Monthly Archives: July 2013

I watched Royce White play basketball tonight.

It’s Playoffs Week at the Howard Pulley Pro-Am.  I had yet to make it over to Eagan this summer for the state’s best offseason run.  My dad called to tell me he’d be there.   Still, I was on the fence (Minneapolis to Eagan feels like such a trek on a Tuesday Night), until Royce White tweeted that he’d be playing.  After all, what else was I going to do that beats getting a rare look at the 2012 first rounder from Iowa State?  (That I’m now blogging about it should help answer that question.)

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INBOX: The “We haven’t discussed Kevin Love in a while” Edition

Kevin Love and Jonah Hill: Studies in Weight Fluctuations

Kevin Love and Jonah Hill: Studies in Weight Fluctuations

The roster is mostly set. (C’mon, Pek, sign that dotted line…) The coaching staff seems to be in place, replete with a (David) Adelman for Billy Bayno swap and Shawn Respert proxying for the late Pete Newell as the Wolves new big man coach instead of teaching Ricky Rubio how to make a jump shot.

That said, there’s a lot to be optimistic about. Rick Adelman will be back. The Wolves lost a wing, but added a pretty good one to replace him. Two or three actually, depending on how Shabazz Muhammad plays out. Most important, Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, and others whose major, or niggling, injuries derailed the Wolves’ 2012-13 season are all reportedly healthy for 2013-14.

So now you’re looking at a rotation that might be something like this:

PG: Ricky Rubio, J.J. Barea, Alexey Shved

SG: Kevin Martin, Shabazz Muhammad, Alexey Shved

SF: Chase Budinger, Corey Brewer, Shabazz Muhammad

PF: Kevin Love, Dante Cunningham, Derrick Williams (!)

C: Nikola Pekovic, Gorgui Dieng, Chris Johnson

Our team should be pretty good.

That’s a nice segue into today’s edition of Punch-Drunk Wolves’ INBOX feature.

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Excerpts on Kareem

kareem

I caught myself day dreaming about sky hooks yesterday.  I’m not sure why.  Long day in the office?  Not enough *real* basketball to keep my mind occupied?  Whatever the case, I was specifically thinking about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — the NBA’s all time scoring leader — and his supposedly unstoppable go-to move.  First, why hasn’t anybody copied the sky hook?  Second, why isn’t Kareem — a six-time MVP and champion — discussed more in G.O.A.T. debates?  (Seriously, look at his basketball-reference page.)  And finally, it occurred to me that almost every book I’ve read on basketball history has a section on Kareem.  His career arc was interesting for multiple reasons, but mostly because he spent most of the 1970s as the league’s best player and most of the 80s as a champion with Magic Johnson receiving more of the credit.

With that in mind, I thought I’d scrap together some of the better stuff I’ve read on Lew Alcindor/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

David Halberstam, The Breaks of the Game:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is likewise a dominating player.  He is not the defensive force that Russell or Walton was, but he is so consistently good on offense that he changes the texture of every game he plays…

He was very tall and his height was a matter of some conjecture.  He listed his height as 7’2″.  Other very tall young men, seven feet even, who had played against him, swore he was at least 7’4″.  Some, not given to exaggeration, said he was surely 7’6″.  What most people did not see was the grace, the agility so rare in any man, but truly astonishing in a man of his height; they saw only the height, which was greater than their own.  Failing to see the grace, they also failed to see the passion, which was brilliantly concealed, hidden behind two layers of masks, first a protective eyepiece which was a mask to the face, and then the face itself which was a mask to the soul.  They saw the lack of emotion and decided that Kareem did not care as they cared…

His play had, if anything, too much consistency to it.  His good games were forgotten, his bad ones remembered.  He had played for much of his career on weak teams or on teams poorly designed for him.  Often too much depended on him, and because he was so dominating a force, opposing teams always knew that the key to stopping the Lakers was stopping Kareem.  His teams, strong in their regular-season records, tended to wear down in playoff games.  Opponents always based their strategy on stopping him and he rarely got very much help from referees.  He was held, fouled and elbowed more than any otehr player in the league, all with the semitacit approval of the referees; for in truth, if they did not allow his opponents some small advantage there would be no way of stopping him.

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CASPIAN KANG: Reddit & Internet Integrity

Jay Caspian Kang’s “Should Reddit Be Blamed for the Spreading of a Smear?” is a must-read for anyone who cares about the news, but is especially on-point for bloggers and blog readers. Highly rec’d.

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by | July 25, 2013 · 9:38 PM

Who is teaching Ricky Rubio how to shoot?

Not Shawn Respert.

From hoopshype’s interview with Respert:

Which player did you work with the most in Minnesota? Maybe Ricky Rubio?

SR: I worked a little bit with Ricky Rubio but the main guys I worked with were the post players and the big forwards. It’s kind of ironic to do that considering I played the point and the shooting guard positions my whole life. But it was a comfortable transition for me because in my mind I always knew what I wanted my bigs to do. And that’s how I tried to train them and develop them.

In Case You Missed It (or are just too young to know) Respert was a RI-DIC-ULOUSLY good shooter at Michigan State.  His NBA career flopped and we now know that was largely due to his private battle with cancer.  If Shawn could do one thing, it was shoot a basketball and I’ve assumed throughout his short tenure on the Timberwolves staff that he was — you know — working as a shooting coach.

Not so, apparently.

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Five Questions!

kilby2

Craig Kilborn’s decision to step away from hosting “The Late Late Show” remains the biggest tragedy in television history.  From his time spent as a SportsCenter anchor to hosting The Daily Show to his move to CBS where he followed David Letterman in the 12:30 slot, “Kilby” was the best there was in late-night TV.  He also happens to be a native Minnesotan (Hastings) and an athlete (scholarship basketball player at Montana State).  To bring this closer to the Punch-Drunk Wolves home, Kilborn once practiced with our own Minnesota Timberwolves.

With all of this in mind, one way to preserve his legacy is the occasional “Five Questions!” post, where we pose — you know — five questions.  Kilby used to do the same.

1.  Summer League in Vegas: Did we learn anything?

Maybe.  Certainly not very much.  The players to watch were Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng.  Neither amazed.  Both showed flashes.  The situations they found themselves in — particularly so in Muhammad’s case — were just so unlike anything they’ll see during the regular season that it’s difficult to extrapolate.  I was pleasantly surprised by Dieng’s willingness to take jumpers.  His form looks good enough.

With Shabazz, the clear question is whether he can blend shooting with passing.  At different times in Vegas he did each, but rarely did the decision appear derived from instinct.  It always seemed premeditated.  That’s not a very good sign for his rookie year, but he should get better.  Plus, as a limited role player off the bench, he’d hardly be unique if he erred heavily on the side of “gunner.”  If he makes more than 40 percent of his shots, he’ll be fine.

2.  The Pekovic Contract: What the hell is taking so long?

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Assessing Shabazz Muhammad’s Summer League Performance

Shabazz Muhammad's Vegas Summer League results were mixed

Shabazz Muhammad’s Vegas Summer League results were mixed

From ESPN TrueHoop’s assessment of the Las Vegas Summer League’s top rookies, here’s Justin Verrier’s take on Shabazz Muhammad:

Shabazz Muhammad, Timberwolves
8.5 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 0.8 APG, 41 FG%, 38 3P%

lastname

Muhammad

The good: The fit is there. Muhammad has the build of your everyday athletic, break-you-off-dribble wing scorer, but he thrived at UCLA mostly in situations where he didn’t have to dribble — off the catch, running the break, posting up. And on a team like the Timberwolves, with a scorer/rebounder and ball handler as its two cornerstones, it’s those “other” areas where Muhammad will need to do his work.

Despite the lure always present at summer league to isolate everything, Muhammad primarily stuck to that script, floating around the arc and running off screens, and looked right doing so. His rebound numbers in Vegas were ho-hum, but he can be a great wing rebounder with his size, if he puts in the effort. He also shot 41.1 percent from 3, better than his college average (38 percent).

The bad: The production was not there. The 20-year-old (we hope) Muhammad averaged just 8.5 points on 41 percent shooting. Which isn’t awful. But when a player who lives off offense can’t produce, particularly against inferior competition, the deficiencies in the rest of his game become more noticeable. And in Muhammad’s case that’s his ambivalence toward passing (five total assists) and mediocre defense despite the tools to be pretty good.

Bottom line: Muhammad has a lot to work with, and you’re inclined to dismiss some of the disappointment to playing a defined and limited role, but it’s hard to write all that off after a drama-filled freshman season. That age stuff doesn’t matter anymore, but can he be happy with an even smaller role in snowy Minnesota than the one he griped about in Los Angeles?

— Justin Verrier

***

It’s hard to argue with Verrier’s take. We know the following:

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Summertime (And The Living’s Easy)

Sublime, Doing Time

This is the time of year when you appreciate basketball’s aesthetic pleasures.  You step back, take a deep breath, and revisit the finer things.

You know, the crossovers. The dunks. And the treys.

And I’d be remiss not to mention technicolor sneakers.

Most of all, you appreciate this:

Jason Williams has one gear and one gear only. He’s a fixie.

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Vegas Isn’t the Only Summer League

Don’t sleep on the Drew League.

Apart from having a really cool name, it also has a very cool vibe: lots of cred among the pros, more street ball than you can shake a stick at, and a really nice website (replete with the cool blog linked in the title).

So if “Vegas, Baby, Vegas” (Vince Vaughn voice) isn’t your speed or just isn’t enough summer hoops for you, go check out the Drew League. You’ll at least get your Summer League mixtape fix, if you’re in withdrawal after watching NBA Draft prospect footage.

Wolves play Phoenix in Vegas Monday at 6:30 PM Eastern.

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by | July 14, 2013 · 8:45 PM

Bobcats Teaching MKG How to Shoot

Via Matt Moore/CBS Eye On Basketball, the Charlotte Bobcats have hired Mark Price. His job? Teach Michael Kidd-Gilchrist how to shoot a basketball. According to the article, the goal is to blow it up and start from scratch — not just endless repetition with the same crappy form.

Gee, what a novel idea. I really, really hope the Timberwolves are doing something similar with Ricky Rubio’s majorly-flawed jumper.

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by | July 14, 2013 · 3:40 PM

A Loss, and the Feeling of Loss

Farewell Transmission, Magnolia Electric Co.

The Timberwolves lost their first Vegas Summer League game on Saturday to the D-League Select team, 83-81. The basketball wasn’t pretty. There was no Ricky Rubio. There was no Kevin Love. There was really no one.

Except Shabazz Muhammad. Muhammad played like you would expect most rookies to play in their first ever pro game after just a few practices, with entirely new teammates, and with literally no point guard play. He finished with 7 points on 3-7 from the floor, with 1 assist and 1 rebound. Specifics are here.

What to make of it?

Well, Muhammad, the Wolves’ top first-round pick certainly didn’t play great. But he didn’t necessarily play poorly either. He looks aggressive around the hoop. He will get to the line. He will be a step slower on defense than we would like. He has useful skills. He has imperfections. He’s a #14 pick. He registered an assist. That means he exceeded the expectations of many naysayers who ridiculed the pick on draft night. An assist? That’s more than we expected, right? As Charlie Sheen said, “winning.”

But this post isn’t about Shabazz Muhammad and it isn’t about the Timberwolves. It’s about loss, and losing, in broader context.

Tonight’s loss didn’t matter. It was fake players and fake rules and fake everything.

The cat is out of the bag: Summer League doesn’t really matter.

At all. It’s cotton candy for fans when there’s no other NBA action. You don’t take Summer League losses, or wins, or stats, very seriously, unless you want to end up deluding yourself.

Juxtapose tonight’s loss with one that did matter–at least to me.

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Goodbye to Bayno, Hello to [David] Adelman

It unfolded yesterday in a manner of minutes:

Then this:

Then these:

And just like that, Bill Bayno — perhaps PDW’s favorite Timberwolves employee — was gone to Canada, and a new bench to work from.

Some thoughts:

Obvious but Sincere

First things first: Congratulations go out to Bill Bayno on the career promotion to first assistant coach of an NBA franchise. If things go well for him in Toronto, as they already have in Portland and Minnesota, we will begin to see Bayno’s name floated in discussions of NBA head coaching hires. He’s clearly moving up in the ranks and this is another step.

Bayno Out, David Adelman In, Concerns of Nepotism

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The Wolves’ Gym Rat

With news of Bayno’s departure to Toronto and Dwane Casey’s staff, this is worth re-posting. Will have a new post up soon.

Punch-Drunk Wolves

As sixteen NBA teams do battle in the first round of the playoffs, the Timberwolves begin their offseason.  Kahn had his presser (which was tragically-devoid of Kahnisms), we looked back on the season that was, and each player now departs for his offseason home.  Over the next few months, Wolves fans will talk draft and free agency, and even spend some quality time with the trade machine. The team faces upcoming roster turnover for the umpteenth consecutive year that could range from cutting bait with their expirings (Miller/Webster/Beasley/Randolph) to more drastic changes like a Derrick Williams trade–which would probably involve contract fillers like Ridnour or Barea– for a high-quality but expensive wing.

No matter which course Kahn & co take, there will certainly be some incumbent Wolves on next year’s roster.  Ricky and Love aren’t going anywhere. Barring an unforeseen trade, Pekovic will be back, and there’s no guarantees that…

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How Well Will Corey Brewer “Blend” With The Timberwolves?

Corey Brewer is taking his smile to Minneapolis

Corey Brewer is taking his smile to Minneapolis in 2013-14

The Wolves are reportedly on the verge of acquiring veteran wing (and former T-Wolves lottery pick) Corey Brewer. Apparently it will be a three-year deal worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $15-million.

So now you’re looking at a rotation that might be something like this:

PG: Ricky Rubio, J.J. Barea, Alexey Shved, Will Kahnroy

SG: Kevin Martin, Shabazz Muhammad, Alexey Shved

SF: Chase Budinger, Corey Brewer, Shabazz Muhammad

PF: Kevin Love, Dante Cunningham, Derrick Williams (!)

C: Nikola Pekovic, Gorgui Dieng, Chris Johnson

Andy G: First things first:

BREWER’S BLEND!

I never thought Brew would be back after he mildly disappointed as a seventh overall draft pick, and was given away in a trade that brought back Anthony Randolph.

But according to today’s reports, he is back — back for the relatively hefty sum of $15 Million.

Your thoughts?

Patrick J: This is a solid pickup for Flip & Co. The Wolves defense was in a bad place after the Kirilenko divorce. The big question was, who would guard the wings? Certainly not Kevin Martin. And as much as we’re loathe to admit, Ricky Rubio probably can’t guard both backcourt positions by himself. And now, Brewer is back and is likely to fill a position of need–his lanky frame and hawk quickness enable him to guard most NBA shooting guards. So there’s his niche. Brewer can play the role we desperately need played.

The question that still stands out in my mind is, where does Brewer fit into next season’s rotation? Does he fill Kirilenko’s vacant starting position? Or come off the bench?

Andy G: He comes off the bench. I doubt Coach Adelman (or anybody on the Wolves’ side) wants to see starting floor time shared by Ricky Rubio and Brewer. It’s just not enough perimeter shooting to make up for what will inevitably be tenacious defense. That isn’t to say they’ll *never* share the floor. I’m sure they will. But I expect Martin to start at the 2 and Chase to start at the 3. Of course, like last season, all of this could be blown up by injuries. But for now, I’ve got Brewer slotted to come off the bench.

I was away from the internet when this news broke and returned to what seemed like divide of emotional reactions on the Timberwolves Twittersphere. Some are overjoyed to see a fan fave return. Some are disappointed in what might be overpaying a limited role player.

How do we FEEL about this move? Happy to see Brew return? Upset at the contract?

Patrick J: “Yes, awesome.” That’s all that really needs saying. I’m on record as saying Brewer provided some of my favorite memories as a Wolves fan. I’m glad Brew is back.

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Summertime Hoopin

I just spent fourteen dollars and ninety-nine cents to watch glorified pickup basketball on my computer.

LeBron James clinched his second consecutive championship on June 20, Shabazz Muhammad [eventually] put on his new Minnesota hat on June 27, and Chase Budinger and Kevin Martin reached agreements to stay with and join the T-Wolves on July 2.

It’s now July 9, the Orlando Summer League is already underway, and the Timberwolves open things up against the D-League Select Team in Las Vegas on Saturday, July 13. We’ve reached the point on the increasingly-replete NBA Calendar where players new, hopeful and — if we’re being honest — hopeless take their talents to Disney World or Sin City for organized, televised, pickup ball.

For Timberwolves fans that drop the fifteen bucks and watch, this’ll mostly be about Shabazz Muhammad. It’s our one chance to get a look at the enigmatic star Bruin before the preseason in October.

Is he quick? Can he shoot? Will he pass? How are his mannerisms — is he selfish, or a team player?

We’ll rush to judgments on those questions and more as we get our first impression of the newest and youngest Wolves wing.

Beyond Shabazz, I suppose we’ll also get a look at Gorgui Dieng, his fellow first rounder. The 23-year old national champ has been billed as “NBA-ready” so it would be nice to see evidence of that when he faces lesser foes in Vegas.

Aside from the upcoming games in Vegas, we’re in for a slow couple of months. The Wolves are capped out. Dwight chose a destination. Until the inevitable Derrick Williams trade (I swear, it is!) we’ll probably be a little bit low on content.

But in the meantime, I threw down fifteen bucks for SUMMER LEAGUE LIVE, so we’ll have write-ups on some of the Vegas performances.

Thanks for reading.

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Wolfson: Rubio to receive five-year max offer

[A] new regime has new philosophies. Barring an unforeseen health catastrophe, point guard Ricky Rubio will get the maximum five-year contract extension offer next summer, the first time he’s eligible to sign.

–Doogie Wolfson in his latest column at 1500espn.

While this isn’t shocking news (I’ve been running with the assumption that Ricky gets maxed out in 2015) it is definitely “news” — especially the five-year part; the part that, you know, Kevin Love didn’t get.

It’s one area where the Kahn-to-Flip transition makes things very convenient for Timberwolves Brass: They can essentially throw David Kahn under the bus (“Kevin, you know I would’ve given you the five years, but we are where we are.”) while at the same time locking up Ricky Rubio for as long as possible, without looking like hypocrites talking out of both sides of their mouth. (At least if you remove Glen Taylor from the equation…)

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by | July 8, 2013 · 8:44 AM

Will the Wolves Play Any Defense?

The natural reaction to Flip Saunders’ decision to effectively replace Andrei Kirilenko with Kevin Martin is this:

Good for offense, but BAAAAAAAAAD for defense.

While I don’t fully trust individual defensive statistics — it’s far too much of a team endeavor, reliant on things like scheme, need to double team to account for other matchup problems, etc — there is some value in looking at on/off numbers. Specifically, we can see how teams defend with a given player on the court, and compare it to how they defend when he is off.

First things first:

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Kevin Martin, Rick Adelman, Flip Saunders, and a Disjointed Pack of Wolves

Slim Shady Kevin Martin is the newest member of the Minnesota Timberwolves

Insane news about Kevin Martin. He’s a Wolf. 4 years, 28 million. Wow.*

What does the Martin deal mean for the Wolves? A bunch of things.

First, management issues.

  • Slick Rick: It looks like we can’t write off Rick Adelman after all as a player in the Wolves front office. First Chase is re-signed (more obvious), and now Martin is acquired (less obvious). Adelman clearly shaped these moves, which will have implications that are likely to outlast Rick’s tenure in Minnesota.
  • C2: It appears that we now have an AdelFlip in the stead of our AdelKahn. But the chain-of-command  and command and control structures in the organization seem less clear than in Kahn’s last season in ‘Sota. Does anyone else smell an impending deathmatch?
 Second, on Martin specifically: as with most of the least-worst choice deals you make in life, there’s both some good and some bad here.

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Budinger, Martin and a Look at the Finances

Adrian Woj was a busy man, today.

On the Timberwolves front, there was first this:

The Wolves re-signed guard/forward, Chase Budinger. Not inevitable, but also not unexpected. A solid move.

With Chase seeming more 3 than 2, and with Flip Saunders seeming increasingly unlikely to extend fan fave, Andrei Kirilenko, questions immediately shifted to off-guard:

O.J. Mayo? J.J. Redick?

Woj helped us out there, too:

The Redick Dream was dead barely before it started.

What next?

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Woj: J.J. Redick is Timberwolves’ “Priority”

https://twitter.com/WojYahooNBA/status/351916266426081280

J.J. Redick would be — among realistic possibilities — a GREAT addition to the Timberwolves roster. His ability to not only catch and shoot, but do it while cutting hard off of a pick is the sort of thing that scrambles a defense. Two have to guard one, leaving three to guard four. That’s the general quality that we hope to see, someday, from Shabazz Muhammad. It would not only widen passing lanes for Ricky, but also allow more offensive rebounds for the opportunistic Kevin Love every time that he sets the free-up screen and his man has to jump out and hedge on the sniper peeling around for a shot.

If Flip Saunders can figure out a way to get Redick slotted between Ricky Rubio and the Kevin Love/Nikola Pekovic front line, I’ll be impressed.

(Now, back to ignoring free-agent buzz until something actually happens…)

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