Monthly Archives: February 2012

Love vs. Griffin: Under the Microscope (A Misplaced Title for a Misplaced Plan)

Well, that was interesting.  I had planned on doing a special post that analyzed the Love-Griffin matchup, breaking down each possession where they guarded one another.  Since I did the work (the few times the matchup occurred) I’ll post the results, below.  But the obvious story from this game was that just when Lob City was imposing its will on the young Muskies from Minnesota, Derrick Williams Happened.  And then Michael Beasley Happened.  Just check out the box score.  Two bench forwards EACH SCORED 27 POINTS!!! Beasley shot 11 for 15; Williams 9 for 10.  Each made every attempted 3-pointer (Beasley 3-3, Williams 4-4) and each made every shot they attempted in the 4th Quarter (I think).  These two PUMMELED the Paul-Griffin combo when it mattered most.  This wasn’t some lottery-bound, spongy defense either.  D-Thrill was doing elbow-flying jump stops on Kenyon Martin, the meanest forward in basketball.  Supercool Beas was torching Caron Butler.

Anyway, I won’t extrapolate too much on this performance.  It’s obviously anomalous for any players–let alone a couple of young and unproven ones like Beasley and Williams–to combine for a 20-25 shooting night and 54 points off the bench.  But Pat and I are card-carrying fans/supporters/apologists of both players, so we’re sure-as-shit going to give some props when Williams and Beasley shine on one of the biggest stages in the league.

In this League Pass Era, this game was being witnessed all over the country by hoops junkies, and Beasley-Williams will be the buzz tomorrow morning.  What a fun game to watch.

Now, to that Love-Griffin Matchup:

Since Love and Blake are widely considered the league’s best young power forwards, I thought it would be fun to take a closer look at their matchup in tonight’s game.  I noted what happened each time the two matched up on one another and anything happened.  (Essentially, I ignored possessions where they weren’t guarding one another, and possessions where they simply passed the ball without any activity surrounding the matchup, like a double-team.)

Here’s the list:

1st Quarter

Blake on Offense:

  1. Posts up Love, head fakes, up-and-under, 2 points
  2. Blake slides behind Love for alley-oop dunk attempt, misses dunk
  3. Pass comes to Blake on wing/mid-post, Love gambles for steal and misses, Blake has open path for dunk
  4. Blake squares up from top of key (20 feet) and clanks a jumper
  5. Hard double team comes from Rubio, Blake passes out leads to ball swing and jumpshot attempt
  6. Squares up and drives, Love fouls him at the rim, Love exits game cursing out refs

Love on Offense:

  1. Squares up and hits jumper in Blake’s face
  2. Dribble drive, takes difficult, contested jumper and misses
  3. Pick and roll, catches pass but DeAndre Jordan is help defender and blocks shot

2nd Quarter

Blake on Offense

(No matchups)

Love on Offense

  1. Squares up and dribble drives, Blake flops for charge–no call–and Love is fouled by help defender on shot
  2. Posts up, ball poked away and it’s call out of bounds off Love

3rd Quarter

Blake on Offense

  1. Missed 3-pointer when he was floating around near end of shot clock
  2. Fully double-teamed by Rubio, passes out for ball swing
  3. Fights with Love for offensive rebound, gets it, is fouled on shot
  4. Posting up, pass sails overhead and out of bounds
  5. Floating 18 feet out as Paul drives, Love follows Paul toward basket, pass goes out to Blake and Love dares him to shoot — makes jumpshot.

Love on Offense

  1. Posts up, misses hook shot
  2. Posts up for long sequence, 24-second buzzer goes off before shot, turnover
  3. Picks and pops, misses 3-pointer

4th Quarter

(No matchups, for reasons mentioned above.)

A few thoughts on this matchup:

  • For the game, Love had 10 pts 7 rebs 2 asts 2 tos
  • For the game, Griffin had 30 pts 7 rebs 4 asts 3 tos
  • Obviously, this was not Kevin Love’s night.  He shot 4-13 for 10 points and 7 rebounds in 25 minutes.  Everybody knows that isn’t him.  As Williams was killing it, Love went into the locker room with some kind of injury.  What was interesting for my exercise was how often Adelman had other defenders on Blake.  Perhaps it was an attempt to keep him out of foul trouble–Blake had it going in the 1st Half (24 points) and was getting lots of contact off dribble penetration.  Williams, Pekovic, and Darko defended Blake for the majority of this game, hence the few number of matchups for me to describe.
  • Blake commands a double team–a full one.  Not many in the league are in this category and he’s already there.
  • Blake can’t shoot very well.  Until he gets a better rhythm on his shot–jumper and free throws–he’ll be fighting with guys like Love and LaMarcus Aldridge for “Best 4 in the World” recognition.  If he shot just a little bit better, it wouldn’t even be a discussion.  His potential is so, so high.

This was obviously a rather disjointed Game Wrap.  Chris Paul had me worried; the Wolves had no answer for him until Williams made it rain from the Staples Center sky.  If there are two measured take-aways for what to do next, they are:

* Take two or three minutes from Kevin Love and give them to Derrick Williams.  Love is awesome, but he isn’t the type of player that should lead the NBA in minutes per game as he currently does.  He’s a rebounding big man.  That’s exhausting work and the team would benefit from having a bit more energy from both Love and his eager replacement.

* Give the Wes Johnson minutes to Michael Beasley already.  Shit, we’ve seen the talent discrepancy and it’s outrageous that this goes on.  Beasley will upset us sometimes with a blown assignment or a ball-stop.  But he’ll also go off from time to time, and he’ll ALWAYS be a better all-around basketball player than Wes.

Lakers tomorrow night.  Kobe was concussed by D-Wade in the All-Star Game (yes, this happened) so he may not play tomorrow.  Maybe it can be a Staples Sweep?

Season Record: 18-17



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All-Star Ramblings

Since I spent way more time than I’d like to admit watching the weekend’s All-Star festivities, I’d be remiss if I didn’t write something about them.  Here are some scattered jottings about where the weekend left me as a hoops fan:

* Kevin Durant and LeBron James are the two most exciting players in the world today.  I cheer for Derrick Rose and Kobe Bryant–when I’m not watching Wolves, of course–but KD & LBJ are doing things we haven’t seen before.  At least I haven’t.  LeBron turned the ball over on the last play, but before that was doing his “Game 5 versus Detroit” routine.  It wasn’t his fault that his team was down nearly 20 in the 4th Quarter.  Durant was awesome throughout.  His ball-handling seems to improve every year, and his shooting has always been stellar.

* Kobe isn’t as good as he thinks he is.  It’s kind of sad to watch, if you’ve cheered for him over the last decade.  He could be a key piece of a contender, but not the do-it-all guy that he used to be.  Until he’s playing next to a clear STUD (somebody like Dwight Howard or Deron Williams, to name two realistic names) he’ll be doing this dance where he pretends like he has to take bad shots and that it’s all about winning.  Ric Bucher (and yes, probably me) will make some excuses for him.  But he and his team won’t be relevant while he considers himself an A1 Superstar MVP Candidate.  He’s not that player anymore.

* Derrick Rose is a different cat.  There’s Kobe and CP3, who are competitive to an awkward degree.  Then there’s Derrick Rose, who seemingly doesn’t enjoy ANYTHING, but only thinks about winning.  He has a bad back and his own coach was not going to let him run wild out there, tonight.  But if he’s healthy for the playoffs, you can bet he’ll be ready to avenge that loss to the Heat last year.  That conference finals may be the best the NBA has seen since the epic Kings-Lakers bout of 2002.

* The Thunder would be crazy to trade Russell Westbrook.  Remember all those times San Antonio (allegedly) almost traded Tony Parker?  Instead, they kept him along with the other core pieces.  Every year, they’ve been a contender and they’ve won 3 titles with Tony on board.  Hell, they might win this year’s title with Tony leading the way.  If the Thunder keep Westbrook and Durant (both just extended contracts and seem to want to stay there forever) they’re a lock for contending every one of the next ten years (assuming the health of those two) and probably a lock for title(s).

* TNT is awesome.  Shaq isn’t a good analyst, but he’s getting better and his sense of humor is starting to click on the set.  To his credit, his super-long playing career allows him to drop anecdotes from the early 90’s up to the present.  His playing experience adds something to that crew.  Charles was on fire all weekend.  Ever since his DUI, he’s been losing weight and gaining focus.  When he’s into it, Chuck’s analysis and jokes are unrivaled by TV guys.

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Love the Champ

Kevin Love joined elite company on Saturday Night by winning the Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout.  Past winners include Larry Bird (3) Peja Stojakovich (2) Glen Rice, Mark Price, Ray Allen, Dirk Nowitzki, and Paul Pierce (and other lesser-known snipers).  Announcing the event for TNT were Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Shaq, and Charles Barkley.  Chuck continues to pump K-Love’s tire with the “best power forward in the NBA” flattery, but mentioned more than once that he doesn’t want Kevin to fall in love with the three-point shot.  He thinks he needs to do his work from 15 feet and in.  Reggie seemed to disagree; perhaps a natural reaction from a player whose teams won many a playoff series behind his long-range gunning.

I fall squarely in Reggie’s camp on this one.  Love’s perimeter shooting is a huge strength that helps the team by spacing the floor, capitalizing on Rubio passes, and–perhaps most importantly–taking Love away from the basket, where Nikola Pekovic is proving to be the more-effective option.  Love is currently shooting 4.0 threes per 36 minutes, a career-high for him.  For some perspective, here are past three-point champs and their career average for number of 3’s attempted per 36:

James Jones – 5.9

Paul Pierce – 4.3

Daequan Cook – 7.3

Jason Kapono – 4.2

Dirk Nowitzki – 3.1

Quentin Richardson – 5.7

Voshon Lenard – 5.7

Peja Stojakovich – 5.9

Ray Allen – 5.8

Jeff Hornacek – 2.2 (weird how low this is–he won the event TWICE, and barely shot 3’s in games.)

Steve Kerr – 3.6 (perhaps he and Horny just weren’t given the ball much, playing with multiple HOF’ers)

Tim Legler – 4.1

Glen Rice – 4.0

Mark Price – 4.1

Craig Hodges – 3.4

Dale Ellis – 4.4

Larry Bird – 1.8

Okay, now that I’ve made that list, a few additional thoughts:

* 4.0 is higher than I anticipated among the former champs.  These are career averages though, and some of these guys had higher 3PA/36 during their prime years.  Love is probably now in his prime.

* Some of these players were role players next to superstars–guys like Kerr, Hodges, and Legler were not given the ball very much, so low shooting frequency makes sense.  For Love, this isn’t an issue.

* I don’t think Love–to this point–gets hounded around the perimeter like star shooters such as Allen and Peja.  I think he could afford to shoot an extra 3 or two each game without forcing it.

Anyway, great representation of the Wolves tonight between Love’s title and one pretty amazing dunk by Williams, with help from Rubio.  The team is certainly on the national radar now, and All-Star Weekend bears that out.


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A Guest Post on Jeremy Lin, by George N

Jeremy Lin

Patrick J: I asked my good friend George N to write a guest post on “what it means to be an Asian NBA fan and to have Jeremy Lin intervene into his NBA fandom.” He graciously replied with his thoughts below.

On Jeremy Lin:

I’d be lying if I said that I don’t care at all that he’s Asian. Part of my interest also stems from the fact that he’s from the Bay Area and he used to play on the Warriors. Lots of friends (mostly also Asian and from the bay) messaged me as soon as he had his first breakout game against the Nets. Many regretted the Warriors cutting him to try to sign DeAndre (The Dubs front office has made so many other mistakes that this one hardly registered). As a partial NBA season ticket holder (Wizards still count as pro basketball right?), and a daily box score reader – I typically notice if anyone has a breakout game. I saw the summer league highlights against Wall. I saw
some Harvard clips that were forwarded by one of my best Asian friends who wrote for the Cornell paper at the time. He was totally against Lin. Why? I think he put it best when he was asked by a white friend from Stanford why, as an Asian, he wouldn’t be a Lin fan, he responded, “do you root for every white guy from Cal?”

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Rating the B.S. Report

Bill Simmons works for ESPN.  He’s also called “The Sports Guy.” Apparently he writes a column called “The Sports Column.” He also has a podcast called The B.S. Report, which is a free-flowing conversation that occasionally touches on mature subject matter. You know the drill.

So yesterday Simmons did a two-part podcast: Part 1 featured Kevin Love and Wi-ZARDS superfan, Joe House ( Play Download); Part 2 featured Dirk Nowitzski and Wi-ZARDS superfan Joe House (Play Download). (CAVEAT: Neither of us have had an opportunity to listen to them yet because of these niggling “day jobs” we have to do, but we’re both pretty psyched to hear them because the Simmon-House duo rules and so do Dirk and K-Love.)

In anticipation of listening to these podcasts, and without a Wolves game to discuss, we decided to look back on our favorite BS Report moments and propose who we would pay to hear on future B.S. Reports.

Andy G’s Favorites

  1. Bill Walton (Describes the genius of John Wooden in ways only Walton can.  Also, I believe this podcast holds the BS Report title for ‘most awkward ending’ when Bill S. asks some question about the late-70’s Blazers breaking up and Bill W. abruptly ends interview. Eds. note: I’m not able to find the direct link to the Walton podcast so I’m posting his general ESPN Audio link, which contains links to many sources of Walton goodness.–AG)
  2. 3-Man Weave with Mark Stein & Ric Bucher (Simmons loves the Celtics.  Stein loves the Mavericks.  Bucher loves the Lakers.  They rib each other about these allegiances in funny ways, and all three are in touch with the league.)
  3. Chuck Klosterman (Klosterman could write or speak about tax returns and make them seem interesting.  He also knows hoops (though more NCAA than NBA) and his discussions with Simmons on the BS Report are must-listen.  One that sticks out is from the week that Charlie Sheen went batshit.
  4. Jalen Rose (No surprise that BS hired him for HIS OWN podcast on the Grantland Network. He knocked his BS Report out of the park. Lots of good stuff about 90’s NBA and the Fab Five.)
  5. Steve Kerr (Knows the game, has great stories, and speaks well. He’s a perfect fit for the podcast format.)

Patrick J’s Favorites

  1. David Kahn (Obviously.)
  2. Bob Ryan (Breakdown of Pierce as best Celtics scorer of all time–yes, greater than Legend; discussion of how McHale’s greatness is likely to be forgotten)
  3. Chris Herren (So much Boston here, it warmed my heart just to hear the accent. Also, penetrating discussion of LOYALTY and Rick Pitino. Verification of why Paul Pierce is great.)
  4. Joe House 2011/12 Season Preview, Part I and Part II(The 2011/12 season preview episodes is funny as hell. House says “Anus Kanter” and I believe he was being earnest about it. That NEVER happens.)
  5. Larry Bird (Actually, this one was kind of a yawner given that Legend is my all-time favorite basketball player. Bird opines on Rubio (yes, he’s great) and Kobe vs. LeBron (Both are great, Lebron might be more fun to play with, but you’re more likely to win rings if you’re on Kobe’s squad.

Worst B.S. Report

  1. Blake Griffin (He’s a more stale interview than Derrick Rose. Only sunshine here is that that hearing Simmons pulling teeth to get Griffin to talk was sort of entertaining ‘cause it was almost as hard to listen to as that scene in Swingers where Mikey keeps calling and leaving messages on that chick’s answering machine.)(Eds. note: Who am I forgetting? –PJ)
  2. (Eds. note: You are forgetting BILLY HUNTER: (ALL listeners were pissed off listening to it (an inherent truth when you cross people who care enough about league to listen to a Billy Hunter interview with outrage of same people from LOCKOUT) and Hunter had nothing interesting to add.  I took away no enjoyment from that listen.  At least when David Stern comes on, he’s going to piss you off in interesting ways.–AG)
Let’s up the ante: Who WOULD be a great BS Report guest? (Bill, are you reading?)

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Pulse of the Celtic Fan: An Unintended Guest Post, by Brian J

(Perhaps you’ve already seen and read The Danny Ainge Anniversary Party, written by Bill Simmons and published this morning on Grantland.  In it he uses biting sarcasm and his usual wit to make an absolute mockery of Danny Ainge and the current state of the Celtics.  If you haven’t read it and you’ve got 20 minutes to spare, give it a read.  This is Simmons at his best, pulling no punches.  Since the C’s are falling apart faster than some expected (except me, of course) I had to share this link with friend and PDW reader, Brian J.  Brian is an avid Wolves fan, but his loyalties split to a degree when KG departed for the greener pastures of the Boston Garden.  He joined in celebration with many others in ‘Sota when Garnett and Company won the 2008 title.  In any case, that’s enough background and I’ll give Brian the floor.  He wrote about 1,500 words more than I expected in response to a short email.  I think what comes through in his email is a sentiment probably shared by Celtics fans across New England and Minnesota alike. With his permission, I’m posting in here. -Andy G)

Read this over lunch – indeed, pretty painful to read, but also kind of cathartic to read someone else expressing a lot of your frustrations with C’s management.

Lots of things I agree with, particularly the way this year’s team has been assembled/treated. Beyond the C’s big four, they might have the worst 5-12 players in the league, and Danny Ainge has to take the blame for that. Ainge’s thought process in acquiring Wilcox and Dooling to play key supporting roles this year is unfathomable to me. At what point in the last 5 years did anybody think either of them could be key contributors on a contending team? There has been way too much turnover on this team to build any sort of chemistry or stability, and their stars are no longer good enough to make that not matter. Every year Ainge is plugging in new players and messing with the roster. For a supposed contender, the C’s have had a ridiculous amount of turnover in their supporting roles. Some have been better than others I guess – Delonte West was a good addition, but they couldn’t even hold on to him.

Ainge absolutely fucked up the team with the indefensible Kendrick Perkins trade. There was no real good reason for it (per Simmons, C’s were 41-14 at the time) other than Ainge wanted to make some kind of awkward transition to being younger while still supposedly contending for a title. You can’t do that. Simmons’ “Sam Presti” nails it when he tells Danny he’s stuck between trying to rebuild and trying to contend. Only on extremely rare occasions can I recall teams ever managing to contend for a title (legitimately being in the championship discussion, not just making the playoffs) and simultaneously adding solid young pieces for the future without compromising their contender status. The Spurs are the team that most obviously comes to mind, but even though they’ve managed to have a stellar regular season record, it’s debatable the extent to which they have been truly a championship contender the past couple of years. Other than that, it’s hard enough to rebuild a middling-playoff contender without completely bottoming out at some point to clear cap space and acquire lottery draft picks. But Ainge for some reason thought the C’s could do something like that by trading Perk for Jeff Green. I get that he felt they needed defensive help on the wing to spell Paul Pierce, especially after Marquis Daniels went down (I wonder if that trade ever gets made if Marquis is healthy), but he could have gone out and gotten someone capable enough without destroying the chemistry and Ubuntu the C’s had going (honestly, does Green even bring that much to the table? Is he really that much better than, say, Ryan Gomes? Or Wilson Chandler? Jeff Green type players are a dime a dozen). That absolutely wrecked the magical sense of togetherness of that team.

Look, everybody knows that the NBA is a business – that cliche gets repeated over and over again whenever trade rumors circulate. But the C’s had somehow managed to create this sense that their team was something more, that it had transcended the business aspect of the game and reached some purer form of team-ness, where things like loyalty and brotherhood mattered. Those guys killed themselves for each other. Sure they had their fights, but at the end of the day they went to war together and had each others’ backs. Other teams and fans hated them, partly for the reputation for nastiness they developed, but also partly, I’m convinced, for the sense of internal cohesion they radiated, which other teams could never hope to attain. 

Danny Ainge ruined all of that when he traded Perkins, and he continues to destroy whatever sense of Ubuntu might have remained by ruthlessly shopping his guys publicly. I understand that management has other responsibilities and that includes looking for ways to improve the team, but I disagree that it needs to be done at such a public level. This same issue came up with  Kobe calling out the Lakers for all the Gasol stuff. Here was Mitch Kupchak’s response the other day: “As general manager of the Lakers, I have a responsibility to ownership, our fans and the players on this team to actively pursue opportunities to improve the team for this season and seasons to come,” Kupchak said in the statement. “To say publicly that we would not do this would serve no purpose and put us at a competitive disadvantage. Taking such a course of action at this time would be a disservice to ownership, the team and our many fans.” That seems like a load of bullshit to me. The first sentence is true enough, but I don’t see how keeping that private does a disservice to the team or puts them at a competitive disadvantage. On the contrary, making it publicly known that you are shopping one of your stars seems to be the action that would put you at a competitive disadvantage – obviously if teams and their fans know that the Lakers are trying to move Gasol, that significantly impacts the value they are going to get for him. I don’t see why it wouldn’t serve everybody better to keep that stuff quiet. Obviously certain things will work their way into the public regardless, but it seems like the prudent course of action would be to keep quiet, from an official standpoint, and let those things die out as rumors. 

At any rate, I couldn’t agree more with Simmons that Ainge is responsible for destroying what was really a rare sense of togetherness on that Celtics team. But it is hard to take his laments about loyalty and Ubuntu seriously when he turns around and spends half the column making up similarly crazy trades that would violate those same principles. Some of his trade ideas are so horribly ill conceived that I’m almost afraid Ainge might consider them. Take proposal (b) in his first footnote, for example. For the C’s this would basically be trading Rondo for Evan Turner and Nikola Vucevic…WTF?! How does it in anyway benefit the C’s to trade their most valuable asset for Evan freaking Turner. Am I missing something here? And yet Simmons says he’d do any of these trades. Later on he discusses trading KG (huge expiring contract) for Lamar Odom and Shawn Marion – also a terrible idea, nothing but a lateral move at best. Odom is averaging under 8 points a game since he left the Lakers, and Marion is getting darn near washed up. Both these guys are already into their 30s, and wouldn’t bring the C’s anywhere near contender status. All that move would do is ensure several more years of frustration watching old former stars try to contend for a low playoff seed, without really being able to start over. That is a perfect example of not knowing whether you want to try one more year contending for a title, or really start over – because that move would guarantee you get neither of those things.

Even though the final lineup he proposes sounds intriguing – Gasol, Odom, Pierce, Marion, and Mo Williams starring – I really doubt whether that team gets you any further than the current iteration of the Celtics. They certainly wouldn’t win it this year, and even if that core stayed together for next year you are looking at another team of guys frighteningly close to their mid-30s (which isn’t working right now, turns out). Plus you still have the issue with some really shitty players off the bench – “Presti” tries to sneak in the names of Wilcox and Avery Bradley as if those could be key rotation guys on a contender.

I’ve wanted these C’s to make one last run at it this year, but unfortunately Ainge has made that seem like a long-shot. It’s painful to watch them play on nights when injuries (or Rondo chucking the ball at referees) means big minutes for JaJuan Johnson and E’Twuan Moore. I still can’t bring myself to call for blowing it up just yet. I’d like KG to be able to retire as a Celtic and not have to switch teams one more meaningless time. He puts so much of himself into his team and the game, that it makes me depressed to think about him having to adjust to another team in the twilight of his career. Loyalty matters to KG – it did in Minneapolis, and it does now in Boston. He’s the guy who taught me how much loyalty can mean even in this business-driven league by giving his all to the T-Wolves even when the management had effectively abandoned him. I’d like to see Danny Ainge and the C’s organization show him a little bit of that same respect. He’s earned it.

Until next time.



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Five Minutes of Fun (WOLVES 100, Jazz 98)

What a struggle.

For three and a half quarters of tonight’s Wolves-Jazz game, the Target Center crowd mixed groans with boos as Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love tried to one-up each other with ugly missed shots and turnovers.  Love was manhandled all night by Utah’s beastly power forward, Paul Millsap, leaving many wondering if he were sick, and me wondering if perhaps he just had too much fun last night (and invited his teammates with him?)  I haven’t read the official word on whether he had the flu, but something was wrong.

But even as the woes of the team’s best players continued, the Wolves hung around in this one, just enough to prevent the crowd from emptying early.  Instead of giving up, J.J. Barea (who played a WRETCHED first half of this game) turned up his game and started knocking down treys (5-6 from downtown for the game).  Nikola Pekovic caught fire for a short stretch in the third quarter and finished with 15 and 12.  And perhaps most importantly, rookie Derrick Williams stepped up during winning time.  He scored 9 points in the final 5:20 of the game; the exact stretch of time that saw the Wolves erase an 89-80 Jazz advantage and steal what seemed like an impossible win.  Two of D-Thrill’s buckets came from key offensive rebounds.  He was beasting.

But even with Barea’s shooting touch and Williams’ heroics, this game was still in doubt.  When Paul Millsap finally let up on the (probably) ailing Love, Big Al Jefferson took the wheel.  Isolated outside the right block, one-on-one against his old buddy (or his “son”–didn’t he call Kevin that once?) Jefferson buried a jumper to tie the game at 98 with 7 seconds left.  But all this did was up the excitement and bring fans further into the moment.  Of course Luke Ridnour answered the call by dropping in a rainbow floater as the backboard lit up red.

It’s a weird feeling to be pissed off for 90 percent of the game, and then rejoice as the buzzer sounds.  Fans high fived their way to the streets.  Even if you (or I, at least) don’t like Luke Ridnour playing shooting guard, he’s the kind of guy you feel happy for when he takes a turn as game hero.

Other jottings:

* A problem area in this game was off-the-ball defense.  The Wolves played some 2-3 zone, and allowed big men (Millsap, Favors) to slide behind the low man for slip pass dunks.  In man defense, Barea and Webster were back-cut on consecutive possessions.  Josh Howard was cutting in front of his defender ALL. NIGHT. LONG.  Wes Johnson was a victim of some of this cutting.  I’m sure he wasn’t alone, but I don’t have the game tape to be sure.  Howard moves without the ball.  He had a hell of a nice game, before fouling out.  Perhaps he’s healthy again?  Or motivated?  He had a fairly-conspicuous fall from grace after leaving the Mavs.  Even though I don’t think Utah is going anywhere far this year, perhaps Howard will be a relevant NBA baller again.  This was the best I’ve seen him look in years and I don’t think it was ONLY due to Wolves’ mistakes.

* Pat and I keep throwing out trade idea posts, most of which surround Derrick Williams.  This isn’t because we don’t like him (far from it) but simply because he’s got a positional problem on this roster with Kevin Love on it, and Pekovic emerging as the permanently-starting center.  Games like this one make me reconsider ditching a nice young player on the rookie scale.  Oklahoma City brings James Harden off the bench, and that seems to be going okay for them.  I don’t know.  I’m sure we’ll continue to virtual trade Williams around the league, if nothing else for our own kicks.  The only thing I’ll add is that he should get bigger minutes if he’s going to stay.  He has tendencies in his game that need game reps to improve.  Even with those warts, his skill set, athleticism, and motor can lead to big moments like his crunchtime heroics of tonight’s game.

* So, back to .500, and the Wolves have now matched last year’s win total of 17.  What better time than the All-Star Break to enjoy this accomplishment?  The Pups don’t play again for six days, when they travel to Staples Center and rematch with the Clippers (recall Love’s buzzer-beating heroics the last time they matched up in LA.)  Saturday night will feature D-Thrill (and certainly Rubio as a passer) in the Dunk Contest, and K-Love in the three-point contest.  Between now and then, Love can work on getting his stroke back to its usual excellence and start burying more treys in games.  If tonight was any indicator, he could probably use some rest, too.  He continues to lead the NBA in minutes per game.

Enjoy the break, I’m sure we’ll come up with some post ideas between now and the 28th.

Season Record: 17-17


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INBOX: Target Practice, the Pau and Monta Edition


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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#linsanity + Melo’s Return = Live Blogging

I’m a little bit behind on the #linsanity craze (my fellow PDW blogger, Patrick J, has taken to some light-hearted Lin detracting on our Twitter account–I haven’t seen enough to have much of an opinion) so I’m taking to some live blogging of this anticipated return of Carmelo Anthony, to see how the chemistry does or does not exist between these two big-name New Yorkers.

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J.R. Rider: Back In Your Living Room

…but he isn’t stealing your tv. At least not this time.

Andy G and I won’t be missing this.

(h/t Michael Rand, RandBall)

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New Wolves Site

So, I just discovered Wolves Rubes, a new Timberwolves site that already has some interesting content up, like this post breaking down Pau Gasol trade rumors.

Check them out over at

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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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Can Derrick Williams Win the Dunk Contest?

Williams dunks from far places

This blogger says no.

I decided to rank the dunkers, based on how well I expect them to do in the contest (that is, NOT on their in-game dunking ability). My list is below the fold.

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Taking Care of Business…or something (WOLVES 102, Bobcats 90)

The good news: Minnesota snapped its 4-game losing streak tonight, earning a decided victory against the Charlotte Bobcats.

The less-good news: I have no idea what to make of the performance, because Charlotte is the worst healthy NBA team I have seen in recent years.

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INBOX: ’08ers Being Frozen Out? (The Conspiracy Theory Edition)

Andy G: We wrote some about the awesome 2008 Draft class, yesterday. With Michael Beasley losing minutes to Wesley Johnson, and AR15 racking up DNP-CD’s the way J.J. Barea racks up wild turnovers, is it possible that these restricted free agents are being frozen out of bigger pay days?

I mean, there’s more-than-plausible deniability here; each guy has his own weaknesses and hardly COMMANDS big minutes. Beasley gets lost on defense and scores inefficiently more often than not, and AR15 has bouts of losing all control of his emotions and play. But Mike provides needed shot creation and AR15 racks up production in short minutes at reasonable efficiency… next summer, they’ll be taking their talents around the league, looking for long-term contracts. Might it be that Adelman or (more likely) KAHN are scheming to limit those contracts, perhaps planning to re-sign at least one of them at a bargain bin rate?

Patrick J: I like where you’re going with this, but I’ll disagree anyway. These guys are pretty much the basketball equivalent of that hot girl you always see at the bar whenever you go out for a drink: lots of potential on the outside, but deep down you know she wouldn’t be there if she weren’t deeply flawed on the inside. Randolph’s problems show up less in the stats than on the court. He just can’t control his body or emotions. (Sort of like that girl.) Beasley’s unfocused disengagement gets more troubling by the game. Both look like reconcilables, but they’d need the right situation, coaching, teammates, role, etc, and I think we’ll be lucky if either turns it around here. So I’ll give Adelman and Kahn the benefit of the doubt on this one–you know they want to exploit that talent more than anyone.

AG: Okay, I like the analogy, and you are probably right. How about tihs: Let’s assume that ONE of these two guys is getting the Isaiah Thomas Freeze-Out from some combination of Kahn, various Adelmans, and (just for fun) Rob Moor.

Which guy do you think the team would intentionally withhold an opportunity to, in hopes of retaining him at a discount?

PJ: I guess if we think through the implications of the theory, the answer would be Randolph–the reason being that he appears to be permanently benched DESPITE putting up solid numbers and being on the floor during many of the team’s better early-season runs, which often came during 2nd-half comebacks. In contrast, Beasley keeps getting fairly consistent, if limited, minutes. It’s weird to think about this since Randolph doesn’t seem like he’d be that expensive regardless, but he’s got the raw athleticism, length, and basketball IQ of DeAndre Jordan, and Jordan got paid (relatively speaking) after just one decent season, so it isn’t inconceivable that the same could happen to Randolph if he got enough showcase this year.

AG: I would also bet on Randolph, if forced to choose. I’ve been kicking around Derrick Williams trade ideas like it’s my job (even though I still like D-Thrill as a budding power forward prospect) and I’d guess R.J. Adelman spends much of his day doing the same. If the team can get wing value for D-Thrill (like Mayo, or Redick, or Kevin Martin, or Monta Ellis, or…) then all of a sudden AR15 means more to the team as a long-term backup big man. By freezing him out of minutes this year, they’re positioning themselves to be able to match what promises to be a reasonable offer, if he gets one. Problem is, he might just take his qualifying offer (if we extend it) and wait for UFA status. Hard to say, but I enjoy NBA conspiracy theories.

PJ: Here’s a question regarding another ’08er: Would you trade Derrick Williams for O.J. Mayo? Would Kahn? Would Chris Wallace?? With Z-Bo out, Memphis needs a PF and the Wolves need a SG, so the basic logic seems sound. But it hurts my brain to try to work through Kahn’s and Wallace’s potential thought processes. Who says no?

AG: D-Thrill for O.J.? I’m not sure that either team does it. Williams isn’t good enough (yet) to be relied upon by a team that hopes to contend for a championship. O.J. isn’t good enough for the Wolves to trade the most-recent #2 pick in the draft for. The trade would have to be adjusted somehow in our favor. Anyway, that’s probably enough speculation about the ’08ers for now. Until next time.

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Exposed Again (MAGIC 102, Wolves 89)

Like recent seasons past, the Wolves are beginning to develop negative trends that play out over the course of an extended losing streak, this one now at four games.

  • Everybody (certainly this must include the bench and front office) knows that the team lacks a competent shooting guard. Luke Ridnour missed tonight’s game at Orlando for personal reasons. All the best to Luke and whatever he has going on, but his play at the off guard has not been good recently. Martell Webster didn’t help much tonight, scoring 5 points and turning it over twice in 22 minutes.
  • Everybody knows that the Wolves struggle to take care of the basketball. They had 18 turnovers tonight, with the increasingly erratic J.J. Barea leading the way with 7 of his own in only 23 minutes.
  • A new area of concern is three-point shooting.  Against the Magic, Wolves players shot 6 for 21 (28.6 percent) from downtown–this following recent games of 6-19, 6-23, and 4-19.  For the losing streak, they are a combined 26.8 percent from downtown, a rate that would put them dead last in the league by more than a couple of percentage points. Ricky creates a ton of three-point opportunities, but the Wolves won’t win many games if his teammates can’t convert them.
  • Why is Wes Johnson still starting?  This is the question that nobody has a good answer to.  He isn’t even playing good defense, anymore.  Jason Richardson scored 17 tonight, 5 over his average and many while baiting Wes into bad fouls or slamming him off screens for open jumpers.  Wes’ 3 for 7 shooting night was good for him, but his minutes need to go elsewhere.  Michael Beasley had a pretty average night by his standards (13 points in 25 minutes, a (-2) in a 13-point loss) and could play the same mediocre defense with better offensive punch.

I’m already beating dead horses, so I’ll keep this brief.

The Magic spread the floor around Dwight Howard and shoot a lot of threes. They make a lot of threes. In fact, they lead the league by a wide margin in made 3’s per game (9.9, next in NBA is New Jersey with 8.8). They made 12 tonight, and shot at a 40 percent clip.

J.J. Redick could run a basketball camp solely dedicated to using screens. He’s really made it into an artform. It’s silly what he does to defenders by running them off picks in all directions.

Ryan Anderson spreads the floor by being a 6’10” sharpshooter. All of this works beautifully around Superman Howard. It’s a shame that he’s going to leave the Florida Sun and this nice team chemistry. In a season as wide open as this one, Orlando has a real chance to win an improbable title, just as Dallas did last year.

Bottom line: the Wolves lost because they a) didn’t take care of the ball; b) didn’t defend the three ; c) took and missed lots of jumpers; and d) don’t have an NBA shooting guard.

Until next time.

Season Record: 13-16


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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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A Check-In at Basketball Reference

Having played 28 games (13-15) our Wolves are now exactly 42.42424242… percent complete with this shortened regular season.  What better time to visit the Basketball Reference team page and see where we’re at with numbers?

The first (and second and third and fourth…) thing that jumps out is Kevin Love.  Without even checking, I’m sure that his 25.6 points per game is a franchise record, if continued for the rest of the season.  To pair that with 13.8 rebounds per game is pretty amazing.  When compared to the best scorer-rebounder power forwards of the past (as these numbers require) the one statistic that seems lacking is the assists per game (1.7).  Last year, Love had a career-high 2.5 apg, which still isn’t all that high, compared to other power forwards who generate so many points and rebounds with consistency.  Charles Barkley and Kevin Garnett were usually over 4 assists per game, and Blake Griffin currently assists over 3 times a night, despite playing with Chris Paul who would seemingly handle the creating for the Clips.  Love’s assist-to-turnover ratio of 0.63/1.00 (1.7 to 2.7) is one area for him to improve on.  Should he focus on getting more assists, or fewer turnovers?  I think that’s a fair question.  Some of his high-turnover games (like Friday’s versus Dallas) coincide with ugly Wolves offense, geared away from Rubio passing and Pekovic/Beasley post ups and more toward Love trying to draw fouls that aren’t there.  But this is a small point in the grand scheme of the great year he is having.  Based on season performance to date, Love was deserving of a starting spot on the All-Star Team.

Scanning down the roster, the low shooting percentages stick out.  Seven players are currently shooting under 40 percent from the field.  Two of those players (Rubio & Johnson) are starters.  The team is shooting 42.9 percent, good for 24th in the NBA.  If Pekovic and his whopping 63 percent are removed from the equation, the rest of the team shoots 41.6 percent, which would be good for 28th in the league.  Speaking of Pek, should he be getting the ball more?  The natural response is “obviously” except that the way he gets those buckets at high efficiency is not an easy scenario to create.  He seals his man directly under the basket, commencing the three-second timer that has been his offensive kryptonite in the early part of his career.  With such a wide lane, the opportunities to find Pek in his money zone are not as easy as it sounds.  Still, the team should look as much as possible to exploit what is becoming a matchup problem for opponents, with Pek’s interior scoring.

Staying with Pek for a moment, check out his per-36 numbers (18.3 points, 10.5 rebounds) and consider that he could become an All-Star center with enough playing time.  Crazy, huh?  The obvious area for improvement is turnovers.  Pek turns it over 3.5 times per 36, despite only dishing out 0.5 assists in that same time.  An assist-to-turnover ratio of 1 to 7 is horrendous.  He’s improved greatly from last season at limiting the 3 seconds calls, and offensive fouls, but both remain big areas for learning and adjusting to NBA rules.

As far as regressing to the mean goes, Michael Beasley and Ricky Rubio seem to be doing exactly that, in opposite directions.  Much was made about Rubio’s imroved shooting when he started the year hot.  That has changed for the worse, as he is currently hitting 37.1 percent of field goals, and 31.7 percent of 3’s.  Apparently he’s working hard with Terry Porter and Shawn Respert on his jumper.  I don’t doubt that, but for now I’d rather see him limit the jumper attempts in games.  Beasley was shooting under 40 percent before his foot injury.  That has climbed up to 42.7, and will probably continue to rise some at least into the mid-40’s.  His three-point shooting is hot right now, hitting 45.7 percent from downtown.  He would be wise to do as he did on Friday versus Dallas, and set up shop in that corner.  Ricky will find him there plenty.

What numbers stick out to you?  What do you expect to change?


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