Tag Archives: wesley johnson

Pacing the Competition (Pacers 109, WOLVES 99)

So, the Wolves lost last night to the Pacers 109-99 (box score). What did we learn? For one thing, the Pacers are good. Really good. Maybe the 3rd best team in the East, depending on what you think about the Sixers, Hawks, and Magic. A lot of words have been typed about the Sixers resurgence, and while they’re playing great, I like Indiana better from top to bottom. They don’t have a lot of weaknesses, they play hard, and their pieces fit together nicely. They were 14-6 coming into last night’s game, but the buzz around the game made it feel like the Wolves should be the favorite. The bad loss was a painful reality check that should  remind the Wolves that progress does not a good team make.

A few bullets:

* The Wolves throw away minutes when they start Wes and Darko. Both started; each played 18 minutes.  Wes went 2-6 with 2 turnovers and a (-12). Darko was 2-9 with 2 turnovers and a (-15).  Yes, +/- is a slippery metric for single-game performance. But look at their season stats. They’re entirely consistent with both the horrendous efforts we saw last night and what we’ve seen with our own eyes all season. Adelman must see it too, right? A combined 4 for 15 with 4 turnovers and (-27) is hardly an uncommon line for these two. Playing either of them, let alone both, is really hurting the team.

* More Wes/Darko: It’s even more frustrating and confounding that they got those minutes last night since Adelman had a fuller squad at his disposal. I get that Hibbert and Granger/George look like matchup problems for Pek/AR and Beasley/Williams, respectively. But all three of those Pacers pretty much did what they want against Darko and Wes. Why not counter with Williams and Beasley and initiate matchup problems for IND? Last night was a tactical #fail for Adelman, his first and hopefully last of the season.

* Speaking of Paul George: He MIGHT be better than Wes. PG ended up in foul trouble, but when he was out there… whoa. He did it all. For starters, he defended Rubio as well as anyone this season; he also hit an impressive variety of shots, going 4-6 on fadeaways, threes, drives, etc. You name it, it’s in George’s arsenal. But that’s not all: George rebounds and can block shots too. For the night, he was +14 in just 19 minutes of action.

* The Pacers: I don’t want this to turn into a “__________ are so good” sort of discussion that was so common the last few seasons, when every Wolves drumming left us feeling like our opponent was just THAT GOOD… but as I said at the top of the post, the Pacers are pretty damn good. Granger won’t always light it up on this scale–he went for 36–but his 9-19 shooting wasn’t way outside his norm either.  Granger made some perimeter shots, carved up the Wolves D, and drew all kinds of fouls in the process.

* The Pacers got momentum after Granger picked up a tech in the third for a pushing match with Love.  The two took it outside, 21st century style–which of course involves Twitter. Love dissed Indy in the post-game interviews, and Danny took it to Twitter. They may be questioning each other’s MASCULINITY through SMS as I write this.

* Roy Hibbert: He’s really good. Hibbert scored easily on Darko (6-9 for 15 points) and showed off a variety of nice moves with his back to the basket. For a 7’2″ player, Hibbert has good footwork and surprising athleticism.  In a league largely devoid of star post players, Hibbert could make an All-Star team before he’s done.

What were your takeaways from this one?

Wolves record: 10-12

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by | February 2, 2012 · 11:56 AM

Jazz Hands (JAZZ 108, Wolves 98)

Ricky and Big Al (Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Andy G and I LIVE BLOGGED last night’s game against the Jazz. Except IT’S NOT live, technically, because we’re posting our immediate reactions now–over 12-hours later.

Sort of like the game itself, it is what it is. Candid reactions below.

***

Andy G, 9:13 PM: First possession, Darko swishes a hook. Guy’s a star!

Patrick J, 9:18 PM: Tuning in with 9:02 in the 1st. Rubio clanks another one. Must be waiting for #winningtime.

Andy G, 9:19 PM: Wolves relying on their stars early. Wes and Darko carrying the load.

Patrick J, 9:24 PM: Is it just me, or is there EXACTLY one-third of the overall intensity of the last night’s 1st quarter. (I get that it’s the second night of a back-to-back and there’s potential for a letdown after last night. But still.)

Patrick J, 9:27 PM: Is Utah’s play-by-play guy calling the color guy “Booner” or “Boner”?

Andy G, 9:31 PM: Not sure — Big Al kicking some ass early, eh? What did we get for him again?

Andy G, 9:33 PM: Better Derrick: Williams or Favors? In three years?

Patrick J, 9:36 PM: Williams will be the better Derrick. Both currently look worse than they would on MOST other teams.

Andy G, 9:40 PM: How many Rubio assists can Pekovic fuck up?

Patrick J, 9:41 PM: Probably fewer than 8, but only because he plays limited minutes. What’s up with the FORM on Millsap’s fadeaway? Uh-oh. Anus Kanter’s getting warm!

Andy G, 9:44 PM: Not sure re: MILLSAP, but he’s a pretty damn nice player. C.J. Miles hit some bombs there in Williams’ grill. Hope that doesn’t discourage the rook.

Patrick J, 9:49 PM: Nah, that’s just what C.J. Miles does. FOR THE RECORD: Has David Stern ever verified that C.J. Miles and Lou Williams AREN’T the same person?

Andy G, 9:57 PM: Derrick Williams needs to play AT LEAST 25 minutes in every game. Leaving him on the bench is leaving PRODUCTION on the bench. And highlight dunks.

Patrick J, 10:01 PM: Couldn’t agree more. I’m glad Adelman is staying with him.

Eds: Derrick Williams goes *really* high for an alley-oop dunk from Rubio.

Jazz announcer: “That’s JEREMY EVANS height right there.”

Patrick J, 10:01 PM: “Who the fuck is Jeremy Evans?

Andy G, 10:07 PM: He’s this guy.

Andy G, 10:07 PM: What do you think of that first half? Jazz hit a lot of jump shots. Wolves played better basketball. Refs are calling lots of fouls. Wes Johnson (gasp) played well. Rubio was awesome. Your thoughts?

Patrick J, 10:14 PM: Williams needs to play more minutes. He’s made adjustments after struggling for a few games and is now filling key needs. He looks confident and that the most important thing.

Patrick J, 10:14 PM: Rubio was awesome.

Patrick J, 10:14 PM:Interior defense is difficult with Darko out and Pek being Pek against a STACKED Jazz front line.

Patrick J, 10:14 PM: Earl Watson is wily, but he shouldn’t be able to control the flow like he did in the first half.

Andy G, 10:29 PM: Love can’t take Millsap one-on-one, but he refuses to stop trying and then flails his arms in the air and asks for a foul. It’s annoying, ineffective, and it’s ruining any offensive flow. He also just got T’d up.

Andy G, 10: 30 PM: Why don’t they pair Rubio with D-Thrill or Randolph? His awesome passes are largely wasted by the other bigs when they get their shit stuffed time after time.

Patrick J, 10:32 PM: Millsap is deceptive in a lot of ways. Love seems to think he can beat him one-on-one, but this is incorrect. And Millsap looks like he shouldn’t be able to score at will, but he can.
Utah is leading 70-62 with 6:38 left in the 3rd. It’s time to start something or we’re going to be in trouble.

Andy G, 10:36 PM: I’m SHOCKED that Derrick Williams came in and turned the momentum. (SARCASM!)

Patrick J, 10:42 PM: Me too. We’ve only been calling for him to play a bigger role since, oh, when–the Hawks game?! Wtf? He’s our best offensive player when Mike Beasley is out…

Patrick J, 10:42 PM: Dude, Corey Brewer was meant to be a Jazz-man. He WILL play for Utah before he’s finished.

Andy G, 10:45 PM: Lots of fouling (still). Really killing the flow for both teams. Not a pretty game.

Patrick J, 10:47 PM: Yep, #turrible. I thought KEN MAUER JR officiated LAST NIGHT’S game…

Patrick J, 10:48 PM: Who’s going to take this game over during #winningtime?

Andy G, 10:48 PM: Should be Rubio. I expect it to be Jefferson or Millsap.

Eds note: Derrick Williams is again scoring EFFICIENTLY when Adelman plays him.

Andy G, 10:48 PM: I’ll ask again: How good is D. Williams? Only player on the team in the plus column. (+6)

Patrick J, 10:54 PM: Thrill has been a difference-maker ALL NIGHT. Just like he should be. What happened to this guy before the Clips game? Was it R. ADELMAN, J. SIKMA, or R.J. ADELMAN? Or did Thrill figure it out all by himself?

Andy G, 11:00 PM: None of the above: BILLY BAYNO!!!

Andy G, 11:01 PM: It feels like work, watching this game.

Andy G: 11:02: Can Adelman PLEASE get Rubio back in so there’s a CHANCE we come back and win? (Utah 93, Wolves 87, 8:03 remaining)

Andy G, 11:03 PM: Love just tried to take Millsap one-on-one. Again. It ended in disaster. Again. Is this new scoring thing getting to his head? He’s not playing intelligently.

Patrick J, 11:06 PM: When he started popping off those 30+ games at the beginning of the year, I was worried it would. Maybe it is. K-Love needs to shoot off kicks, not off the dribble.

Eds.: The Jazz just won 108-98.

Andy G, 11:11 PM: Re Love: Hopefully it will work itself out. Millsap and Jefferson just killed him tonight. The Wolves played better when Williams was on the floor. I wouldn’t have guessed he’d be the reason we lost this game, but you could argue that’s exactly right.

Patrick J, 11:15 PM: Re Love: All I know is that 5/16 (Clippers game) and 5/21 (Utah game) is NOT SATISFACTORY for a player whose reputation is built around EFFICIENCY. Here’s hoping this is just a SAMPLE SIZE BLIP.

Andy G, 11:22 PM: Love probably spoiled us a bit by playing OVER HIS HEAD for a couple weeks early on. I’d like to see this team get back to the offense it was playing then. Beasley’s return will help, as will more tick for D-Thrill. Love is at his best when he’s a second or third option jump shooter and rebounding specialist. His NUMB#RS are better and his impact is more significant.

Positive takeaway from tonight: BOTH rookies looked pretty awesome in a tough environment for youngsters.

Houston on Monday Night. McHale’s Revenge! Adelman’s Revenge! Should be fun, looking forward to seeing that one.

Until then.

Season Record: 7-9

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Pistons Preview

Photo by Getty Images

The Wolves should win easily tonight against the Pistons, but Monday’s ugly win over SAC illustrates that you can’t take anything for granted.

What I’m most interested in about tonight’s game is Adelman’s rotations. What adjustments should he make?

Here’s what I think we’ll see:

Wes Johnson: For the first time this season, Adelman was praised Monday for giving Wes extended minutes against SAC, mostly because he did an effective job against Kings hired scorer John Salmons. With Webster still out and the Wolves facing Tayshaun Prince, another long three, look for Wes to get over 30 minutes no matter how bad he shoots.

Darko: The Wolves will need Good Darko to come out tonight, at least on the defensive end of the floor, because Pistons big man Greg Monroe is their best player and is emerging rapidly as a BIG headache for opposing defenses. Monroe’s finesse game and footwork would get Pekovic into foul trouble in a hurry, so look for Darko to play a lot of minutes tonight–closer to 30-35 minutes than 21-22, which he tends to get against smaller teams.

J.J. Barea: J.J. is due back from injury tonight, and it’s a good game to have him return for: Pistons SG Ben Gordon is ridiculously strong and won’t be the easier cover for Ridnour. With Rubio presumably committed to guarding Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey, J.J.’s strength could be a huge factor in keeping Gordon from getting the looks he wants.

What else? K-Love should own Jerebko. Love has been logging a lot of long minutes, so if the Wolves get ahead, maybe Adelman can get Anthony Randolph or Derrick Williams some time tonight.

Enjoy the tilt.

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Buzz Kill (Wolves 87, Hornets 80)

An ugly win


The Wolves eked out an 87-80 win Friday night over the Hornets. There were no two ways about this one: it was either going to be a much-needed win or a bad loss against an already sub-par Hornets team whose best player, Eric Gordon, was out with an injury.

The Wolves were shorthanded. J.J. Barea and Michael Beasley stayed in Minneapolis. Martell Webster won’t be available for a few weeks. Or a few months. Or maybe never. Any could be true. Martell might not even know. Adelman leaned heavily on Ridnour at the two (not ideal), Johnson at the three (bad), and Rubio at the point (good). Rubio started (good) and played 44 minutes (good). Johnson played 34 minutes and Tolliver and Williams only 16 apiece (bad)

The victory was ugly. No one could get shots. Rubio served them on a silver platter. Teammates sometimes converted, often didn’t. His 9 assists should’ve been closer to 20. Johnson shot 1-8 from distance. Darko couldn’t catch. The Wolves won’t win many playing like this.

Love got to the line 18 times–the same number of attempts as the entire Nola squad. He made 17. His final line read 34 & 17. Yawn.

Love’s production is appreciated, don’t get me wrong. But against the Hornets, his numb#rs were lower-quality than in his other big games earlier in the season. He looked tired. He wasn’t closing out on D. He won’t get 18 throws every game.

Adelman needs to keep him fresh. Incorporating Williams and Tolliver and Randolph more would be a starting place. They play power forward too.

The takeaway is simple: no Rubio, no win. Love would’ve had about the same line with or without him. But no one else would’ve been able to get buckets. Like last season, after Beasley hurt his ankle. Adelman not only played Ricky a lot, he started him. That’s progress.

Let’s hope he tries to build on that progress tonight in Atlanta. Take baby steps.

Distributing Johnson’s minutes between Tolliver and Williams would be a start.

Or get really wild and crazy. Give 12 or 13 of Darko’s minutes to Randolph. He’s way better.

It’s staggering how much better we are when Randolph and Tolliver are on the floor and how much worse we are when Darko and Johnson are on the floor.

Hit us up in the comments.

Until next time.

Season Record: 4-7

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FREE DERRICK WILLIAMS!

Photo by Jean Pieri, Pioneer Press

Derrick Williams’ grade so far for the 2011/12 season could only be marked “INCOMPLETE.”

Williams has had his ups and downs this season, and it isn’t clear where Adelman is going to play him. Williams is averaging 14.3 pts/36 mins and 8 rebs/36 mins on the season and his 14.33 PER is 5th on the Wolves if you don’t count J.J. Barea, who has played only 5 games. Williams has great chemistry with Ricky Rubio and is a strong, surprisingly physical, defender, especially when paired with Kevin Love and Anthony Tolliver, which was on display when the Wolves trounced the Wizards last week.

But Williams has struggled the last two games, scoring just 5 and 4 points against Chicago and New Orleans on a combined 2-11 (18%) shooting, after three encouraging performances against Cleveland, Washington, and Toronto in which he scored 12, 14, and 13 on 42% from the floor. He has been noticeably less confident the last few games, leading Adelman to cut his minutes to 22 against the Bulls and 16 against Nola (compared to an average of 28 minutes in the previous three tilts), a vicious cycle that causes Williams to press when he gets in the game, which makes him play worse, which makes Adelman give him even less PT.

If he’s going to find his niche on this team, D-Will needs consistent minutes, in long-ish stretches where he can get into a flow and not have to be looking over his shoulder at the scorer’s table. Adelman himself says he’s looking for more minutes for Williams. With K-Love doing work but getting gassed down the stretch last night against the Hornets, Adelman should give Love a bit more rest and work Williams back into the rotation tonight in the second game of a back-to-back on the road, against the Al Horford-less Hawks. Alternatively, Rick could at least spot him Wes Johnson’s minutes at the three–Wes has done nothing to address the longstanding concerns about his game.

FREE DERRICK WILLIAMS!

UPDATE (Sunday, January 15, 2011, 1:03 PM ET): Williams played only 8 minutes in Saturday night’s heartbreaker against the Hawks, scoring 2 pts on 1-4 from the floor. Chin up, D-Thrill!

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An Open Letter to Wesley Johnson

Dear Wes,

With the announcement that J.J. Barea will not play (pulled hamstring, likely to return on Sunday versus Dallas) in tonight’s game versus the Miami Heat (7:00 CST, Target Center), I wanted to take this bit of time to write a letter, in (deluded) hopes that you’ll read it and apply three basic tactics to tonight’s game and every other performance in the future.  You may already know this, but Timberwolves fans have largely written you off as a draft-day bust. Despite being drafted fourth overall, you’ve set yourself on a performance track that will send you to Europe (if you’re lucky) within a year or two.

I held strong as an APOLOGIST of yours for over sixty games last season. But your lack of improvement and inability to do anything with the ball in your hands eventually wore even me out. J.J. Barea now looks like the team’s best backcourt player. He has a resume’ that includes impacting the NBA Finals from the shooting guard position.  BUT– J.J. isn’t playing tonight, so there’s no better team for you to showcase talents (that you were supposed to have when you were drafted) than the Miami Heat.

The three keys:

1) Focus on defense.  Entirely.  Many, perhaps most, NBA players are heavily-geared toward one side of the floor.  What made Michael and Scottie special was that they were the best at both ends.  That isn’t you, and it never will be.  Join the masses of NBA rotation players who specialize in things.  It just so happens that you find yourself on a team in desperate need of help on this end of the floor, particularly a player with the (potential) versatility that your LONG AND ATHLETIC frame allows.  Think about tonight’s game: the Heat have the best shooting guard and small forward/player in the world.  You may very-well defend both of them, at different moments.  If you focus 90 percent of your mental and physical energy on defensive tasks, you just might help your team and show your fans and coaches something they’ve been waiting to see: upper-level perimeter defense.

2) Run the floor.  I’m sure you’ve noticed that you’re now surrounded by teammates that can create easy baskets for others.  When a shot goes up, and you see that Kevin Love has or will soon have the rebound, take off running.  Fans can all agree that you’re a wonderful dunker of the basketball, and K-Love outlets are a great way to get one or two of these easy buckets.  ALSO– you may have noticed the Spanish point guard on your team who seems nothing short of obsessed with creating dunks for his ‘mates.  Take advantage of this!  Everyone else is doing it, and if you don’t join in soon you’ll get left behind or traded to Detroit.

3) Use a triple-threat position.  Now we’re getting technical, but no worries: this is something many are taught in the junior-high ranks.  I have no doubt that you can master the art of holding the basketball in a way that threatens the defense with a pass, shot, or dribble.  Let’s begin with what you usually do when you catch a pass on the wing.  Many times, you’ve got a move made up in your mind before you catch a pass.  Depending on the player and the level of competition, that can be okay.  But for your purposes, let’s not do that.  To adopt a cool quote from one of the coolest ballers in history, let’s instead mimick Earl the Pearl Monroe: “The thing is, I don’t know what I’m going to do with the ball, and if I don’t know, I’m quite sure the guy guarding me doesn’t know either.”  Just catch the ball with a freed mind, and use your instincts.  If there’s a defender in the viscinity, spread your feet and use a jab step.  DO NOT do what you often do, which is stand tall with your feet close together and your weight on your toes.  This leads to you leaning (the top half of your body, anyway) to one side, losing your balance, and either traveling, dribbling off your foot, or heaving up an errant shot.  I can’t tell you how easy it would be to defend these plays when you show your hand the instant you catch the pass.  Ask Rob Pelinka to send over as many Kobe tapes as he has in his archives.  Kobe’s the best in the world at the triple-threat.  You need the ball either swinging through in a way that threatens a shot or drive, or held lower (like Michael Beasley often does–he’s good at this) in a way that seriously threatens the dribble.  A rocker-step move would do wonders for your game, but just holding the ball correctly would set you on the right path.  Maybe one day you’ll bust out some moves like The Pearl and wonder how any of it happened.

Good luck out there tonight,

Andy

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