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.
Flip and Rick addressed some of these questions, today. We lean here on the Strib’s Wolves insider, beat writer Jerry Zgoda, who did an unprecedented team update/selfie from what appears to be his own bathtub:
In a nutshell, Zgoda’s bathtub soliloquy tells us that (1) Robbie Hummel is a big favorite of Rick Adelman’s, and thus earned a roster spot, and (2) Price is indeed likely to become a fourth-string point guard. (Eds. Note: As the link indicates, we also learn that Jerry is not a shower-only guy; he also digs the bathtub. Neither Patrick J. nor Andy G. can ever recall having *seen* basketball journalism performed from a bathtub. Innovation, innovation, innovation. But hey, it’s the 21st century–the age of the selfie. And if you’re making the leap to tub selfies, then why not also showcase your Rubber Ducky–he’s as likely to have an impact on the Wolves this season as Robbie Hummel or A.J. Price. Whoever said mainstream media is dry was wrong.)
Okay, back to the roster moves.
Jeffers is the big surprise. He displayed impressive toughness and strength during the preseason, but it wasn’t enough. Here’s hoping he lands elsewhere in the L, and soon. He can help a team.
Chris Johnson Released
Finally, we learned today that backup center Chris Johnson has also been cut to trim the roster to 15.
This is the squad that will go forward to start the regular season at home, on Wednesday, against the Orlando Magic.
So what to make of Chris Johnson’s firing?
Well, Johnson was never anything but a temporary solution for the Wolves–a quick fix, last season, when injuries ravaged the team the hardest–but it’s disappointing to see how he was treated this preseason, at least from a fan’s perspective. But no one ever told David Kahn that. After initially inking Johnson to a 10-day contract last winter, Kahn, before he was shown the door, gave Johnson another kahntract, for this season, that leaves the team owing the journeyman about $1 million dollars. (Full disclosure: I’m happy Chris Johnson is getting paid, even though it marginally hurts the Wolves cap situation. He’s a good-guy grinder, who might never enjoy another big payday in the NBA.)
What was weird was how Johnson’s case was handled this preseason. He played only 9 minutes the entire preseason, in two appearances, after doing some positive things last season, signing a contract for this season (thanks, David!), and then getting lost in the shuffle behind Pek, Ronny Turiaf, and Gorgui Dieng.
I suspect the Wolves’ front office’s treatment of Johnson can’t be reduced to shadenfreude, but rather was the result of their seeking a way to get something–anything–for him before cutting him loose with a cost attached. But that didn’t happen, so Johnson is now a free agent on the cusp of the regular season.
In reality, the last few roster spots don’t matter. If Rick ends up playing grinders who’re scrapping for the 13-15 spots on a borderline playoff team, he’s either a really bad coach (not the case), or we’d have again had really bad luck with injuries (somewhat more likely, but crossing fingers it won’t be so).
But here’s the bit, in short – the Wolves should be decent this season. In fact, they should be more than decent–at least by the team’s own recent record.
The Wolves should easily compete for the playoffs in a very solid Western Conference. They could win 50 games. They could snare the 5th or 6th seed.
All of this matters ways more than the stuff around the margins that we talk too much about during the offseason.
Look, they have a great coach; they have a perennial All-Star power forward; that perennial All-Star forward meshes extremely well with their rock star Spanish point guard, who happens to have unbelievable court vision and strong defensive chops. Oh, and here’s something new: they (finally) have a wing, Kevin Martin, who can make shots at a high volume and with good efficiency.
There’s more, of course: regardless of whether he starts or finishes, Corey Brewer contributes to winning teams, sets the pace for effort that should be expended by his peers, and is a leading candidate for any “good guy” award. (FFS, he has a pet goat, in a totally non-weird way. The man is a saint, who also happens to inflict chaos on opposing teams’ offenses.)
And finally–the ultimate last but not least–Nikola Pekovic is back in town. (Nothing more needs to be said about Pek, obvi. He’s the man.)
Okay, so I’m excited about the season. But I’m not going to go into detail here, in this post, about any of these front-line guys, or their reserves–the team’s bread-and-butter–because that isn’t what this post is about.
The bottom line is, much as we might, while in the moment, be tempted to laud (or bitch) that the team kept Hummel and Price/dropped Yolomite and C. Johnson, the bigger picture looms large. Bigger things still need to be ironed out, like who’ll start at the three, and who’ll round out second-unit rotations.
These issues need more attention–because they’ll actually have an influence on the outcomes of at least a few games. And they’re the ones we’ll be focusing on in the days running up to the regular season.