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?
Jerry Zgoda examined Pek’s dragged-out contract negotiations at his On the Wolves blog. Most of the attention is paid to agent Jeff Schwartz, who also represents Kevin Love. I don’t doubt that Schwartz is playing a key role in holding up what should be an inevitability (assuming the 4 year, $50 Million rumor is accurate). The agent is paid a commission and thus feels the pressure to PROVE HIS WORTH. In Pek’s case, maybe the Wolves would lowball The Godfather if he were rolling pro se. (But shit, I’m not sure I’d want to oppose Pek — in the Don Corleone getup, no less — in any kind of negotiation room…)
Glen Taylor says, “I think we’re just dealing with an element time of here. I would tell you I’m very positive that he’ll play for our team. What we have left isn’t something that can’t be resolved. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of pressure on us or him to get it done. A meet has been set up in the future.” That could either be clueless arrogance (“We’re not going to negotiate against ourselves. Schwartz will come around.”) or pure truth (“We have extended an offer that will stay open as Pek explores his free agency.”) I guess I hope it’s the latter.
3. Rosters Taking Shape: Who makes the playoffs in the West?
The great Zach Lowe rolled through the league this morning at Grantland, taking almost a full off-season inventory. With the huge assumption of “no catastrophic injuries” it seems to me there are 5 playoff locks. Those would be the Thunder, Clippers, Spurs, Rockets, and Grizzlies. The Warriors have fringe-contender upside, but without Jarrett Jack, the potential for a Curry’s-ankles freefall is too great to label them a lock. Lowe included the 57-win Nuggets in his “Took Giant Steps Back” division of NBA teams. I agree. Without Andre Iggy’s all-around play, without George Karl using ideas as his maps, and with Gallo recovering from knee surgery, and with Nate Robinson taking his disproportionate confidence levels to Mile High, I expect a dramatic step back for the Nuggs. I doubt they make the playoffs. I guess — on July 23 — I think the Wolves will find themselves in a 4 for 2 spots battle with the Blazers, Mavericks and Pelicans.
4. On what does the Wolves potential hinge?
Lowe’s lengthy posted included a cogent point on the Timberwolves’ hopes to contend for titles:
The Wolves as constituted need Ricky Rubio to emerge as one of the three or four best point guards in the league in order to realistically contend for a title in the next three to four years, and that’s a riskier bet than the one New Orleans has made with [Anthony] Davis.
The only slight issue I take with the statement is the inclusion of “riskier.” The Wolves aren’t risking anything because they have no better alternatives. But if you really want to see the Timberwolves pushing for a championship in the foreseeable future, watch Ricky Rubio. Specifically, watch his jumper. The Wolves need to be a great offensive team to offset what will always be — in the Love & Pek Era, anyway — an average-at-best squad at preventing buckets. In other words, these aren’t your Rondo Celtics. They need to quickly become your Nash Suns–or something close.
5. What are we supposed to do around here in August and September?
I haven’t a clue.