Here’s the thing. Everybody knows about the injuries and the unofficially-interim coach and the knee rehabilitation process and the 10-day contracts. I could begin every single game wrap by laying out why the performance should be immune from criticism because it’s nobody’s fault but plain old bad luck’s. But then there’s no point to going to the games and there’s certainly no point in writing about them for a hobby. My dad drove up from the Rochester area to watch tonight’s game. The couple next to us came down from St. Cloud. People spent time and money to come watch professional basketball on a sub-zero night in Minneapolis.
So the least the team can do is hold itself to a professional standard. In the fourth quarter tonight — WINNING TIME, as we call it — that did not happen. In case you missed the game, it was a real struggle for Minnesota, but they scratched and clawed their way back into it, largely behind a Rubio and Williams rush of assists and buckets in the second half of the third quarter. When each checked out of the game before the fourth quarter began, it was assumed by viewers that they’d be back soon. Neither had played many minutes in the first half, and both certainly had plenty in the tank for the stretch run.
Dante Cunningham hit a pair of jumpers and the Wolves trailed by just 2 points with slightly over 10 minutes to play.
And then J.J. went crazy.
And not in a good way.
It was actually a little worse than that. Upon further review, after the game:
C.J. Watson got in Barea’s head. Then J.J. lost his head.
And the worst part? Coach Terry Porter never took him out of the game! J.J. was spazzing out on both ends of the floor, fouling the Nets into the bonus, giving up Watson buckets, playing the Wolves out of the game, and yet no reaction from the sidelines.
The Wolves may not have won that game, but to lose it in such unprofessional fashion had absolutely nothing to do with injuries. It had nothing to do with Rick Adelman’s absence, except that his replacement was in over his head. This wasn’t an NBA coaching issue, it was a head coaching issue, and the Wolves didn’t have one.
And to add insult to injury, Porter never put Ricky Rubio back in the game! Despite Barea’s shittiness, Ricky’s nice third quarter comeback, and the meltdown before his eyes, he rode J.J. all the way to the finish line; an 8-point loss in front of the home crowd.
How do you suppose that made our franchise guard feel?
I’m not going to speak for Ricky Rubio. Yeah, I guess I am. He’s pissed off not just because he didn’t get back into the game, but because he’s a savvy professional player that doesn’t like his team throwing away potential wins in the embarrassing fashion that it did tonight.
I don’t even blame J.J. He is who he is. One night he’s outplaying Kevin Durant, the next he’s a 5’8″ runt who somehow snuck past security on to an NBA floor. To do the things he does clearly requires an ego and confidence to compensate for the foot of height he surrenders to opponents. But when that boils over–and immediately when it boils over–the Barea plug needs to be pulled. Adelman sometimes gives him a leash, but he would NEVER allow anything close to what happened tonight occur on his watch. No head coach would.
No matter what the injuries or excuses, the Wolves should at least be held to a professional standard. The fans travel enough and pay enough to expect it, and tonight fell short. It sounds like my frustration is shared by the team’s franchise player. Let’s hope change comes soon. I don’t mean to pile on Terry Porter — I’ve made my thoughts on second-guessing NBA coaches clear — but I don’t have faith in him to lead an NBA team from the sidelines. He was a great player and he’s probably a fine assistant coach. But he’s failing here as a head coach. Rotations are out of whack, and there was not an iota of control displayed tonight when it was needed most. When the 22-year old point guard can see it and the coach cannot, that’s a problem.
Before wrapping this rant up, I should point out that I’m traveling to D.C. tomorrow and will be attending the Wolves game at Verizon on Friday Night. Pat and his wife live out there and are graciously hosting me on my first trip to the nation’s capital. The Wizards — now armed with an almost-healthy JOHN WALL — are playing much better ball of late, and won’t be an easy opponent to beat, no matter what the injury situation. Hopefully you’ll get some cheerier tweets from @PDWolves when we’re both live at the scene.
Season Record: 17-22