubio’s Triple Double

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Is it time to press the panic button?


This is not how they wanted to enter the holiday. Having lost four of their past five games and with a brutal four-game stretch after Thanksgiving, the Timberwolves needed to win at home against the Denver Nuggets. Although Brian Shaw’s team came in riding a three-game winning streak (to say nothing of the 57 games they won last season, before significant off-season shakeups) and had already beaten the Wolves once this year, it was a game that Minnesota needed to win if it wanted to continue the early-season positivity giving rise to expectations of an overdue playoff berth.

As you probably already know, the Wolves did not win. In what was possibly the worst defensive performance of the season the Wolves lost 117-110 on the Target Center floor against a team that they’ll almost definitely need to be better than, in order to crack the Top 8 of the Western Conference. In the game’s early stages, Ty Lawson and Wilson Chandler made shots. Some were contested better than others. But as the game went on, the Wolves defense softened up considerably, allowing a mixed bag of wide open threes and wide open layups and dunks. Denver ended the game 8 for 16 from downtown. In the fourth quarter, they didn’t have to rely on threes as they managed to get to the rim almost at will. Three consecutive crunchtime possessions ended with Denver dunks.

After the game, Adelman lamented the surprisingly-poor effort:

“I was just really disappointed with our effort — the first half especially. We just, defensively, we allowed them to do whatever they wanted to do. Everything we had on the board, they did. We gotta figure out what we’re gonna do from this point forward because you can’t defend like that. We can’t have the energy coming into a home game like that.”

“We were so passive. We have to get more aggressively physical if we’re gonna play in this league.”

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