Monthly Archives: October 2013

Mixed Feelings (WOLVES 120, Magic 115)

Some ambivalence about tonight’s game:

The Wolves barely — BARELY — escaped their home opener against a lottobound Magic team with a win. It took an out-of-timeout, set-play three-pointer from K-Love just to tie the game with 10 seconds left. Arron Afflalo missed a turnaround jumper for the win, and the home team took care of overtime. It was not a home-opening performance to feel great about for a team that has playoff aspirations for the first time in forever.

But every win counts the same in the standings, whether it comes against Miami in March or Orlando in October. The Wolves will need more than 40 wins to sniff the playoffs, and they got one tonight. For some perspective, the all-time great Heat lost at Philly tonight, to a team with one of the least-talented rosters in NBA history. Anything can happen. So again, a win is a win. It’s a good result, even if not necessarily a good performance.

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INTEL REPORT: Magic at Timberwolves (The Season Opener Edition)

Orlando appears to be keeping its eyes on the prize this season: The 2014 NBA Draft

Orlando appears to be keeping its eyes on the prize this season: The 2014 NBA Draft

The Wolves open their season tonight in Minneapolis against the already-tanking-for-Wiggins hard-charging  Orlando Magic, who’re 0-1 after last night’s season-opener loss to Indiana.

(Eds. Note: Is there anyway to figure out how many fantasy teams there are this season named “Tanking for Wiggins” or some variant of it? I don’t know how many fantasy teams there are total, but I’d still take the over on at least 10k “Tanking for Wiggins” teams this year. Maybe 15.  There were probably fantasy league owners everywhere trying desperately to change their league rules at the last minute to allow them to use their auction money to bid on the rights to the “Tanking for Wiggins” team name instead of on draft-able  players.)

Anyway, there’s a lot of interesting stuff to watch for, much of which could provide information on the questions we asked in our season preview post about the team’s starting lineup, defense, offense, and rotations.

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Timberwolves Season Preview: The Trent and Mikey Version

pekswingers

Pek is so money. But does he know it?

The NBA season is less than 24 hours away. The Timberwolves begin theirs on Wednesday Night versus the Magic. For the past six months we’ve relied on secondary sources to satisfy our appetite for pro basketball:

The Timberwolves-less playoffs and Miami’s championship repeat. David Kahn’s departure and Flip Saunders’s arrival. The draft. The Vegas League. Free agency and welcoming Kevin Martin to Minnesota (and welcoming Corey Brewer *back* to Minnesota). Pek’s new contract. Rick Adelman’s eventual, inconspicuous announcement that he will return to coach another season. Media Day. And, most recently, the training camp and preseason.

Beginning this week we can get back to the real stuff — the primary stuff. The games that actually matter.

In Case You Missed Them: There are a ton of great preview pieces out there. Hardwood Paroxysm and SB Nation put together comprehensive collections of team-by-team previews. Kevin Pelton forecast the Wolves season for ESPN Insider. (SCHOENE!) Bill and Jalen recorded short videos for The Grantland Channel for each team, which have been highly entertaining and mostly insightful. Bethlehem Shoals posted 30 Teams, 30 Questions preview for GQ that you have to check out. And the great Britt Robson has commenced a three-part NBA Preview at MinnPost, to include a Wolves-specific piece on Wednesday.

The bottom line is, if you want to be familiar with the issues facing the Timberwolves or any other team heading into the 2013-14 season, the information is out there for you.

Here at PDW, we’ll outline the basic discussion topics and add our two cents on the upcoming Timberwolves season. As always, thanks for reading.

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Finalizing the Wolves Roster

Personnel Decisions

Competition for the Wolves’ last couple roster spots has captured the attention of the very hardest core fans. (Eds. Note: See, for example, here and here, excellent analysis by Canis Hoopus’ Eric in Madison, a valued commenter here at Punch-Drunk Wolves.)

There has been some debate recently about how the Wolves should round out the bottom end of their roster: Should it be be Jeffers or Brown? Does Hummel’s preseason performance merit a roster spot? Is A.J. Price necessary to keep on the roster, really, when you already have three other point guards? And just how strong is Othyeus “Yolomite” Jeffers’ pimp hand, really?

We now have a better understanding of the Wolves’ takes on these issues.

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Report: Wolves to Exercise Option on Williams

From Darren Wolfson:

First, what it means on the salary sheet: Continue reading

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Learning to Fire the [BRAND NEW!] 3-Point Weapon (WOLVES 104, Celtics 89)

In their last televised game of the preseason, the playoff-hopeful Timberwolves easily defeated the blown-up and rebuilding Celtics. It’s difficult to glean much from a preseason game, and doubly so when the opponent is severely undermanned and the score differential stretches beyond 20 in the second half. Had the result been flipped and the Wolves were blown out, there would be reason for some panic; especially since Rick Adelman played his starters for almost as many minutes as they will log when the games count. But the game played out about like it should have — at least if you are a Wolves fan with some degree of optimism for this season — and the execution was just inconsistent enough to make certain conclusions difficult to come by.

The pick-and-roll defense doesn’t look particularly good. The Wolves will not be “blitzing” ball screen this year the way that Miami and other more athletic teams will. With a more conservative approach, then, there shouldn’t be breakdowns leading to open baskets near the rim, or over-helping in ways that leave wide open shooters in the corners. Those things happened sometimes, in this game. But there were also positives on that end. Corey Brewer, while sometimes getting burned — including once on the wing so badly that Gerald Wallace walked in for a big dunk — was disruptively aggressive and parlayed some loose balls into transition offense. Nikola Pekovic continues to “wall up” (h/t Jim Pete) and play solid if not spectacular position help defense. I mean, they held their opponent to 89 points. The defense couldn’t have been too bad.

My takeaway from this game — or my thought after watching it anyway — pertains to the team’s three-point shooting. Without digging into the gory details, you already know this was a weakness last year. The Wolves were the worst perimeter shooting team in the NBA by a wide margin. Tonight, they shot 25 threes, which is kind of a lot. They made 10 of them — good for 40-percent accuracy — which is very good. Kevin Martin, the roster’s offseason shot in the arm, converted an impressive 5 for 8 from downtown. Ricky Rubio and Alexey Shved, a pair of young guards in desperate need of better shooting efficiency, shot a combined 3 for 5 from three.

But I’m most interested in the team’s best player, Kevin Love. Continue reading

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Basketball Combat: What’s Cool and What Isn’t

Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball

Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball

Andy G: I don’t remember the 80s Pistons very well. I know they won back-to-back titles, I know the names of their core players, and I know they earned the “Bad Boys” nickname for physical play that often crossed the line into dirty and dangerous tactics. Especially against Michael Jordan. Bill Laimbeer in particular was known for being a controversial “enforcer” type. There was an NES game named, “Bill Laimbeer’s Combat Basketball,” set in the future with Laimbeer commissioning a basketball league without rules and — importantly — WITH weapons. Larry Bird told Bill Simmons that he carries a grudge to this day against Laimbeer for the cheap shots he took against his great Celtics teams.

So I had a basic understanding of what the Pistons — and Laimbeer specifically — represented in the 80s NBA. But until reading David Halberstam’s “Playing for Keeps,” I didn’t realize the full extent of just how unlikeable “Billy Lamb” really was, as an NBA player.

From Halberstam:

What [Jack] McCloskey and [Chuck] Daly soon noticed about [Bill Laimbeer] was that he seemed to have little love for the game of basketball itself; indeed, Daly was never sure he even liked the game. He was a terrible practice player, and before games, when he was being taped, he often complained to…the trainer about the degree of mental fatigue he was suffering from, as if he could not play one more game. He was the first person to leave the gym every day after almost every workout, almost never sticking around as most players did to work a little extra on their shooting.

Laimbeer was not an easy person to deal with. He was a verbal bully off the court and something of a physical bully on it. He was deliberately rude to reporters in the Pistons’ locker room, and when, before a game, the time alloted to journalists there was coming to an end, he did his own countdown…He was a dirty player, and he knew it; it was the only way, given his physical limitations, he could stay in the league. Sometimes he boasted of what he had done after a game–the cheap shots he had gotten away with and how it had caused a more gifted player, say, [Robert] Parish or [Kareem] Abdul-Jabbar, to lose his cool. “It’s a mental game, not a physical one,” he would say. He was despised in most other arenas by opposing fans, and many opposing players actively disliked him, believing he was quite willing to inflict career-ending injuries on them if it suited his purpose and that he would do it casually, out of what seemed like innate malice.

Nor did he make it easy on his own coaches and teammates. He often seemed unusually spoiled. He was willfully rude to the coaches, even to Daly, who was giving him his big chance, and in the constant byplay between coach and players he not only failed to be supportive of Daly but often seemed openly dissident…As for his teammates, he was often blunt and rude with them in the locker room, flaunting his conservative politics. If someone mentioned his lack of grace with them, he would say, “I don’t plan on having any of these guys as my friends when I’m finished here.”

Laimbeer and [Isiah] Thomas roomed together during their first camp, and Thomas thought that Laimbeer could not have been more different from him: tall, white, upper middle class. His father was the head of a company, and therefore Laimbeer was said to be the rare NBA player who for a time did not make as much money as his father. He was a Republican and an atheist, whereas Thomas was ghetto-reared, black, a Democrat, and seriously religious.

My question to you then is:

Bill Laimbeer: Most uncool player ever?

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