In what was either a coincidence or something related to the dismal crowd that showed up to face an Israeli opponent on a Tuesday Night when a 50/50 presidential election had a debate (okay, definitely the latter), I was able to sit close to the floor for the second straight [preseason] game. This time, that meant seeing star defensive lineman, Kevin Williams, in the beer line. It meant an up-close look at new Timberwolf Andrei Kirilenko (the guy never stops talking and moving–fun to see in person), and the unexpected meeting of Brandon Roy’s family. His mom, wife and kids were all cheering for “Bran Bran” which tipped us off quickly who they were. Super nice people who seem to like Minnesota.
A few things about the game:
In the good news/bad news department: The good news is that Dante Cunningham looks every bit like a player who deserved playing time on last year’s badass Memphis Grizzlies. He’s active, athletic and smart. He’s disciplined in his decisionmaking and makes open shots. He’s a role player, and possibly a good one. He can play on any team, including this one.
The bad news is that he’ll be playing over Derrick Williams who was the 2nd Overall Pick in the 2011 NBA Draft; the highest pick in franchise history. Here’s the thing: You know how Darko Milicic recently told the press that he “stopped trying to be the 2nd Pick a long time ago?” (paraphrasing, I think). Well, Derrick is still trying to be the second pick. As he should. But that means being a playmaker. It means being a matchup problem, particularly if you’re drafted specifically for scoring prowess. Four things are limiting Williams in these games, as I see it: 1) He doesn’t shoot very well; 2) He doesn’t look very comfortable in a power forward role. He floats aimlessly, not seeming like a destination or goal is in mind; 3) When near the basket, instead of going up as hard as he can (REPEAT: YOUNG AMARE STOUDEMIRE TAPES!), he crumbles into a ball, sometimes avoiding contact and almost always getting a low-percentage look; and 4) He sometimes gets fouled and doesn’t get the call. I don’t know where Derrick Williams will be in 3 weeks, let alone 3 years. I really, really want him to make it. But right now, my confidence is low and I’m glad that Dante Cunningham (11 points on 5-6 shooting in 13 minutes tonight) is on the team.
There were some signs of Classic Adelman Ball Movement when the lineup features Roy, Kirilenko, and Love. Not exactly Princeton Offense, but sharp passes–extra passes. Kirilenko in particular. I liked what I saw from AK47 tonight. He’s a bouncy player, always moving. He clearly prefers to pass instead of shoot, if it’s a close call. Shved is similarly unselfish. I’m curious why Alexey didn’t play until the 2nd Half, because he dominated the other night. He finished tonight’s game with a solid 5 points (2-3 shooting), 2 assists and (most importantly) 0 turnovers in 13 minutes. Shved has a nice tendency to take one or two hard dribbles and rise up to fire cross-court kickout passes. Defenses will scout this, but it’s a fairly repeatable play. It initiates movement of defenders, something that wasn’t happening last year, Post-Rubio. Shved will help.
All in all, it was a solid performance for the home team. The Wolves won by 33 against a team that recently played (playoff contender rival) Golden State to an 8-point game. The refs let a TON of contact under the basket go, most of which that would’ve benefited the Wolves via foul shots. Other than Derrick Williams, I think most Wolves hung their heads high after this one. Can’t wait for the real games to start.
What’d I miss?