I was really excited to write about last year’s preseason opener. It was one of the first entries on this blog and it was the first time that I had seen Ricky Rubio play in a Wolves uniform. Also, the lockout pushed it back to mid-December leaving me and every other NBA fan dying of thirst for some ball to be played. Tonight’s preseason debut was less exciting but positive nonetheless. The Wolves took on a Pacers team that sat Danny Granger, George Hill and David West. Lance Stephenson led them in minutes with 25. So it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that the “home” team won by 14 points. Although Rubio and Ridnour sat out for the good guys, mainstays Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, and Derrick Williams played substantial minutes, as did newcomers Alexey Shved, Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko. A few casual observations about a game devoid of significant takeaways.
* Pekovic is ripped to shreds. On the blurry feed from the FARGODOME (all caps is actually proper!) you could even see the muscle lines on Pek’s new physique. I guess those reports from the hills of Montenegro were no joke. Pek is in shape, ready to kick ass and take names. Maybe he won’t even need a wood chipper to get the job done.
* Brandon Roy played 24 minutes — kind of a lot, considering the question marks — and looked pretty good. Roy was driving to the hole, cutting off the ball, posting up, and all without noticeable pain or slowness a foot. He probably can’t jump as high anymore. Bayno says as much. But he really does *look like* the old Brandon Roy. The big question is whether he can hold up for an entire season. The question after that is how much a lack of burst near the rim will cost his efficiency in real games. But for a first impression, Roy did fine.
* AK47 really does pass and cut. If his time in Utah didn’t fully bear this out, his Olympic run (with Shved) did.
* Speaking of Shved, he also resembled his Olympian self in this game. Two things stick out, both of which were on display in London. First, he’s unselfish, and not even a little bit ball dominant. If he’s playing the two, he’s off the ball. If he’s given the ball and expected to do something, he’ll call for a ball screen and do something. He’s a player that has obviously been coached. Second, he does something that Ricky Rubio, J.J. Barea, and especially Steve Nash do, which is keep his head up and dribble alive as he dribbles baseline. There’s almost always room to continue on through if there’s no shot or easy pass. Rather than rely on sudden changes of direction, or *bursts* of speed, Shved has the Rubio/Nash style of beating teams with constant motion. It’s tiring to defend, and effective as an offense generator. His ability to make shots off the dribble adds to this threat.
That there is more words than this little game deserved. I’ll be in attendance Saturday at Target Center — I’d expect a Thibodeau-led Bulls team to come looking for a win. Should be fun.