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?
12 responses to “Maccabi Haifa! (WOLVES 114, Haifa, 81)”
I’m disappointed with Derrick, particularly because Bayno worked with him this summer on attacking the rim and contact at the rim. Maybe moving between the 3 and the 4 is befuddling him. I hope he keeps at it until the light dawns.
It’s a bummer. On this team, with its expectations for the season, he won’t get a chance to play his way out of a prolonged slump.
I couldn’t watch the game because of Leage Pass Gremlins again. So here’s something I’m wondering: Is Love back in shape? The box makes it look like he played great. But he always destroys inferior opponents. (That’s not a slam, just a reality – he often also destroys high-quality opponents.) So, since you had eyes on, is he, in your estimation, in no-shit, NBA game shape yet?
It’s hard to say. I think it’s pretty clear that he’s not in *bad* shape, but it’s probably unlikely that he’s in the same shape that he entered last season in. I just don’t think he cares much about preseason and that probably puts him in company with LeBron, Wade, and just about every other superstar. The story about sleeping on his arm wrong seems dubious. (That’s me judging it on my own experience of never having woken up with a disabled arm in 30 years. But I have woken up with hangovers, and I’ve woken up with less-than-usual ambition for an annoying job task ahead:) I’m not even a little bit worried about Love, but if he’s genuinely out of shape, we’ll see it in the first weeks of the season like with Dirk last year. Obvious difference though being that Dirk had a shorter training camp to get his legs going. Love will be fine.
You identified the biggest story: the continuing flailings of Derrick Williams. It’s pretty clear that Cunningham is in the process of beating him out.
Couple of other notes: looks like the Barea plus 4 backup forwards lineup they tried out in the 2nd quarter isn’t going to work. Happily, they won’t have to use it. It just reinforced that they are going to need Shved as a 2nd ball handler when Roy is out of the game. And/or a primary scorer.
I don’t think Shved’s first half absence means much; I think Adelman just wanted to look at some different combinations.
More general pre-season musings: AK balls. He’s so present on the floor. Not used to that. Roy looks so much better then I expected. Of course, that could start deteriorating at any time. Pek seems a bit off. Not so concerned; he’ll start making them soon enough.
Barea’s stat line looks nicer than I thought his performance did. Maybe some of that was being teamed with 4 non-ball handlers because he was dominating the rock in typical JJ form. Also, he hit some 3’s that I think came off of setups from Shved.
Probably true re: Shved’s minutes, and I agree on AK. He looked good.
I like JJ. In short bursts. I do think that lineup they had for a while (JJ with Budinger, Cunningham, Williams, and Amundson) is a) not workable, b) an invitation to JJ’s ball-dominant tendencies, and c) not really good enough. All of which is OK, since I doubt we’ll ever see that group in the regular season.
It does lead to the question: what are the best backcourt combinations? JJ is a hard player to pair, especially on this roster. Pairing him with Shved doesn’t make use of Shved’s abilities. Pairing him with Ridnour is too small. Pairing him with Roy is just going to piss off Roy.
Seems like maybe (speculation here) Adelman wanted to see if pairing him with Budinger as the putative off-guard (guy who can make 3s) would work.
What’d he do in Dallas? My clearest memories are from the Finals, when I think he played the 2 next to Kidd, right? Perhaps his ego and standing on that Mavs team was so much more limited that he’d naturally pass more and make quicker decisions. He’s obviously a NBA rotation-caliber player–he does enough things on both ends of the floor to show as much. He just goes over the top sometimes with the dribbling.
For now, I’d guess he’s a backup point guard and the potential frustrations that guys like Roy have, and the potential chemistry problems with Shved will need to be dealt with in some fashion. When Ricky comes back, something’s gotta give. I think the point guard minutes, on this team, would pretty clearly go to Rubio and Ridnour if available. That leaves Roy (hopefully), Shved, JJ and Chase. Of those 4, only one has the “hijack the offense” tendency that this team might not stand for.
Put a fork in D-Will. He had basically a clear dunk in his first few minutes. He got slapped on his off hand and barely got the ball above his waist. Cmon on man power up and at least lay that in. My main problem with him is he still can’t dribble at all with his left or shoot for that matter. I hope we can shop him for a lock down defender on the perimeter!
He needs to go up stronger. Agree 100%.
I see myself in that picture. I also see David Kahn, who I sat near. Funny.
I didn’t read too much into Shved not getting in until late. Adelman said before the game the starters would play 30+ minutes this game, so it would just dictate Shved would get less time. NBD.
More troublesome was that Derrick Williams, the #2 pick in the draft and as you said was the highest franchise draft pick ever, closed the game out with training camp bodies. Barf.
PJD: That is funny, I noticed Kahn was in there last night after I posted it. You never know when a blurry iPhone photo will have your mug on an obscure Timberwolves blog! I hope Kahn behaved himself in your section.
Agree on Williams, hope he turns things around quickly or it might have to be for a different team.